Page images

The Minister's pledge to develope Industry, Art, and Science. 557

ever been levied by financial cupidity; for we must regard it as virtually imposed by the Government that refuses to sustain our scientific institutions. Heavier still does such a tax fall upon the men of genius, who, as Mr. Glaisher* well expresses it, "are content to pass by the beaten tracks to wealth and preferment, and choose that which successfully pursued would lead them to renown,” but meeting with obstacles which they cannot surmount, “ the far greater number of those who are well qualified by talent, education, and bias, to add to the stores of science and shed lustre on their country, are compelled to turn aside to the smoother paths leading to professions which hold out inducements to their pursuit.” In this manner is the staff of science diminished in number and in genius; and the finest and most vigorous minds in the nation, who would light up our manufactures with their science, and supply its brightest fuel to our industry, are thus rusticated in professions whose duties could be sufficiently discharged by inferior minds.

But while want of position scares the young philosopher from the bleak domain of scientific research, there is no motive but that of future fame to allure him from the field where wealth and professional distinction may be surely won. When the honours of the State have been conceded to the most distinguished of our philosophers, they have been of the lowest kind, and instead of being the spontaneous and generous emanations from the seat of power, they are but withered leaves which faction throws from her own laurelled bust to gratify a political partisan, or perchance to pay by a transferable bond the wages of corruption.

With these facts before us we are driven to the conclusion, that from the voluntary character of our scientific institutions, and the ignorance and parsimony of our Government, a supply of indigenous science, abundant in quantity and high in quality, cannot be commanded to meet the wants of our new industrial institutions. This therefore is the time for the true patrons of art and industry-the Prince and the Royal Commissioners, to earn a double laurel froin their country, by reforming our scientific as well as our industrial institutions. The national feeling developed by the Exhibition marks the time, and the proposed local union of all our societies points to the occasion when this great intellectual revolution should be accomplished. The bold minister who now wields the power of the State, has, at this auspicious moment, promised, through Her Majesty, and declared it to be huis duty, to “develope as well as to encourage industry, art, and

• Lectures on the Results of the Esposition, p. 395. See also Babbage's Exposition of 1851, pp. 236, 242.

science." With no common feelings shall we watch the glorious sunrise of which this announcement may be the dawn; and yet not without some mingling fear that the promise thus given to science may be one of those political pledges which are made in weakness and broken in power, or but a passing sentiment which has escaped from the hand of the minister, without having thrilled through his heart. Athwart the darkness of the future the brightest ray of the present but dimly shines, and that sun whose ruddy orb is nearing our horizon may yet rise in darkness deeper than the presaging dawn. We nevertheless confide in the loyalty of the statesman's heart, though we may doubt the strength of his arm. The royal lip, however, has stamped the pledge as sincere : The approbation of the Prince may seal its accomplishment; and with such securities we hail it as an augury of the triumph of British science, and of British industry, and therefore of social wealth and contentment. Our new legislature has yet to indorse the fiat of the Cabinet, and fulfil the desire of the throne; but even if ignorance and faction shall still combine to thwart our intellectual progress, we trust it will never be recorded in history's enduring page, that a British statesman had broken at noon the vow which he had made at midnight,-insulting the sovereign by whose lips that vow was embalmed, and the nation whose hopes it raised, and whose interests it involved,

Crisis of Political Parties.- The Grand Desideratum. 559

ART. IX.-1. Political Elements, or the Progress of Modern

Legislation. By JOSEPH MOSELEY, B.C.L. London, 1852. 2. On the Method of Observation and Reasoning in Politics, By

G. CORNEWALL LEWIS. 2 vols. London, 1852.

The present condition of our “ Political Elements” in England, while to the superficial observer it offers little but a scene of chaos and contention, is yet discernible by those who look below the first appearance of things to be fraught with the most hopeful possibilities. Rightly understood, the crisis through which we are now passing is that shattering and crumbling away of the old which necessarily precedes the creation of the new. Rightly used, it is one of those epochs of disruption and transition which should become the seed-time of a nation's future. It is the closing of one chapter in our political history, and should be the opening of another and a brighter page. The questions which have divided parties for the last century are all set at rest; the old battles have been fought and won; the old disputes have died and been buried; everything about which politicians formerly differed, has either been finally disposed of, or has ceased to be a matter for disagreement; old antagonists and hereditary foes look each other in the face, bewildered to find that the point of contention has vanished from between them; but, having been enemies so long, they fancy they must be enemies still, and so cast about them for new positions of hostility and new points of difference. Instead of rising out of the rut of custom, and hailing with joy the termination of the ancestral war, they deem it necessary to invent or discover topics and pretexts for keeping up at least a semblance of the old antagonism. It is hopeless and unwise, as well as utterly gratuitous, to strive at this day to keep up the old distinctions of Whig and Tory: the vitality has died out of one party; the ground has been cut away from under the other; the old banners of both are torn; the old watchwords of both are meaningless and obsolete; the doctrines of the two are now inextricably blended; and a new opponent has risen up to combat both alike, and to test whatever of truth may yet remain in their principles, or of energy in their attenuated frames.

