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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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representative character is in some measure effaced. On the
other side, if you have short Parliaments, your choice of men
will be limited. Now in all questions of this sort, it is the
part of wisdom to weigh, not indeed with minute accuracy,--for
questions of civil prudence cannot be subjected to an
arithmetical test,--but to weigh the advantages and disadvantages
carefully, and then to strike the balance. Gentlemen will
probably judge according to their habits of mind, and according
to their opportunities of observation. Those who have seen much
of the evils of elections will probably incline to long
Parliaments; those who have seen little or nothing of these evils
will probably incline to a short term. Only observe this, that,
whatever may be the legal term, it ought to be a year longer than
that for which Parliaments ought ordinarily to sit. For there
must be a general election at the end of the legal term, let the
state of the country be what it may. There may be riot; there
may be revolution; there may be famine in the country; and yet if
the Minister wait to the end of the legal term, the writs must go
out. A wise Minister will therefore always dissolve the
Parliament a year before the end of the legal term, if the
country be then in a quiet state. It has now been long the
practice not to keep a Parliament more than six years. Thus the
Parliament which was elected in 1784 sat till 1790, six years;
the Parliament of 1790 till 1796, the Parliament of 1796 to 1802,
the Parliament of 1812 to 1818, and the Parliament of 1820 till
1826. If, therefore, you wish the duration of Parliaments to be
shortened to three years, the proper course would be to fix the
legal term at four years; and if you wish them to sit for four
years, the proper course would be to fix the legal term at five
years. My own inclination would be to fix the legal term at five
years, and thus to have a Parliament practically every four
years. I ought to add that, whenever any shortening of
Parliament takes place, we ought to alter that rule which
requires that Parliament shall be dissolved as often as the
demise of the Crown takes place. It is a rule for which no
statesmanlike reason can be given; it is a mere technical rule;
and it has already been so much relaxed that, even considered as
a technical rule, it is absurd.

I come now to another subject, of the highest and gravest
importance: I mean the elective franchise; and I acknowledge
that I am doubtful whether my opinions on this subject may be so
pleasing to many here present as, if I may judge from your
expressions, my sentiments on other subjects have been. I shall
express my opinions, however, on this subject as frankly as I
have expressed them when they may have been more pleasing. I
shall express them with the frankness of a man who is more
desirous to gain your esteem than to gain your votes. I am for
the original principle of the Reform Bill. I think that
principle excellent; and I am sorry that we ever deviated from
it. There were two deviations to which I was strongly opposed,
and to which the authors of the bill, hard pressed by their
opponents and feebly supported by their friends, very unwillingly
consented. One was the admission of the freemen to vote in
towns: the other was the admission of the fifty pound tenants at
will to vote in counties. At the same time I must say that I
despair of being able to apply a direct remedy to either of these
evils. The ballot might perhaps be an indirect remedy for the
latter. I think that the system of registration should be
amended, that the clauses relating to the payment of rates should
be altered, or altogether removed, and that the elective
franchise should be extended to every ten pound householder,
whether he resides within or without the limits of a town. To
this extent I am prepared to go; but I should not be dealing with
the ingenuousness which you have a right to expect, if I did not
tell you that I am not prepared to go further. There are many
other questions as to which you are entitled to know the opinions
of your representative: but I shall only glance rapidly at the
most important. I have ever been a most determined enemy to the
slave trade, and to personal slavery under every form. I have
always been a friend to popular education. I have always been a
friend to the right of free discussion. I have always been
adverse to all restrictions on trade, and especially to those
restrictions which affect the price of the necessaries of life.
I have always been adverse to religious persecution, whether it
takes the form of direct penal laws, or of civil disabilities.

Now, having said so much upon measures, I hope you will permit me
to say something about men. If you send me as your
representative to Parliament, I wish you to understand that I
shall go there determined to support the present ministry. I
shall do so not from any personal interest or feeling. I have
certainly the happiness to have several kind and much valued
friends among the members of the Government; and there is one
member of the Government, the noble President of the Council, to
whom I owe obligations which I shall always be proud to avow.
That noble Lord, when I was utterly unknown in public life, and
scarcely known even to himself, placed me in the House of
Commons; and it is due to him to say that he never in the least
interfered with the freedom of my parliamentary conduct. I have
since represented a great constituent body, for whose confidence
and kindness I can never be sufficiently grateful, I mean the
populous borough of Leeds. I may possibly by your kindness be
placed in the proud situation of Representative of Edinburgh; but
I never could and never can be a more independent Member of the
House of Commons than when I sat there as the nominee of Lord
Lansdowne. But, while I acknowledge my obligations to that noble
person, while I avow the friendship which I feel for many of his
colleagues, it is not on such grounds that I vindicate the
support which it is my intention to give them. I have no right
to sacrifice your interests to my personal or private feelings:
my principles do not permit me to do so; nor do my friends expect
that I should do so. The support which I propose to give to the
present Ministry I shall give on the following grounds. I
believe the present Ministry to be by many degrees the best
Ministry which, in the present state of the country, can be
formed. I believe that we have only one choice. I believe that
our choice is between a Ministry substantially,--for of course I
do not speak of particular individuals,--between a Ministry
substantially the same that we have, and a Ministry under the
direction of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. I do
not hesitate to pronounce that my choice is in favour of the
former. Some gentleman appears to dissent from what I say. If I
knew what his objections are, I would try to remove them. But it
is impossible to answer inarticulate noises. Is the objection
that the government is too conservative? Or is the objection
that the government is too radical? If I understand rightly, the
objection is that the Government does not proceed vigorously
enough in the work of Reform. To that objection then I will
address myself. Now, I am far from denying that the Ministers
have committed faults. But, at the same time, I make allowances
for the difficulties with which they are contending; and having
made these allowances, I confidently say that, when I look back
at the past, I think them entitled to praise, and that, looking
forward to the future, I can pronounce with still more confidence
that they are entitled to support.

It is a common error, and one which I have found among men, not
only intelligent, but much conversant in public business, to
think that in politics, legislation is everything and
administration nothing. Nothing is more usual than to hear
people say, "What! another session gone and nothing done; no new
bills passed; the Irish Municipal Bill stopped in the House of
Lords. How could we be worse off if the Tories were in?" My
answer is that, if the Tories were in, our legislation would be
in as bad a state as at present, and we should have a bad
administration into the bargain. It seems strange to me that
gentlemen should not be aware that it may be better to have
unreformed laws administered in a reforming spirit, than reformed
laws administered in a spirit hostile to all reform. We often
hear the maxim, "Measures not men," and there is a sense in which
it is an excellent maxim. Measures not men, certainly: that is,
we are not to oppose Sir Robert Peel simply because he is Sir
Robert Peel, or to support Lord John Russell simply because he is
Lord John Russell. We are not to follow our political leaders in
the way in which my honest Highland ancestors followed their
chieftains. We are not to imitate that blind devotion which led
all the Campbells to take the side of George the Second because
the Duke of Argyle was a Whig, and all the Camerons to take the
side of the Stuarts because Lochiel was a Jacobite. But if you
mean that, while the laws remain the same, it is unimportant by
whom they are administered, then I say that a doctrine more
absurd was never uttered. Why, what are laws? They are mere
words; they are a dead letter; till a living agent comes to put
life into them. This is the case even in judicial matters. You
can tie up the judges of the land much more closely than it would
be right to tie up the Secretary for the Home Department or the
Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Yet is it immaterial whether the
laws be administered by Chief Justice Hale or Chief Justice
Jeffreys? And can you doubt that the case is still stronger when
you come to political questions? It would be perfectly easy, as
many of you must be aware, to point out instances in which
society has prospered under defective laws, well administered,
and other instances in which society has been miserable under
institutions that looked well on paper. But we need not go
beyond our own country and our own times. Let us see what,
within this island and in the present year, a good administration
has done to mitigate bad laws. For example, let us take the law
of libel. I hold the present state of our law of libel to be a
scandal to a civilised community. Nothing more absurd can be
found in the whole history of jurisprudence. How the law of
libel was abused formerly, you all know. You all know how it was
abused under the administrations of Lord North, of Mr Pitt, of Mr
Perceval, of the Earl of Liverpool; and I am sorry to say that it
was abused, most unjustifiably abused, by Lord Abinger under the
administration of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.
Now is there any person who will pretend to say that it has ever
been abused by the Government of Lord Melbourne? That Government
has enemies in abundance; it has been attacked by Tory
malcontents and by Radical malcontents; but has any one of them
ever had the effrontery to say that it has abused the power of
filing ex officio informations for libel? Has this been from
want of provocation? On the contrary, the present Government has
been libelled in a way in which no Government was ever libelled
before. Has the law been altered? Has it been modified? Not at
all. We have exactly the same laws that we had when Mr Perry was
brought to trial for saying that George the Third was unpopular,
Mr Leigh Hunt for saying that George the Fourth was fat, and Sir
Francis Burdett for expressing, not perhaps in the best taste, a
natural and honest indignation at the slaughter which took place
at Manchester in 1819. The law is precisely the same; but if it
had been entirely remodelled, political writers could not have
had more liberty than they have enjoyed since Lord Melbourne came
into power.

I have given you an instance of the power of a good
administration to mitigate a bad law. Now, see how necessary it
is that there should be a good administration to carry a good law
into effect. An excellent bill was brought into the House of
Commons by Lord John Russell in 1828, and passed. To any other
man than Lord John Russell the carrying of such a bill would have
been an enviable distinction indeed; but his name is identified
with still greater reforms. It will, however, always be
accounted one of his titles to public gratitude that he was the
author of the law which repealed the Test Act. Well, a short
time since, a noble peer, the Lord Lieutenant of the county of
Nottingham, thought fit to re-enact the Test Act, so far as that
county was concerned. I have already mentioned His Grace the
Duke of Newcastle, and, to say truth, there is no life richer in
illustrations of all forms and branches of misgovernment than
his. His Grace very coolly informed Her Majesty's Ministers that
he had not recommended a certain gentleman for the commission of
the peace because the gentleman was a Dissenter. Now here is a
law which admits Dissenters to offices; and a Tory nobleman takes
it on himself to rescind that law. But happily we have Whig
Ministers. What did they do? Why, they put the Dissenter into
the Commission; and they turned the Tory nobleman out of the
Lieutenancy. Do you seriously imagine that under a Tory
administration this would have been done? I have no wish to say
anything disrespectful of the great Tory leaders. I shall always
speak with respect of the great qualities and public services of
the Duke of Wellington: I have no other feeling about him than
one of pride that my country has produced so great a man; nor do
I feel anything but respect and kindness for Sir Robert Peel, of
whose abilities no person that has had to encounter him in debate
will ever speak slightingly. I do not imagine that those eminent
men would have approved of the conduct of the Duke of Newcastle.
I believe that the Duke of Wellington would as soon have thought
of running away from the field of battle as of doing the same
thing in Hampshire, where he is Lord Lieutenant. But do you
believe that he would have turned the Duke of Newcastle out? I
believe that he would not. As Mr Pulteney, a great political
leader, said a hundred years since, "The heads of parties are,
like the heads of snakes, carried on by the tails." It would
have been utterly impossible for the Tory Ministers to have
discarded the powerful Tory Duke, unless they had at the same
time resolved, like Mr Canning in 1827, to throw themselves for
support on the Whigs.

