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Mr. Carlyle's View of Parliament.


ponent of our wishes and our wants; but for governing, or for preventing misgovernment, it is tedious, ponderous, and inefficient.

“ What I had to remark,” observes Mr. Carlyle, “ of this long Parliament, and of its English predecessors generally, from the times of Rufus downwards, is this perfect veracity of purpose, this exact adaptation to getting the business done that was in hand. Supplies did in some way use to be granted; grievances, such as never fail, did in some way use to be stated and redressed. The silent peoples had their Parliamentum, and spake by it to their kings who governed them. In all human government, wherever a man will attempt to govern men, this is a function as necessary as the breath of life ; and it must be said the old European populations, and the fortunate English best of all, did this function well. The old Parliaments were authentic entities; came upon indispensable work, and were in earnest to their very finger-ends about getting it done. ... Parliament now, if we examine well, has irrevocably lost certain of its old functions, which it still pretends to do; and has got certain new functions, which it never can do, and yet pretends to be doing,-a doubly fatal predicament. Its functions growing ever more confused in this twofold way, the position of Parliament has become a false, and is gradually becoming an impossible one, in modern affairs. It has had to prevent and distort its poor activity in all manner of ways, and at length has diffused itself in oceans of windy talk, reported in Hansard ; has grown, in short, a national palaver, and is, as I said lately, one of the strangest entities this sun ever looked down upon. For, I think, a national palaver, recognised as Sovereign, a solemn convocation of all the stump-orators in the nation to come and govern us, was not seen on the earth till recently.

A Parliament, especially a Parliament with newspaper reporters firmly established in it, is an entity which by its very nature cannot do work, but can do talk only —which at times may be needed, and at other times may be very needless. Consider, in fact, a body of six hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous persons set to consult about “business,' with twentyseven millions, mostly fools, assiduously listening to them ;-was there ever since the world began-will there ever be till the world end, any • business' accomplished in these circumstances? We may take it as a fact, and should lay it to heart everywhere, that no Sovereign ruler with six hundred and fifty-eight heads, set to rule twenty-seven millions, by continually talking in the hearing of them all, can for the life of it make a good figure in that vocation.”

Every page of our recent history abounds with proofs and examples of the mischiefs and abuses which arise from our inveterate and probably now inevitable habit of arranging all measures and making all appointments with a view to parliamentary considerations. Measures are concocted, not because they are the best adapted to the wants of the country, but because they are the most likely to be easily passed by the Commons, and

growlingly sanctioned by the Lords. Men are selected for this or that influential and responsible office, not on account of any remarkable fitness for the discharge of its functions, which has been exhibited by them, or is supposed to lie hidden within them, but because parliamentary support may be conciliated, or parliamentary hostility disarmed, by their appointment. The interests of the country are sacrificed, that the government of the country may be carried on. A commercial minister may be a mere tyro in finance; but the trade of the country must be fettered and endangered by giving him power to carry out his unwise conceptions, that the votes of himself and his supporters may be secured. An incapable nobleman is made Secretary-atWar, and allowed by his mismanagement to sacrifice regiment after regiment, and bazard campaign after campaign, as in the late war, because the Cabinet cannot dispense with his brilliant debating powers in the House of Commons. Thousands of valuable lives and millions of valuable treasure are wasted—as at Walcheren-in a fruitless and wretchedly managed expedition, because the Premier chooses to place his own brother at its head, and the Premier is omnipotent in Parliament. An indolent, obscure, or superannuated adıniral is placed in command of an important squadron, and golden opportunities are lost in senseless evolutions, because the admiral has a host of parliamentary friends, whom it would be dangerous for the Ministry to offend. Similar solecisms are committed daily, but it is only in the critical exigencies of war, or when in peace some unforeseen emergency occurs, calling for qualities in appointed servants which they do not possess, that their full consequences come to light. We need go no farther back than the Peninsular campaigns for abundant examples. Mr. Canning was, at that time, Foreign Minister, and Mr. Perceval, Premier. The latter was a man of the scantiest ability, but had the confidence of the Crown, and possessed enormous weight in the House of Commons. The former was a statesman of most brilliant genius, and a skilful and vigorvus diplomatist, but wholly destitute of the administrative capacity and diligence to conduct the complicated arrangements of a continental war. He was, however, the great stay of the Ministry in debate, and could not be spared. Lord Castlereagh, a nobleman of high honour, and of great parliamentary experience and skill, but of very small natural capacity, was Secretary-at-War. Accordingly, never was the blood and treasure of a country so vexatiously and lamentably wasted as those of England were by these three incapables. Their blunders were scarcely credible, and can only be fairly understood after careful study of Colonel Napier's History. Mr. Canning scattered his agents over Spain, chose them ill, made Mismanagement during the late War.


them independent of each other, allowed and encouraged them to lavish money, arms, and stores, on the wretched and ungrateful Spanish generals, hampered his own noble and consumate coinmander, Sir John Moore, with senseless instructions, turned a deaf ear to his remonstrances and demands, and, when he failed and fell, threw upon him the whole blame of the discomfiture which he himself had prepared. During the long and arduous years in which the Duke of Wellington, with unrivalled and profound strategy, and even statesmanship, fought his way from Lisbon to Bayonne, his own Government was his worst enemy, his most formidable and hopeless antagonist. In spite of repeated representations, his troops were left without stores, without shoes, without clothes, without ammunition. The engineering tools sent out were so bad that our engineers were dependent on those captured from the French. Besieging batteries, constantly demanded, were either refused or delayed, till the Duke was repeatedly compelled to carry fortresses by assault, which were only half breached, against all the rules of military science, and at a cost of life which was absolutely appalling. The military chest was constantly empty, and the most important enterprises were in consequence obliged to be abandoned. Re-inforcements both of men and money, which were lavished on the incapable Lord Chatham, were denied to the energetic and successful Sir Arthur Wellesley. Officers of high rank neglected or disobeyed his orders, and thus sacrificed his soldiers, endangered his victories, or made them fruitless ; yet he dared not punish or cashier them, because the parliamentary influence of their families forbade. Throughout the whole campaign the genius of the Duke had to remedy, and the blood of the soldiers to atone for, the blunders and culpable negligence of Mr. Perceval, Mr. Canning, and Lord Castlereagh. The fate of thousands of brave and valuable men lies at the door of those three ministers, and of the system which made such men so powerful as they were.

