Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Scotch Bills and Scotch Representation
From Tait's Edinburgh Magazine (1849)


The success of Mr. Hume’s motion for the reform of the House of Commons would ^increase the representation of Scotland by 50 per cent., and men do say in Scotland that thereby the mortal dulness of the Commons would be increased by four per cent. The Scotch representation is every way deficient—first, in numbers, which the Scotch cannot help; but, second, in talents, which they might endeavour to amend. By some exertion, fifty-two less efficient representatives might be found in Parliament than the gentlemen sent up from Scotland, but an intimate knowledge of the House would be necessary in any man who undertook to find them. The reason for this singular fact may be difficult to discover, but some cause will exist for the most intelligent portion of the empire choosing, to be represented by the least active, useful, and able, section of the House. The circumstance does not justify the unfair apportionment of the representation. We should not be deprived of our undoubted space in Parliament, even if we are pleased to occupy the Scotch seats with load. Entitled to seventy-six or eighty seats, wo should have them, even if we be obliged to send such Lord Broughams to the House, as those that were cunningly imported at New York, by a dealer in the heaviest, and the most murderous of the viler metals. The merchant knew that our American brethren, who protect themselves to the chin against our manufactures, had—with a love of art more commendable than their recent assaults on Mr. Macready, and slaughter of free-born Americans, by way of proving the sterling nature of Mr. Forrest’s representation of Othello—agreed to admit works of art free of duty. Acting on a fortunate idea, he determined to turn Lord Brougham into money—to coin his lordship’s character—a feat that nobody else, net excepting the learned lord, could accomplish—and so he had a few hundred statues of his lordship cast in lead, after the model of Punch. The material in that form defied the Custom-house officials; and the Broughams passed free into the furnace, for no United States law prevented the immolation of statues in the smelting-pot, when they would not sell without its intervention. Let us have our eighty seats in the House of Commons, or one hundred if we deserve them; and the spaces can be filled by statues of past genius done in lead. They will not serve us worse than our present representation. The necessity of a voice for Scotland;—one, if we may not have more, in the House of Commons—is becoming yearly more apparent. The treatment of the country is odious, and it is of more consequence to the Government that the people begin to feel it in that light. Scotch measures are never considered in the House of Commons before midnight, and it were better if they were never considered in the House of Peers, at any hour of day or night. The Peers have done nothing regarding Scotland acceptable to the majority of the people for many years past, notwithstanding the asseverations of Lords Brougham and Campbell on the subject, whose avowed acquaintance with our interests transcends that of most people resident within the country. The circumstance is more curious from the fact that the Scotch peers really display more genius than their fellow-labourers in the Commons.

The surprising revelations by Lords Brougham and Campbell on Scotch affairs take the breath from the conscientious reader in this country. Take the case of the Marriage Bill as an example. Lord Brougham complains that marriage is made easy iu Scotland, and ho wants to make it difficult. Lord Brougham finds marriage, he says, scandalously easy, and he will finish by rendering seduction safer. At the very moment when he remonstrates against the facility of marriages, he interposes a “caveat” to credulity in his statements, by adding that many people in Scotland know not whether they he or be not married ; and multitudes more have reasonable doubts of their legitimacy. We never met a married couple—or two persons, male and female— in search of an answer to the question, Are we married? We venture to say, that nobody in Scotland ever witnessed a phenomenon of that kind. We are assured that there are not twenty-four persons in the kingdom who have the slightest doubt on the subject. The assertion is as baseless as any other assertion ever made in the House of Peers. It is merely a statement without the slightest foundation—without the filmiest shade or phantom of truth in it—utterly, entirely, and indefensibly untrue. The matter of legitimacy is in'the same position, of course, because Lord Brougham holds merely that there have been many hasty marriages—ceremonies of dubious force—and that their offspring of indistinct status in the world are a legion. The first statement being untrue, the second is necessarily erroneous; and we only wonder that a lawyer, who professes also to be a logician, should remonstrate against the facility of marriage-making; and the doubt, regarding the formation of marriage, as co-existing in one country, at one time, and under the same law. In Scotland, Lord Brougham says, that an admission of marriage accomplishes the fact, in whatever circumstances the admission be made. Not merely before an anvil, be side a forge, in the presence of a smoke-begrimed blacksmith—but even in a brothel, may the magic words be spoken, which bind human beings for weal or woe through life together. Even, says Lord Brougham, the continued residence together of persons not man and wife, in the capacity of man and wife, is held to constitute them what they are not; namely, married persons. Persistence in wrong will, in other words, ultimately produce right. People have only to go on sinning for a sufficient time in order to become virtuous! This is, we think, the fair interpretation of Lord Brougham*s expositions op the Scottish law of marriage. We repeat the conclusions stated by him as indisputable facts. Many persons are ignorant whether they be or be not married—many more whether they be or he not legitimate—many marriages are contracted in brothels—and many parties become moral people by continuing to live in immorality. The vice, in short, consists not in the fact, but in its duration ; and people have only to travel long enough on a wrong road to be right in the end.

