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fluence of reformed government and legislation.
On the other hand, the beginning of the period had the solitary glory of ending one long series of continuous crime by the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Nearer its close, there were marked tendencies toward good, and even some noble beginnings of improvement; but these were mainly and conspicuously due to suspected and reviled minorities, and were in many instances resented, as well as resisted, with a bitterness almost savage, and hardly known to our more modern and sufficiently lively contentions.
Such were the backwaters (so to call them) of the French Revolution and of the war against it, and such was the later Georgian era, on which it is necessary to use plainness of speech, because it now takes the benefit of the glorifying hues of distance, as well as of military triumph; and none survive, except a dwindling handful, to speak of it from recollection. But though it was a time which can ill stand comparison with most others of our history, there still remained for us that glorious inheritance of Britons which, though it imperilled and defaced, it did not destroy. It was manifestly from the point marked by the close of this period that the old Locksley Hall took its measurements, and found in the survey of the years which had succeeded 1830, that their good outweighed their evil. In his admirable verses to the Queen, too, Mr. Tennyson-this time in person and not through a persona-looked at the Ship of State, and gave her his benediction on her way, as Longfellow's Master blessed the ship of the Union ;
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea;
During the intervening half century, or near it, the temper of hope and thankfulness, which both Mr. Tennyson and the young Prophet of Locksley Hall so largely contributed to form, has been tested by experience. Authorities and people have been hard at work in dealing with the laws, the policy, and the manners of the country. Their performances may be said to form the Play,
intervening between the old Prologue, and the new Epilogue which has just issued from the press. This Epilogue, powerful as it is, will not quite harmonize with the evergreens of Christmas. The young Prophet, now grown old, is not, indeed (though perhaps, on his own showing, he ought to be), in despair. For he still stoutly teaches manly duty and personal effort, and longs for progress more, he trows, than its professing and blatant votaries. But in his present survey of the age as his field, he seems to find that a sadder color has invested all the scene. The evil has eclipsed the good, and the scale, which before rested solidly on the ground, now kicks the beam. For the framing of our estimate, however, prose, and very prosaic prose, may be called in not less than poetry. The question demands an answer, whether it is needful to open so dark a prospect for the Future; whether it is just to pronounce what seems to be a very decided censure on the immediate Past. And there is this peculiar feature in the case. In most countries and most periods of the world, Governments may bear their own faults, and in proportion the peoples may go scot-free. Not so in this country, and at this time. In the words of the Prince Consort, "Our institutions are on their trial, as institutions of self-government; and if condemnation is to be pronounced, on the nation it must mainly fall, and must sweep away with it a large part of such hopes as have been either fanatically or reflectively entertained that, by this provision of self-government, the Future might effect some moderate improvement upon the Past, and mitigate in some perceptible degree the social sorrows and burdens of mankind.
I will now, with a view to a fair trial of this question, try to render, rudely and slightly though it be, some account of the deeds and the movement of this last half century. I shall reserve until the close what must be put down to its debit. For the present I will only shut out from the review important divisions of the subject with which I am not competent to deal: those of literature, of research, of science, of morals. These great subjects would resent summary treatment even by a competent hand;
and my hand is not competent, nor my opinions worth record. What I have to say bears upon them, but mainly in the way of exterior contact. I shall only venture to refer to those portions of the case which can as it were be inventoried : the course and acts of public authority, and the movement, so closely associated with them, of public opinion, and of the most palpable forms of voluntary action. The Prophet of the new Locksley Hall records against us many sad, and even shameful, defaults. They are not to be denied; and the list probably might be lengthened. The youngest among us will not see the day in which new social problems will have ceased to spring as from the depths, and vex even the most successful solvers of the old; or in which this proud and great English nation will not have cause, in all its ranks and orders, to bow its head before the