Obrazy na stronie

any reason to believe is the case. The party to whom such views are dear, have, in consequence, become more sanguine, more active, and more daring. The doctrines, not merely of those who object to all Establishments, but of those who are friendly to the Church, yet anxious, both for its own safety and the interests of the community at large, to see it reformed, have received a check sufficient to arrest the progress they were making in the country. The stability of the Reform Government has been for a time endangered; and nothing but the successful issue of the approaching election can restore the cause of reform and of good government to the position which it occupied before the untoward occurrence happened. It is fit that these things should be distinctly stated, in order that lukewarm and timid, though well-intentioned supporters of liberal opinions, may be aware of the mischief which ensues from suffering themselves to be alarmed by the clamour so easily raised upon questions of this description; while their merits are imperfectly understood by one part of the community, and industriously misrepresented by another. That sufficient pains were not taken to make the plan better understood, as well as to meet the first objections urged against it, and remove the occasion of those objections which were well founded, is equally to be lamented and blamed. The lesson which this experience is fitted to convey, will not, we may confidently hope, be thrown away; and a new Parliament may be expected to settle satisfactorily for all parties a question, in the final arrangement of which all have a very deep interest.

We commenced this article by rendering justice to the author of the tract, the title of which is placed at its head. It was published in January, and contains, with some remarks and some opinions in which we do not concur, a distinct outline of the plan brought forward in March by the Government. For the details, especially as relating to lessees, he is of course not answerable, because he does not enter into them. We subjoin the statement in his own words; premising that although he speaks of impropriate tithes only, and the Government plan regards Church lands, there is no difference whatever in principle, in the modes of dealing with these two kinds of Cathedral property :

1. That the power of leasing these impropriate tithes should be taken from the bishops and dignitaries of the Church altogether, and vested in commissioners.

2. That a return be made to the commissioners of the amount of fines received on the leasing of such tithes, for a period of time sufficiently long to afford a fair yearly average.

3. That the value of the tithes of such impropriations, levied by the lessees, during the same period of time, be as far as possible ascertained; in aid of which enquiry, the overseers of the poor, in parishes where such lessees are assessed to the poor's-rate, might be applied to.

[ocr errors]

4. That, on compensation being awarded to the lessees, for the surrender of their leases, or as those leases expire, the commissioners levy such impropriate tithes on the public account.

5. That, from the tithes thus levied by the commissioners, be paid, yearly, to the bishops and dignitaries of the Church, a sum equal to the yearly proportion of the fines received by them, during the time taken for fixing the average.

6. That the surplus be appropriated to provide for the CHURCHRATES, the AUGMENTATION OF SMALL LIVINGS, and to any other PUBLIC


ART. VII.-England under Seven Administrations. By ALBANY FONBLANQUE, Esq. 3 vols. 8vo. London: 1837.


HE most favourable point of view in which modern civilisation can be regarded is its diffusive spirit, and the fact that its principal productions, almost of every kind, are readily distributed and capable of being generally enjoyed. In the earlier periods of history human nature seems to rise to a greater height here and there in individual instances; and this or that particular order and profession stand out in more picturesque relief. But men, as social beings and members of a community, have been infinite gainers by the character which the last two centuries have decisively impressed upon modern Europe. Here, as in other cases, first appearances are so far deceitful, that the effect of the progress of society in this respect is as easily, as it is frequently, misrepresented. If nature has but few favourites, and those individuals rather than classes, civilisation tends to reduce the value even of these exceptions, and to equalize the rights and enjoyments of the family of mankind. In proportion as a people is prudent enough to take advantage of the opportunities which civilisation presents at its several stages, the laws by which a well-constituted society will be regulated and move onward, are found to be as clear and comprehensive as the most uniform laws of nature. In this manner the conveniences of life, and the resources of art and science, may gradually become accessible to all, in the same sense, at least, and to the same extent as natural blessings. It is very evident that even our literature is taking this turn at present.

Voltaire has drawn a brilliant picture of a single day of Athenian greatness, when some favoured citizen, after listening to

Pericles in the Assembly, and worshipping with Phidias in the Parthenon, could adjourn from a play of Sophocles to a supper with Aspasia. The genius of antiquity in its most triumphant combinations was the privilege only of a few, and that for a single generation. It could neither perpetuate itself nor spread. How different in this from the universal empire to which modern civilisation seems advancing; especially under the marvels and the influence of our own age and country! The English picture, it is true, is a great deal less poetical; but it makes up for that inferiority by the substantial nature of its subject, and in the numbers who can share the advantages which it bodies forth. What a time it would take to make a Roman Emperor or a Feudal Baron understand the felicities and comforts, the cultivation, independence, and self-respect, which may now be realized in the daily life of every skilful and provident mechanic. The cheap and rapid journey by railroad or steam-boat, the warm glasswindowed home, the clean shirt and cotton stockings, the farbrought luxuries of the tea-table and the pipe, his small shelf of well-adapted knowledge, and, above all, his newspaper. How has the last, with its hundred eyes and hundred hands, been searching and ransacking the world in his behalf, and collecting for him, from every quarter, tidings of whatever has happened, great or small, instructive or amusing, the week that he has been away! The rich and great seem now often hard put to it to find exclusive distinctions for themselves. The physical wellbeing of a community is, we admit, an indispensable basis for every thing else. Without it, all the rest is fearfully insecure. Political economy has charge of that. But on that basis, when its conditions are once thoroughly understood and complied with, a higher average of virtue, learning, and accomplishment-of moral and intellectual pleasures-must, under existing circumstances, necessarily follow, than, we believe, the body of a people ever before attained.

