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epochs of human history, has been used to We never remember to have read a docjustify every enormity under heaven.
ument of any kind which excited in us The committee, after explaining the ex- stronger feeelings of dissatisfaction, a more isting practice, and stating various reasons irrepressible impulse of indignation, than affecting it, pro and con, as if they under the conclusion of this report. A great opstood all the bearings of a question, which portunity was given for vindicating the nait is plain they have utterly misconceived, tional honor against the dangerous fallacy tell the world they can find nothing in the of the maxim which all governments are practice to condemn. Not a whisper of too prone to adopt, that the end justifies the disapprobation escapes the committee upon means, and the committee actually turn the exercise of the power complained of round upon the public, defend the maxim in any one instance; but—and let us avoid as a safe one, and only qualify it by observmisrepresentation—they are too cautious ing, that when objectionable means are reto commit themselves to an approval of the sorted to, it should only be in cases of principle in plain terms ;-they even ven- emergency” affecting “important public ture to express a doubt whether, in certain interests.” Of course not; and where cases, the opening of letters and sealing has there been a tyrant, however infamous them up again, is not attended with more in the annals of oppression, who has not trouble than profit. Their reasoning is whol- had his “cases of emergency" affecting ly utilitarian; after the practical philosophy, “ important public interests” to plead for not of Locke, but of Sheppard. One can every outrage upon public liberty ? imagine Jonathan Wild, with an opportu Many of our readers have heard, or read, nity presenting itself of betraying a confed- that “it is forbidden to do evil that good erate intothe hands of justice, when nothing may come;" that “law makers should not could be got by it, and debating the matter be law breakers;" that “justice, if it be in his own mind in the very language of driven from the earth, should find a refuge the committee :
in the breast of kings;” but none of these
old and familiar axioms seem to have had “It will be doubted by some, taking into the slightest weight with the committee.. account the strong moral feeling which exists against the practice, with its accompaniments On the contrary, they almost candidly of mystery and concealment, whether the pow- avow a conviction that it is quite becoming er is worth retaining in this class of cases." and right that the government of kings
should be carried on by those dishonest The moral feeling, of course, stands for arts and stratagems which, if practised benothing in every other class of cases, in tween private gentlemen, or between a comwhich some real or imaginary benefit is to mon clerk and his employers, would be be attained by a departure from principle; punished with a horsepond or the treadmill. and the committee iherefore conclude their Fraud, forgery, felony, say the committee
a more yes than no” recom- (not indeed in direct ternis, but in words mendation, that the Secretary of State which imply no other meaning), may all be should continue to hold the power of per- practised in “cases of emergency,” for the petrating a breach of trust, and that the public good. proper occasions for doing so should be We hold the doctrine to be deserving of entirely left to his discretion.
universal execration ; and it is high time
to expose it. From the recklessness of as“Under these circumstances, it will be for sertion exhibited by party leaders, and parliament to consider whether they will deter- sometimes flagrant breaches of faith, as in mine upon any legislative regulation, or wheth- the case of the New Zealand Company, er they will prefer leaving the power on its
* and other questions, present footing, in point of law, in the hands of the window duties, * ihe Secretary of Siate, to be used on his responsibility, in those cases of emergency in Baring, Sir William Heathcote, Sir Charles which, according to the best of his judgment, Lemon, Mr. Warburton, Mr. Strutt, O'Connor its exercise would be sanctioned by an enlight-| Don, and Mr. Ord.
* We allude to the clause in the 4 & 5 William ened public opinion, and would appear to be strongly called for by important public in- 1 ;; ch. 54, moved by Lord Althorpe, July 30,
1834, to enable the occupiers of houses to open fresh windows, free of duty, one effect of which,
he stated, would be, “to prevent any further in* The report is dated Aug. 5, 1844. The fol. crease of the revenue, in the case of houses alrealowing were the members of the committee : dy existing." (See Mirror of Parliament,' page Viscount Sandon, Mr. Wilson Patten, Mr. Thomas 31 16.) The clause has been set aside by a quibble,
report with “
an opinion is beginning to prevail, that know what they were about; but we feel
-“ A monster of such frightful mien,
all laws, human and divine. The vices of the rulers of a people inev 1. THEFT is permissible, when in foritably become wational vices. The position mation important to the public interest can occupied by a minister is more exposed to only be obtained by STEALING it from observation than that of any other human a letter. being. Every action is watched, every
2. LYING is permissible to conceal word is chronicled; his opinions are seeds theft; in the tacit form of resealing a letscattered by the four winds of heaven, sure ter, so that the fact of its having been at last to fall upon a fit soil for their nour- opened may never be detected. ishment and growth.
