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THE SESSION., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume II, Issue 98, 20 January 1844
[From the Examiner.]
After a long and wearisome session, Parliament has separated, leaving all things in a worse state than it found them on its meeting. The Repeal agitation is proceeding with increased vigour in Ireland ; the division in the Scotch Church is not cured by the act, which Lord Pahnerston well described as framed to retain in the church those who had shown that they did not mean to quit it; the revolt in Wales is unsubdued ; the commercial distresses in England undiminished ; the disorder in the finances unremedied. But that we are at the season for proroguing Parliament, the state of the country would seem to demand the convoking of the Parliament. Never was there so much amiss in the country, and never so little attempted in the way of remedy or corrective. The Army Bill is the great work of the session. It is all that the Legislature can offer Ireland for her pacification. And even this miserable measure was not shaped to meet the present dangers in Ireland; its adaptation, whatever it is, is to another antecedent state of things ; and because there has always been such a law for the last fifty years, it is continued, with some alterations for the worse. The fact that the Arms Act has existed for half a century is its decisive condemnation, for it has coexisted during that length of time with all the violence and outrages it was intended to prevent. Government, however, has the same sort of faith in its Arms Act that the ignorant have in the horse-shoe, which they nail to their doors with the sage reflection mat there is no knowing what would not happen if it were not there. ***** We do not blame the Government for not having attempted to grapple with the Repeal agitation by any new and extraordinary powers, but what we complain of is its neglect and rejection of the conciliatory influences, which, judiciously employed, would break up the confederacy against the integrity of the empire. We should join the praise bestowed on Sir Robert Peel for refraining from strong measures if we saw in his policy any substitute for strong measures, any better means dispensing with coercive resources by removing the evil, occasion. But the rejection of the worst course is not accompanied with any adoption of the opposite one. To strip the traveller of his cloak it were idle to play the part of Boreas, but it is to no purpose that you decline blustering if you do not consent to try what may be done by sunshine. Sir Robert Peel, however, appears equally to renounce foul and fair means. In one half it is the Whig policy without the propitiatory part; ia the other, the Tory policy without the assertion of authority. There is the Whig forbearance as to the freedom of opinion, and there is the Tory offensiveness in every branch and province of the administration to render that opinion as hostile as possible to the Government. As Sir Robert Peel took the commercial reforms of his Liberal predecessors, excepting in the articles of corn and sugar, so he has taken their Irish policy, excepting the main element of conciliation. He is now face to face with the agitation, which has sprung into giant existence on the discontents which his Government has in so short a period so abundantly revived. On what, can he depend for the dedine of this formidable organization ? "It is a nonsense and a contradiction," says an able writer, " to expect to obtain ends not hitherto compassed except by the use of means hitherto untried." This is not precisely the case : the ends have been compassed by means tried with success by the preceding Government, and Sir Robert Peel has the example by which he can profit to obtain the same happy results ; but if he obstinately chooses to adhere to his own system of doing nothing to conciliate the people of Ireland, and nothing to control the menacing organizations arising from their provoked discontents, what end to the evil can he possibly anticipate ? what but the increase of it can he reasonably reckon on ? The nutriment which the agitation has had, and upon which it has grown to its present magnitude, it will continue to have so long as the present policy of the Government remains unchanged. What rational expectation can there be that it will die away, the causes of its existence continuing in malignant force ? Sir Robert Peel's hope that the Repeal agitation will die out of itself, is the ingenious thought of Sir Abel Handy, when his house is on fire. Handy, jun. Zounds ! the house is in a blaze. Sir Abel. Don't say so, Bob. Bandy, jun. What's to be done ? Where's your -famous preparation for extinguishing flames? Bir Abel, ft is not mixed. Handy, jun. Where's your fire-escape ? Sir Abel. It is not fixed. Handy, jun. Where's your patent fire-engine ? Sir Abel. "Tis on the road. Handy, jun. Well ! you are never at a loss. Sir Abel. Never. Handy, jun. What's to be done ? Sir Abek I don't know. I say, Bob, / heae it .- ptrhap*. itMrillgo out 0/ itteff. Handy, jun. Gomtt! it mcreeaet every minute. . The most barren session in the history of Parliament has also been one of the longest, xhuch time having been expended in the discussion of measures ultimately abandoned. Sir Robert Peel, when reproached with his omissions by Lord John Russell, put bis finger m his eye, and whimpered out that it was the fault, of the Opposition, which obstructed him. 1/ there has been much cry about little wool, W bjame lies with him who brought hogs to the shewing. As Lord Pahnerston told Sir Robert on the occasion alluded to, the fault has Been ,with_ the Ministry, who could not shape
a measure in accordance with the feelings and opinions of the community. * * * * *
The Arms Bill is another example not only of badly-aimed but of clumsily-shaped legislation ; the clauses, as Lord Howick said, having been drawn up in so slovenly a way that the very objects for which the Government required the measure would have been defeated if the bill had been passed as proposed by Ministers.