The marriage law of Scotland affords no ground whatever for the unmeasured anathemas of the learned Ex-Chancellor, or the alterations proposed by other authorities. These changes are not in reality required on Scotch account. The hurried marriages celebrated at Gretna, and other places on the borders, are not those of Scotch persons. The individuals who visit blacksmiths’ shops, or even their dwelling houses, on this important mission, are not subjects or citizens of Scotland. The marriages which Lord Brougham says can be accomplished in brothels are not Scottish marriages. The people of this country have nothing whatever to do with the matter; and they have asked for no amendments of the law, nor for any new act on the subject. They ouly beg from Parliament, peace. They petition for nothing more than not to be disturbed. They are quite contented with the common law of the count 17; and yet, in spite of their petitions and remonstrances, they are to have new laws inflicted on them, not for their convenience, but for the aid and comforting of parents and guardians in England.

This state of acquiescence in the law could not exist contemporaneously with the domestic hardships and sufferings described by Lord Brougham, in a country where public opinion runs avowedly and strongly in favour of good and decent usage in all affairs of this kind. We are convinced that no hardship whatever results from the laws and usages of society regarding marriage in this country—that Lord Brougham could not name a dozen persons of whose marriage the slightest doubt exists—or a similar number regarding whose legitimacy any question can be asked by themselves or others. The law in Scotland on this topic does not rest the proof on records or registers in which errors may occur. The improvement and perfection of registration are essentially necessary. No more objections can be entertained to that measure in, than out of Scotland. Complete registration is most desirable, and perfectly attainable without altering the present marriage law. The most accurate system of registration is, however, liable to error. It so happens with us, that we have personal and expensive proof of that fact. An error in a parochial registry has cost us considerable sums of money already of additional payments on policies, and will continue to cost more than is just and right to the last of these payments. Similar errors may occur in any registry, and the Scotch marriage law, without refusing that description of proof, includes all others that can be offered, and especially the most convincing and ostensible. An improvement in our registration need not, therefore, interfere with the existing old, and, in reality, common law of the land; which accepts as proof of marriage, for all civil purposes, the admission or recognition of the relation by the parties who should know best whether they have wished to form, and have formed that contract.

