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ART. IX..-1. The Queen's Speech at the Prorogation of Parlia
ment. (Morning Chronicle, August 29, 1846.) 2. Circular of the Protestant Association. 1846. 3. Valedictory Address to the American Deputies. Delivered by
the Rev. Dr. BYRTH at the Public Breakfast of the Friends of the Evangelical Alliance at Liverpool. (Liverpool Times, September 22, 1846.)
A COLLECTION of King's and Queen's speeches would be a curious document to hand down to posterity, as a record of the subjects which, from year to year, have not been the leading topics of concern to the country. It might be interesting to study the admirable skill with which statesmen, like contraband traders, have contrived to put forward, with much show and parade, the safer matters on which they feel invulnerable, leaving quietly in the background their smuggled wares—the controversial questions on which inconvenient inquiries might arise.
Lord John Russell's first “Queen's Speech" is, in many respects, free from this charge. It is eminently worthy of the first Premier who ever received office as the willing legacy of a political opponent-winning it by no intrigues, securing it by no dexterous maneuvre, scarce even making an effort to obtain it, but quietly assuming the place of dignity, for which none now pretended to assert a rival claim. “ Statim ad spem consulatus revocatus est, comitante opinione; nullis in hoc suis sermonibus, sed quia par videbatur. Haud semper errat fama, aliquando et elegit.” (Tac. Vit. Agric., cap. ix.) The strange working of the machinery of parties has seldom, indeed, exhibited a more singular result, than when the Parliament of 1841 launched into smooth waters, with a favouring breeze, the Whig Ministry of 1846. The sugar question quietly disposed of, they now stand before the country unembarrassed, almost unopposed, with no dangerous agitation to soothe, no clashing interests to reconcile-free as ministers of the Crown never were within the memory of man, to deal with practical evils and practical abuses. The thirty years' war of parties seems to be all but at an end. The work of organic change may be looked on as complete. We appear to have reached a point of national history not easily paralleled, a period of real peace, internal as well as external, when the grand question of the day may really be, the social and moral welfare of the people. The temple of the political, as well as the warlike Janus, is shut. Long may it be before either is reopened.
It is Lord John Russell's good fortune, or, shall we not say, the reward of the forbearance and generosity of his career in Opposition, to be the first Premier that has occupied this proud and commanding position. Proportionate interest attaches to the Queen's Speech which we have placed at the head of this Article, as the first formal document to which we can appeal, as an exposition of the views on which his administration is to be conducted. For, barren as royal speeches may usually be of all clear statements of principles, it can hardly fail to indicate either the presence or the absence of that deep sense of responsibility which, in such times as ours, is the first qualification for a British ruler. The days have past when the game of premiership could be lightly and carelessly played—the nation's destiny the stake on either side. No pilot can now claim the credit of weathering the storm by simply steering the vessel down the stream. He who now takes charge of the rudder of the State needs a clear eye and a steady handman eye to see through the mists of party prejudices, or traditional recollections of principles, far beyond the restricted range of commonplace politicians, and a hand to keep his course clear of rocks and quicksands innumerable. He should be prepared to grapple with great questions on broad, fixed principles, and not be too much afraid of being termed abstract, visionary, or speculative. For visions he must have before his mind, if he is to achieve anything great-visions of a brighter future than can as yet be distinctly conceived of. Speculations he cannot but enter on, analyzing into their" elementary principles the existing phenomena of our social state, and seeking to solve the problem, how these may be reconstructed into a new and more glorious political fabric, the palace of which the present system would scarce be worthy to be the vestibule. Without such visions and speculations, which soi-disant " practical” men call wild and unprofitable, the science of statesmanship would be mere empiricism, and hopes of improvement little better than guesses in the dark. But still, with all these abstract ideas, to which he seeks to assimilate his practical results, he will never sink into the mere theorist, the daydreamer of Utopias. He will work with the materials he has. He will no more think of omitting from his calculations the consideration of the elements he has to deal with—the actual ignorance, selfishness, and vis inertiæ of men in general—than the scientific mechanist would attempt to apply his mathematical principles, without allowing for friction and the resistance of the atmosphere. Given, things and men as they are, it will be his great problem, how to bring them into the closest possible approximation to the ideal standard. Above all, his ideal of what might
be, will be an ideal of man as a moral and religious being--an ideal of a Christian state-distinctly foretold, and therefore not Utopian—and which is so far from being unpractical
, that it is the only object at which a statesman can legitimately aim with the certainty of ultimate success.
The speech before us is of course retrospective. Any light that it throws on the probable course of the future must be reflected from its view of the past. Its tone, as we have already implied, is, on the whole satisfactory, and especially in these two points--its freedom from partisanship, and the prominent place assigned to considerations affecting the economical well-being of the people. There is no self-glorification on the part of ministers. Her Majesty's “satisfaction” applies, for the most part, to the measures of the late administration; her strongest hope is, that “ her people may, through the divine blessing, enjoy the full advantages of peace.” On the other hand, her hope,“ that the more free admission of the produce of foreign countries into the home market will increase the comforts and better the condition of the great body of the people,” is balanced by her fear “ that the recurrence of a failure in the potato crop, in an aggravated degree, will cause a serious deficiency in the quantity of a material article of food.” Throughout, there is no reference to any matter which has even the appearance of a mere Montague and Capulet quarrel between factions. It is with the essential good of the subject that the sovereign is here made to express her sympathy.