It used to be said that the Tories, with all their faults, were good men of business, clever craftsmen; and that, though the principles of their legislation might be questioned, they showed skill and dexterity in their modes of giving effect to them in their measures. This fallacy is completely dissipated, and the Tories have now an unrivalled character for bungling |jn the shaping of their measures, the framing and principles of which are pretty nearly on an equality. In administrative ability, too, they have been found egregiously wanting, and their predecessors have risen greatly in the comparison; and people begin to ask for what one thing they are good for, excepting always deceiving and betraying constituents. The Morning Chronicle blames Ministers for " the miserably ludicrous speech that they have had the audacity or stupidity to put into the mouth of her Majesty." But wretchedly bad as the thing undeniably is, we really do not see how they could have done better. What had they to say, what one thing had they done that they could turn to matter of congratulation ? All things considered, they have, we think, made the most of their materials.
But for the troubles in Ireland and Wales, her Majesty would have been almost speechless, for these topics make three-fourths of the matter of the speech. Besides these, there are only iR& acknowledgments of course, and a little mouthful of English Church, and a little mouthful of Scotch Church. Had the Dogs Bill passed, it might have made a paragraph, but it was lost in the Lords.
We can easily imagine how much the poor Ministers were puzzled to spin out this speech, and how difficult they must have felt it to say anything about the nothing they had done. Another such session, and the Queen will be dumb.
For the fitness of things, if her Majesty is to say nothing at the end of the session, it would be well that she should also say nothing at the commencement, for it looks ill to see her Majesty unable to advert to the accomplishment of important measures, of improvement, such a§ reforms in the administration of justice, which she had been advised to recommend to her Parliament.
And the effect is worse when, in place of the omitted matter, there is allusion to the discontents and tumults which are, in part certainly, referrible to defects in the administration of justice, which her Majesty's advisers have neglected to remedy. It is a shameful thing for a Government to have confessed the occasion for law reforms without having supplied what was wanting. The references to the agitation in Ireland and the tumults in Wales are both followed by promises in the first instance of amendments in the existing laws tending to improve the social condition of the country ; and in the other of inquiry into the circumstances that have led a peaceable people to insubordination. It is thus confessed that in both cases there has been wanting what the Legislature or the Government ought to have afforded, and that the commotions have had the effect of drawing attention to the grievances. So true is the maxim Of Bentham, that " Never, but by making the ruling few uneasy, can the oppressed many hope for a particle of relief." As Kings of old used to come forth to their palace gates and administer justice when the clamour of the complainants reached a certain pitch, so Governments now attend to the wrongs of the people when a sufficient uproar and commdlfOh are made about them. But for Rebecca's outrages, the Welsh would have been fleeced and oppressed by their magistrates till doomsday. The Queen is made to tell the Welsh in substance that they will be punished for what they have done against the law, but that what they have done against the law shall obtain for them, after chastisement, inquiry and redress. This will serve at least encourager les autres. Her Majesty's lecture to the Irish agitators is more questionable in point of propriety. It seems to us that " to throw words into the air," as they phrase it in the East, is not consistent with the Royal dignity. No reasonable being can suppose that the language put into the Queen's mouth will have the slightest effect in checking the agitation, and why is the Monarch to be exhibited in the part of a slighted lecturer ?
