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General Election—State of the Harvest—Importation of Grain allowed —Meeting of the new Parliament—King s Speech—Amendment on the Address in the House of Lords, moved by Lord King—Amendment on the Address in the House of Commons, moved by Mr. Hume —Amendment moved by Mr. Western—Act of Indemnity—Motion for a Select Committee on Joint-Stock Companies—Resolutions against Bribery at Elections, moved by Lord Allhorp—Resolutions for regulating Committees on Private Bills, moved by Mr. Littleton—King's Message respecting the Conduct of Spain towards Portugal—Mr. Canning's Speech on an Address in Answer to the Message—Discus* sum in the House of Commons—Mr. Canning's Reply—Address moved in the House of Lords—Speech of the Duke of Wellington— Sailing of an Armament for Portugal—Adjournment.
ALTHOUGH the elections, which followed immediately the dissolution of parliament, presented several scenes of active and vigorous individual combat, they did not possess that interest which attaches to them when their issue is to decide the fate of contending parties. Mr. Stephen endeavoured to make the Slave-trade a test, by publishing an address to the electors of the United Kingdom, in which he recommended to them that the first question put to a candidate should be, whether he was a West-India Merchant, or proprietor of slaves? and, if the question should be in the affirmative, to refuse him the countenance of a single suffrage. Enthusiasm is almost always inconsistent, and, to its vision, one single object occupies all space. No better illustration of this could be found, than that a sensible man should undervalue in a legislator all the qualities suited for the discussion of the complicated interests of Great Britain, because they might be biassed to one particular side on
a single question of very difficult solution.
The Corn-laws, and Catholic Emancipation, were the topics most frequently resorted to on the hustings. As the lower classes had had the impression that their food was high because the Corn-laws existed to enrich the landholder, to declare an opinion in favour of their abolition could not fail to gain cheers at a popular election. Yet it is worthy of remark, that even where candidates found it necessary or prudent to express their sentiments on the subject, they seldom spoke of any specific enmity to the landholders, or gave any pledge to keep food cheap, but found shelter behind the vague and unmeaning promise of supporting such measures as would be equally for the benefitof the growerandthe consumer. At Liverpool a miserable attempt was made to get up an opposition to Mr. Huskisson. The pretext for it was, that the mercantile policy of the cabinet had injured the manufactures of the country, and the trade of
the port. But its abettors were few, and ignorant, and mean, and could not find a candidate to accept of their vulgar support. Sir Francis Burdett and Mr. Hobhouse were returned for Westminster without opposition: in Southward sir Robert Wilson was opposed strongly, but unsuccessfully. In the county of Westmoreland, Mr. Brougham was again made the instrument of a struggle against the family of Lowther, but received a more signal defeat than in his former attacks. In Northumberland, lord Howick and Mr. Beaumont (one of the former members for that county) both failed, although each of them, before the election was done, gave his second votes with a ministerial and successful candidate. In Scotland, the only struggle was for the representation of the stewartry of Kircudbright, from which the former member was ousted by a majority of one in favour of Mr. Ferguson of Craigdarroch, who had returned to • his native country a voluntary exile of more than twenty years in India, whither he had gone to practise as a barrister after his conviction, along with lord Thanet, for a riot in the court at Maidstone on the trial of Arthur O'Connor.