Now I have given you these two instances to show that a change in
the administration may produce all the effects of a change in the
law. You see that to have a Tory Government is virtually to re-
enact the Test Act, and that to have a Whig Government is
virtually to repeal the law of libel. And if this is the case in
England and Scotland, where society is in a sound state, how much
more must it be the case in the diseased part of the empire, in
Ireland? Ask any man there, whatever may be his religion,
whatever may be his politics, Churchman, Presbyterian, Roman
Catholic, Repealer, Precursor, Orangeman, ask Mr O'Connell, ask
Colonel Conolly, whether it is a slight matter in whose hands the
executive power is lodged. Every Irishman will tell you that it
is a matter of life and death; that in fact more depends upon the
men than upon the laws. It disgusts me therefore to hear men of
liberal politics say, "What is the use of a Whig Government? The
Ministers can do nothing for the country. They have been four
years at work on an Irish Municipal Bill, without being able to
pass it through the Lords." Would any ten Acts of Parliament
make such a difference to Ireland as the difference between
having Lord Ebrington for Lord Lieutenant, with Lord Morpeth for
Secretary, and having the Earl of Roden for Lord Lieutenant, with
Mr Lefroy for Secretary? Ask the popular Irish leaders whether
they would like better to remain as they are, with Lord Ebrington
as Lord Lieutenant, or to have the Municipal Bill, and any other
three bills which they might name, with Lord Roden for Viceroy;
and they will at once answer, "Leave us Lord Ebrington; and burn
your bills." The truth is that, the more defective the
legislation, the more important is a good administration, just as
the personal qualities of the Sovereign are of more importance in
despotic countries like Russia than in a limited monarchy. If we
have not in our Statute Book all the securities necessary for
good government, it is of the more importance that the character
of the men who administer the government should be an additional

But we are told that the Government is weak. That is most true;
and I believe that almost all that we are tempted to blame in the
conduct of the Government is to be attributed to weakness. But
let us consider what the nature of this weakness is. Is it that
kind of weakness which makes it our duty to oppose the
Government? Or is it that kind of weakness which makes it our
duty to support the Government? Is it intellectual weakness,
moral weakness, the incapacity to discern, or the want of courage
to pursue, the true interest of the nation? Such was the
weakness of Mr Addington, when this country was threatened with
invasion from Boulogne. Such was the weakness of the Government
which sent out the wretched Walcheren expedition, and starved the
Duke of Wellington in Spain; a government whose only strength was
shown in prosecuting writers who exposed abuses, and in
slaughtering rioters whom oppression had driven into outrage. Is
that the weakness of the present Government? I think not. As
compared with any other party capable of holding the reins of
Government, they are deficient neither in intellectual nor in
moral strength. On all great questions of difference between the
Ministers and the Opposition, I hold the Ministers to be in the
right. When I consider the difficulties with which they have to
struggle, when I see how manfully that struggle is maintained by
Lord Melbourne, when I see that Lord John Russell has excited
even the admiration of his opponents by the heroic manner in
which he has gone on, year after year, in sickness and domestic
sorrow, fighting the battle of Reform, I am led to the conclusion
that the weakness of the Ministers is of that sort which makes it
our duty to give them, not opposition, but support; and that
support it is my purpose to afford to the best of my ability.

If, indeed, I thought myself at liberty to consult my own
inclination, I should have stood aloof from the conflict. If you
should be pleased to send me to Parliament, I shall enter an
assembly very different from that which I quitted in 1834. I
left the Wigs united and dominant, strong in the confidence and
attachment of one House of Parliament, strong also in the fears
of the other. I shall return to find them helpless in the Lords,
and forced almost every week to fight a battle for existence in
the Commons. Many, whom I left bound together by what seemed
indissoluble private and public ties, I shall now find assailing
each other with more than the ordinary bitterness of political
hostility. Many with whom I sate side by side, contending
through whole nights for the Reform Bill, till the sun broke over
the Thames on our undiminished ranks, I shall now find on hostile
benches. I shall be compelled to engage in painful altercations
with many with whom I had hoped never to have a conflict, except
in the generous and friendly strife which should best serve the
common cause. I left the Liberal Government strong enough to
maintain itself against an adverse Court; I see that the Liberal
Government now rests for support on the preference of a
Sovereign, in whom the country sees with delight the promise of a
better, a gentler, a happier Elizabeth, of a Sovereign in whom we
hope that our children and our grandchildren will admire the
firmness, the sagacity, and the spirit which distinguished the
last and greatest of the Tudors, tempered by the beneficent
influence of more humane times and more popular institutions.
Whether royal favour, never more needed and never better
deserved, will enable the government to surmount the difficulties
with which it has to deal, I cannot presume to judge. It may be
that the blow has only been deferred for a season, and that a
long period of Tory domination is before us. Be it so. I
entered public life a Whig; and a Whig I am determined to remain.
I use that word, and I wish you to understand that I use it, in
no narrow sense. I mean by a Whig, not one who subscribes
implicitly to the contents of any book, though that book may have
been written by Locke; not one who approves the whole conduct of
any statesman, though that statesman may have been Fox; not one
who adopts the opinions in fashion in any circle, though that
circle may be composed of the finest and noblest spirits of the
age. But it seems to me that, when I look back on our history, I
can discern a great party which has, through many generations,
preserved its identity; a party often depressed, never
extinguished; a party which, though often tainted with the faults
of the age, has always been in advance of the age; a party which,
though guilty of many errors and some crimes, has the glory of
having established our civil and religious liberties on a firm
foundation; and of that party I am proud to be a member. It was
that party which, on the great question of monopolies, stood up
against Elizabeth. It was that party which, in the reign of
James the First, organised the earliest parliamentary opposition,
which steadily asserted the privileges of the people, and wrested
prerogative after prerogative from the Crown. It was that party
which forced Charles the First to relinquish the ship-money. It
was that party which destroyed the Star Chamber and the High
Commission Court. It was that party which, under Charles the
Second, carried the Habeas Corpus Act, which effected the
Revolution, which passed the Toleration Act, which broke the yoke
of a foreign church in your country, and which saved Scotland
from the fate of unhappy Ireland. It was that party which reared
and maintained the constitutional throne of Hanover against the
hostility of the Church and of the landed aristocracy of England.
It was that party which opposed the war with America and the war
with the French Republic; which imparted the blessings of our
free Constitution to the Dissenters; and which, at a later
period, by unparalleled sacrifices and exertions, extended the
same blessings to the Roman Catholics. To the Whigs of the
seventeenth century we owe it that we have a House of Commons.
To the Whigs of the nineteenth century we owe it that the House
of Commons has been purified. The abolition of the slave trade,
the abolition of colonial slavery, the extension of popular
education, the mitigation of the rigour of the penal code, all,
all were effected by that party; and of that party, I repeat, I
am a member. I look with pride on all that the Whigs have done
for the cause of human freedom and of human happiness. I see
them now hard pressed, struggling with difficulties, but still
fighting the good fight. At their head I see men who have
inherited the spirit and the virtues, as well as the blood, of
old champions and martyrs of freedom. To those men I propose to
attach myself. Delusion may triumph: but the triumphs of
delusion are but for a day. We may be defeated: but our
principles will only gather fresh strength from defeats. Be
that, however, as it may, my part is taken. While one shred of
the old banner is flying, by that banner will I at least be
found. The good old cause, as Sidney called it on the scaffold,
vanquished or victorious, insulted or triumphant, the good old
cause is still the good old cause with me. Whether in or out of
Parliament, whether speaking with that authority which must
always belong to the representative of this great and enlightened
community, or expressing the humble sentiments of a private
citizen, I will to the last maintain inviolate my fidelity to
principles which, though they may be borne down for a time by
senseless clamour, are yet strong with the strength and immortal
with the immortality of truth, and which, however they may be
misunderstood or misrepresented by contemporaries, will assuredly
find justice from a better age. Gentlemen, I have done. I have
only to thank you for the kind attention with which you have
heard me, and to express my hope that whether my principles have
met with your concurrence or not, the frankness with which I have
expressed them will at least obtain your approbation.




On the twenty-eighth of January 1840, Sir John Yarde Buller moved
the following resolution:

"That Her Majesty's Government, as at present constituted, does
not possess the confidence of the House."

After a discussion of four nights the motion was rejected by 308
votes to 287. The following Speech was made on the second night
of the debate.

The House, Sir, may possibly imagine that I rise under some
little feeling of irritation to reply to the personal reflections
which have been introduced into the discussion. It would be easy
to reply to these reflections. It would be still easier to
retort them: but I should think either course unworthy of me and
of this great occasion. If ever I should so far forget myself as
to wander from the subject of debate to matters concerning only
myself, it will not, I hope, be at a time when the dearest
interests of our country are staked on the result of our
deliberations. I rise under feelings of anxiety which leave no
room in my mind for selfish vanity or petty vindictiveness. I
believe with the most intense conviction that, in pleading for
the Government to which I belong, I am pleading for the safety of
the Commonwealth, for the reformation of abuses, and at the same
time for the preservation of august and venerable institutions:
and I trust, Mr Speaker, that when the question is whether a
Cabinet be or be not worthy of the confidence of Parliament, the
first Member of that Cabinet who comes forward to defend himself
and his colleagues will find here some portion of that generosity
and good feeling which once distinguished English gentlemen. But
be this as it may, my voice shall be heard. I repeat, that I am
pleading at once for the reformation and for the preservation of
our institutions, for liberty and order, for justice administered
in mercy, for equal laws, for the rights of conscience, and for
the real union of Great Britain and Ireland. If, on so grave an
occasion, I should advert to one or two of the charges which have
been brought against myself personally, I shall do so only
because I conceive that those charges affect in some degree the
character of the Government to which I belong.

One of the chief accusations brought against the Government by
the honourable Baronet (Sir John Yarde Buller.) who opened the
debate, and repeated by the seconder (Alderman Thompson.), and by
almost every gentlemen who has addressed the House from the
benches opposite, is that I have been invited to take office
though my opinion with respect to the Ballot is known to be
different from that of my colleagues. We have been repeatedly
told that a Ministry in which there is not perfect unanimity on a
subject so important must be undeserving of the public
confidence. Now, Sir, it is true that I am in favour of secret
voting, that my noble and right honourable friends near me are in
favour of open voting, and yet that we sit in the same Cabinet.
But if, on account of this difference of opinion, the Government
is unworthy of public confidence, then I am sure that scarcely
any government which has existed within the memory of the oldest
man has been deserving of public confidence. It is well-known
that in the Cabinets of Mr Pitt, of Mr Fox, of Lord Liverpool, of
Mr Canning, of the Duke of Wellington, there were open questions
of great moment. Mr Pitt, while still zealous for parliamentary
reform, brought into the Cabinet Lord Grenville, who was adverse
to parliamentary reform. Again, Mr Pitt, while eloquently
supporting the abolition of the Slave Trade, brought into the
Cabinet Mr Dundas, who was the chief defender of the Slave Trade.
Mr Fox, too, intense as was his abhorrence of the Slave Trade,
sat in the same Cabinet with Lord Sidmouth and Mr Windham, who
voted to the last against the abolition of that trade. Lord
Liverpool, Mr Canning, the Duke of Wellington, all left the
question of Catholic Emancipation open. And yet, of all
questions, that was perhaps the very last that should have been
left open. For it was not merely a legislative question, but a
question which affected every part of the executive
administration. But, to come to the present time, suppose that
you could carry your resolution, suppose that you could drive the
present Ministers from power, who that may succeed them will be
able to form a government in which there will be no open
questions? Can the right honourable Baronet the member for
Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel.) form a Cabinet without leaving the
great question of our privileges open? In what respect is that
question less important than the question of the Ballot? Is it
not indeed from the privileges of the House that all questions
relating to the constitution of the House derive their
importance? What does it matter how we are chosen, if, when we
meet, we do not possess the powers necessary to enable us to
perform the functions of a legislative assembly? Yet you who
would turn out the present Ministers because they differ from
each other as to the way in which Members of this House should be
chosen, wish to bring in men who decidedly differ from each other
as to the relation in which this House stands to the nation, to
the other House, and to the Courts of Judicature. Will you say
that the dispute between the House and the Court of Queen's Bench
is a trifling dispute? Surely, in the late debates, you were all
perfectly agreed as to the importance of the question, though you
were agreed as to nothing else. Some of you told us that we were
contending for a power essential to our honour and usefulness.
Many of you protested against our proceedings, and declared that
we were encroaching on the province of the tribunals, violating
the liberty of our fellow citizens, punishing honest magistrates
for not perjuring themselves. Are these trifles? And can we
believe that you really feel a horror of open questions when we
see your Prime Minister elect sending people to prison overnight,
and his law officers elect respectfully attending the levee of
those prisoners the next morning? Observe, too, that this
question of privileges is not merely important; it is also
pressing. Something must be done, and that speedily. My belief
is that more inconvenience would follow from leaving that
question open one month than from leaving the question of the
Ballot open ten years.

