Images de page
PDF
ePub

Mr. Roscoe still continues to be estimated by his first and best performance, excepting indeed so far as another and more popular test has been furnished by his verses, some of which possess considerable merit. Among the latter, we would particularly instance two bagatelle pieces, the Butterfly's Ball and the Butterfly's Funeral, which

ght not unaptly be described as a pair of brilliants. They are very pleasing specimens of that description of poetry, the excellence of which consists not in strength of wing, but in beauty of plume and lightness of movement; and, by their prettiness and rolancy, seem altogether suited to their subject.

Thus deeming of Mr. Roscoe, we cannot, without a certain mixture of surprize and regret, contemplate the exchange which he bas lately made, in laying aside the lyre of the muses for the brickbats of reform. The sensations produced by such a metamorphosis are similar to those with which we should view one of his own handsome and costly volumes in the heavy hands of citizen Cobbett or Waithman. At the same time, we blame not the proceeding; but, having discharged our minds of the feelings which it is calculated to excite, shall proceed to examine the pamphlets before us with no other recollections respecting the former compositionis of the author than may merely serve to mitigate the rigour of criticism.

The history of these publications is, so far as we can collect, shortly the following: Mr. Brougham having penned a treatise on reform, in the shape of a letter, of which he printed a limited number of copies for the use of his friends, some accident guided this production into the pages of a periodical work; but the farther circulation of it was, on the complaint of the writer, stayed by the authority of the Court of Chancery. Mr. Roscoe, however, formed one of the narrow circle originally favoured with a perusał of the letter; and Mr. Roscoe thought proper to answer it in a tract, which he subsequently gave to the world, and which is no other than the first of the publications mentioned in the title of this article. Mr. Roscoe was publicly answered by Mr. Merritt, whose answer forthwith occasioned a rejoinder; and that rejoinder constitutes the second of the publications under review. With the treatise of Mr. Brougham we have no concern, for it is not regularly before the tribunal of the public. Of that of Mr. Merritt we can say nothing, for it has not chanced to fall within our view. Our attention, therefore, must be exclusively confined to the two letters of Mr. Roscoe; but even here nothing is more reniote from our purpose than to harass the public with an extended discussion respecting the question of reform. The truth is that there are certain reasons for which we hold ourselves absolved, in this place at least, from the task of any such discussion; and the validity of

those

1

those reasons the reader will quickly have an opportunity of estimating.

The design of these letters Mr. Roscoe has himself explained with great frankness. The opinions of the thinking part of the public' were divided, both as to the specific nature of a parliamentary reforın, and as to the expediency ofry reform whatever.' It was the object of the letter to Mr. Broughain' to conciliate these opinions, and to state the leading features of such a reform as might be effectual, safe, and practicable. But men are not to be governed, like bees, pulveris exigwi jactủ, by a handful of dust; and Mr. Roscoe found that a shilling pamphlet of sixteen pages failed to appease contentions which, for upwards of a century, have, more or less, agitated the mind and troubled the press of the country. His best resource appeared to be in doubling the dose ; and accordingly, forth issues another pamphlet of considerably greater dimensions. Now for the benevolence of his intentions we give this author the fullest credit; and we have no doubt of his abilities; but, far from wondering that both should have proved unequal to the miracle which he proposed, we cannot but feel the strongest apprehension that the demons of dispute will outface even his second and stronger charm.

'- Quâcunque viam virtute petivit,

Successum dea dira negat.' Exclusively, however, of the impediments that are opposed to this attempted conciliation by the pugnacity of mankind, there is one obstacle, for the existence of which the writer himself seems responsible, and which, as we fear, he will scarcely be able to surmount without the agency of a third and still more bulky pamphlet. An internal enemy discomfits his endeavours. His pages are divided against each other; the latter end of a paragraph is apt to forget the beginning; nor should we despair of reconciling him with Mr. Brougham, and even with Mr. Merritt, could we possibly effect his peace with Mr. Roscoe. If this statement be just, it appears to follow that he must once more make proof of his conciliatory skill, and that not on the anti-reformers or the moderate reformers, but on himself. In which event, however, we would humbly suggest a doubt, whether he might not with advantage adopt a somewhat less stern and blunt manner of expression than he has occasionally employed towards his external opponents.

That the zeal of our respectable author on this favourite but unfortunate subject, has really betrayed him into the inconsistencies alluded to, we shall now briefly endeavour to shew; and, should this preliminary objection against his reasonings be made good, we can hardly conceive ourselves under any obligation to investigate those reasonings in detail. YOL., VII. NO, XIV.

The

T

The advocates of a parliamentary reform are, by Mr. Roscoe, divided into 'two bodies of friends ;' for 'he will not,' he declares, call them two parties. On the one side are those who, with Mr. Brougham, recommend a reform in detail, or, in other words, a succession of partial reforms; and to this class the author affixes the appellation, unlem-indeed they have rather adopted it themselves, of the friends of moderate reform. On the other side are to be placed those eager advocates of reform,' who, with Mr. Roscoe, propose, for the attainment of this very desirable result, one great and decisive measure;' and on these gentlemen we shall, for want of a better title, beg leave to confer that of wholesale reformers.' It is from the remarks of the author on the characters and objects of these parties respectively, that we shall deduce our first proof of the civil discord which, as we submit, unhappily embroils his pages.

In the outset of the letter to Mr. Brougham, the writer thus expresses himself with regard to the 'two bodies of friends' just mentioned.

• Whatever differences of opinion may subsist among them (the advocates of reform) are not occasioned by any difference with respect to their ultimate object, but by a diversity of opinion as to the means by which such object is most likely to be obtained.'—p. 3.