We may regret this state of things; but we cannot deny it. The old men—the laudatores temporis acti—those who live only in the associations and worship only the glories of the past, mourn over the change, and sigh for the days of well-defined Parliamentary armies, and of political contests carried on according to the ancient rules of courteous warfare. The younger

and the newer race of patriots and statesmen rejoice at the prospect of a time when Parliament shall be an assembly met to deliberate with a single mind, amicably and in union, on the welfare of a nation equally dear to all-not an arena wherein gladiators struggle for victory over the bleeding body of a prostrate country. But to both alike the fact has become obvious. The old Tory party is as extinct as the old Jacobite party. Its culminating point was during the Napoleonic wars: it began to languish with the peace, and every subsequent year dealt it a death wound, till it finally succumbed with Lord Eldon at the date of the Reform Bill. A genuine Tory of the old school is now alınost a fossil animal, and at least as rare as the mammoth or the megatherium. The fathers have died out; and the sons have done homage to the spirit of the times. They have taken up a position far in advance of their predecessors : have borrowed something from their former antagonists; have learned much from observation and reflection; and in many things the young Conservatives are more truly liberal and popular than the old Whigs. The Whigs, again, are effete even more than they are changed; they are out of date; what made them a party is all gone; the popular control of the Crown-Catholic Emancipation-Parliamentary Reform—a foreign diplomacy sympathizing with constitutional government elsewhere, -all these points of policy have been adopted by the nation, and are no longer distinctive of a party. And the principles which were forinerly the chief and most honourable characteristics of the Radicals while they were few and powerless, viz.-economy in the public expenditure, the abolition of jobs and abuses, and noninterference with the internal affairs of the Continent, are now proclaimed by all parties alike. The sober among Radicals differ in scarcely an appreciable degree from the more liberal among the Whigs; while between the aristocratic Whigs and the rational and popularizing Conservatives lies only the shadow of a name. Everywhere the old party landmarks are swept away, or stand far out at sea-monuments to shew how far the tide of circumstances and progress has carried all parties alike from the positions tbey once occupied.

Instead, therefore, of endeavouring artificially to prolong an unnatural and condemned existence, to breathe renewed life into the hollow and decaying carcase of a sham, and to give forced and galvanic motion to things which have no longer a real and self-sustained vitality,- let us unreluctantly allow “ the dead past to bury its dead,” and, seizing with glad energy upon so rare an opportunity of shaking ourselves free from the shackles of worn-out formulas and hampering engagements, inquire if it be not possible to suggest some new combinations of the rich Parties fatally equipoised.


“political elements” still left to us, which shall be based upon more real and enduring distinctions, and fruitful of grander and more beneficent results.

The actual state of affairs in the parliamentary world is felt ly all to be neither dignified, satisfactory, nor safe. Representative government is not honoured by the spectacle of the first deliberative assembly in the world floating hither and thither over the sea of legislation without rudder and without compass, blown about by every wind of doctrine, a prey to every maneuvre of faction. Parties and sections seem to be becoming more and more multiplied and fluctuating, and none of them to have any firm position, any fixed policy, any tenacious or enduring bond of union, except, indeed,'it be the Manchester School and the Irish“ Brigade.” While no party has a definite purpose at once high enough to avow and clear enough to follow; while none is strong enough to control or overpower the others, or to pursue an independent and untrimming course; while each, though unable to act itself, is able to fetter and prohibit action to any of its rivals ; while the government is too weak to exist except upon sufferance and by connivance, and yet the opposition too unstable and divided to overthrow and to replace it ;- in such a state of things the feeblest faction rises into dangerous importance, and the wildest project acquires a fornuidable chance of temporary triumph; individuals, whom an energetic administration or the general good sense of the House renders insignificant and innoxious in ordinary times, become endowed with a tenfold capacity for mischief; casual support is purchased by unworthy concessions, and plans and doctrines are listened to and temporized with, that in better days would be scouted ignominiously and without a hearing. Nor is this the worst : amid party squabbles imperial interests are forgotten or cast into the shade ; each faction is so intent on the maintenance of its own position, or the assault of its adversary's camp—so absorbed in the petty tactics of attack and defence-that other and far greater questions, domestic, colonial, and international, are pushed into the background; the question of Chancery reform is postponed to the far inferior one of who shall be the Chancellor; the settlement of our financial system is shoved aside and evaded by the contrivance of a provisional budget; the issue of a nearly balanced division excites more concern than the possibility of a foreign invasion; and friendly powers may be offended, and invaluable colonies alienated and disgusted, because the instinct of self-preservation engrosses the whole mind and energies of those to whom the welfare of the country has been entrusted.

We should, therefore, deprecate in the strongest manner the continuance of Lord Derby's ministry in office, even if it were in

« PreviousContinue »