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require a passing notice, as they are almost yearly operating to our disadvantage, and not seldom to our actual suffering and danger. The first of these is the union in the person of the Lord Chancellor of the two functions of Keeper of the Great Seal, and Chief Judge in Equity. In the first quality, he is the principal adviser of the Sovereign, keeper of the royal conscience, patron of the church livings of the Crown, appointer of justices of the peace, &c., superintendent-general of charities, guardian, in the king's name, of infants, idiots, and lunatics. In virtue of these functions, he is essentially a political officer, and as such, forms a part of the cabinet, and, rightly and necessarily, stands or falls with his ministerial colleagues. But, in his second capacity, he is the supreme judge in the most difficult, complicated, and laborious court of justice in the kingdom, exercising the most awfully arbitrary and extensive jurisdiction, discharging functions of which only the most exclusive attention, the most unremitting assiduity, the most continuous watchfulness, can approximate to an adequate performance. To enable him to do anything like justice to the hard duties thrust upon him, and to the numberless suitors, whose property, happiness, liberty, and sometimes life, are at his disposal, it would be necessary, not only that he should have nothing else to do, but that he should be nent and irremovable, and that he should be appointed with a sole regard to his judicial capacity and his experience in equity practice. Yet, in contempt and seeming defiance of these obvious and universally admitted considerations, the two offices continue to be united in one person, to the unspeakable injury of both departments, one of which is continually sacrificed to the other. The consequences of this utterly indefensible arrangement are, first, That the ablest lawyers are at times unwilling to accept an office which, while it removes them from their former sphere of usefulness and emoluments, they may, perhaps, hold only for a few months, and then be subjected to eternal idleness and obscurity;-secondly, That causes in equity are often heard and reheard before four or five different chancellors, each of whom comes new and unprepared to the hearing; that as soon as a judge becomes experienced and competent, the chances are, that he is removed to make way for a successor, who has his business to learn at the expense of the unhappy litigants who come before him; and that the work, being more than any one man can possibly get through, accumulates and complicates, till the Court of Chancery has become an instrument of injustice, cruelty, and oppression, such as the Inquisition can only faintly imitate, and such as no European country, except England, can produce or could tolerate;-and, thirdly, That lord chancellors are constantly appointed, who either are of no value to their
Re-Election on Appointment to Office.
colleagues or their country, as political advisers, or who, being chosen for their oratorical powers, or their parliamentary influence, are wholly unfit to preside over a court, requiring for its due conduct the rarest and loftiest legal qualifications. Cabinets generally choose the latter alternative, as the least evil to themselves, though immeasurably the greatest to the nation. Instances are not wanting. In the early part of the century, Lord Erskine was made chancellor, because he was a popular pleader, an eloquent speaker, and an ardent Whig, though he knew little of law, and was wholly ignorant of equity. In 1830, the same motives promoted Mr. Brougham to the Woolsack, much against his own will, it is said, although, while respectable as a common lawyer, he was utterly inexperienced in equity. Lord Cottenham, who made an excellent Chancery judge, was quite valueless as a political functionary;-while his successor, again, a competent chief justice, but an inexperienced and incompetent chancellor, owed his appointment entirely to political considerations. An anomaly productive of so much oppression and misery, and admitting of no defence, will surely not be endured much longer.
The custom of requiring every Member of Parliament, who accepts Ministerial office, to vacate his seat and submit himself to his constituents for re-election or rejection, is a fertile source of embarrassment and mischief. At one time, undoubtedly, it was a wise and salutary precaution against the selection and retention by the Crown of ministers who did not possess the confidence of the nation. It served, or might serve, to prevent the monarch from employing a commoner, at least, who was supposed to entertain designs against the liberties of the people. Now this danger no longer exists, and the precaution against it should cease likewise. No statesman condemned by or unpopular with the House of Commons can now retain office a single day. The custom, moreover, is we think indefensible on the broad constitutional grounds of justice. It enables not the nation, but any one constituency, to put a negative upon the indubitable right of the sovereign to choose his own servants. It enables any one constituency-and that perhaps the smallest, most ignorant, and most corrupt in the community-to dismiss or forbid the choice of a minister who may possess the confidence and admiration both of the monarch and the parliament. Before the Reform Bill, this evil and incongruity was not felt, because the nomination boroughs offered an easy mode of nullifying it. If a new minister was rejected by his former constituents, he was immediately elected for some Government seat, which a subordinate vacated to make room for him, or a place was purchased for him by the outlay of £3000 or £4000 of his own or government
money. Now, however, these arrangements are not so easy, and are not always practicable, and great inconvenience frequently arises in consequence. On one occasion Lord John Russell was out of parliament for some weeks during the middle of session, to the great detriment of the public business, till the member for Stroud vacated on his behalf. Sir James Graham is the ablest administrator among our living statesmen, and is the man of all others, whom a large portion of the educated classes of the community would most desire to see in power. But something in his manners, or something which perhaps we must designate as a certain want of nobleness and generosity of temper, makes him so personally unpopular, that, as we have already observed, he has scarcely ever sat twice for the same constituency, and if now appointed to office, might very possibly be returned by none. Indeed, if there be any truth in the rumour that at the close of last year the negotiations which Lord John Russell is known to have opened with Sir James Graham, Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Cardwell, were rendered abortive because none of these gentlemen felt any confidence in their re-election, we may now trace the advent of a Tory Ministry of unparalleled and dangerous incapacity, the risk arising from an interregnum and a general election at a crisis of great external confusion and uncertainty, and the nuisance of having to fight the battle of free-trade over again, to the operation of this absurd and antiquated custom. A long-established government has been upset, and has been obliged to resign its functions at a most critical moment into most alarming hands, because three constituencies-one insignificant, one notoriously bigoted, and a third notoriously corruptforbade it to call to its aid and that of the country three men of tried and eminent ability.