3. FORGERY is permissible for ibe We are told by divines (and the subject same object; in the form of counterfeitdemands the strongest illustration we can ing seals and imitating Post-office stamps. find) that in the government of the world,
4. TREACHERY is permissible in so important is the principle that the foun cases of emergency.” The servant may tain of justice should itself be pure, that betray his master for the “public good; even the Creator of the universe, the Om- the confidential agent may act as a secret nipotent and All-beneficent, could not for- spy. Tbe bearer of a written communigive sin until the claims of justice had first cation, compromising, perhaps, the lives been satisfied through the atoning sacrifice and fortunes of individuals, may carry it of Christ. It is part of the creed of the direct to their bitterest enemies, and be Church of England, that for God to for-honorably commended for his breach of give sin without an expiation of the trust. offence, would be for God himself to sin 5. ROGUE-MAKING is also permissiagainst his own immutable law. We will ble; for the arts of knavery are somewhat not discuss a theological question, but we distasteful to honest men, and forgery, in would contrast this doctrine with the poli- particular, is a skilled profession, which tical latitudinarianism which recognizes cannot be thoroughly acquired without no fixed principles of conduct. Shall not many opportunities of practice. the Judge of the whole earth do right?
6.' TYRANNOUS INJUSTICE is perThere is a sublime truth in the sentiment. missible; in the form of secret accusations, How different from that rule of government and secret tribunals for trying a man in the which confounds all distinctions between dark, upon the evidence of stolen docuvirtue and vice as mere conventionalities, ments, of which the purport may be wholly and substitutes for them, at the discretion misunderstood. of a minister, the shifting expedients of the In using the word PERMISSIBLE, we have hour,-a sliding scale of morality, subject put the case less forcibly than we should to no check but the “responsibilities of have done, to place it upon its true merits. office," and the fear of opinion.
The business of a public office, like that of We would put no unfair or strained inter- the Secretary of State, does not consist in pretation upon any of the expressions in the exercise of optional privileges. Sir
We are fully aware that those James Graham or Lord Aberdeen, when who prepared it, and those who signed it, they opened Mazzini's letters, did so, so bewildered themselves by their owu soph- not, of course, from motives of idle curiistries, that they did not, in fact, well osity, but from a sentiment of duty. Ob
serve, then, where our moral legislators are and subsequent administrations have refused to
It is the DUTY, say they, of carry out the spirit and intention of the act. a minister, in certain “cases of emerg
ency,” affecting “important public inter- of the Lords’ committee, of which all menests," TO STEAL, TO LIE, TO COM- tion has been suppressed in the report of the MIT FORGERY, TREACHERY, and committee of the House of Commons :TYRANNOUS INJUSTICE; and to
"It appears to have been for a long period keep in constant training a staff of knaves fit for similar acts of public service, when trations, an established practice, that the for
of time, and under many successive adminisnot convenient to perform them person eign correspordence of foreign ministers, passally.
ing through the General Post office, should be The proposition leads us a step further. sent to a departınent of the Foreign office beIn all sound reasoning, the minor is of fore the forwarding of such correspondence course included in the major. If it be a
according to its address. The Postmasterduty to ward off a small calamity by dis- General, having had his attention called to
the fact that there was no sufficient authority honest stratagems, it is equally a duty, and for this practice, has since June discontinued even a more serious obligation, to employ it altogether.” them to ward off a greater calamity. Now, compare the possible consequences to Great The Commons' committee admit, that Britain of any plot emanating from a few during the adıninistration of Charles James poor Italian exiles, and those which may Fox, and the Marquis of Carmarthen, at arise at any moment from the ambition of the close of the last century, diplomatic France or Russia. When we are about to correspondence of foreign ministers passsteal information, whose secrets is it ofing through the post was very generally inmost importance to steal, — those of M. spected, but they add, “they are satisfied Mazzini, or those of the Count de St. Au- no such warrants or practices now exist." laire and of Baron de Brunow? Here, for Do they mean by the word now, since last example, has been the Emperor of Russia June; that is, since Mr. Duncombe preon a visit; and now, on his departure, sented the petition of Mazzini and others comes his Prime Minister, Count Nessel- on the subject? If so, they have availed rode, to take the benefit of sea-bathing at themselves of a most unworthy quibble. Brighton. These movements, doubtless, Or does the remark refer to a period of mean something, and something more than some ten or twenty years back? In this Russia cares to reveal fully. We take it, case the committee have shown themtherefore, for granted, that Lord Aberdeen selves unable to apply the commonest rules has not neglected his DUTY in this case. of evidence. If letters from abroad were His lordship has, of course, put in opera- habitually opened at the Foreign office in tion the picklock and dark-lantern princi- 1782, as the committee admit; if the same ple, and by means of accomplished artistes clerks, or their successors, have had from has already, we may presume, obtained ex- that period to the present the same class of tracts from papers lying in the escritoire of letters, day by day, laid upon their desks, the Russian count! The Brighton post with a power of inspection, as the Lords' men, of course, need no instruction upon committee tell us, we take upon ourselves their duty, in the case of any and every let- boldly to assert that foreign letters have ter to or from Count Nesselrode, intrusted been habitually opened up to June, 1844 ; to their delivery.