Cobbett had the courage to offer himself to the electors of Preston, where he found amongst them a good many kindred hearts; and Hunt, once a bold and dangerous demagogue (in so far as the power and inclination to excite confusion makes a man dangerous) but whose fame had now sunk into that of a very successful manufacturer of shoe-blacking, had the effrontery to start for the county of Somerset, in special opposition to sir Thomas Lethbridge, and to retire from his
defeat, announcing, that "hewould repeat the experiment till it succeeded." That Cobbett should have polled nearly a thousand votes in Preston is perfectly natural, because Preston enjoys almost universal suffrage; and the fact is an edifying example of the effects of that mode of distributing the elective franchise. On the part of the man of the people the election was a scene of unmixed blackguardism. On its termination he thus addressed his mob:
Gentlemen, I have done much good to you by my coming; I have sweated your tyrants—I have bled them. I have made the silly Honourable (Mr. Stanley) throw 15,000/. among you, and that's no joke; for though these lords have too much land, they have not too much money. I have tickled the captain too; I have made him dance to some tune; he must have pledged his half-pay to keep open house for you, and now, like the other half-pays in London, he must live on plates of beef and goes of gin for the next seven years. As to Mr. Wood, I could not draw any money out of him, for the poor devil had none to spend; but his father Otty Wood, the miserly old sugar baker of Liverpool, I have extracted from his pocket what a hundrcd-horse-power steamengine could not draw from him— I have made him spend 7,000/. These are what I have done for you, good gentlemen. But I have done more—I have kept out the Tory captain Barry. Not that I like Wood either; I only dislike him least of the two; but j'ou shall not be cursed with either one or other of them, gentlemen. The election is not worth a straw. I'll have it set aside next April, when I'll bleed our opponents again, and you'll elect for your representative the only man who has the wish and the ability, the heart and the head, to serve you and his country —myself, gentlemen, myself." He did keep his promise so far as to petition against the return; but he neglected to enter into his recognizances, and the petition was discharged.
The Catholic question was brought forward much more distinctly, even in England: the violence, and threats (for their language was nothing less) of the Catholics had called up a corresponding spirit to resist them. It was known that their claims would be one of the earliest subjects of discussion in the new parliament: the one party, therefore, strove to insure the election of a House of Commons which would support emancipation by so powerful a majority as to overcome, by moral influence and political expediency, the majority of the House of Lords; while the other struggled to regain that ascendancy in the House of Commons which they had lost in 1825, but had lost in a degree so small as to be yet recoverable. Of four candidates whom Yorkshire for the first time returned, two were elected on the declared ground of being opposed to emancipation; and lord Milton had to submit to be interrupted in his address from the hustings by clamorous shouts of "no popery." In London, alderman Wood, who trembled for his election, complained bitterly that his attachment to the cause of the Catholics should lie made a reason for opposing him: and a placard having been posted up, like other electioneering squibs, alluding to thatattaebment, the alderman actually had the hapless bill-sticker apprehended, and
carried before the lord mayor. Lord John Russell lost his election for the county of Huntingdon; his brother, the marquis of Tavistock, was only second on the poll, in the county of Bedford, after Mr. M' Queen an anti-Catholic candidate; and Mr. Pym, the other candidate on the Bedford interest, lost his election altogether. Emancipation, or resistance to emancipation, was not indeed proposed to candidates as a test or generally or loudly; but, on the result of the English elections, the opponents of that measure did gain an accession of strength.
It was in Ireland, and naturally so, that the giving or refusing of a vote depended on the answer received to the question—will you vote for emancipation? The demagogues of the Catholic association gave themselves entirely up to carrying this one point, and were aided by a band of much more powerful agitators. The Catholic priests now mixed openly in the conflict; the contest on the hustings was converted into an award of eternal damnation; the consolations of the church here, and the joys of heaven hereafter, were lavished in promise upon the Catholic peasant who voted for an emancipation candidate; the darkness of excommunication in this life, and the gloom of purgatory, or the flames of hell in that which is to come, were denounced against him if he should so forget his God as to vote for an anticatholic. Over the tattered and ignorant peasant, whom his miserable patch of potatoe-ground, rated at forty shillings, constituted a freeholder, the tyrannical sway of the priest, armed with the terrors of eternity, was irresistible. The associated barrister and the political