The Ballot, Sir, is not the only subject on which I am accused of
holding dangerous opinions. The right honourable Baronet the
Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham.) pronounces the present
Government a Chartist Government; and he proves his point by
saying that I am a member of the government, and that I wish to
give the elective franchise to every ten pound householder,
whether his house be in a town or in the country. Is it
possible, Sir, that the honourable Baronet should not know that
the fundamental principle of the plan of government called the
People's Charter is that every male of twenty-one should have a
vote? Or is it possible that he can see no difference between
giving the franchise to all ten pound householders, and giving
the franchise to all males of twenty-one? Does he think the ten
pound householders a class morally or intellectually unfit to
possess the franchise, he who bore a chief part in framing the
law which gave them the franchise in all the represented towns of
the United Kingdom? Or will he say that the ten pound
householder in a town is morally and intellectually fit to be an
elector, but that the ten pound householder who lives in the open
country is morally and intellectually unfit? Is not house-rent
notoriously higher in towns than in the country? Is it not,
therefore, probable that the occupant of a ten pound house in a
rural hamlet will be a man who has a greater stake in the peace
and welfare of society than a man who has a ten pound house in
Manchester or Birmingham? Can you defend on conservative
principles an arrangement which gives votes to a poorer class and
withholds them from a richer? For my own part, I believe it to
be essential to the welfare of the state, that the elector should
have a pecuniary qualification. I believe that the ten pound
qualification cannot be proved to be either too high or too low.
Changes, which may hereafter take place in the value of money and
in the condition of the people, may make a change of the
qualification necessary. But the ten pound qualification is, I
believe, well suited to the present state of things. At any
rate, I am unable to conceive why it should be a sufficient
qualification within the limits of a borough, and an insufficient
qualification a yard beyond those limits; sufficient at
Knightsbridge, but insufficient at Kensington; sufficient at
Lambeth, but insufficient at Battersea? If any person calls this
Chartism, he must permit me to tell him that he does not know
what Chartism is.

A motion, Sir, such as that which we are considering, brings
under our review the whole policy of the kingdom, domestic,
foreign, and colonial. It is not strange, therefore, that there
should have been several episodes in this debate. Something has
been said about the hostilities on the River Plata, something
about the hostilities on the coast of China, something about
Commissioner Lin, something about Captain Elliot. But on such
points I shall not dwell, for it is evidently not by the opinion
which the House may entertain on such points that the event of
the debate will be decided. The main argument of the gentlemen
who support the motion, the argument on which the right
honourable Baronet who opened the debate chiefly relied, the
argument which his seconder repeated, and which has formed the
substance of every speech since delivered from the opposite side
of the House, may be fairly summed up thus, "The country is not
in a satisfactory state. There is much recklessness, much
turbulence, much craving for political change; and the cause of
these evils is the policy of the Whigs. They rose to power by
agitation in 1830: they retained power by means of agitation
through the tempestuous months which followed: they carried the
Reform Bill by means of agitation: expelled from office, they
forced themselves in again by means of agitation; and now we are
paying the penalty of their misconduct. Chartism is the natural
offspring of Whiggism. From those who caused the evil we cannot
expect the remedy. The first thing to be done is to dismiss
them, and to call to power men who, not having instigated the
people to commit excesses, can, without incurring the charge of
inconsistency, enforce the laws."

Now, Sir, it seems to me that this argument was completely
refuted by the able and eloquent speech of my right honourable
friend the Judge Advocate. (Sir George Grey.) He said, and he
said most truly, that those who hold this language are really
accusing, not the Government of Lord Melbourne, but the
Government of Lord Grey. I was therefore, I must say, surprised,
after the speech of my right honourable friend, to hear the right
honourable Baronet the Member for Pembroke, himself a
distinguished member of the cabinet of Lord Grey, pronounce a
harangue against agitation. That he was himself an agitator he
does not venture to deny; but he tries to excuse himself by
saying, "I liked the Reform Bill; I thought it a good bill; and
so I agitated for it; and, in agitating for it, I acknowledge
that I went to the very utmost limit of what was prudent, to the
very utmost limit of what was legal." Does not the right
honourable Baronet perceive that, by setting up this defence for
his own past conduct, he admits that agitation is good or evil,
according as the objects of the agitation are good or evil? When
I hear him speak of agitation as a practice disgraceful to a
public man, and especially to a Minister of the Crown, and
address his lecture in a particular manner to me, I cannot but
wonder that he should not perceive that his reproaches, instead
of wounding me, recoil on himself. I was not a member of the
Cabinet which brought in the Reform Bill, which dissolved the
Parliament in a moment of intense excitement in order to carry
the Reform Bill, which refused to serve the Sovereign longer
unless he would create peers in sufficient numbers to carry the
Reform Bill. I was at that time only one of those hundreds of
members of this House, one of those millions of Englishmen, who
were deeply impressed with the conviction that the Reform Bill
was one of the best laws that ever had been framed, and who
reposed entire confidence in the abilities, the integrity, and
the patriotism of the ministers; and I must add that in no member
of the administration did I place more confidence than in the
right honourable Baronet, who was then First Lord of the
Admiralty, and in the noble lord who was then Secretary for
Ireland. (Lord Stanley.) It was indeed impossible for me not to
see that the public mind was strongly, was dangerously stirred:
but I trusted that men so able, men so upright, men who had so
large a stake in the country, would carry us safe through the
storm which they had raised. And is it not rather hard that my
confidence in the right honourable Baronet and the noble lord is
to be imputed to me as a crime by the very men who are trying to
raise the right honourable Baronet and the noble lord to power?
The Charter, we have been told in this debate, is the child of
the Reform Bill. But whose child is the Reform Bill? If men are
to be deemed unfit for office because they roused the national
spirit to support that bill, because they went as far as the law
permitted in order to carry that bill, then I say that no men can
be more unfit for office than the right honourable Baronet and
the noble lord. It may be thought presumptuous in me to defend
two persons who are so well able to defend themselves, and the
more so, as they have a powerful ally in the right honourable
Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who, having twice offered them
high places in the Government, must be supposed to be of opinion
that they are not disqualified for being ministers by having been
agitators. I will, however, venture to offer some arguments in
vindication of the conduct of my noble and right honourable
friends, as I once called them, and as, notwithstanding the
asperity which has characterised the present debate, I should
still have pleasure in calling them. I would say in their behalf
that agitation ought not to be indiscriminately condemned; that
great abuses ought to be removed; that in this country scarcely
any great abuse was ever removed till the public feeling had been
roused against it; and that the public feeling has seldom been
roused against abuses without exertions to which the name of
agitation may be given. I altogether deny the assertion which we
have repeatedly heard in the course of this debate, that a
government which does not discountenance agitation cannot be
trusted to suppress rebellion. Agitation and rebellion, you say,
are in kind the same thing: they differ only in degree. Sir,
they are the same thing in the sense in which to breathe a vein
and to cut a throat are the same thing. There are many points of
resemblance between the act of the surgeon and the act of the
assassin. In both there is the steel, the incision, the smart,
the bloodshed. But the acts differ as widely as possible both in
moral character and in physical effect. So with agitation and
rebellion. I do not believe that there has been any moment since
the revolution of 1688 at which an insurrection in this country
would have been justifiable. On the other hand, I hold that we
have owed to agitation a long series of beneficent reforms which
could have been effected in no other way. Nor do I understand
how any person can reprobate agitation, merely as agitation,
unless he is prepared to adopt the maxim of Bishop Horsley, that
the people have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them.
The truth is that agitation is inseparable from popular
government. If you wish to get rid of agitation, you must
establish an oligarchy like that of Venice, or a despotism like
that of Russia. If a Russian thinks that he is able to suggest
an improvement in the commercial code or the criminal code of his
country, he tries to obtain an audience of the Emperor Nicholas
or of Count Nesselrode. If he can satisfy them that his plans
are good, then undoubtedly, without agitation, without
controversy in newspapers, without harangues from hustings,
without clamorous meetings in great halls and in marketplaces,
without petitions signed by tens of thousands, you may have a
reform effected with one stroke of the pen. Not so here. Here
the people, as electors, have power to decide questions of the
highest importance. And ought they not to hear and read before
they decide? And how can they hear if nobody speaks, or read if
nobody writes? You must admit, then, that it is our right, and
that it may be our duty, to attempt by speaking and writing to
induce the great body of our countrymen to pronounce what we
think a right decision; and what else is agitation? In saying
this I am not defending one party alone. Has there been no Tory
agitation? No agitation against Popery? No agitation against
the new Poor Law? No agitation against the plan of education
framed by the present Government? Or, to pass from questions
about which we differ to questions about which we all agree:
Would the slave trade ever have been abolished without agitation?
Would slavery ever have been abolished without agitation? Would
your prison discipline ever have been improved without agitation?
Would your penal code, once the scandal of the Statute Book, have
been mitigated without agitation? I am far from denying that
agitation may be abused, may be employed for bad ends, may be
carried to unjustifiable lengths. So may that freedom of speech
which is one of the most precious privileges of this House.
Indeed, the analogy is very close. What is agitation but the
mode in which the public, the body which we represent, the great
outer assembly, if I may so speak, holds its debates? It is as
necessary to the good government of the country that our
constituents should debate as that we should debate. They
sometimes go wrong, as we sometimes go wrong. There is often
much exaggeration, much unfairness, much acrimony in their
debates. Is there none in ours? Some worthless demagogues may
have exhorted the people to resist the laws. But what member of
Lord Grey's Government, what member of the present Government,
ever gave any countenance to any illegal proceedings? It is
perfectly true that some words which have been uttered here and
in other places, and which, when taken together with the context
and candidly construed, will appear to mean nothing but what was
reasonable and constitutional and moderate, have been distorted
and mutilated into something that has a seditious aspect. But
who is secure against such misrepresentation? Not, I am sure,
the right honourable Baronet the Member for Pembroke. He ought
to remember that his own speeches have been used by bad men for
bad ends. He ought to remember that some expressions which he
used in 1830, on the subject of the emoluments divided among
Privy Councillors, have been quoted by the Chartists in
vindication of their excesses. Do I blame him for this? Not at
all. He said nothing that was not justifiable. But it is
impossible for a man so to guard his lips that his language shall
not sometimes be misunderstood by dull men, and sometimes
misrepresented by dishonest men. I do not, I say, blame him for
having used those expressions: but I do say that, knowing how
his own expressions had been perverted, he should have hesitated
before he threw upon men, not less attached than himself to the
cause of law, of order and property, imputations certainly not
better founded than those to which he is himself liable.