But a speech was to be made, and how could the Ministers have filled it up without this matter, to the introduction of which their poverty and not their will doubtless consented ? And this is to be observed in their defence, that the Repeal agitation is strictly a product of their policy, and that therefore they have some right to treat of it amongst the things for which they are responsible. The Times has some caustic remarks on the fall of the curtain and the lame epilogue to which we have adverted : —
" With respect to Ireland, they * have forborne,' they ray, ' from requiring any additional powers for the counteraction of the designs * of the O'Connellite party. What extent of new power it would have been politic to demand for that purpose we do not determine; but we must say that something more ought to have been done than has been. There was everything to stimulate Ministers to exertion — monster meeting* — daring organized agitation from os« end of Ireland to the other— Repeal getting
taken up eveq by the well-affected, absorbing even Orangemen from sheer distrust, and mistaking inactivity in Government for treachery. Within the house, Ministers were stirred, poked, and questioned. Concession, said one; coercion, said another; sympathy and coercion together, said a third party. They did not take any of the three lines, but did — nothing. " Again, on the subject of the Welsh disturbances, they tell us they have ' adopted measures to repress ' them, and ' have directed an inquiry to be made into the circumstances which led to them/ We wish they had done the latter sooner, and done it in a more politic manner. What is the state of the case ? These disturbances began as early as February or March last; and they began upon some very plain and tangible grievances, which might, we will be bold to say, have been effectually rectified, had they been attended to at first. Nothing is done, however, and the disturbances go on through March, April, May, June, July. They get worse and worse day after day, and month after month. Cavalry scour the country in vain; Rebecca begins to hold nocturnal meetings; Chartists appear. Turnpikes and market dues usher in the much more deep and ominous subject of rents. Under the auspices of a blundering magistracy, and a high-rental gentry, a fierce collision seems impending, and society to be on the brink of disorganization. What is done then ? Mr. Hall, the Bow-street magistrate, is sent down to rescue the country. | "Now, Mr. Hall is a clever man; Bowstreet magistrates are a sharp class of men ; but we have yet to learn that a Bow-street magistrate is exactly the person to deal with the evils of a country, and a whole disordered agricultural and trading system. A Bow-street officer is a dead hand at catching a thief, but that is all that he need be. Was Mr. Hall Bent down to perform this professional office, and catch some three or four individuals of station who were suspected of being secret movers in these outbreaks — for the • detection of offenders,' as the speech says? The policy of Government hardly improves upon such a view. What, are you going to put Wales in the watch-box — to bring her up before the sitting magistrate — place her at last before an omnipotent bar, and make her figure in the police reports ? Nay, if the grievances of the Welsh are real, what so mighty offence is it, after all, if some respectable persons have taken them up ? At all events, is it statesmanlike to be aiming at catching a few individuals instead of rectifying a system, and to be snapping at a few gnats when a whole atmosphere wants cleansing 2 Poor pin, needle, adß bodkin work — mere ferreting, ratcatching ! Sir James Graham has chosen an enviable profession, and is now, we presume, giving us a proof of his skill in it.
" To extend our observation over the session, we regret to say that Government are thought not to have made so good an appearance generally as their friends could have wished ; they are considered to have adopted generally a too stiff, neutral, ambiguous, feeble line ; and politicians of all schools and complexions criticise them in a tone more or less of discontent. Seldom has a Ministry encountered so weak an Opposition as Sir Robert Peel's ; very seldom such a ma6B of indifference. We have seen, say people, destructive Administrations, profligate Administrations, indolent Administrations ; this is not one of them — this is the dry Administration. We have seen many Ministers of worse character, none with so very little character at all. Ministers reply, that this is just their point of excellence."
Important to Mariners bound round Crfpn Horn. — Extract of a letter received at Lloyd's from their agent at Valparaiso, dated March 11. " We beg to advise you that her Majesty's steamer Salamander, which arrived here last night from the Falkland Isles, via the Straits of Magellan, entered the Pacific by the Gulf of Penas, having passed through the channels of Smyth and Satniento, the Narrows of Gudya, the Straits of Concepcion and Messier, and inside the islands of Adelaide, Hanover, Madrede Dios, and Wellington, a track hitherto unknown, or considered impracticable.
Lord Stowbll and Sight-seeing. — Lord Stowell used to boast that there was not a sight in London he had not seen, and, according to a current story, he had seen some more than once. He was paying his shilling to see a new mermaid, when the man at the door, apparently ashamed to cheat so good a customer, refused to take the money, saying — " No, no, my lord, it's only the ould say sarpent !" ,
THE SESSION., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume II, Issue 98, 20 January 1844
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