priest travelled the country together; in order to propagate the common creed—the one, by threats of damnation, and the other, by the more temporal considerations of civil and religious power; and, to insure any portion of the eloquence expended from being lost upon the motley and unlettered audience, when the lay apostle had delivered his exhortation in English, his clerical brother followed in their native Irish. Not merely political opposition, but downright personal hatred towards an anticatholic candidate was inculcated as a Christian duty. Mr. O'Connel traversed the county of Waterford, with a rev. Mr. Sheehan by his side, to rouse it against the family of Beresford. Every tie of respect and civil influence which had hitherto united the Catholic tenant to his Protestant landlord, gave way before the tremendous power of the church, hurrying on the unthinking votaries of ignorance and superstition. The consequences were inevitable: the priest-hood wielded the electors, the landlords were attacked and defeated by those very forty-shilling freeholders whom they had themselves created for political purposes; and wherever an anti-catholic candidate came in contact with the church, his failure was inevitable. In the county of Waterford, lord George Beresford, a member of by far the first family of the county, was compelled to give up the contest, his own tenantry being marched forth against him by Mr. O'Connel and the rev. Mr. Sheehan. At a meeting held in Clonmel, shortly after the elections, to celebrate the triumph, Mr. Sheehan, the priest, said, "we said to the people, here are the natural enemies of your country,
and here are your priests who wait on the bed of your sickness, and are your friends alike in prosperity or woe: follow us or them." Mr. Shiell said, "the whole body of the peasantry have risen up in a tumultuous revolt against their landlords. I avow that this extraordinary political phenomenon is, to a great extent, the result of the interposition of the clergy, whose influence has been brought into full and unrestrained activity." This interference of a new influence for the first time was beneficial for the present, in the Irish elections, to the supporters of emancipation: how far it may ultimately benefit the cause is more doubtful. The zeal and violence of the priesthood gave the question a new character, and opened a new view of the intended consequences of emancipation. What is called emancipation is a civil right, and, if granted, would reach only a few laymen. It requires a considerable share of credulity to believe that the activity of the clergy had no connection with the interests of their own order; that they laboured with such diligence, and employed all the powers of their church, merely from a generous willingness to assist others in a cause which could be productive of no advantage to them. It is not uncharitable to believe that, in following a merely civil measure under the standard of pretended civil liberty, they foresee the gradual elevation of their own hierarchy. Never have the Catholic clergy, as a body, been the friends of civil liberty; and, in looking at their conduct in the Irish elections, Protestants may find reason to suspect, that the Catholic church sees in emancipation something much more closely
connected with its own power, and the renovation of its own prosperity, than the equality of civil privileges, and the universal equalization of religions. The exercise of their influence, moreover, tended to diminish its sources. The landlords were now taught the vanity of covering their estates with a swarm of mendicant voters, whose voices were neither their own nor their masters, and who could not bring even the advantage of being politically useful to him once in seven years, to redeem the ignorance and misery with which they surrounded him. If the landlords of Ireland had used the full powers of ejectment which they possessed, the condition of the lower class of tenantry would have been calamitous. In some instances the power was exercised; and the Catholic board voted a portion of its funds for the relief of the paupers whom they had induced to quarrel with their landlords, and to sacrifice their homes. The interest and bustle which had been excited by the elections, were succeeded by grave apprehensions concerning the result of the harvest. Wheat had produced what is commonly called an average crop fiver all England, or, at least, where it had partially failed, these failures were too limited to have any serious or lasting influence on the general price; but the heat and drought which prevailed, during the months of July and August, both for a length of time, and with a degree of violence, not ordinary in this country, threatened an absolute dearth in other species of grain, as well as in pulse and potatoes. Barley was far from reaching the extent of an average crop; but it was in oats and,, .pulse that the apprehended scarcity was most alarming. The accounts from every part of the country were all equally unfavourable; and the consequence was, that, in the end of July, and the beginning of August, the price of these latter articles began to rise rapidly and steadily in every market. In the middle of June, when the consumption of the preceding crop tends naturally to elevate the market, oats were 22*. lid.: during the first two weeks of August they were at or above 27*. 3d.; on the 18th of that month they were 28*. 3d.; on the 25th, they were 29*. 4<&; and, by the 1st of September, the price had risen to 30s. At the same time, the most alarming, and apparently well-founded, apprehensions were entertained, that, while oats, in many districts, the most important article of food to the lower classes, were thus placed absolutely beyond their reach, the misery would be increased, and particularly in Ireland, by the failure of the potatoe-crop. Even the farmers, though obtaining high prices in one way, were suffering much in another; for the violent and continued heats were so prejudicial to the grass, that, on the richest meadow lands of England, it became necessary to feed cattle with dry fodder, almost as in the depth of winter. Subsequently, indeed, these alarms were dispelled by a favourable change of weather, and partly by precautionary measures; and the national root of Ireland produced a crop singularly abundant, instead of one miserably poor: but such were the prospects which the harvest held out in the beginning of September. The high price of 30s. for oats, at the season when they should have been most abundant, and pressing, too, as it did, precisely on those dig*