opened, not, perhaps, by Ministers, r with Here we must express our surprise that, their cognizance, but opened, at all events, in one part of the report before us, the by other persons than the parties to whom Committee of the House of Commons deny the letters were addressed. the fact of any peeping or prying into the And let any one consider the enormous letters of foreign ambassadors. What is temptation of an opportunity thus given, this, but in other words to charge upon put in the way of a Government employé the present Government a neglect of the having connections in the City. In a public interest, in taking no steps to steal critical state of the funds, a knowledge of important state secrets from the ministers the contents of a letter coming from a of other countries; confining their activ- Rothschild abroad to a Rothschild in Lonity to a discovery of the affairs of private don, relative to purchases of stock, might individuals, comparatively insignificant ? realize a fortune. Is it possible to believe There is, however, reason to believe that that a clerk early trained in the mysteries this charge is made without sufficient of softening wax, and counterfeiting seals, foundation ; and we must call attention to having such a letter put into his hands, a most important revelation in the report and knowing its value, would wait for the
instruction of his superiors before he open-made use of them. The subordinates of ed it?
the Post-office, thus harshly described, have This brings us to another extraordinary done nothing more than imitate the conduct statement, in the report of the Commons' of their chiefs
. The plundering of letters by committee, showing their entire unfitness the state from motives of expediency was a for the investigation in which they were state secret to the public, but not to Postengaged, or their unconsciousness of its office officials. When Lord Aberdeen deserious character. They say
termined to steal the contents of Mazzini's
letters, he was necessarily obliged to make “ It does not appear to your committee necessary to follow the warrant from the time of all the sorters and receivers of St. Martin'sits reception at the Post-office, to that of its le-Grand a party to the theft. execution."
Let this fact be well weighed by the pub
lic. Letters directed to Mazzini did not Not necessary? Why this was to halt present themselves of their own accord in at the very threshold of their inquiry. The Downing-street. They had to be searched extent to which the practice of opening let- for by human hands, and carefully selected ters has been carried, depends, not upon from a pile of perhaps many thousands, and the number of warrants issued, but the then to be sent about by different messenmodus operandi of their execution. The gers from one office to another. Or, suppublic want to know what securities were posing the fact to have been that the Detaken that the ingenious men employed to vonshire-street bag was sent to the inner counterfeit seals should never transact a office and searched by Colonel Maberly little private business on their own account himself, the notoriety of the object for
- whether warrants have not in practice which the bag was required, would still be been regarded as mere forms, (the public the same. Why," it would of course be knowing nothing of their existence,) and so asked, “does Colonel Maberly always resometimes filled up before, sometimes after, quire, every day and every month for four the occasion for their use, and sometimes months in succession, to count the letters omitted altogether; as commonly happens contained in the Devonshire-street bag?" in the case of all other matters of mere The general fact of the detention and openoffice routine ?
ing of letters must therefore have been known The committee tell us, that upon an to some hundreds of persons, including comaverage the letters of one person per mon letter-carriers ; and what wonder is it month, or twelve persons per year, are that poor and ignorant men should convert opened and resealed at the post office. of public expediency into private expediency, how many more is that the true indication ? and keep their own counsel when abstractWe have heard it said, and not lightly, but ing a bank note, as safely as they had been by well-informed persons, that within the taught to do the political felonies of their memory of many now living, the contents employers. Twelve months ago the newsof any letter passing through the post office papers were filled with the case of a Gormight be obtained for a consideration, by ernment clerk, who forged exchequer bills a person interested in the matter, and mak- to the amount of several hundred thousand ing a judicious application to the proper pounds. It is not at all an unlikely fact that parties. We can readily believe it, for in the initiative step in his career of fraud was complete contradiction to the present re- the instruction he possibly received in the port, Colonel Maberly in his examination art of counterfeiting seals for state pura few months back before the Post-office poses. Think of forgery in this form becommittee, has described this department ing systematically taught in a Government of Government as thoroughly demoralized. department, and of the probabilities of its
“there has been enormous plun- stopping there; an apt pupil never becomder and robbery" (1163); nay, that “ the ing too expert for his own teacher ! plunder is terrific” (1176), and that “a A light now breaks in upon us to explain letter posted with money in it might as well the animus of the otherwise unaccountable be thrown down in the street as put into hostility of the Post-office to Rowland Hill the Post-office" (1178). These are strong and his plans. Colonel Maberly describes expressions from a Secretary of the Post- his establishment as a den of thieves; and office, and it is quite clear that Colonel who can blaine the instinct which teaches Maberly never thought of their possible ap- knaves to beware of an honest man? Put plicatinn to the Home Secretary, when he Rowland Hill in the Post-office! Send 10
Norfolk Island for a candidate. The Ex- I supposed to influence a body of English chequer-bill office should supply the next gentlemen, that of the men thus held up to Postmaster-General !
