« ПретходнаНастави »
them both his life was crowded with effort and excitement beyond the lot of most famous men, and beyond the powers of his own abounding vitality to sustain. A weakness of the heart ended in his death on December 28, 1859.
SPEECH ON THE REFORM BILL.
The House of Commons was formally established in England when Edward I. in 1295 summoned to his Great Council two burgesses to be elected “from every city, borough, and leading town” of his realm, and two knights from every shire. A body so constituted must have been fairly representative of the nation. There was, however, no definite settlement of the details of representation; it still remained with the Crown to determine what boroughs should be invited to participate. In the sixteenth century the Tudor sovereigns had learned the art of managing their Commons by managing the election of members. Elections, of course, could joost easily be controlled in small and unimportant places ; hence such from time to time were added to the list. Thus began one form of the “ rotten borough.” In the seventeenth century representation in Parliament crystallized permanently almost in the form in which the Tudors left it. As time went on, places once important and populous often dwindled or stood still, while the mighty towns of modern England were growing up about them, and wholly without representation. These boroughs thus accidentally decayed were quite as ready means for corrupt uses were quite as “rotten as were those of the other sort. By this time Parliament had ceased to be in any true sense the representative of the nation. The pressure of the " new wine in old bottles was already alarming in the eighteenth century, when it attracted the attention of such men as Chatham and Burke. But consideration of it was impossible amid the tumults of the French Revolution and of the Napoleonic
It had to wait till 1820, when Lord John Russell proposed his bill for Parliamentary Reform. The demand was nothing less than that a corrupt Parliament, intrenched within these “rot
ten boroughs,” should reform itself, and abolish these instruments of corruption. This, of course, it would not do without external pressure. The bill was therefore promptly rejected, as were others brought forward in later sessions. In 1830 the popular demand grew so formidable that Wellington and the Tory Ministry, who held out stiffly against it, were forced to resign, while the Whigs under Earl Grey came into power, pledged to the reform. On the 1st of March, 1831, their scheme was laid before Parliament by Lord John Russell, who, though not a Cabinet Minister, was chosen for this important duty on account of his ability and of his long and honorable service in the cause. It was proposed to disfranchise fifty-six “rotten” boroughs, and to distribute their one hundred and forty-three seats among the great cities and the towns hitherto not represented. The battle thus joined continued with but little interruption for fifteen months. In it was engaged every man of ability on either side, while the whole nation waited for the issue with ever-growing excitement. The bill came to its second reading with a majority of one vote. In the discussions which followed, the Ministry was defeated on a point of detail, and promptly dissolved Parliament and appealed to the people in a new election. Intrenched as corruption was in the existing order of things, the reformers were nevertheless returned in overwhelming majority. At the assembling of the new Parliament in June, Lord John Russell introduced his bill again, in the form known as the Second Reform Bill. All that its opponents in the House could now do was to delay its progress. It finally passed the Commons by a majority of over a hundred votes, but was rejected by the Lords. Parliament was then prorogued. After the recess the bill was introduced for the third time, and at the end of March had passed the House by a majority more decisive than ever. Popular excitement was now at fever heat, and repeatedly broke out into rioting. The Lords seemed as obstinately bent on defeating the measure as ever before; but the gravity of the crisis, and the knowledge that the king's consent had been given to the creation of enough new peers to overcome their majority, at last sobered them. Wellington and his followers decided to withdraw from the final deliberations and voting, and to allow the bill to pass in their absence, rather than face an issue so hazardous to their order. The bill became law on June 7, 1832.
During this long debate Macaulay spoke many times. Of the five speeches on the Reform Bill, which he himself corrected for the press, we have chosen the first as the most comprehensive and the best suited for our purpose. In it his characteristic brilliancy of expression and of argument are abundantly exemplified. Those who are interested in looking further into the points of his style will find the matter fully treated in Minto's Manual of English Prose Literature, pp. 76–130.
PAGE 252, 20. Paymaster of the Forces — Lord John Russell, mentioned in the Introductory Note above. He was afterwards Earl Russell, and a conspicuous figure in European politics as late as the close of the Crimean War. For the courtesy-title" borne by him at this time, see note to page 6, 1. 9–14.
It is not thought necessary to burden the student with the names of all the persons referred to in this speech. Many of them are unknown to general fame. The exceptions will be noted as they occur.
PAGE 253, 28. those cheers — the cries of “ Hear, hear," with which the Commons punctuate, or rather annotate, the utterances of their speakers. An astonishing variety of meaning can be put into them. Macaulay understands the contemptuous irony of these cheers from the Opposition. So, too, on the next page, l. 12.
PAGE 258, 33, 34. Benevolences and Shipmoney were exactions of money made by the earlier English kings without authorization of Parliament, and consequently illegal.
PAGE 259, 24. liverymen — members of the great guilds of London, entitled to wear their livery, and to vote as burgesses.
PAGE 265, 5–7. The list brought forward in this debate contained such names as North, Burke, Pitt, Fox, Grenville, Wellington, Brougham, and Grey. Macaulay himself might have been added — member for Calne, “one of the most degraded of the rotten boroughs,” as one of the speakers took pains to remind him.
PAGE 267, 5. The famous agitator and “uncrowned king of Ireland,” Daniel O'Connell. Note the striking reference to him again, p. 269, l. 24–26. The circumstances here concerned are these : The franchise in Ireland had been limited to persons who owned freehold property of forty shillings' yearly value or rental. On the basis of this representation, in 1828 O'Connell was elected to Parliament as member for Clare, in spite of the fact that he was a Catholic, and that Catholics were ineligible to sit in Parliament. Ireland was aflame with enthusiasm over this victory. The English Ministry under Wellington, fearing lest civil war should break out, consented in 1829 to measures of relief which allowed Catholics to sit in Parliament, but at the same time raised the property qualification of voters. O'Connell now came forward to claim his seat; but the Commons insisted that, having been elected on the old basis of representation, he must take the oaths formerly required, and renounce Catholicism, which he refused to do. The seat was then declared vacant, and a new election was ordered. O'Connell was triumphantly returned, and took his seat in 1830. The supposed « crime” of the electors of Clare was their defiance of the established order in electing a representative who could not legally sit in Parliament. The supposed “punishment” was the disfranchising of the poorer electors, Protestant as well as Catholic.
PAGE 268, 2. Sir Robert Peel, member of the last Tory cabinet, and a distinguished statesman, in spite of the humiliating position in which he here appears.
The Test and Corporation Acts mentioned below were parts of the machinery for disqualifying Catholics for positions of public trust.
Page 269, 24. The Rent was O'Connell's campaign fund, raised by the Catholic Association through voluntary contributions from all classes in Ireland. It amounted at times to $2,500 per month.
28. that ... cruel test of military fidelity — in the case of
soldiers ordered to charge upon mobs of their countrymen, with whose cause they could not but sympathize.
PAGE 270, 5–9. The reference is to the memorable Revolution of July, and the downfall and exile from France of the last of her Bourbon kings.
22. property divided against itself. The newer wealth of England — her manufactures and trade — obstinately opposed in its claims for representation by the older wealth of landed estates in the hands of the old aristocracy.