And now, Sir, to pass by many topics to which, but for the
lateness of the hour, I would willingly advert, let me remind the
House that the question before us is not a positive question, but
a question of comparison. No man, though he may disapprove of
some part of the conduct of the present Ministers, is justified
in voting for the motion which we are considering, unless he
believes that a change would, on the whole, be beneficial. No
government is perfect: but some government there must be; and if
the present government were worse than its enemies think it, it
ought to exist until it can be succeeded by a better. Now I take
it to be perfectly clear that, in the event of the removal of Her
Majesty's present advisers, an administration must be formed of
which the right honourable Baronet the Member for Tamworth will
be the head. Towards that right honourable Baronet, and towards
many of the noblemen and gentlemen who would probably in that
event be associated with him, I entertain none but kind and
respectful feelings. I am far, I hope, from that narrowness of
mind which makes a man unable to see merit in any party but his
own. If I may venture to parody the old Venetian proverb, I
would be "First an Englishman; and then a Whig." I feel proud of
my country when I think how much ability, uprightness, and
patriotism may be found on both sides of the House. Among our
opponents stands forth, eminently distinguished by parts,
eloquence, knowledge, and, I willingly admit, by public spirit,
the right honourable Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Having
said this, I shall offer no apology for the remarks which, in the
discharge of my public duty, I shall make, without, I hope, any
personal discourtesy, on his past conduct, and his present

It has been, Sir, I will not say his fault, but his misfortune,
his fate, to be the leader of a party with which he has no
sympathy. To go back to what is now matter of history, the right
honourable Baronet bore a chief part in the restoration of the
currency. By a very large proportion of his followers the
restoration of the currency is considered as the chief cause of
the distresses of the country. The right honourable Baronet
cordially supported the commercial policy of Mr Huskisson. But
there was no name more odious than that of Mr Huskisson to the
rank and file of the Tory party. The right honourable Baronet
assented to the Act which removed the disabilities of the
Protestant Dissenters. But, a very short time ago, a noble Duke,
one of the highest in power and rank of the right honourable
Baronet's adherents, positively refused to lend his aid to the
executing of that Act. The right honourable Baronet brought in
the bill which removed the disabilities of the Roman Catholics:
but his supporters make it a chief article of charge against us
that we have given practical effect to the law which is his best
title to public esteem. The right honourable Baronet has
declared himself decidedly favourable to the new Poor Law. Yet,
if a voice is raised against the Whig Bastilles and the Kings of
Somerset House, it is almost certain to be the voice of some
zealous retainer of the right honourable Baronet. On the great
question of privilege, the right honourable Baronet has taken a
part which entitles him to the gratitude of all who are
solicitous for the honour and the usefulness of the popular
branch of the legislature. But if any person calls us tyrants,
and calls those whom we have imprisoned martyrs, that person is
certain to be a partisan of the right honourable Baronet. Even
when the right honourable Baronet does happen to agree with his
followers as to a conclusion, he seldom arrives at that
conclusion by the same process of reasoning which satisfies them.
Many great questions which they consider as questions of right
and wrong, as questions of moral and religious principle, as
questions which must, for no earthly object, and on no emergency,
be compromised, are treated by him merely as questions of
expediency, of place, and of time. He has opposed many bills
introduced by the present Government; but he has opposed them on
such grounds that he is at perfect liberty to bring in the same
bills himself next year, with perhaps some slight variation. I
listened to him as I always listen to him, with pleasure, when he
spoke last session on the subject of education. I could not but
be amused by the skill with which he performed the hard task of
translating the gibberish of bigots into language which might not
misbecome the mouth of a man of sense. I felt certain that he
despised the prejudices of which he condescended to make use, and
that his opinion about the Normal Schools and the Douai Version
entirely agreed with my own. I therefore do not think that, in
times like these, the right honourable Baronet can conduct the
administration with honour to himself or with satisfaction to
those who are impatient to see him in office. I will not affect
to feel apprehensions from which I am entirely free. I do not
fear, and I will not pretend to fear, that the right honourable
Baronet will be a tyrant and a persecutor. I do not believe that
he will give up Ireland to the tender mercies of those zealots
who form, I am afraid, the strongest, and I am sure the loudest,
part of his retinue. I do not believe that he will strike the
names of Roman Catholics from the Privy Council book, and from
the Commissions of the Peace. I do not believe that he will lay
on our table a bill for the repeal of that great Act which was
introduced by himself in 1829. What I do anticipate is this,
that he will attempt to keep his party together by means which
will excite grave discontents, and yet that he will not succeed
in keeping his party together; that he will lose the support of
the Tories without obtaining the support of the nation; and that
his government will fall from causes purely internal.

This, Sir, is not mere conjecture. The drama is not a new one.
It was performed a few years ago on the same stage and by most of
the same actors. In 1827 the right honourable Baronet was, as
now, the head of a powerful Tory opposition. He had, as now, the
support of a strong minority in this House. He had, as now, a
majority in the other House. He was, as now, the favourite of
the Church and of the Universities. All who dreaded political
change, all who hated religious liberty, rallied round him then,
as they rally round him now. Their cry was then, as now, that a
government unfriendly to the civil and ecclesiastical
constitution of the realm was kept in power by intrigue and court
favour, and that the right honourable Baronet was the man to whom
the nation must look to defend its laws against revolutionists,
and its religion against idolaters. At length that cry became
irresistible. Tory animosity had pursued the most accomplished
of Tory statesmen and orators to a resting place in Westminster
Abbey. The arrangement which was made after his death lasted but
a very few months: a Tory government was formed; and the right
honourable Baronet became the leading minister of the Crown in
the House of Commons. His adherents hailed his elevation with
clamorous delight, and confidently expected many years of triumph
and dominion. Is it necessary to say in what disappointment, in
what sorrow, in what fury, those expectations ended? The right
honourable Baronet had been raised to power by prejudices and
passions in which he had no share. His followers were bigots.
He was a statesman. He was coolly weighing conveniences against
inconveniences, while they were ready to resort to a proscription
and to hazard a civil war rather than depart from what they
called their principles. For a time he tried to take a middle
course. He imagined that it might be possible for him to stand
well with his old friends, and yet to perform some part of his
duty to the state. But those were not times in which he could
long continue to halt between two opinions. His elevation, as it
had excited the hopes of the oppressors, had excited also the
terror and the rage of the oppressed. Agitation, which had,
during more than a year, slumbered in Ireland, awoke with renewed
vigour, and soon became more formidable than ever. The Roman
Catholic Association began to exercise authority such as the
Irish Parliament, in the days of its independence, had never
possessed. An agitator became more powerful than the Lord
Lieutenant. Violence engendered violence. Every explosion of
feeling on one side of St George's Channel was answered by a
louder explosion on the other. The Clare election, the Penenden
Heath meeting showed that the time for evasion and delay was
past. A crisis had arrived which made it absolutely necessary
for the Government to take one side or the other. A simple issue
was proposed to the right honourable Baronet, concession or civil
war; to disgust his party, or to ruin his country. He chose the
good part. He performed a duty, deeply painful, in some sense
humiliating, yet in truth highly honourable to him. He came down
to this House and proposed the emancipation of the Roman
Catholics. Among his adherents were some who, like himself, had
opposed the Roman Catholic claims merely on the ground of
political expediency; and these persons readily consented to
support his new policy. But not so the great body of his
followers. Their zeal for Protestant ascendency was a ruling
passion, a passion, too, which they thought it a virtue to
indulge. They had exerted themselves to raise to power the man
whom they regarded as the ablest and most trusty champion of that
ascendency; and he had not only abandoned the good cause, but had
become its adversary. Who can forget in what a roar of obloquy
their anger burst forth? Never before was such a flood of
calumny and invective poured on a single head. All history, all
fiction were ransacked by the old friends of the right honourable
Baronet, for nicknames and allusions. One right honourable
gentleman, who I am sorry not to see in his place opposite, found
English prose too weak to express his indignation, and pursued
his perfidious chief with reproaches borrowed from the ravings of
the deserted Dido. Another Tory explored Holy Writ for
parallels, and could find no parallel but Judas Iscariot. The
great university which had been proud to confer on the right
honourable Baronet the highest marks of favour, was foremost in
affixing the brand of infamy. From Cornwall, from
Northumberland, clergymen came up by hundreds to Oxford, in order
to vote against him whose presence, a few days before, would have
set the bells of their parish churches jingling. Nay, such was
the violence of this new enmity that the old enmity of the Tories
to Whigs, Radicals, Dissenters, Papists, seemed to be forgotten.
That Ministry which, when it came into power at the close of
1828, was one of the strongest that the country ever saw, was, at
the close of 1829, one of the weakest. It lingered another year,
staggering between two parties, leaning now on one, now on the
other, reeling sometimes under a blow from the right, sometimes
under a blow from the left, and certain to fall as soon as the
Tory opposition and the Whig opposition could find a question on
which to unite. Such a question was found: and that Ministry
fell without a struggle.

Now what I wish to know is this. What reason have we to believe
that any administration which the right honourable Baronet can
now form will have a different fate? Is he changed since 1829?
Is his party changed? He is, I believe, still the same, still a
statesman, moderate in opinions, cautious in temper, perfectly
free from that fanaticism which inflames so many of his
supporters. As to his party, I admit that it is not the same;
for it is very much worse. It is decidedly fiercer and more
unreasonable than it was eleven years ago. I judge by its public
meetings; I judge by its journals; I judge by its pulpits,
pulpits which every week resound with ribaldry and slander such
as would disgrace the hustings. A change has come over the
spirit of a part, I hope not the larger part, of the Tory body.
It was once the glory of the Tories that, through all changes of
fortune, they were animated by a steady and fervent loyalty which
made even error respectable, and gave to what might otherwise
have been called servility something of the manliness and
nobleness of freedom. A great Tory poet, whose eminent services
to the cause of monarchy had been ill requited by an ungrateful
Court, boasted that

"Loyalty is still the same,
Whether it win or lose the game;
True as the dial to the sun,
Although it be not shined upon."

Toryism has now changed its character. We have lived to see a
monster of a faction made up of the worst parts of the Cavalier
and the worst parts of the Roundhead. We have lived to see a
race of disloyal Tories. We have lived to see Tories giving
themselves the airs of those insolent pikemen who puffed out
their tobacco smoke in the face of Charles the First. We have
lived to see Tories who, because they are not allowed to grind
the people after the fashion of Strafford, turn round and revile
the Sovereign in the style of Hugh Peters. I say, therefore,
that, while the leader is still what he was eleven years ago,
when his moderation alienated his intemperate followers, his
followers are more intemperate than ever. It is my firm belief
that the majority of them desire the repeal of the Emancipation
Act. You say, no. But I will give reasons, and unanswerable
reasons, for what I say. How, if you really wish to maintain the
Emancipation Act, do you explain that clamour which you have
raised, and which has resounded through the whole kingdom, about
the three Popish Privy Councillors? You resent, as a calumny,
the imputation that you wish to repeal the Emancipation Act; and
yet you cry out that Church and State are in danger of ruin
whenever the Government carries that Act into effect. If the
Emancipation Act is never to be executed, why should it not be
repealed? I perfectly understand that an honest man may wish it
to be repealed. But I am at a loss to understand how honest men
can say, "We wish the Emancipation Act to be maintained: you who
accuse us of wishing to repeal it slander us foully: we value it
as much as you do. Let it remain among our statutes, provided
always that it remains as a dead letter. If you dare to put it
in force, indeed, we will agitate against you; for, though we
talk against agitation, we too can practice agitation: we will
denounce you in our associations; for, though we call
associations unconstitutional, we too have our associations: our
divines shall preach about Jezebel: our tavern spouters shall
give significant hints about James the Second." Yes, Sir, such
hints have been given, hints that a sovereign who has merely
executed the law, ought to be treated like a sovereign who
grossly violated the law. I perfectly understand, as I said,
that an honest man may disapprove of the Emancipation Act, and
may wish it repealed. But can any man, who is of opinion that
Roman Catholics ought to be admitted to office, honestly maintain
that they now enjoy more than their fair share of power and
emolument? What is the proportion of Roman Catholics to the
whole population of the United Kingdom? About one-fourth. What
proportion of the Privy Councillors are Roman Catholics? About
one-seventieth. And what, after all, is the power of a Privy
Councillor, merely as such? Are not the right honourable
gentlemen opposite Privy Councillors? If a change should take
place, will not the present Ministers still be Privy Councillors?
It is notorious that no Privy Councillor goes to Council unless
he is specially summoned. He is called Right Honourable, and he
walks out of a room before Esquires and Knights. And can we
seriously believe that men who think it monstrous that this
honorary distinction should be given to three Roman Catholics, do
sincerely desire to maintain a law by which a Roman Catholic may
be Commander in Chief with all the military patronage, First Lord
of the Admiralty with all the naval patronage, or First Lord of
the Treasury, with the chief influence in every department of the
Government. I must therefore suppose that those who join in the
cry against the three Privy Councillors, are either imbecile or
hostile to the Emancipation Act.