In this there is a great change—a change not attributable to any one man or set of men, but flowing from the improved tone of public feeling, acting on the altered circumstances of the country. The times have changed, and we with the times; and it is the truest compliment to Lord John Russell to regard him as chosen to be the leader of the crisis, not so much from regard to any personal grandeur of character or brilliancy of genius, as because he most fitly represents these feelings and tendencies of the day. Men seem to see in him a premier who, from the eminence gained for him by previous struggles, as well as forced on him by circumstances, shall take a comprehensive survey of the wide field of politics, truly so called, and hold it to be his special commission to unite the energies of men of all parties in the great work of social and economical reform. To many, hitherto, it has appeared that the true aim of government was wholly neglected. The whole series of political struggles seemed so much laborious trifling--a busy idleness, while the real work was left undone. Others, again, regard, as comparatively superficial, even the most important questions relating to the people's physical condition and material comfort. The danger they dread is not, in the first instance, an economical decline-the weakness of political old
age—but a far more terrible calamity—the loss of a national religious feeling-while wealth and civilization continue to advance. Every day unveils more palpably the frightful mass of heathenism that has long lain concealed. Every day shews the gathering weight of evil which must, sooner or later, burst upon us. Under this avalanche they see that we are slumbering. When, or how, or in what direction it will fall, no prophet tells us, and scarce a statesman condescends to ask.
A large subject opens before us here—the relation of religion to politics, and the way and degree in which men of Christian principles are to make those principles felt in the administration of the country. On this point there is an ominous silence in the Queen's Speech. Beyond the mere incidental reference to a superintending Providence, there is no allusion to any of those topics to which the deepest feelings of the people will be most apt to turn. No doubt, it is true that these topics have not been directly suggested by any of the measures of the Session; nor do we mean to say that the Speech, taken alone, would have seemed radically defective. But, under all the circumstances of the time, it seems a fair question to ask of every
state documentwhat are its tendencies and indications in regard to the one great controversy? What is the place which it assigns to religion, as affecting the destinies of the nation?
Or, lingering no longer on the Speech, may we not rather address ourselves to the great question of the day,-how are we to deal with those wants and evils of the time, which lie deeper than mere economics-deeper even than philanthropic ethics can reach ? Here we encounter a twofold danger ;-a danger from the absence of religious feelings among statesmen, and a still greater danger from the absence of statesmanlike prudence among religious men. That there is a region of principle into which statesmen fear to enter, a mode of treatment for social diseases to which political physicians are slow to have recourse—and yet that mode the only one which promises a radical cure--seems a truth too plain for denial or dispute. It is admitted that there is a panacea-an universal medicine; but we must not employ it. It would minister effectually to our thousands of minds diseased; but they must be content with some poor substitute. In speeches and state-documents, in legislation or preliminary enquiries, the one forbidden subject is the one which most of all demands, and would reward our patient investigation.
Our literature is the index of the feelings of the day. There, none can avoid seeing that among our most popular publications there are many whose views are well defined, whose conceptions are vigorous and healthy—but from which all distinctively Christian ideas or principles are studiously and systematically excluded.
It is a melancholy thing to review the stores of varied knowledge and entertainment provided for this favoured generation—full to overflowing of high thoughts, noble conceptions, generous sympathy with human distresses,—everything that wins for the writers our respect and esteem-everything deep, solid, and substantial, while dealing with the ordinary concerns of men; but the moment the thought of a future life intrudes, the clear penetration, the wisdom, the accuracy, vanish: here, all is meagre and superficial. The same mind which on other subjects could tolerate no unfairness, or shrinking from the truth, is here contented with half-views and half-statements. It seems as if men thought that religion was the only subject on which it might be rational to talk vaguely and generally, leaving the depths of truth unsounded.
What wonder, then, if many minds feel uneasy? What wonder, if they yield to exaggerated views on the other side ? Political parties rise and fall; but the grand evil remains, they think, unaffected. Policy is still dissevered from sound views of religious obligation. What wonder if many ardent minds, oppressed with the sense of national guilt, are ready to look out for some untried means of meeting a case so desperate? They feel that this state of things cannot long continue. History tells them how nations perished in their prime; and always the sure prelude of decay was national forgetfulness of an overruling Power. Ancient poetry caught the idea—one of those faint gleams of truth which dimly lighten through the darkness of Heathenism of the vélegis which attended the people or the hero, who forgot that all human prosperity is the gift of heaven. Revelation speaks more clearly, and seems to many to speak now with a prophet's tongue : “ Shall I not visit for these things ? Shall I not be avenged on such a nation as this ?” Despairing of all existing parties, such men are very apt to exclaim-Are we never to have a practical development of the true theory of Christian politics, as the science of applying eternal principles to the changing wants of men ? Are men always to be viewed as mere machines,—the tools with which politicians work,—or units in statistical calculations? Will legislators and statesmen never recognise their claims as individual souls, over whom they are set to watch ? Once for all, we have done with party trammels. As religious men, we must find if possible religious men for our rulers. In their hands, and in theirs alone, without regard to antiquated names or distinctions, the interests of the country will be safe.
Such expressions are doubtless whispered through many a religious coterie, in murmurs “ not loud but deep,” for the present. Recent events have proved that such feelings have no slight hold over the religious portion of the constituency. It is hard to say