Judge Eternal, and humbly to confess to forgotten duties, or wasted and neglected opportunities. It is well to be reminded, and in tones such as make the deaf man hear, of city children who soak and blacken soul and sense in city slime;" of maidens cast by thousands on the street; of the seamstress scrimped of her daily bread; of dwellings miserably crowded; of fever as the result; even of "incest in the warrens of the poor." On the last-named item, and the group of ideas therewith associated, scarcely suited for discussion here,. I am not sure that the warrens of the poor have more to fear from a rigid investigation than other and more spacious habitations. But a word on the rest. Take first the city child as he is described. For one such child now there were ten, perhaps twenty, fifty years back. A very large, and a still increasing proportion of these children have been brought under the regular training and discipline of the school. Take the maidens, who are now, as they were then, cast by thousands on the street. But then, if one among them were stricken with penitence and sought for a place in which to hide her head, she found it only in the pomp of paid institutions, and in a help well meant, no doubt, yet carrying little of what was most essential, sympathetic discrimination, and mild, nay even tender care. Within the half century a new chapter NEW SERIES.-VOL. XLV., No. 3
has opened. Faith and love have gone forth into the field. Specimens of womankind, sometimes the very best and highest, have not deemed this quest of souls beneath them. Scrimping of wages, no doubt, there is and was. But the fair wage of to-day is far higher than it was then, and the unfair wage is assumably not lower. Miserable and crowded dwellings. again, and fever as their result, both then and now. But legislation has in the interval made its attempts in earnest; and if this was with awkward and ungainly hand, private munificence or enterprise is dotting our city areas with worthy dwellings. Above all have we not to record in this behalf martyred lives, such as those of Denison and Toynbee? Or shall we refuse honorable mention to not less devoted lives, still happily retained, of such persons as Miss Octavia Hill? With all this there has happily grown up not only a vast general extension of benevolent and missionary means, but a great parochial machinery of domestic visitation, charged with comfort and blessing to the needy, and spread over so wide a circle, that what was formerly an exception may now with some confidence be said to be the rule. If insufficiencies have come to be more keenly felt, is that because they are greater, or because there is a bolder and better trained disposition to feel them? The evils, which our Prophet rightly seeks to cauterize with his redhot iron, were rank among us even in the days when Hogarth, a pioneer of reformation, drew his Beer Street and his Gin Lane.. They grew with population and with wealth; but they grew unnoticed, until near the period, when the earliest Locksley Hall cheered the hearts of those who sought to mend the world. If fifty years ago censure was appeased and hopefulness encouraged, is there any reason now why hope should be put under an extinguisher and censure should hold all the ground?
About twenty years ago, and toward the close of his famous and highly honored life, Lord Russell spoke the muchnoted words "Rest and be thankful.' And right well had his rest been earned. But the nation, which we may hope was thankful, yet rested not. As a nation, it has labored harder than ever before ;
harder, perhaps, than any nation ever labored. True, it has a greater number of leisured men, and moreover of idle men, than it had sixty years back. It must be left to them to state what is the final cause of their existence, and what position it is that the Almighty destined them to fill upon this ever-whirling planet. But, even after deducting them as a minus quantity from our sum total, it still remains true not only that the nation labors hard, but that it has discovered, for itself at least, the perpetual motion. For it has built up an Empire, and no insignificant part of it since the first Locksley Hall was written, of such an exacting though imposing magnitude, and of such burdensome though glorious responsibilities, that it must perforce keep to its activity like Sisyphos with his stone, or Ixion on his wheel. It would be little to say that the practical legislation of the last fifty years has in quantity far exceeded that of the three preceding fifties taken together. The real question is on its quality. Has this great attempt in an old country at popular government, when brought to trial by relative, not abstract standards, failed, or has it not? I remember being I remember being told by Kingsley how, when an old friend of his had rushed unadvisedly into verse, he plucked up all his courage for the needful emphasis, and told him,
My dear friend, your poems are not good but bad." Will it be too audacious to submit to the Prophet of the new Locksley Hall that the laws and works of the half century he reviews are not bad but good?