Now it certainly cannot be thought very astonishing that certain differences of opinion' should be occasioned by a certain 'diversity of opinion ;' for such an event may seem as natural as that leverets should be the progeny of hares. Nor shall we very anxiously remind the author that he has, after all, forborne to state what are the differences of opinion subsisting among the friends of reform; that, while he sufficiently describes the parent diversity which produces, he has afforded no description of the young-eyed differences that are produced. Our concern, fortunately, is not with the exact construction of the sentence, but with its evident tendency. In which view we cannot deem ourselves unreasonable in collecting from it that, according to Mr. Roscoe, the great end and object which the various friends of reform have at heart are one and the same, and that the mutual bearing and demeanour of these persons should consequently be that of kindness and fraternity.

Observations of a still more conciliatory nature succeed. Con cerning the two modes of reform respectively proposed by the two bodies of friends,' the author remarks that it little matters which mode be adopted, provided one mode be adopted by all; or, in other words, that the nature of the plan of reform pursued is of much less consequence than the hearty concurrence of the reformers.

• Could this union of opinion (he says) be effected, it would be of little importance whether the object were accomplished by one measure or by a succession of measures ; but until this can be done, those per

sons

sons of a more cool and deliberate temperament, will accuse their warmer friends of sacrificing the whole by grasping at too much; whilst the eager advocates of reform will suspect, that those steps, which they will call half measures, are only calculated to frustrate their hopes, and defeat their labours.'--pp. 3, 4.

A sentence this, which, to our apprehension, seems somewhat overloaded, if we may so express ourselves, with outside passengers. The first clause is pretty plainly superfluous; for, let the proposed union of opinion be effected or not, it still must evidently be of little importance whether the object of reform be accomplished by one measure or by a succession of measures. If that object were accomplished at all, both parties would be gratified; for their wishes are one, however disunited their opinions. But the sentence on the whole, appears sufficiently to imply—and therefore have we quoted it—that, in the judgment of our author, if the two classes of reformers will but agree, their common purpose may as well, or nearly as well, be accomplished by a gradation of reform as by a reform once for all.

Having established these preliminary propositions, our author proceeds to make use of the ground which he has gained, in the execution of a manœuvre for which we must own that we were not altogether prepared. In fact, he now turns short on the friends of moderate reform, declaring to them that a junction between the two bodies of friends is indeed highly expedient and little less easy, but that the wholesale reformers have no intention of joining the moderates, and that the latter, therefore, will do well to join the wholesale reformers. On this proceeding, however, had this been all, though we cannot but consider it as somewhat unusual and startling, we do not see that any charge of inconsistency could with propriety have been founded. The traveller would not be inconsistent who should thus address his comrade; “it is of the last importance to us both that we should ride double ; one of these horses will carry us about as well as the other; therefore, since I am determined not to ride behind you,

forthwith mount up behind me.' We mean to say that the mode of reasoning pursued in such an exhortation, unexpected and rather ungracious as it might appear, would be at least coherent, the conclusion very fairly flowing from the premises.

But Mr. Roscoe, not altogether content with this homely sort of logic, bas held a somewhat different language, and that, it must be confessed, scarcely less to the embarrassment of his simple-minded reviewers than to the utter confusion and overthrow of his friends the moderées. The great argument, with which he plies that gentle body both in front and rear, is no other than the atter impracticability of a gradual reform, even should the project be adopted by

do you

all the reformers in a mass. Notwithstanding an end is made of all · diversity of opinion' as to the principle, there will spring up self-produced, it seems, endless and insuperable differences of opinion' as to the detail. The scheme, also, will encounter an almost irresistible opposition from the patrons of corruption,'• the advocates of existing abuses,'—the adherents of the present corrupt system;' every single step of the gradual process exciting the enmity of these monsters at least as effectually as the entire measure of a wholesale change. In one word, the scheme is impracticable;' and the reasoning of the traveller apparently resolves itself into this piece of reformed logic; it is a matter of perfect indifference which horse we ride; but do you mount up behind me, for your horse is a dead one.'

To be serious, we should, perhaps, not have considered these inconsistencies as hopeless, and, indeed, had determined to splash through them as lightly as we might, when we found ourselves breast-deep in the following very decisive declaration.

• A full, effectual, and constitutional representation of the people in parliament is now become essential to the matery and preservation of the country, and the friends of reform must therefore concede to each other those differences of opinion as to the mere mode and manner of obtaining it, which have hitherto been the chiet impediments to their success; and above all rings, should be cautious how they prevent its being carried into etlect, either by giving rise to a diversity of opinions on a subject in which there is only ONE OPINION that can meet with universal assent; or, by attempting only partial and imperfect amendments, which, if not adopted, will injure the cause they are intended to promote; and, if affected, can only be considered as having been purchased by a voluntary resignation on the part of the people, of those inalienable privileges which they received from their ancestors, and ought to trunsmit to their descendants.'--p. 15.

The former clauses of this period of a mile,' we have cited only as introductory to the remainder; por shall we make any other reinark on them than that, even exclusively considered, they contain u hat very nearly amounts to a repetition of the argument of the dead horse. It is to the concluding member of the sentence that we would particularly direct the attention of the reader, and we have with that view placed it in italics. For, applying to the interpretation of the passage the best faculties of which we are possessed, we find it susceptible only of one meaning. It does to our judgment necessarily imply that the project of a gradual reform is wrong in point of principle; that such a project must essentially and by its nature compromise away the very end at which it professes ultimately to aim; and, consequently, that, with whatever unanimity on the part of the reforiners it may be under

taken,

« PrécédentContinuer »