I repeat, therefore, that, while the right honourable Baronet is
as free from bigotry as he was eleven years ago, his party is
more bigoted than it was eleven years ago. The difficulty of
governing Ireland in opposition to the feelings of the great body
of the Irish people is, I apprehend, as great now as it was
eleven years ago. What then must be the fate of a government
formed by the right honourable Baronet? Suppose that the event
of this debate should make him Prime Minister? Should I be wrong
if I were to prophesy that three years hence he will be more
hated and vilified by the Tory party than the present advisers of
the Crown have been? Should I be wrong if I were to say that all
those literary organs which now deafen us with praise of him,
will then deafen us with abuse of him? Should I be wrong if I
were to say that he will be burned in effigy by those who now
drink his health with three times three and one cheer more?
Should I be wrong if I were to say that those very gentlemen who
have crowded hither to-night in order to vote him into power,
will crowd hither to vote Lord Melbourne back? Once already have
I seen those very persons go out into the lobby for the purpose
of driving the right honourable Baronet from the high situation
to which they had themselves exalted him. I went out with them
myself; yes, with the whole body of the Tory country gentlemen,
with the whole body of high Churchmen. All the four University
Members were with us. The effect of that division was to bring
Lord Grey, Lord Althorpe, Lord Brougham, Lord Durham into power.
You may say that the Tories on that occasion judged ill, that
they were blinded by vindictive passion, that if they had
foreseen all that followed they might have acted differently.
Perhaps so. But what has been once may be again. I cannot think
it possible that those who are now supporting the right
honourable Baronet will continue from personal attachment to
support him if they see that his policy is in essentials the same
as Lord Melbourne's. I believe that they have quite as much
personal attachment to Lord Melbourne as to the right honourable
Baronet. They follow the right honourable Baronet because his
abilities, his eloquence, his experience are necessary to them;
but they are but half reconciled to him. They never can forget
that, in the most important crisis of his public life, he
deliberately chose rather to be the victim of their injustice
than its instrument. It is idle to suppose that they will be
satisfied by seeing a new set of men in power. Their maxim is
most truly "Measures, not men." They care not before whom the
sword of state is borne at Dublin, or who wears the badge of St
Patrick. What they abhor is not Lord Normanby personally or Lord
Ebrington personally, but the great principles in conformity with
which Ireland has been governed by Lord Normanby and by Lord
Ebrington, the principles of justice, humanity, and religious
freedom. What they wish to have in Ireland is not my Lord
Haddington, or any other viceroy whom the right honourable
Baronet may select, but the tyranny of race over race, and of
creed over creed. Give them what they want; and you convulse the
empire. Refuse them; and you dissolve the Tory party. I believe
that the right honourable Baronet himself is by no means without
apprehensions that, if he were now called to the head of affairs,
he would, very speedily, have the dilemma of 1829 again before
him. He certainly was not without such apprehensions when, a few
months ago, he was commanded by Her Majesty to submit to her the
plan of an administration. The aspect of public affairs was not
at that time cheering. The Chartists were stirring in England.
There were troubles in Canada. There were great discontents in
the West Indies. An expedition, of which the event was still
doubtful, had been sent into the heart of Asia. Yet, among many
causes of anxiety, the discerning eye of the right honourable
Baronet easily discerned the quarter where the great and
immediate danger lay. He told the House that his difficulty
would be Ireland. Now, Sir, that which would be the difficulty
of his administration is the strength of the present
administration. Her Majesty's Ministers enjoy the confidence of
Ireland; and I believe that what ought to be done for that
country will excite less discontent here if done by them than if
done by him. He, I am afraid, great as his abilities are, and
good as I willingly admit his intentions to be, would find it
easy to lose the confidence of his partisans, but hard indeed to
win the confidence of the Irish people.

It is indeed principally on account of Ireland that I feel
solicitous about the issue of the present debate. I well know
how little chance he who speaks on that theme has of obtaining a
fair hearing. Would to God that I were addressing an audience
which would judge this great controversy as it is judged by
foreign nations, and as it will be judged by future ages. The
passions which inflame us, the sophisms which delude us, will not
last for ever. The paroxysms of faction have their appointed
season. Even the madness of fanaticism is but for a day. The
time is coming when our conflicts will be to others what the
conflicts of our forefathers are to us; when the preachers who
now disturb the State, and the politicians who now make a
stalking horse of the Church, will be no more than Sacheverel and
Harley. Then will be told, in language very different from that
which now calls forth applause from the mob of Exeter Hall, the
true story of these troubled years.

There was, it will then be said, a part of the kingdom of Queen
Victoria which presented a lamentable contrast to the rest; not
from the want of natural fruitfulness, for there was no richer
soil in Europe; not from want of facilities for trade, for the
coasts of this unhappy region were indented by bays and estuaries
capable of holding all the navies of the world; not because the
people were too dull to improve these advantages or too
pusillanimous to defend them; for in natural quickness of wit and
gallantry of spirit they ranked high among the nations. But all
the bounty of nature had been made unavailing by the crimes and
errors of man. In the twelfth century that fair island was a
conquered province. The nineteenth century found it a conquered
province still. During that long interval many great changes had
taken place which had conduced to the general welfare of the
empire: but those changes had only aggravated the misery of
Ireland. The Reformation came, bringing to England and Scotland
divine truth and intellectual liberty. To Ireland it brought
only fresh calamities. Two new war cries, Protestant and
Catholic, animated the old feud between the Englishry and the
Irishry. The Revolution came, bringing to England and Scotland
civil and spiritual freedom, to Ireland subjugation, degradation,
persecution. The Union came: but though it joined legislatures,
it left hearts as widely disjoined as ever. Catholic
Emancipation came: but it came too late; it came as a concession
made to fear, and, having excited unreasonable hopes, was
naturally followed by unreasonable disappointment. Then came
violent irritation, and numerous errors on both sides. Agitation
produced coercion, and coercion produced fresh agitation.
Difficulties and dangers went on increasing, till a government
arose which, all other means having failed, determined to employ
the only means that had not yet been fairly tried, justice and
mercy. The State, long the stepmother of the many, and the
mother only of the few, became for the first time the common
parent of all the great family. The body of the people began to
look on their rulers as friends. Battalion after battalion,
squadron after squadron was withdrawn from districts which, as it
had till then been thought, could be governed by the sword alone.
Yet the security of property and the authority of law became
every day more complete. Symptoms of amendment, symptoms such as
cannot be either concealed or counterfeited, began to appear; and
those who once despaired of the destinies of Ireland began to
entertain a confident hope that she would at length take among
European nations that high place to which her natural resources
and the intelligence of her children entitle her to aspire.

In words such as these, I am confident, will the next generation
speak of the events in our time. Relying on the sure justice of
history and posterity, I care not, as far as I am personally
concerned, whether we stand or fall. That issue it is for the
House to decide. Whether the result will be victory or defeat, I
know not. But I know that there are defeats not less glorious
than any victory; and yet I have shared in some glorious
victories. Those were proud and happy days;--some who sit on the
benches opposite can well remember, and must, I think, regret
them;--those were proud and happy days when, amidst the applauses
and blessings of millions, my noble friend led us on in the great
struggle for the Reform Bill; when hundreds waited round our
doors till sunrise to hear how we had sped; when the great cities
of the north poured forth their population on the highways to
meet the mails which brought from the capital the tidings whether
the battle of the people had been lost or won. Such days my
noble friend cannot hope to see again. Two such triumphs would
be too much for one life. But perhaps there still awaits him a
less pleasing, a less exhilarating, but a not less honourable
task, the task of contending against superior numbers, and
through years of discomfiture, for those civil and religious
liberties which are inseparably associated with the name of his
illustrious house. At his side will not be wanting men who
against all odds, and through all turns of fortune, in evil days
and amidst evil tongues, will defend to the last, with unabated
spirit, the noble principles of Milton and of Locke. We may be
driven from office. We may be doomed to a life of opposition.
We may be made marks for the rancour of sects which, hating each
other with a deadly hatred, yet hate toleration still more. We
may be exposed to the rage of Laud on one side, and of Praise-
God-Barebones on the other. But justice will be done at last:
and a portion of the praise which we bestow on the old champions
and martyrs of freedom will not be refused by future generations
to the men who have in our days endeavoured to bind together in
real union races too long estranged, and to efface, by the mild
influence of a parental government, the fearful traces which have
been left by the misrule of ages.




On the seventh of April, 1840, Sir James Graham moved the
following resolution:

"That it appears to this House, on consideration of the papers
relating to China presented to this House by command of Her
Majesty, that the interruption in our commercial and friendly
intercourse with that country, and the hostilities which have
since taken place, are mainly to be attributed to the want of
foresight and precaution on the part of Her Majesty's present
advisers, in respect to our relations with China, and especially
to their neglect to furnish the Superintendent at Canton with
powers and instructions calculated to provide against the growing
evils connected with the contraband trade in opium, and adapted
to the novel and difficult situation in which the Superintendent
was placed."

As soon as the question had been put from the Chair the following
Speech was made.

The motion was rejected, after a debate of three nights, by 271
votes to 261.

Mr Speaker,--If the right honourable Baronet, in rising to make
an attack on the Government, was forced to own that he was
unnerved and overpowered by his sense of the importance of the
question with which he had to deal, one who rises to repel that
attack may, without any shame, confess that he feels similar
emotions. And yet I must say that the anxiety, the natural and
becoming anxiety, with which Her Majesty's Ministers have awaited
the judgment of the House on these papers, was not a little
allayed by the terms of the right honourable Baronet's motion,
and has been still more allayed by his speech. It was impossible
for us to doubt either his inclination or his ability to detect
and to expose any fault which we might have committed, and we may
well congratulate ourselves on finding that, after the closest
examination into a long series of transactions, so extensive, so
complicated, and, in some respects, so disastrous, so keen an
assailant could produce only so futile an accusation.

