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every account, to bring such proceedings to an end.
But, my Lords, it is for us to ponder these things well ; they are material facts in our present inquiry. Under a system of real representation, in a country where the people possessed the only safe and legitimate channel for making known their wishes and their complaints, a Parliament of their own choosing, such combinations would be useless. Indeed, they must always be mere brutum fulmen, unless where they are very general; and where they are general, they both indicate the universality of the grievance, and the determination to have redress. Where no safety-valve is provided for popular discontent, to prevent an explosion that may shiver the machine in pieces—where the people—and by the people, I repeat, I mean the middle classes, the wealth and intelligence of the country, the glory of the British name where this most important order of the community are without a regular and systematic communication with the Legislature-where they are denied the Constitution which is their birthright, and refused a voice in naming those who are to make the laws they must obey—impose the taxes they must pay,—and control, without appeal, their persons as well as properties
where they feel the load of such grievances, and feel too the power they possess, moral, intellectual, and, let me add, without the imputation of a threat, physical—then, and only then, are their combinations formidable; when they are armed by their wrongs, far more formidable than any physical force then, and only then, they become invincible.
ask, what, in these circumstances, we ought to do? I answer, simply our duty. If there were no such combinations in existence no symptom of popular excitement–if not a man had lifted up his voice against the existing system, we should be bound to seek and to seize any means of furthering the best interests of the people, with kindness, with consideration, with the firmness, certainly, but with the prudence also of statesmen. How much more are we bound to conciliate a great nation, anxiously panting for their rights—to hear respectfully their prayers—to entertain the measure of their choice with an honest inclination to do it justice; and if, while we approve its principle, we yet dislike some of its details, and deem them susceptible of modification, surely we ought, at any rate, not to reject their prayers for it with insult. God forbid we should so treat the people's desire; but I do fear, that a
determination is taken not to entertain it with calmness and impartiality.
I am asked what great practical benefits are to be expected from this measure ? And is it no benefit to have the Government strike its roots into the hearts of the people ? Is it no benefit to have a calm and deliberative, but a real organ of the public opinion, by which its course may be known, and its influence exerted upon State affairs, regularly and temperately, instead of acting convulsively, and as it were by starts and shocks ? I will only
I will only appeal to one advantage, which is as certain to result from this salutary improvement of our system, as it is certain that I am addressing your Lordships. A Noble Earl* inveighed strongly against the licentiousness of the press; complained of its insolence; and asserted that there was no tyranny more intolerable than that which its conductors now exercised. It is most true, that the press has great influence, but equally true, that it derives this influence from expressing, more or less correctly, the opinion of the country. Let it run counter to the prevailing course, and its power is at an end. But I will also admit that, going in the same general direc
* The Earl of Winchilsea.
tion with public opinion, the press is oftentimes armed with too much power, in particular instances; and such power is always liable to be abused. But I will tell the Noble Earl upon what foundation this overgrown power is built. The press is now the only organ of public opinion : this title it assumes; but it is not by usurpation ; it is rendered legitimate by the defects of your Parliamentary constitution; it is erected upon the ruins of real representation. The periodical press is the rival of the House of Commons; and it is, and it will be, the successful rival, as long as that House does not represent the people--but not one day longer. If ever I felt confident in any prediction, it is in this, that the restoration of Parliament to its legitimate office of representing truly the public opinion will overthrow the tyranny of which Noble Lords are so ready to complain, who, by keeping out the lawful sovereign, in truth, support the usurper. It is
who have placed this unlawful authority on a rock : pass the Bill, it is built on a quicksand. Let but the country have a full and free representation, and to that will men look for the expression of public opinion, and the press will no more be able to dictate, as now, when none else can speak the sense of the people. Will its influence wholly cease? God forbid! Its just influence will
continue, but confined within safe and proper bounds. It will continue-long may it continue—to watch the conduct of public men-to watch the proceedings even of a reformed Legislature—to watch the people themselves—a safe, an innoxious, a useful instrument, to enlighten and improve mankind! But its overgrown power-its assumption to speak in the name of the nation-its pretension to dictate and to command, will cease with the abuses and defects upon which alone it is founded, and will be swept away, together with the other creatures of the same abuses, which now “fright “our isle from its propriety.”
Those portentous appearances, the growth of later times, those figures that stalk abroad, of unknown stature and strange form-unions and leagues, and musterings of men in myriads, and conspiracies against the Exchequer-whence do they spring, and how come they to haunt our shores ? What power engendered these uncouth shapes—what multiplied the monstrous births till they people the land ? Trust me, the same power which called into frightful existence, and armed with resistless force, the Irish Volunteers of 1782—the same power which rent in twain your empire, and conjured up thirteen Republics—the same power which created the Catho