I will refer as briefly as may be to the sphere of legislation. Slavery has been abolished. A criminal code, which disgraced the Statute Book, has been effectually reformed. Laws of combination and contract, which prevented the working population from obtaining the best price for their labor, have been repealed. The lamentable and demoralizing abuses of the Poor Law have been swept away. Lives and limbs, always exposed to destruction. through the incidents of labor, formerly took their chance, no man heeding them, even when the origin of the calamity lay in the recklessness or neglect of the employer they are now guarded by preventive provisions, and the loss is miti
gated, to the sufferers or their survivors, by pecuniary compensation. The scandals of labor in mines, factories, and elsewhere, to the honor, first and foremost, of the name of Shaftesbury, have been either removed, or greatly qualified and reduced. The population on the sea coast is no longer forced wholesale into contraband trade by fiscal follies; and the Game Laws no longer constitute a plausible apology for poaching. The entire people have good schools placed within the reach of their children, and are put under legal obligation to use the privilege, and contribute to the charge. They have also at their doors the means of husbanding their savings, without the compromise of their independence by the inspection of the rector or the squire, and under the guarantee of the State to the uttermost farthing of the amount. Living in a land where severance in families is almost a matter of course, they are no longer barred from feeding and sustaining domestic affection by prohibitory rates of postage, sternly imposed upon the masses, while the peers and other privileged classes were exempt through franking from the charge. In this establishment of cheap communications, England has led the world.* Information through a free press, formerly cut off from them by stringent taxation, is now at their easy command. The taxes which they pay are paid to the State for the needful purposes of government, and nowhere to the wealthy classes of the community for the purpose of enhancing the prices of the articles produced for their account. Their interests at large are protected by their votes; and their votes are protected by the secrecy which screens them from intimidation either through violence or in its subtler forms. Their admission into Parliament, through the door opened by abolishing the property qualification, has been accomplished on a scale which, whether sufficient or not, has been both sensible, and confess
edly beneficial. Upon the whole, among the results of the last half century to them are, that they work fewer hours; that for these reduced hours they receive increased wages; and that with these increased wages they purchase at diminished rates almost every article, except tobacco and spirits, of which the price can be affected by the acts of the Legislature.
It seems to me that some grounds have already been laid for a verdict of acquittal upon the public performances of the half century. The question now touched upon is that "condition of England question" on which Mr. Carlyle, about midway in his life, thundered in our ears his not unwarrantable but menacing admonitions. Some heed, it would appear, has been given to such pleading. Science and legislation, have been partners in a great work. There is no question now about the shares of their respective contributions. It is enough for my purpose that the work has been done, and that the Legislature has labored hard in it. Mr. Giffen, in a treatise of great care and ability, has estimated the improvement in the condition of the working population at 50 per cent. Would that it might be possible to add another fifty. But an accomplished fact of this character and magnitude is surely matter for thankfulness, acknowledgment, and hope. The discord between the people and the law is now at an end, and our institutions are again broad-based national conviction and affection.
I turn to another great category of contention. It is in the nature of religious disabilities to die hard. Stirred at a sore point into spasmodic action in the Parliament of 1880, they are now practically dead. The signs of inequality obtruded upon Nonconformists by the Church Rate, and by the unequal laws of marriage, and of registration upon births and burials, have been put away. In just satisfaction to a civil right, free access has been given to the churchyards of the country; and the sinister predictions which obstructed the change have proved to be at least as shadowy as the beings commonly supposed to haunt those precincts. The old universities have opened wide their august portals to the entire community;
and they have more than doubled the numbers of their students. If the Oath is not now universally revered, at least a great provocation to irreverence in the needless and perfunctory use of it has been carefully removed.
It would be endless to recite all the cases in which relief has been afforded, during the period under review, to suffering industry and imperilled capital, One case at least must not be left wholly without notice. The farmers of the country have suffered for a series of years with their landlords, but usually beyond their landlords, and from causes which it is not altogether easy to trace. The law cannot give prosperity; but it can remove grievance. By changes in the law, the occupiers of the soil have been saved from the ravages (such they often were) of ground game. In the repeal of the Malt Tax there has disappeared what had been commonly proclaimed to be their heaviest wrong. The tithe-owner, clerical or lay, no longer abstracts the tenth sheaf, which may often have represented the whole net value of an improvement. Claims of the landlord for the recovery of rent, which were found to operate unjustly (I refer particularly to the law of hypothec in Scotland) have been abolished. And more than all these, the title of the farmer to the fruit of his legitimate investments in his holding has, though only a few years back, obtained efficient protection.