In the first place, Sir, the resolution which the right
honourable Baronet has moved relates entirely to events which
took place before the rupture with the Chinese Government. That
rupture took place in March, 1839. The right honourable Baronet
therefore does not propose to pass any censure on any step which
has been taken by the Government within the last thirteen months;
and it will, I think, be generally admitted, that when he
abstains from censuring the proceedings of the Government, it is
because the most unfriendly scrutiny can find nothing in those
proceedings to censure. We by no means deny that he has a
perfect right to propose a vote expressing disapprobation of what
was done in 1837 or 1838. At the same time, we cannot but be
gratified by learning that he approves of our present policy, and
of the measures which we have taken, since the rupture, for the
vindication of the national honour and for the protection of the
national interests.

It is also to be observed that the right honourable Baronet has
not ventured, either in his motion or in his speech, to charge
Her Majesty's Ministers with any unwise or unjust act, with any
act tending to lower the character of England, or to give cause
of offence to China. The only sins which he imputes to them are
sins of omission. His complaint is merely that they did not
foresee the course which events would take at Canton, and that
consequently they did not send sufficient instructions to the
British resident who was stationed there. Now it is evident that
such an accusation is of all accusations that which requires the
fullest and most distinct proof; for it is of all accusations
that which it is easiest to make and hardest to refute. A man
charged with a culpable act which he has not committed has
comparatively little difficulty in proving his innocence. But
when the charge is merely this, that he has not, in a long and
intricate series of transactions, done all that it would have
been wise to do, how is he to vindicate himself? And the case
which we are considering has this peculiarity, that the envoy to
whom the Ministers are said to have left too large a discretion
was fifteen thousand miles from them. The charge against them
therefore is this, that they did not give such copious and
particular directions as were sufficient, in every possible
emergency, for the guidance of a functionary, who was fifteen
thousand miles off. Now, Sir, I am ready to admit that, if the
papers on our table related to important negotiations with a
neighbouring state, if they related, for example, to a
negotiation carried on with France, my noble friend the Secretary
for Foreign Affairs (Lord Palmerston.) might well have been
blamed for sending instructions so meagre and so vague to our
ambassador at Paris. For my noble friend knows to-night what
passed between our ambassador at Paris and the French Ministers
yesterday; and a messenger despatched to-night from Downing
Street will be at the Embassy in the Faubourg Saint Honore the
day after to-morrow. But that constant and minute control, which
the Foreign Secretary is bound to exercise over diplomatic agents
who are near, becomes an useless and pernicious meddling when
exercised over agents who are separated from him by a voyage of
five months. There are on both sides of the House gentlemen
conversant with the affairs of India. I appeal to those
gentlemen. India is nearer to us than China. India is far
better known to us than China. Yet is it not universally
acknowledged that India can be governed only in India? The
authorities at home point out to a governor the general line of
policy which they wish him to follow; but they do not send him
directions as to the details of his administration. How indeed
is it possible that they should send him such directions?
Consider in what a state the affairs of this country would be if
they were to be conducted according to directions framed by the
ablest statesman residing in Bengal. A despatch goes hence
asking for instructions while London is illuminating for the
peace of Amiens. The instructions arrive when the French army is
encamped at Boulogne, and when the whole island is up in arms to
repel invasion. A despatch is written asking for instructions
when Bonaparte is at Elba. The instructions come when he is at
the Tuilleries. A despatch is written asking for instructions
when he is at the Tuilleries. The instructions come when he is
at St Helena. It would be just as impossible to govern India in
London as to govern England at Calcutta. While letters are
preparing here on the supposition that there is profound peace in
the Carnatic, Hyder is at the gates of Fort St George. While
letters are preparing here on the supposition that trade is
flourishing and that the revenue exceeds the expenditure, the
crops have failed, great agency houses have broken, and the
government is negotiating a loan on hard terms. It is notorious
that the great men who founded and preserved our Indian empire,
Clive and Warren Hastings, treated all particular orders which
they received from home as mere waste paper. Had not those great
men had the sense and spirit so to treat such orders, we should
not now have had an Indian empire. But the case of China is far
stronger. For, though a person who is now writing a despatch to
Fort William in Leadenhall Street or Cannon Row, cannot know what
events have happened in India within the last two months, he may
be very intimately acquainted with the general state of that
country, with its wants, with its resources, with the habits and
temper of the native population, and with the character of every
prince and minister from Nepaul to Tanjore. But what does
anybody here know of China? Even those Europeans who have been
in that empire are almost as ignorant of it as the rest of us.
Everything is covered by a veil, through which a glimpse of what
is within may occasionally be caught, a glimpse just sufficient
to set the imagination at work, and more likely to mislead than
to inform. The right honourable Baronet has told us that an
Englishman at Canton sees about as much of China as a foreigner
who should land at Wapping and proceed no further would see of
England. Certainly the sights and sounds of Wapping would give a
foreigner but a very imperfect notion of our Government, of our
manufactures, of our agriculture, of the state of learning and
the arts among us. And yet the illustration is but a faint one.
For a foreigner may, without seeing even Wapping, without
visiting England at all, study our literature, and may thence
form a vivid and correct idea of our institutions and manners.
But the literature of China affords us no such help. Obstacles
unparalleled in any other country which has books must be
surmounted by the student who is determined to master the Chinese
tongue. To learn to read is the business of half a life. It is
easier to become such a linguist as Sir William Jones was than to
become a good Chinese scholar. You may count upon your fingers
the Europeans whose industry and genius, even when stimulated by
the most fervent religious zeal, has triumphed over the
difficulties of a language without an alphabet. Here then is a
country separated from us physically by half the globe, separated
from us still more effectually by the barriers which the most
jealous of all governments and the hardest of all languages
oppose to the researches of strangers. Is it then reasonable to
blame my noble friend because he has not sent to our envoys in
such a country as this instructions as full and precise as it
would have been his duty to send to a minister at Brussels or at
the Hague? The right honourable Baronet who comes forward as the
accuser on this occasion is really accusing himself. He was a
member of the Government of Lord Grey. He was himself concerned
in framing the first instructions which were given by my noble
friend to our first Superintendent at Canton. For those
instructions the right honourable Baronet frankly admits that he
is himself responsible. Are those instructions then very copious
and minute? Not at all. They merely lay down general
principles. The Resident, for example, is enjoined to respect
national usages, and to avoid whatever may shock the prejudices
of the Chinese; but no orders are given him as to matters of
detail. In 1834 my noble friend quitted the Foreign Office, and
the Duke of Wellington went to it. Did the Duke of Wellington
send out those copious and exact directions with which, according
to the right honourable Baronet, the Government is bound to
furnish its agent in China? No, Sir; the Duke of Wellington,
grown old in the conduct of great affairs, knows better than
anybody that a man of very ordinary ability at Canton is likely
to be a better judge of what ought to be done on an emergency
arising at Canton than the greatest politician at Westminster can
possibly be. His Grace, therefore, like a wise man as he is,
wrote only one letter to the Superintendent, and in that letter
merely referred the Superintendent to the general directions
given by Lord Palmerston. And how, Sir, does the right
honourable Baronet prove that, by persisting in the course which
he himself took when in office, and which the Duke of Wellington
took when in office, Her Majesty's present advisers have brought
on that rupture which we all deplore? He has read us, from the
voluminous papers which are on the table, much which has but a
very remote connection with the question. He has said much about
things which happened before the present Ministry existed, and
much about things which have happened at Canton since the
rupture; but very little that is relevant to the issue raised by
the resolution which he has himself proposed. That issue is
simply this, whether the mismanagement of the present Ministry
produced the rupture. I listened to his long and able speech
with the greatest attention, and did my best to separate that
part which had any relation to his motion from a great mass of
extraneous matter. If my analysis be correct, the charge which
he brings against the Government consists of four articles.

The first article is, that the Government omitted to alter that
part of the original instructions which directed the
Superintendent to reside at Canton.

The second article is, that the Government omitted to alter that
part of the original instructions which directed the
Superintendent to communicate directly with the representatives
of the Emperor.

The third article is, that the Government omitted to follow the
advice of the Duke of Wellington, who had left at the Foreign
Office a memorandum recommending that a British ship of war
should be stationed in the China sea.

The fourth article is, that the Government omitted to authorise
and empower the Superintendent to put down the contraband trade
carried on by British subjects with China.

Such, Sir, are the counts of this indictment. Of these counts,
the fourth is the only one which will require a lengthened
defence. The first three may be disposed of in very few words.

As to the first, the answer is simple. It is true that the
Government did not revoke that part of the instructions which
directed the Superintendent to reside at Canton; and it is true
that this part of the instructions did at one time cause a
dispute between the Superintendent and the Chinese authorities.
But it is equally true that this dispute was accommodated early
in 1837; that the Chinese Government furnished the Superintendent
with a passport authorising him to reside at Canton; that, during
the two years which preceded the rupture, the Chinese Government
made no objection to his residing at Canton; and that there is
not in all this huge blue book one word indicating that the
rupture was caused, directly or indirectly, by his residing at
Canton. On the first count, therefore, I am confident that the
verdict must be, Not Guilty.

To the second count we have a similar answer. It is true that
there was a dispute with the authorities of Canton about the mode
of communication. But it is equally true that this dispute was
settled by a compromise. The Chinese made a concession as to the
channel of communication. The Superintendent made a concession
as to the form of communication. The question had been thus set
at rest before the rupture, and had absolutely nothing to do with
the rupture.

As to the third charge, I must tell the right honourable Baronet
that he has altogether misapprehended that memorandum which he so
confidently cites. The Duke of Wellington did not advise the
Government to station a ship of war constantly in the China seas.
The Duke, writing in 1835, at a time when the regular course of
the trade had been interrupted, recommended that a ship of war
should be stationed near Canton, "till the trade should take its
regular peaceable course." Those are His Grace's own words. Do
they not imply that, when the trade had again taken its regular
peaceable course, it might be right to remove the ship of war?
Well, Sir, the trade, after that memorandum was written, did
resume its regular peaceable course: that the right honourable
Baronet himself will admit; for it is part of his own case that
Sir George Robinson had succeeded in restoring quiet and
security. The third charge then is simply this, that the
Ministers did not do in a time of perfect tranquillity what the
Duke of Wellington thought that it would have been right to do in
a time of trouble.

