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Monday, 12 November, 1838.
THE PLAN OF THE PREAMBLE.
It has been suggested that the title-page of this publication invites a call for some explanation of its design.
The name, it was hoped, had sufficiently intimated that it was intended chiefly to bring into consideration matters respecting which it might, from time to time, be found expedient that some agreement or common understanding should be come to, before new laws respecting them were made by the British Parliament.
Consistently with this purpose, all subjects which are likely to be brought before Parliament may be discussed in these pages : sometimes with a view of retarding enactments of which the groundwork has not been sufficiently established, --sometimes of forwarding the settlement by law of matters respecting which there remains more of misunderstanding amongst the members of the Legislature than of opposite design. This description, however, it is readily admitted, is so general as to make a somewhat more detailed scheme and specific indication of plan desirable.
In giving these it is necessary to observe, that the chief peculiarity of the present stage in our history is a confusion of political parties, which has produced the appearance also of an extraordinary confusion of political principles. It is not, however, so much that any deliberate opinions are changed respecting good or evil in our politics, as that the opinions of those are brought forward who have never had any deliberation; and are brought forward, too, without the accustomed benefits of control or guidance.
The period of the French Revolution was a period of change in political principle; but it was accomplished almost entirely within the limits of the eighteenth century. Burke shot forth the expiring flame of the genius of feudal Europe. That genius is sanctified, canonized, irradiated in his writings; but it is no longer of this earth.
The epochs which have most immediately influenced the present state of British politics are
1. That at which the mind of Canning, gradually liberated from the system of Pitt and Dundas, mortified by the disregard and vexed by the dislike of some of his associates, fell completely under the influence of Huskisson. The change in the rules of commercial intercourse and of colonial management, which took place in 1825–1828, were the fruits of this epoch.
2. The second was that at which the Duke of Wellington, desirous to spare Ireland, and from military habits of thought miscalculating the parliamentary power of himself and his party, formed the erroneous supposition that he could at once admit the Roman Catholics amongst the political forces of the kingdom, and yet make head against the Reform of the House of Commons.
3. The third was that at which the Reform of the House of Commons took place.
4. The fourth has been that in which the separations of Lord Brougham on the one hand, and of Lord Stanley on the other, from the King's Cabinet, have taken place; and Lord Melbourne and Lord John Russell, remaining in power, have constituted jointly the ministry which exists at the present day.
Of the effects produced by these changes, those most fertile of future change are, doubtless, the introduction of an entirely new party, the Roman Catholics, into the Legislature, and the full participation of civil rights which has been given to the Dissenters.
Another is, that the abandonment of the old restrictions of trade, the more complete opening of the Colonies as fields of enterprise, the liberation of the negroes, the encouragement of missionaries and of the popular branches of the Colonial Legislatures, in preference to the officeholders and to the Upper Houses in some of these dependent but important possessions, have created new interests and roused new feelings in the inhabitants of them which cannot be reduced to order by any power less than that of the Imperial Parliament.
The effect on India of changes, to a certain extent similar, is another and distinct subject for consideration.
A fourth is, that the increase of attention to the interests of the middle and lower classes of the United Kingdom, and the Reform of the House of Commons, have awakened expectations and desires and created new wants amongst the people at home, which have made many of our old laws and institutions insufficient and unsuitable, and have led to the abolition or alteration of them without
our having as yet obtained any new ones which deserve the name of a constitutional or coherent system.
But the most remarkable effect of all, perhaps, has been the breaking up of the old political parties.
Mr. Canning carried away with him a corner of the house in which he had dwelt, and he blended with the extreme Whigs both his own particular friends and some others who had not previously belonged to that party.
The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel again unsettled and almost divided the Tory party, and added the Roman Catholics to the Whigs.
The Reform of the House of Commons threw back to the Tories a few of those whom they had lost, and in some degree repaired the dissensions which existed even amongst those who had never been apparently separated; but it reinforced the Whigs and Roman Catholics with an accession of Radical members.
The secession of Lord Stanley and Sir J. Graham from the Reform Ministry weakened it, no doubt, at the moment; but it affected also the unity of the Tory party, to which they added themselves : and the separations of Lord Durham and Lord Brougham from the cabinet, whilst they have perhaps narrowed the ground on which the government stands, yet, coupled with the differences between those two Lords, they have also in some degree divided and distracted the popular party.
Opinions as to the principles of politics amidst all these changes, can scarcely be said to have been changed at all; if at all, the progress has been towards agreement. It is more desirable than ever, and perhaps is a little more possible, that all who are capable of thinking justly on political subjects should be united; and that those only should be separate who have not the power of thinking otherwise than in extremes, and solely for the reason that they do think in that manner, and no longer than they may continue to do so, and with a hope that the numbers
of those who thus exclude themselves may diminish daily; so that, ere long, instead of internal and domestic parties, the whole United Kingdom may really be united against foreign, or at least external opposition.
For all its inhabitants who have time and faculties to devote to other cares than those which immediately concern themselves, there are objects enough and employment enough, for a century to come, in reducing to order and harmony the extensive districts of the globe which we have seized, and for which as yet we have done almost nothing else. It is not conquest that is before us; conquest is over : it is the work which ought to follow conquest, -organization. The soul of Britain has clothed itself with a vast matter in which, if it cannot animate, invigorate, and form the mass into a goodly shape and system, it must be stifled, and must perish after a series of abortive struggles.
There are five heads, under which may be arranged all those affairs that most urgently require to be settled by acts of the Imperial Legislature.
First, Those affairs of Ireland which mainly depend upon the problem of imparting to Roman Catholics the full benefit of the British Constitution, and of inducing them at the same time to submit to its obligations, and to act according to its spirit. We have voluntarily undertaken to try over again the mortal question, whether there is any thing in Catholic institutions which is incompatible with the principles of liberty and the security of person and property, which must never be allowed to be overborne or obscured in any part of the United Kingdom.
Secondly, The affairs of the colonies : which require that such a system of congruity and subordination shall be established as may secure thc rights and interests of the original inhabitants, and of all those permanently domiciled in them, but may give also to the merchants and the inhabitants of the United Kingdom the fullest use of those