see why infamy, whose civil rights had been violated Rowland Hill was not to be trusted by in their correspondence, not one was called either the present Government or the past. before the committee to be examined? The There were state mysteries connected with committee declined to go into any examinathe Post-office which Rowland Hill had tion of the grounds upon which the warnot unravelled, and it certainly would have rants had been issued; and they had, therebeen imprudent to have confided them to fore, absolutely no authority whatever, behim.
yond a foul insinuation, either for the gross We proceed to a part of the report, the act of defamation of which they have been spirit of which appears to us so utterly in- guilty, or for their zealous justification of compatible, not only with the duty which Lord Aberdeen, on the score of a necessity the committee owed the public, but with for extraordinary precautions.* No such every just and manly sentiment; indeed, necessity was proved; and, indeed, from so opposed to the constitutional English the very next passage in the report, it is maxim, that no man should be condemned evident the necessity did not exist :unheard, that we find it difficult to preserve “ The committee have not learned that there sufficient calmness to put the facts fairly appeared in the letters that were opened any before the reader, and yet find fit terms to thing to criminate the gentlemen whom the characterize appropriately the conduct of committee have very reluctantly named.” the committee, without appearing to as
This reluctance we do not understand. sume an exaggerated tone of severity. We refer to the paragraph in which reference is The parties named had brought themselves made to Mazzini and his brother exiles; before the public; they had petitioned for but chiefly to the following passages :
redress of a grievous injury; and the com
mittee meet the case by adding wrong to “ A warrant to open and detain all letters
wrong. The committee refused to hear addressed to Mr. Worcell and to Mr. Stolz- the allegations of the petitioners, or to call mann was issued on the 17th of April, 1944, and cancelled on the 29th of June.
a single witness of character; but they do “A warrant to open and detain all letters not the less hesitate to pronounce the foladdressed to Mr. Grodecki, at Paris, and to lowing unjust and er parte judgment:another foreign gentleman, was issued on the “ Gentlemen, we have not learned that any 3d of June, 1844, and cancelled on the 13th of thing has been found to criminate you, but the same month. “ The last two warrants rested on grounds Foreign Secretary was quite justified in
we are satisfied, notwithstanding, that the connected with the personal safety of a for: eign sovereign, intrusted to the protection of treating you as criminals, and guarding England. It appears to your committee that, against your possible designs upon the life under circunstances so peculiar, even a slight of the Emperor.” suspicion of danger would justify a minister The appointment of a secret committee in taking extraordinary measures of precau- showed a foregone conclusion; and the tion.”
members named upon it have well anWe have here an accusation of one of swered the expectations of the minister the blackest crimes that can be laid to hu- who appointed them. A sifting investigaman charge; and preferred against indi- tion was not wanted. Sir James Graham viduals who, for any thing that appears to was only anxious to show that he was no the contrary, may be as honorable men as
worse than the leaders of the Opposition ; move in society. The committee tell the
* Mr. Stolzmann is a captain of artillery, who public that there were grounds of suspi- has lived in England since 1836; Count Worcell cion, slight perhaps, but still sufficient, to is a member of the Diet; both able men, and men justify the British Government (justify is of unspotted character. Their real offence was the word used) in treating Messrs. Worcell, attending a public meeting in favor of the Poles Stolzmann, Grodecki, and their friends, as 16th of April. The warrant for opening their
at the Hall of the National Association on the engaged in a plot for the assassination of letters was issued on the 17th. The other case the Emperor of Russia—there is no other was a mysterious letter from a person abroad of meaning in the words ; let the reader ex- unsound' mind, taken by a Pole to the Russian amine them carefully. Now, will it be be-embassy, with a view of getting himself included Jieved, does it not seem incredible, as re- also for that purpose. We regret to learn that the
in the late Polish amnesty, and probably obtained pugnant to every feeling that could be amnesty includes only men of a like stamp.