And now, Sir, I come to the fourth charge, the only real charge;
for the other three are so futile that I hardly understand how
the right honourable Baronet should have ventured to bring them
forward. The fourth charge is, that the Ministers omitted to
send to the Superintendent orders and powers to suppress the
contraband trade, and that this omission was the cause of the

Now, Sir, let me ask whether it was not notorious, when the right
honourable Baronet was in office, that British subjects carried
on an extensive contraband trade with China? Did the right
honourable Baronet and his colleagues instruct the Superintendent
to put down that trade? Never. That trade went on while the
Duke of Wellington was at the Foreign Office. Did the Duke of
Wellington instruct the Superintendent to put down that trade?
No, Sir, never. Are then the followers of the right honourable
Baronet, are the followers of the Duke of Wellington, prepared to
pass a vote of censure on us for following the example of the
right honourable Baronet and of the Duke of Wellington? But I am
understating my case. Since the present Ministers came into
office, the reasons against sending out such instructions were
much stronger than when the right honourable Baronet was in
office, or when the Duke of Wellington was in office. Down to
the month of May 1838, my noble friend had good grounds for
believing that the Chinese Government was about to legalise the
trade in opium. It is by no means easy to follow the windings of
Chinese politics. But, it is certain that about four years ago
the whole question was taken into serious consideration at Pekin.
The attention of the Emperor was called to the undoubted fact,
that the law which forbade the trade in opium was a dead letter.
That law had been intended to guard against two evils, which the
Chinese legislators seem to have regarded with equal horror, the
importation of a noxious drug, and the exportation of the
precious metals. It was found, however, that as many pounds of
opium came in, and that as many pounds of silver went out, as if
there had been no such law. The only effect of the prohibition
was that the people learned to think lightly of imperial edicts,
and that no part of the great sums expended in the purchase of
the forbidden luxury came into the imperial treasury. These
considerations were set forth in a most luminous and judicious
state paper, drawn by Tang Tzee, President of the Sacrificial
Offices. I am sorry to hear that this enlightened Minister has
been turned out of office on account of his liberality: for to
be turned out of office is, I apprehend, a much more serious
misfortune in China than in England. Tang Tzee argued that it
was unwise to attempt to exclude opium, for that, while millions
desired to have it, no law would keep it out, and that the manner
in which it had long been brought in had produced an injurious
effect both on the revenues of the state and on the morals of the
people. Opposed to Tang Tzee was Tchu Sing, a statesman of a
very different class, of a class which, I am sorry to say, is not
confined to China. Tchu Sing appears to be one of those staunch
conservatives who, when they find that a law is inefficient
because it is too severe, imagine that they can make it efficient
by making it more severe still. His historical knowledge is much
on a par with his legislative wisdom. He seems to have paid
particular attention to the rise and progress of our Indian
Empire, and he informs his imperial master that opium is the
weapon by which England effects her conquests. She had, it
seems, persuaded the people of Hindostan to smoke and swallow
this besotting drug, till they became so feeble in body and mind,
that they were subjugated without difficulty. Some time appears
to have elapsed before the Emperor made up his mind on the point
in dispute between Tang Tzee and Tchu Sing. Our Superintendent,
Captain Elliot, was of opinion that the decision would be in
favour of the rational view taken by Tang Tzee; and such, as I
can myself attest, was, during part of the year 1837, the opinion
of the whole mercantile community of Calcutta. Indeed, it was
expected that every ship which arrived in the Hoogley from Canton
would bring the news that the opium trade had been declared
legal. Nor was it known in London till May 1838, that the
arguments of Tchu Sing had prevailed. Surely, Sir, it would have
been most absurd to order Captain Elliot to suppress this trade
at a time when everybody expected that it would soon cease to be
contraband. The right honourable Baronet must, I think, himself
admit that, till the month of May 1838, the Government here
omitted nothing that ought to have been done.

The question before us is therefore reduced to very narrow
limits. It is merely this: Ought my noble friend, in May 1838,
to have sent out a despatch commanding and empowering Captain
Elliot to put down the opium trade? I do not think that it would
have been right or wise to send out such a despatch. Consider,
Sir, with what powers it would have been necessary to arm the
Superintendent. He must have been authorised to arrest, to
confine, to send across the sea any British subject whom he might
believe to have been concerned in introducing opium into China.
I do not deny that, under the Act of Parliament, the Government
might have invested him with this dictatorship. But I do say
that the Government ought not lightly to invest any man with such
a dictatorship, and, that if, in consequence of directions sent
out by the Government, numerous subjects of Her Majesty had been
taken into custody and shipped off to Bengal or to England
without being permitted to wind up their affairs, this House
would in all probability have called the Ministers to a strict
account. Nor do I believe that by sending such directions the
Government would have averted the rupture which has taken place.
I will go further. I believe that, if such directions had been
sent, we should now have been, as we are, at war with China; and
that we should have been at war in circumstances singularly
dishonourable and disastrous.

For, Sir, suppose that the Superintendent had been authorised and
commanded by the Government to put forth an order prohibiting
British subjects from trading in opium; suppose that he had put
forth such an order; how was he to enforce it? The right
honourable Baronet has had too much experience of public affairs
to imagine that a lucrative trade will be suppressed by a sheet
of paper and a seal. In England we have a preventive service
which costs us half a million a year. We employ more than fifty
cruisers to guard our coasts. We have six thousand effective men
whose business is to intercept smugglers. And yet everybody
knows that every article which is much desired, which is easily
concealed, and which is heavily taxed, is smuggled into our
island to a great extent. The quantity of brandy which comes in
without paying duty is known to be not less than six hundred
thousand gallons a year. Some people think that the quantity of
tobacco which is imported clandestinely is as great as the
quantity which goes through the custom-houses. Be this as it
may, there is no doubt that the illicit importation is enormous.
It has been proved before a Committee of this House that not less
than four millions of pounds of tobacco have lately been smuggled
into Ireland. And all this, observe, has been done in spite of
the most efficient preventive service that I believe ever existed
in the world. Consider too that the price of an ounce of opium
is far, very far higher than the price of a pound of tobacco.
Knowing this, knowing that the whole power of King, Lords, and
Commons cannot here put a stop to a traffic less easy, and less
profitable than the traffic in opium, can you believe that an
order prohibiting the traffic in opium would have been readily
obeyed? Remember by what powerful motives both the buyer and the
seller would have been impelled to deal with each other. The
buyer would have been driven to the seller by something little
short of torture, by a physical craving as fierce and impatient
as any to which our race is subject. For, when stimulants of
this sort have been long used, they are desired with a rage which
resembles the rage of hunger. The seller would have been driven
to the buyer by the hope of vast and rapid gain. And do you
imagine that the intense appetite on one side for what had become
a necessary of life, and on the other for riches, would have been
appeased by a few lines signed Charles Elliot? The very utmost
effect which it is possible to believe that such an order would
have produced would have been this, that the opium trade would
have left Canton, where the dealers were under the eye of the
Superintendent, and where they would have run some risk of being
punished by him, and would have spread itself along the coast.
If we know anything about the Chinese Government, we know this,
that its coastguard is neither trusty nor efficient; and we know
that a coastguard as trusty and efficient as our own would not be
able to cut off communication between the merchant longing for
silver and the smoker longing for his pipe. Whole fleets of
vessels would have managed to land their cargoes along the shore.
Conflicts would have arisen between our countrymen and the local
magistrates, who would not, like the authorities of Canton, have
had some knowledge of European habits and feelings. The mere
malum prohibitum would, as usual, have produced the mala in se.
The unlawful traffic would inevitably have led to a crowd of
acts, not only unlawful, but immoral. The smuggler would, by the
almost irresistible force of circumstances, have been turned into
a pirate. We know that, even at Canton, where the smugglers
stand in some awe of the authority of the Superintendent and of
the opinion of an English society which contains many respectable
persons, the illicit trade has caused many brawls and outrages.
What, then, was to be expected when every captain of a ship laden
with opium would have been the sole judge of his own conduct? It
is easy to guess what would have happened. A boat is sent ashore
to fill the water-casks and to buy fresh provisions. The
provisions are refused. The sailors take them by force. Then a
well is poisoned. Two or three of the ship's company die in
agonies. The crew in a fury land, shoot and stab every man whom
they meet, and sack and burn a village. Is this improbable?
Have not similar causes repeatedly produced similar effects? Do
we not know that the jealous vigilance with which Spain excluded
the ships of other nations from her Transatlantic possessions
turned men who would otherwise have been honest merchant
adventurers into buccaneers? The same causes which raised up one
race of buccaneers in the Gulf of Mexico would soon have raised
up another in the China Sea. And can we doubt what would in that
case have been the conduct of the Chinese authorities at Canton?
We see that Commissioner Lin has arrested and confined men of
spotless character, men whom he had not the slightest reason to
suspect of being engaged in any illicit commerce. He did so on
the ground that some of their countrymen had violated the revenue
laws of China. How then would he have acted if he had learned
that the red-headed devils had not merely been selling opium, but
had been fighting, plundering, slaying, burning? Would he not
have put forth a proclamation in his most vituperative style,
setting forth that the Outside Barbarians had undertaken to stop
the contraband trade, but that they had been found deceivers,
that the Superintendent's edict was a mere pretence, that there
was more smuggling than ever, that to the smuggling had been
added robbery and murder, and that therefore he should detain all
men of the guilty race as hostages till reparation should be
made? I say, therefore, that, if the Ministers had done that
which the right honourable Baronet blames them for not doing, we
should only have reached by a worse way the point at which we now

I have now, Sir, gone through the four heads of the charge
brought against the Government; and I say with confidence that
the interruption of our friendly relations with China cannot
justly be imputed to any one of the omissions mentioned by the
right honourable Baronet. In truth, if I could feel assured that
no gentleman would vote for the motion without attentively
reading it, and considering whether the proposition which it
affirms has been made out, I should have no uneasiness as to the
result of this debate. But I know that no member weighs the
words of a resolution for which he is asked to vote, as he would
weigh the words of an affidavit which he was asked to swear. And
I am aware that some persons, for whose humanity and honesty I
entertain the greatest respect, are inclined to divide with the
right honourable Baronet, not because they think that he has
proved his case, but because they have taken up a notion that we
are making war for the purpose of forcing the Government of China
to admit opium into that country, and that, therefore, we richly
deserve to be censured. Certainly, Sir, if we had been guilty of
such absurdity and such atrocity as those gentlemen impute to us,
we should deserve not only censure but condign punishment. But
the imputation is altogether unfounded. Our course was clear.
We may doubt indeed whether the Emperor of China judged well in
listening to Tchu Sing and disgracing Tang Tzee. We may doubt
whether it be a wise policy to exclude altogether from any
country a drug which is often fatally abused, but which to those
who use it rightly is one of the most precious boons vouchsafed
by Providence to man, powerful to assuage pain, to soothe
irritation, and to restore health. We may doubt whether it be a
wise policy to make laws for the purpose of preventing the
precious metals from being exported in the natural course of
trade. We have learned from all history, and from our own
experience, that revenue cutters, custom-house officers,
informers, will never keep out of any country foreign luxuries of
small bulk for which consumers are willing to pay high prices,
and will never prevent gold and silver from going abroad in
exchange for such luxuries. We cannot believe that what England
with her skilfully organised fiscal system and her gigantic
marine, has never been able to effect, will be accomplished by
the junks which are at the command of the mandarins of China.
But, whatever our opinion on these points may be, we are
perfectly aware that they are points which it belongs not to us
but to the Emperor of China to decide. He had a perfect right to
keep out opium and to keep in silver, if he could do so by means
consistent with morality and public law. If his officers seized
a chest of the forbidden drug, we were not entitled to complain;
nor did we complain. But when, finding that they could not
suppress the contraband trade by just means, they resorted to
means flagrantly unjust, when they imprisoned our innocent
countrymen, when they insulted our Sovereign in the person of her
representative, then it became our duty to demand satisfaction.
Whether the opium trade be a pernicious trade is not the
question. Take a parallel case: take the most execrable crime
that ever was called a trade, the African slave trade. You will
hardly say that a contraband trade in opium is more immoral than
a contraband trade in negroes. We prohibited slave-trading: we
made it felony; we made it piracy; we invited foreign powers to
join with us in putting it down; to some foreign powers we paid
large sums in order to obtain their co-operation; we employed our
naval force to intercept the kidnappers; and yet it is notorious
that, in spite of all our exertions and sacrifices, great numbers
of slaves were, even as late as ten or twelve years ago,
introduced from Madagascar into our own island of Mauritius.
Assuredly it was our right, it was our duty, to guard the coasts
of that island strictly, to stop slave ships, to bring the buyers
and sellers to punishment. But suppose, Sir, that a ship under
French colours was seen skulking near the island, that the
Governor was fully satisfied from her build, her rigging, and her
movements, that she was a slaver, and was only waiting for the
night to put on shore the wretches who were in her hold. Suppose
that, not having a sufficient naval force to seize this vessel,
he were to arrest thirty or forty French merchants, most of whom
had never been suspected of slave-trading, and were to lock them
up. Suppose that he were to lay violent hands on the French
consul. Suppose that the Governor were to threaten to starve his
prisoners to death unless they produced the proprietor of the
slaver. Would not the French Government in such a case have a
right to demand reparation? And, if we refused reparation, would
not the French Government have a right to exact reparation by
arms? And would it be enough for us to say, "This is a wicked
trade, an inhuman trade. Think of the misery of the poor
creatures who are torn from their homes. Think of the horrors of
the middle passage. Will you make war in order to force us to
admit slaves into our colonies?" Surely the answer of the French
would be, "We are not making war in order to force you to admit
slaves into the Mauritius. By all means keep them out. By all
means punish every man, French or English, whom you can convict
of bringing them in. What we complain of is that you have
confounded the innocent with the guilty, and that you have acted
towards the representative of our government in a manner
inconsistent with the law of nations. Do not, in your zeal for
one great principle, trample on all the other great principles of
morality." Just such are the grounds on which Her Majesty has
demanded reparation from China. And was it not time? See, Sir,
see how rapidly injury has followed injury. The Imperial
Commissioner, emboldened by the facility with which he had
perpetrated the first outrage, and utterly ignorant of the
relative position of his country and ours in the scale of power
and civilisation, has risen in his requisitions. He began by
confiscating property. His next demand was for innocent blood.
A Chinese had been slain. Careful inquiry was made; but it was
impossible to ascertain who was the slayer, or even to what
nation the slayer belonged. No matter. It was notified to the
Superintendent that some subject of the Queen, innocent or
guilty, must be delivered up to suffer death. The Superintendent
refused to comply. Then our countrymen at Canton were seized.
Those who were at Macao were driven thence: not men alone, but
women with child, babies at the breast. The fugitives begged in
vain for a morsel of bread. Our Lascars, people of a different
colour from ours, but still our fellow-subjects, were flung into
the sea. An English gentleman was barbarously mutilated. And
was this to be borne? I am far from thinking that we ought, in
our dealings with such a people as the Chinese, to be litigious
on points of etiquette. The place of our country among the
nations of the world is not so mean or so ill ascertained that we
need resent mere impertinence, which is the effect of a very
pitiable ignorance. Conscious of superior power, we can bear to
hear our Sovereign described as a tributary of the Celestial
Empire. Conscious of superior knowledge we can bear to hear
ourselves described as savages destitute of every useful art.
When our ambassadors were required to perform a prostration,
which in Europe would have been considered as degrading, we were
rather amused than irritated. It would have been unworthy of us
to have recourse to arms on account of an uncivil phrase, or of a
dispute about a ceremony. But this is not a question of phrases
and ceremonies. The liberties and lives of Englishmen are at
stake: and it is fit that all nations, civilised and
uncivilised, should know that, wherever the Englishman may
wander, he is followed by the eye and guarded by the power of

