- Software name: appdown
- Software type: Microsoft Framwork
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If I am confronted with the example of almost all ages and almost all nations who have inflicted the punishment of death upon some crimes, I will reply, that the example avails nothing before truth, against which there is no prescription of time; and that the history of mankind conveys to us the idea of an immense sea of errors, among which a few truths, confusedly and at long intervals, float on the surface. Human sacrifices were once common to almost all nations, yet who for that reason will dare defend them? That some few states, and for a short time only, should have abstained from inflicting death, rather favours my argument than otherwise, because such a fact is in keeping with the lot of all great truths, whose duration is but as of a lightning flash in comparison with the long and darksome night that envelops mankind. That happy time has not yet arrived when truth, as error has hitherto done, shall belong to the majority of men; and from this universal law of the reign of error those truths alone have hitherto been exempt, which supreme wisdom has seen fit to distinguish from others, by making them the subject of a special revelation.
Fortunately, Municipal Reform in Scotland did not give much trouble. It was accomplished almost without any discussion or party contention. It was based upon the provisions of the Scottish Reform Bill, which settled the whole matter by the simple rule that the Parliamentary electors of every burgh should be the municipal electors; also that the larger burghs should be divided into wards, each of which should send two representatives to the town council, chosen by the qualified electors within their respective bounds; and that the provost and bailies, corresponding to the English mayor and aldermen, should be chosen by the councillors, and invested with the powers of magistrates in the burgh. The functionaries were to be elected for three years, and then to make way for others elected in the same manner to succeed them. They were invested with the control and administration of all corporate property and patronage of every description.What are the pretexts by which secret accusations and punishments are justified? Are they the public welfare, the security and maintenance of the form of government? But how strange a constitution is that, where he who has force on his side, and opinion, which is even stronger than force, is afraid of every citizen! Is then the indemnity of the accuser the excuse? In that case the laws do not sufficiently defend him; and shall there be subjects stronger than their sovereign? Or is it to save the informer from infamy? What! secret calumny be fair and lawful, and an open one deserving of punishment! Is it, then, the nature of the crime? If indifferent actions, or even useful actions, are called crimes, then of course accusations and trials can never be secret enough. But how can there be crimes, that is, public injuries, unless the publicity of this example, by a public trial, be at the same time the interest of all men? I respect every government, and speak of none in particular. Circumstances are sometimes such that to remove an evil may seem utter ruin when it is inherent in a national system. But had I to dictate new laws in any forgotten corner of the universe, my hand would tremble and all posterity would rise before my eyes before I would authorise such a custom as that of secret accusations.
As Ministers did not resign on being placed in a minority the third time, rumours were industriously circulated by their opponents that they meant to rule the country despotically; that they were about to dissolve Parliament the second time, and had resolved to maintain the army on their own responsibility, without the Mutiny Act. On the 2nd of March Lord John Russell, referring to these rumours, gave notice that he intended to bring forward the Irish Appropriation question, and the question of Municipal Reform. It was for a test of this kind that Sir Robert Peel waited. In the meantime he denied that he had any such intentions as those ascribed to him, and compelled Mr. Hume to withdraw his proposal to limit the supplies to three months. He promised that Government would bring in a Bill on the Irish Church; but it would adhere strictly to the principle that ecclesiastical property should be reserved for ecclesiastical purposes. He declared they would be prepared to remedy all real abuses when the report of the Commissioners appointed for their investigation was received.
"Yes," returned Frontenac, "when they are summoned as witnesses, but not when they are cited to answer charges of crime."The press played a most important part in the agitation for Reform. A host of the most witty, brilliant, and powerful writers of the day wielded their pens against monopoly with tremendous effect, assailing it with argument and ridicule, like a continual storm of shot and shell. Of these, the most distinguished was the Rev. Sydney Smith, who mingled argument, sarcasm, humour, and pathos, in his ardent advocacy of the popular cause, with a power and effect that made him a host in himself. In answer to the objection that the Reform Bill was a mere theory, he furnished the most telling illustrations, from life, of the way in which the existing system kept down merit and damaged the public service. So far from Reform being a mere theoretical improvement, he said, "I put it to every man who is himself embarked in a profession, or has sons in the same situation, if the unfair influence of borough-mongers has not perpetually thwarted him in his lawful career of ambition and professional emolument? 'I have been in three general engagements at sea,' said an old sailor; 'I have twice been wounded; I commanded the boats when the French frigate Astrolabe was cut out so gallantly.' 'Then, you were made a post captain?' 'No, I was very near it, but Lieutenant Thomson cut me out as I cut out the French frigate; his father is town-clerk of the borough of which Lord F is member, and there my chance was finished.' In the same manner all over England, you will find great scholars rotting on curacies, brave captains starving in garrets, profound lawyers decayed and mouldering in the Inns of Court, because the parsons, warriors, and advocates of borough-mongers must be crammed to saturation before there is a morsel of bread for the man who does not sell his votes and put his country up for auction; and though this is of every-day occurrence, the borough system, we are told, is no practical evil...." Another witty and brilliant writer, Mr. Fonblanque, rendered important services to the cause of Reform by his writings in the Examiner, which have been collected under the name of "Seven Administrations." Though Radical in its tendencies, he wrote, "Ministers have far exceeded our expectations. The plan of Reform, though short of Radical Reform, tends to the utter destruction of borough-mongering, and will prepare the way for a complete improvement. The ground, limited as it is, which it is proposed to clear and open with popular influence, will suffice, as the spot desired by Archimedes, for the plant of the power which must ultimately govern the whole system. Without Reform, convulsion is inevitable. Upon any Reform further improvement is inevitably consequent, and the settlement of the Constitution on the democratic basis certain." At this period the Times was by far the greatest power of the newspaper press, and its advocacy of the cause of Reform was distinguished by a vigour and boldness which rendered it obnoxious to the House of Lords, and provoked an attack on the liberty of the press that caused a great deal of excitement during the discussions on the first Reform Bill. Mr. Lawson, the printer, was arrested, but released after a reprimand.
CHAPTER XXXIII. OF THE PUBLIC TRANQUILLITY.