In the future, which we are anticipating, newspapers will have to perform an important part. They are already an essential element and symbol of the peculiar spirit and tendency which characterise our civilisation. There is no place to which they do not penetrate; no object which they may not serve; no description of person to whom they are not welcome. The readers of the 'Task' gratefully remember how much they contributed to enliven the winter evenings of a retirement as profound as Cowper's. Paley, whose wisdom is always shown in making the most of every pleasure, dwells upon a newspaper as one of the grave advantages of a free government. Its necessity in the present times

is singularly exemplified in the case of the 'Liberia Gazette,' which has been successfully started and conducted from the first by a colony of emancipated negroes on the coast of Africa. It would be curious to compare it with the first manifestation of the kind in England, which Elizabeth, with the instinct and in the policy of the great cause she headed, called into being, to be the moral antagonist of the Armada. As often as some particular emergency, still more where the general nature of the constitution requires that the opinions and wishes of the public at large should be consulted, an instrument must be provided by which the opinions and feelings of the people may be, as far as is practicable, guided and developed, as well as communicated and ascertained. Whatever is the assistance to be got from other sources, and by other means, and although newspapers may be better qualified to distribute knowledge than to create it, nevertheless, for the real political education of the majority of a numerous population-for the bringing them into counsel and into action, it is clear that it is on publications of the nature and form of newspapers, that we must principally depend.

[ocr errors]

Heeren observes that Homer formed the character of the Greek nation; and that in Greece itself, lawgivers and rulers were the persons who were the most active in making his poems known, and in saving them from perishing. The connexion between their employments, as politicians and editors of Homer, is apparent from the manner in which the subject is introduced in the laws of Solon. In one respect,' Heeren adds, 'those lawgi'vers were unquestionably in the right: a nation whose civilisa'tion rested on the Iliad and Odyssey could not easily become a nation of slaves.' The philosophy of legislating by means of Minstrels, is akin to a saying which sober people have been much surprised to find attributed to a statesman. According to it, Lord Chatham did not care who made the Laws, provided that he was to have the making of the Ballads. Looking to the prosaic character of our times, newspapers hold a place at present between what ballads perhaps once were, and laws some time or other may be. As far as our contemporary civilisation rests upon them, their immediate influence in favour of the sublime and excellent, may fall short of the flight attempted by epic poems; but they will probably prove, in their humbler way (and we are sure we speak of it with all due reverence for poets), as good securities for freedom.

It is worse than folly to undervalue the use and influence of newspapers, or ungraciously to withhold from their conductors the rank and honours of society, which the duty required of them,

if it is to be properly discharged, implies. The world knows as yet but little of the limit of the circulation which writings of this kind can reach; and still less of the benefits which they may confer, or of the talent which may be invested in them. The daily press of the United States is some evidence upon the first point. The Examiner, under the charge of Mr Fonblanque, is our best English example of the last.

Unless the 'Beauties of Cobbett' is to be considered an exception, a collection, in three volumes, of the principal leading articles of the Examiner is the first occasion on which the 'happy pages 'which no critics criticise,' have been brought regularly within our province. It is natural that their author should wish to preserve them in a more lasting form. The correspondents and intelligencers who gleaned political and personal gossip for the edification of their contemporaries in former days, followed a much meaner calling. The difference is immense between their meagre communications and the finished essays in which Mr Fonblanque disposes, by argument or satire, in irony or in stories, of the principal topic of the week. However, the difference between writing politics for the week and for posterity, is still greater. So much so, that we do not apprehend the present experiment will be successful enough to tempt the editors of other journals to reprint, either for gain or glory, their favourite productions. It may be long before another opportunity occurs. We will therefore refrain from following Mr Fonblanque to the field, in the ten years' war which he for the most part has carried on against the 'seven administrations' which have represented, in quick succession, the fluctuating and nearly-balanced interests of that critical period. Nobody can have thought at all seriously of the condition and prospects of the daily press without perceiving the disadvantages and temptations to which this species of authorship is exposed. Whether these difficulties are capable of being, or likely to be at all removed-or how far, and in what manner-are questions worth enquiring into. An imperfect answer to these questions is all that we can be helped to by the present volumes. But the answer, as far as it goes, is greatly to Mr Fonblanque's credit, and is, we would sain hope, on the whole, encouraging.

The disadvantages alluded to, are, in part, general and inherent in the nature of the case. They are, in part, occasional and special, varying with the nature of that portion of the public which is more particularly addressed, and with the character of the writers who address it.

From the first of these disadvantages, of course, there is no The interest of news is that it is news; and a journalist


« PoprzedniaDalej »