To the same system-the system which places at the head of affairs men of parliamentary influence and parliamentary talent, but of no other qualifications for administration or command -may be traced, more or less directly, most of our recent disasters :- the Affghanistan war, with its train of discomfiture and disgrace; the escapades of Lord Ellenborough, whom happily even parliamentary influence could not save from being recalled; the unhappy mess which Governor Fitzroy brought about in New Zealand; the Canadian rebellion; and the Caffre wars. Everywhere the same story. In war, in commerce, in administration, the governed have had to supplement the deficiencies, correct the faults, support the weight, and pay for the

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blunders of the governors. Everywhere the sense and bottom of the English people and the English soldiers have been called upon to counteract the incapacity or folly of English rulers. In this lies the explanation of what otherwise might well perplex us,-how is it, namely, that such a system has endured so long, and produced so much less mischief than it seemed calculated to engender. The people, as a whole, are supplying a constant and often unconscious corrective.

“An English seventy-four," says Mr. Carlyle,) "if you look merely at the articulate law and methods of it, is one of the impossiblest entities. The captain is appointed not by pre-eminent merit in sailorship, but by parliamentary connexion; the men are got by impressment; a press-gang goes out, knocks men down in the streets of sea-towns, and drags them on board,—if the ship were to be stranded, I have heard that they would nearly all run ashore and desert. Can anything be more unreasonable than a seventy-four? Articulately, almost nothing. But it has inarticulate traditions, ancient methods, and habitudes in it, stoicisms, noblenesses, true rules both of sailing and of conduct ; enough to keep it afloat on Nature's veridical bosom after all. See; if you bid it sail to the end of the world, it will lift anchor, go, and arrive. The raging oceans do not beat it back ; it, too, as well as the raging oceans, has a relation to Nature, and it does not sink, but under due conditions is borne along. If it meet with hurricanes, it rides them out; if it meet an enemy's ship, it shivers it to powder; and in short it holds on its way, and to a wonderful extent does what it means and pretends to do. Assure yourself, my friend, there is an immense fund of truth somewhere or other stowed in that seventy-four."

All who have had much to do with Ministers, and Members of Parliament, and those who come into constant social or official contact with them, seldom fail to become conscious of a certain marked and specific character which pervades the whole genus. Originally, they may be cast in Nature's most discrepant moulds. They may be conservative and antique by temper and tradition. They may be liberal and profusive in their sentiments

. They be aggressively benevolent, or carelessly epicurean. They may be fond of labour, or they may be fond of ease. They may call themselves aristocratic, or may flatter themselves that they are popular. But the same easily recognisable stamp of family likeness is upon them all. They are all parliament men —and no mistake. They have all been stretched on the same Procrustean bed, fused in the same crucible, subjected to the same annealing process. Their native dissimilarities are not, indeed, crushed out of them, but are all harmonized and overpowered by the pressure of one pervading and controlling element. They take different sides of a question, but they think



Bounded Sympathies of London Senators.

in the same conventional style. They draw their information from the same set of organs, and look at the world through spectacles, different, indeed, in power and colour, but all proceeding from the same workshop. They are all conversant with, and insensibly.moulded by the gossip of the clubs; they all think much of the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews; they all listen anxiously to the language of The Times, and are not wholly without concern about the articles in the Morning Chronicle, the Morning Post, and the Daily News. But beyond these they seldom go. Opinions which find expression in none of these party and London organs they despise or ignore. De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. The North British, the British Quarterly, the Westminster Review, the Leeds Mercury, the Manchester Guardian, wide as their circulation, and great as their influence is among the miscellaneous and the middle classes, they seldom read, and regard little. Sentiments may be fermenting, and doctrines may be spreading for years, in the interior of the community, till they have modified the whole bent and character of the nation, and yet these men may have heard nothing of them, till some such startling facts as the Birmingham Political Union, the Anti-Corn-Law League, or the Secession of the Free Church, break in upon their apathetic slumbers, and enlarge the narrow and artificial boundaries of their knowledge. In spite of warning voices occasionally raised within their hearing, these denizens of the conventional political world of London and St. Stephens remain wholly ignorant alike of the power, the feelings, and the intellect of the silent middle ranks; and would be amazed and somewhat alarmed if they could know the contempt and disgust which these often feel for the party manoeuvres which occupy them, the trifles which absorb them, the blunders which disgrace them, and the infatuation which blinds them. The Parliament, reformed as it is further reformed as it may be-must enlarge its channels of information; the officials-improved in this respect though they are-must widen their basis, and open their sympathies far more than they have yet done, before they can know what the country expects from them, and can furnish them with the means of effecting.

There are sundry little customs which have, by the lapse of time, attained almost the rigidity of law, by which we contrive still further to aggravate the difficulty of finding and securing the ablest and fittest men for the public service. Some of these have grown up gradually and insensibly, and have descended to us from remote times; others have been adopted to guard against dangers which were real and imminent once, but which have long since passed away. Two, especially,


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