I was much touched, and so, I dare say, were many other
gentlemen, by a passage in one of Captain Elliot's despatches. I
mean that passage in which he describes his arrival at the
factory in the moment of extreme danger. As soon as he landed he
was surrounded by his countrymen, all in an agony of distress and
despair. The first thing which he did was to order the British
flag to be brought from his boat and planted in the balcony. The
sight immediately revived the hearts of those who had a minute
before given themselves up for lost. It was natural that they
should look up with hope and confidence to that victorious flag.
For it reminded them that they belonged to a country unaccustomed
to defeat, to submission, or to shame; to a country which had
exacted such reparation for the wrongs of her children as had
made the ears of all who heard of it to tingle; to a country
which had made the Dey of Algiers humble himself to the dust
before her insulted Consul; to a country which had avenged the
victims of the Black Hole on the Field of Plassey; to a country
which had not degenerated since the Great Protector vowed that he
would make the name of Englishman as much respected as ever had
been the name of Roman citizen. They knew that, surrounded as
they were by enemies, and separated by great oceans and
continents from all help, not a hair of their heads would be
harmed with impunity. On this part of the subject I believe that
both the great contending parties in this House are agreed. I
did not detect in the speech of the right honourable Baronet,--
and I listened to that speech with the closest attention,--one
word indicating that he is less disposed than we to insist on
full satisfaction for the great wrong which has been done. I
cannot believe that the House will pass a vote of censure so
grossly unjust as that which he has moved. But I rejoice to
think that, whether we are censured or not, the national honour
will still be safe. There may be a change of men; but, as
respects China, there will be no change of measures. I have
done; and have only to express my fervent hope that this most
righteous quarrel may be prosecuted to a speedy and triumphant
close; that the brave men to whom is intrusted the task of
exacting reparation may perform their duty in such a manner as to
spread, throughout regions in which the English name is hardly
known, the fame not only of English skill and valour, but of
English mercy and moderation; and that the overruling care of
that gracious Providence which has so often brought good out of
evil may make the war to which we have been forced the means of
establishing a durable peace, beneficial alike to the victors and
the vanquished.




On the twenty-ninth of January 1841, Mr Serjeant Talfourd
obtained leave to bring in a bill to amend the law of copyright.
The object of this bill was to extend the term of copyright in a
book to sixty years, reckoned from the death of the writer.

On the fifth of February Mr Serjeant Talfourd moved that the bill
should be read a second time. In reply to him the following
Speech was made. The bill was rejected by 45 votes to 38.

Though, Sir, it is in some sense agreeable to approach a subject
with which political animosities have nothing to do, I offer
myself to your notice with some reluctance. It is painful to me
to take a course which may possibly be misunderstood or
misrepresented as unfriendly to the interests of literature and
literary men. It is painful to me, I will add, to oppose my
honourable and learned friend on a question which he has taken up
from the purest motives, and which he regards with a parental
interest. These feelings have hitherto kept me silent when the
law of copyright has been under discussion. But as I am, on full
consideration, satisfied that the measure before us will, if
adopted, inflict grievous injury on the public, without
conferring any compensating advantage on men of letters, I think
it my duty to avow that opinion and to defend it.

The first thing to be done, Sir, is to settle on what principles
the question is to be argued. Are we free to legislate for the
public good, or are we not? Is this a question of expediency, or
is it a question of right? Many of those who have written and
petitioned against the existing state of things treat the
question as one of right. The law of nature, according to them,
gives to every man a sacred and indefeasible property in his own
ideas, in the fruits of his own reason and imagination. The
legislature has indeed the power to take away this property, just
as it has the power to pass an act of attainder for cutting off
an innocent man's head without a trial. But, as such an act of
attainder would be legal murder, so would an act invading the
right of an author to his copy be, according to these gentlemen,
legal robbery.

Now, Sir, if this be so, let justice be done, cost what it may.
I am not prepared, like my honourable and learned friend, to
agree to a compromise between right and expediency, and to commit
an injustice for the public convenience. But I must say, that
his theory soars far beyond the reach of my faculties. It is not
necessary to go, on the present occasion, into a metaphysical
inquiry about the origin of the right of property; and certainly
nothing but the strongest necessity would lead me to discuss a
subject so likely to be distasteful to the House. I agree, I
own, with Paley in thinking that property is the creature of the
law, and that the law which creates property can be defended only
on this ground, that it is a law beneficial to mankind. But it
is unnecessary to debate that point. For, even if I believed in
a natural right of property, independent of utility and anterior
to legislation, I should still deny that this right could survive
the original proprietor. Few, I apprehend, even of those who
have studied in the most mystical and sentimental schools of
moral philosophy, will be disposed to maintain that there is a
natural law of succession older and of higher authority than any
human code. If there be, it is quite certain that we have abuses
to reform much more serious than any connected with the question
of copyright. For this natural law can be only one; and the
modes of succession in the Queen's dominions are twenty. To go
no further than England, land generally descends to the eldest
son. In Kent the sons share and share alike. In many districts
the youngest takes the whole. Formerly a portion of a man's
personal property was secured to his family; and it was only of
the residue that he could dispose by will. Now he can dispose of
the whole by will: but you limited his power, a few years ago,
by enacting that the will should not be valid unless there were
two witnesses. If a man dies intestate, his personal property
generally goes according to the statute of distributions; but
there are local customs which modify that statute. Now which of
all these systems is conformed to the eternal standard of right?
Is it primogeniture, or gavelkind, or borough English? Are wills
jure divino? Are the two witnesses jure divino? Might not the
pars rationabilis of our old law have a fair claim to be regarded
as of celestial institution? Was the statute of distributions
enacted in Heaven long before it was adopted by Parliament? Or
is it to Custom of York, or to Custom of London, that this pre-
eminence belongs? Surely, Sir, even those who hold that there is
a natural right of property must admit that rules prescribing the
manner in which the effects of deceased persons shall be
distributed are purely arbitrary, and originate altogether in the
will of the legislature. If so, Sir, there is no controversy
between my honourable and learned friend and myself as to the
principles on which this question is to be argued. For the
existing law gives an author copyright during his natural life;
nor do I propose to invade that privilege, which I should, on the
contrary, be prepared to defend strenuously against any
assailant. The only point in issue between us is, how long after
an author's death the State shall recognise a copyright in his
representatives and assigns; and it can, I think, hardly be
disputed by any rational man that this is a point which the
legislature is free to determine in the way which may appear to
be most conducive to the general good.

We may now, therefore, I think, descend from these high regions,
where we are in danger of being lost in the clouds, to firm
ground and clear light. Let us look at this question like
legislators, and after fairly balancing conveniences and
inconveniences, pronounce between the existing law of copyright,
and the law now proposed to us. The question of copyright, Sir,
like most questions of civil prudence, is neither black nor
white, but grey. The system of copyright has great advantages
and great disadvantages; and it is our business to ascertain what
these are, and then to make an arrangement under which the
advantages may be as far as possible secured, and the
disadvantages as far as possible excluded. The charge which I
bring against my honourable and learned friend's bill is this,
that it leaves the advantages nearly what they are at present,
and increases the disadvantages at least fourfold.

The advantages arising from a system of copyright are obvious.
It is desirable that we should have a supply of good books; we
cannot have such a supply unless men of letters are liberally
remunerated; and the least objectionable way of remunerating them
is by means of copyright. You cannot depend for literary
instruction and amusement on the leisure of men occupied in the
pursuits of active life. Such men may occasionally produce
compositions of great merit. But you must not look to such men
for works which require deep meditation and long research. Works
of that kind you can expect only from persons who make literature
the business of their lives. Of these persons few will be found
among the rich and the noble. The rich and the noble are not
impelled to intellectual exertion by necessity. They may be
impelled to intellectual exertion by the desire of distinguishing
themselves, or by the desire of benefiting the community. But it
is generally within these walls that they seek to signalise
themselves and to serve their fellow-creatures. Both their
ambition and their public spirit, in a country like this,
naturally take a political turn. It is then on men whose
profession is literature, and whose private means are not ample,
that you must rely for a supply of valuable books. Such men must
be remunerated for their literary labour. And there are only two
ways in which they can be remunerated. One of those ways is
patronage; the other is copyright.

There have been times in which men of letters looked, not to the
public, but to the government, or to a few great men, for the
reward of their exertions. It was thus in the time of Maecenas
and Pollio at Rome, of the Medici at Florence, of Louis the
Fourteenth in France, of Lord Halifax and Lord Oxford in this
country. Now, Sir, I well know that there are cases in which it
is fit and graceful, nay, in which it is a sacred duty to reward
the merits or to relieve the distresses of men of genius by the
exercise of this species of liberality. But these cases are
exceptions. I can conceive no system more fatal to the integrity
and independence of literary men than one under which they should
be taught to look for their daily bread to the favour of
ministers and nobles. I can conceive no system more certain to
turn those minds which are formed by nature to be the blessings
and ornaments of our species into public scandals and pests.

We have, then, only one resource left. We must betake ourselves

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