Long as is this list, it is not less incomplete than long. Two or three of its gaps must be filled up. The new and stringent Act for the reduction of the expenses of Parliamentary elections is both a law for virtue against vice of the most insinuating kind, and a law for the free popular choice of representatives as against the privilege and monopoly of the rich. Women have been admitted to new public duties, which they have proved their perfect capacity to discharge, and their property and earnings in the married state have been protected. Prying for a moment into a hidden corner of the Statute Book, I remind the reader that at the date of the first Locksley Hall no woman could by law obtain the slightest aid toward the support of an illegitimate child, wherever the father was a soldier. This shame
ful enactment has been abolished. The members of the two Houses of Parliament used to find in that membership a cover from the payment of their lawful debts. This shelter they have lost. The application of the elective principle to municipal corporations has advanced our towns to a higher civilization, and has exhibited in many instances, of which Mr. Chamberlain is the most brilliant and famous name, the capacity of local government to develop the political faculty, and confer imperial education. The repeal of the Navigation Laws was effected in 1849, amid a howl of prophecies that it would be found to have involved not merely the destruction of a harassed interest," but the downfall of our national defence. The result of the new law, in combination with the great change in shipbuilding from wood to iron, was that the "harassed interest" has been strengthened, a noble art improved, the character of the service refined and reformed, the tonnage multiplied, and a new position given to Great Britain as the first among the shipbuilding countries of the world. If we look now to the vital subject of the relations between the two Islands, we come on the brink of controversies I would rather avoid; and I do not forget that there is one epoch of our history with which the names of Pitt and Fox and Burke and every statesman of their day are alike associated, but which as yet we have not rivalled. Drawing comparisons only from the time that followed 1782 and 1783, I venture to assert that only since 1829, and chiefly within the latter part of this period, has Right begun, though with a checkered history, manfully to assert itself against Wrong, in the management and government of Ireland.
This work of legislation, so vast and so varied, has been upon the whole an impartial work. Many and many a time, not only have its promoters had to face powerful and obstinate opposition, but they have not been cheered in their work by the public opinion of the moment, and have had their faith and patience exercised by reliance only on the future. And it has been seen in strengthening police and prison discipline, in legislation for public order, and in the radical reformation of the poor laws,
that unpopular as well as popular work has been done, and well done, when it came to hand.
And the wholesome breath of the nation has, during this period, purified not only the legislative but the administrative atmosphere. Let me record to the honor of Lord Liverpool a great practical reform.
He dealt a deadly blow at the fatal mischief of Parliamentary influence in the departmental promotions of the Civil Service, by placing them under the respective Heads. Sir Robert Peel, as I knew him, was a thorough and inflexible practical reformer. Sir James Graham was a true genius of administration. I look upon the quarter of a century preceding the Crimean War as the best period of all our history with regard to economy, purity and administrative energy.. But there were very great subjects, then scarcely touched, on which only the afflatus of the nation could dissipate the hostile forces of profession and of clique. Good work was being done in many ways; but it required time. We had had the pressgang used at discretion as the ultimate instrument of supplying men, when wanted, for the Navy: incredible, but true. It is now a thing of the past. We had flogging as the standing means of maintaining the discipline of the Army, and destroying the self-respect of the soldier. Despite professional authority, which in certain classes of question is the worst of guides, the profane hands of uninstructed reformers have pulled this Dagon to the ground, and he has shivered into splinters. The Government at its discretion, opened, when it chose to see cause, letters confided to the Post Office. This bad practice has died out. The officers of the Army were introduced and promoted by Purchase; and that system, under which at one time the Duke of Wellington so desponded as to military promotion that he wished for a commissionership in a revenue department, made the business of supplying brains for the Army the property of the long purses of the country. The Parliamentary defenders of the system, which involved the daily practice of patent and gross illegality, held their ground with a
persistency which would have been worthy even of the British officer in the