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chance with him. The reality of the deferential feeling in the community is tested by the actual election of the class deferred to, where there is a large free choice betwixt it and others.
Subject therefore to the two minor, but still not inconsiderable, defects I have named, Parliament conforms itself accurately enough, both as a chooser of executives and as a legislature, to the formed opinion of the country.) Similarly, and subject to the same exceptions, it expresses the nation's opinion in words well, when it happens that words, not laws, are wanted. On foreign matters, where we cannot legislate, whatever the English nation thinks, or thinks it thinks, as to the critical events of the world, whether in Denmark, in Italy, or America, and no matter whether it thinks wisely or unwisely, that same something, wise or unwise, will be thoroughly well said in Parliament. The lyrical function of Parliament, if I may use such a 'phrase, is well done; it pours out in characteristic words the characteristic heart of the nation. And it can do little more useful. Now that free government is in Europe so rare and in America so distant, the opinion, even the incomplete, erroneous, rapid opinion of the free English people is invaluable. It may be very wrong, but it is sure to be unique; and if it is right it is sure to contain matter of great magnitude, for it is only a first-class matter in distant things which a free people ever sees or learns. The - English people must miss a thousand minutiæ that continental bureaucracies know even too well; but if they see a cardinal truth which those bureaucracies miss, that cardinal truth may greatly help the world
But if in these ways, and subject to these exceptions, Parliament by its policy and its speech well embodies and expresses public opinion, I own I think it must be conceded that it is not equally successful in elevating public opinion. The teaching task of Parliament is the task it does worst.) Probably at this moment, it is natural to exaggerate this defect. The greatest teacher of all in Parliament, the head-master of the nation, the great elevator of the country—so far as Parliament elevates it -must be the Prime Minister: he has an influence, an authority, a facility in giving a great tone to discussion, or a mean tone, which no other man has. Now Lord Palmerston for many years steadily applied his mind to giving, not indeed a mean tone, but a light tone, to the proceedings of Parliament. One of his greatest admirers has since his death told a story of which he scarcely sees, or seems to see, the full effect. When Lord Palmerston was first made leader of the House, his jaunty manner was not at all popular, and some predicted failure. "No," said an old member,“ he will soon educate us down to his level; the House will soon prefer this Ha! Ha! style to the wit of Canning and the gravity of Peel." I am afraid that we must own that the prophecy was accomplished. No prime minister, so popular and so influential, has ever left in the public memory so little noble teaching. Twenty years hence, when men inquire as to the then fading memory of Palmerston, we shall be able to point to no great truth which he taught, no great distinct policy which he embodied, no noble words which once fascinated his age, and which, in after years, men would not willingly
let die. But we shall be able to say “he had a genial manner, a firm, sound sense; he had a kind of cant of insincerity, but we always knew what he meant; he had the brain of a ruler in the clothes of a man of fashion." Posterity will hardly understand the words of the aged reminiscent, but we now feel their effect. The House of
, ( Commons, since it caught its tone from such a statesman, has taught the nation worse, and elevated it less, than usual.
I think, however, that a correct observer would decide that in general, and on principle, the House of Commons does not teach the public as much as it might teach it, or as the public would wish to learn. I do not wish very abstract, very philosophical, very hard matters to be stated in Parliament. The teaching there given must be popular, and to be popular it must be concrete, embodied, short. The problem is to know the highest truth which the people will bear, and to inculcate and preach that. Certainly Lord Palmerston did not preach it. little degraded us by preaching a doctrine just below our own standard ;-a doctrine not enough below us to repel us much, but yet enough below to harm us by augmenting a worldliness which needed no addition, and by diminishing a love of principle and philosophy which did not want deduction,
In comparison with the debates of any other assembly, it is true the debates by the English Parliament are most instructive. The debates in the American Congress have little teaching efficacy; it is the characteristic vice of Presidential Government to deprive them of that efficacy;
in that government a debate in the legislature has little effect, for it cannot turn out the executive, and the executive can veto all it decides. The French Chambers are suitable appendages to an Empire which desires the power of despotism without its shame; they prevent the enemies of the Empire being quite correct when they say there is no free speech; a few permitted objectors fill the air with eloquence, which every one knows to be often true, and always vain. The debates in an English Parliament fill a space in the world which, in these auxiliary chambers, is not possible. But I think any one who compares the discussions on great questions in the higher part of the press, with the discussions in Parliament, will feel that there is (of course amid much exaggeration and vagueness) a greater vigour and a higher meaning in the writing than in the speech : à vigour which the public appreciate-a meaning that they like to hear.
The Saturday Review said, some years since, that the ability of Parliament was a "protected ability :” that there was at the door a differential duty of at least 2,0001. a year. Accordingly the House of Commons, representing only mind coupled with property, is not equal in mind to a legislature chosen for mind only, and whether accompanied by wealth or not. But I do not for a moment wish to see a representation of pure mind; it would be contrary to the main thesis of this essay. I maintain that Parliament ought to embody the public opinion of the English nation; and, certainly, that opinion is much more fixed by its property than by its mind The “too clever
* This of course relates to the assemblies of the Empire.
by half” people who live in “Bohemia,” ought to have no more influence in Parliament than they have in England, and they can scarcely have less. Only, after every great abatement and deduction, I think the country would bear a little more mind; and that there is a profusion of opulent dulness in Parliament which might a little—though only a little—be pruned away.
The only function of Parliament which remains to be considered is the informing function, as I just now called it; the function which belongs to it, or to members of it, to bring before the nation the ideas, grievances, and wishes of special classes. This must not be confounded with what I have called its teaching function. In life, no doubt, the two run one into another. But do
many things which it is very important in definition to separate. The facts of two things being often found together is rather a reason for, than an ohjection to, separating them, in idea. Sometimes they are not found together, and then we may be puzzled if we have not trained ourselves to separate them. The teaching function brings true ideas, before the nation, and is the function of its highest minds. The expressive function brings only special ideas, and is the function of but special minds. Each class has its ideas, wants, and notions; and certain brains are ingrained with them. Such sectarian conceptions are not those by which a determining nation should regulate its action, nor are orators, mainly animated by such conceptions, safe guides in policy. But those orators should be heard; those conceptions should be kept in sight. The great maxim of modern thought is not only