To point out existing evils is a far easier and less delicate task than to suggest a remedy. We well know how slowly and reluctantly the English mind admits a new idea, and with what distrust and distaste the public always turns from any recommendations which have the least air of science or system about them. Any attempt to modify or counteract the actual present tendencies of the nation-any scheme of amendment or of safety, however cautious, moderate, and wise, which cannot be introduced to public attention under the ægis of a precedent―is almost certain to be suspiciously and ill received. Thousands who have gone along with us in our statement of the difficulties under which we labour, and of the dangers which threaten us from a defective supply of able public servants, and from the inherent unsuitability of the source from which they are chosen to supply precisely the right sort of men-will turn away prepossessed or
Parliament, not the Country, deficient in Talent.
hopeless, when we endeavour to point out the direction in which an alleviation of these difficulties and a guarantee against these dangers should be sought. Nevertheless we shall venture on a few suggestions, which, when they have lain long enough and been re-produced often enough before the public mind for their novelty to have worn off, may possibly meet with a dispassionate consideration.
In the first place, it would seem desirable that the House of Commons should if possible be restored to its original functions of an advising, representing, and controlling, but not governing body. This looks like a hopeless recommendation, and perhaps it is so. It is, as both our own history and the contemporary annals of continental nations show, an inherent tendency in popular legislative assemblies, to encroach on the department of the executive, and gradually to draw to themselves all the powers of the state. We have sinned less than our continental neighbours in this respect, it is true, and perhaps their example may supply us with a timely warning; but for many years, and especially since 1832, our movement has been undeniably in this direction. And for a powerful body, voluntarily and from a sense of public benefit, to divest itself of functions and influence which it has usurped, would be an unheard of forbearance. Still something may be done by making the public mind aware of the tendency, and convincing it that the tendency is ruinous. Now it is abundantly obvious, first, that actual business can never be efficiently or promptly done by a committee or board of 658 members; and secondly, that by such usurpation of the ministerial functions the responsibility which should always cling as directly as possible to the actors, is in the first place shifted in a great measure from the ministers to parliament, and is in the latter body shared among so many, and in such various and unascertainable proportions as to be virtually no responsibility at all. With these remarks, which we throw out for the national consideration, we leave this branch of the subject.
It cannot for a moment be imagined that the aggregate of the governing and guiding talent in the whole country has diminished, or that it is inadequate to any demands that can be
made upon it. There probably never was a period in our history when capacity of every kind was as rife as now, when the general intelligence of the country was so cultivated in every department, or when all ranks could furnish forth so many minds fitted to bring them honour and to do them service. The difficulty we have to contend with--the first we have to meet-is not that the total national supply of administrative and legislative ability is less than formerly, but merely that it does not now, as formerly, instinctively congregate within the walls of
Parliament Great Britain is still opulent, though St. Stephens may have become impoverished and meagre. England we firmly believe to be as rich as ever in pilots who could weather every storm, in servants competent to any task, in statesmen fit to cope with any emergency. Two things only are needed to enlist all this floating and scattered genius in the service of the State-that the Sovereign should be at liberty to select her instruments not from senators, orators, or noblemen alone, but from all ranks, descriptions, positions, and professions; and that she should be enabled to outbid all other competitors for their talents-should be empowered to offer them such rewards as will command their willing and devoted labours, in the shape either of dignity, of emolument, or of that real power of efficient usefulness, which, to the purely ambitious and truly patriotic soul, is the sweetest and richest recompense which the world's treasury contains. A very simple arrangement would suffice. Empower the Queen to call to her councils all the administrative talent, all the statesmanlike wisdom of the country, in whatsoever rank it has appeared, in whatsoever channel it has displayed itself; and where the duties of the office, or the public service makes it necessary, let the royal selection ipso facto confer a seat, though not a vote, in Parliament.
"The aristocratic class," (Mr. Carlyle observes,) "from whom members of Parliament can be elected, extends only to certain thousands: from these you are to choose your Secretary, if a seat in Parliament is the primary condition. But the general population is twenty-seven millions; from all sections of which you can choose, if the seat in Parliament is not to be primary. Make it ultimate instead of primary-a last investiture instead of a first indispensable condition-and the whole British nation, learned, unlearned, professional, practical, speculative, and miscellaneous, is at your disposal! In the lowest broad strata of the population, equally as in the highest and narrowest, are produced men of every kind of genius; man for man, your chance of genius is as good among the millions as among the units;-and class for class, what must it be! From all classes,. not from certain hundreds as now, but from several millions, whatsoever man the gods had gifted with intellect and nobleness and power to help his country, could be chosen."
A considerable proportion of those whom the Queen might thus select would probably be in Parliament already: a certain proportion also, would not really need to be in Parliament at all. "Given, a good official man or secretary, he ought, as far as it is possible, to be left working in the silent state. No mortal can both work, and do good talking in Parliament, or out of it: the feat is as impossible as that of serving two hostile masters."