We remember some old romances, in which the villain and the victim were the subjects of a mock marriage. They were married by a tool of the villain in the garb of a priest, and who was believed by them to be a priest. The marriage was, however, spurned by the intriguer, or by the novelist on his account, as wholly untenable, because the " tool” was not in holy orders, and certainly deserved to be within no other or better orders than those of the nearest bridewell. A recent work, the history of the Cossacks of the Ukraine, gives a narrative of a deed, by which Catherine of Russia, through one of her spies, destroyed an heiress of the Russian throne in Italy by a similar stratagem. All these projects of romance or of reality would have been cheated by Scotch law. Parties who declare themselves to be married, before sufficient witnesses of any description, are married, and there is nothing farther to say in the matter. Parties who live together before the world, in the capacity of man and wife, avowedly and notoriously, are also married, and we believe no doubt can be entertained, in all these cases, of the effect in law. Some instances have occurred where the expectant successors of wealthy persons have blamed these arrangements, and would rather have illegitimatised the offspring of a rich relative than lost their anticipated share of his wealth. The public good does not sympathise with private ends of that nature, and would not be promoted by encouraging them. Other parties have argued that weak-minded men are sometimes imposed upon and cheated out of themselves by cunning women; but that may happen out of Scotland, and with the slim and puny terrors of a rcgistraar looming between the lady and her prize. Experience of life, however, shows that the female portion of the community are the most frequent and the severest sufferers; and a civilised community will give them what the Scotch give—the advantage of all doubts. The offspring of such irregularities arc not, of course, guilty parties, aiid do not consent in any way to their own disadvantage. For their sake, therefore, society gains by casting all doubts to their scale and in their favour. Justice indeed demands this to be done; and any system that coolly puts the weak and the innocent portion of society to the disadvantage of having every possible doubt cast against them is unjust. Man or woman should be held to be innocent in law until they are proved to be guilty; but in this important particular, the parties are to be called upon, not to disprove their guilt, but to prove their innocence—an important distinction, as we shall see.

If a person be charged with criminality against the law, the onus probandi rests with the accuser, and not with the accused. A prisoner at the bar of a court has not to prove that he did not commit murder—that he did not steal—that he did not break the peace, or his neighbour’s gate, bell, or door-knockcr. In a fit of indignation against a worthless charge, or as the best means of averting it, he may prove all that if he pleases, by an alibi, or otherwise;—but his safety is secured by standing out on the defensive, maintaining a dogged silence after pronouncing the words “not guilty,” and saying nothing more, unless his prosecutor can establish his guilty connection with the crime by evidence. This is the precise position of a female in Scotland whose marriage is denied by the person with whom she has openly lived as his wife, and used his name publicly, and apparently with his knowledge. The occurrence of marriage might still be denied by the individual, or, more probably still, by his relatives; but he or they have to prove that no declaration of marriage occurred—a proof clearly impossible—so perfectly impossible, that the law assumes at once that it must have occurred; or in other words, that the assumption and use of the name with the concurrence of its owner constituted marriage for the purpose of civil law. The declaration before witnesses is self-sufficient.

Lord Brougham and his friends wish to substitute for this law a system of registration, of rules and regulations, similar to that existing in England and Ireland. The product of these laws in these countries is a multitude of bigamy cases and of provokingly quiet marriages. The English and Irish newspapers contain, we should think, a bigamy case on an average for each publication. Sometimes these cases arc very complicated. Recently, one man, lame of a leg, and deficient of an eye, was seized by three females in the street, at Cork, who each claimed to be his lawful wife, and not one of them, perhaps, was lawful; for some difficulty exists in observing all 'the forms of law in Ireland, so as to be perfectly married. The best course when a sure and firm act of matrimony is intended, i9 to employ an acute solicitor. Neither man nor woman is absolutely safe otherwise. To be married without a distinct knowledge of the religious sentiments of the person to whom one wants to be thus engaged, is dangerous anywhere, and doubly dangerous in Ireland. We remember the commotion raised a few years since by an ecclesiastical official, termed the “surrogate*’ at Armagh, and his allies and supporters, who insisted that one-half of the community who believed themselves to be respectable married people were anything but right in their notions. The dodge was clever and wicked. Some men of pernicious character determined to become bigamists without incurring the punishment annexed; and so they insisted that they always had been members of the Established Church, but had been erroneously married by Presbyterian ministers, and therefore were in no ways to be considered as married. The plea was actually successful. An act has since then been passed, with an ex postfacto application to make valid the doubtful past, and render troublesome all the future. Under this act a considerable business is done by a class of officials called “registraars,” who do marriages at a cheap rate, after the Gretna fashion, and who are appointed by the Government with power, if we remember rightly, to license places of public worship for the performance of marriage before noon. Nobody can get married who will not get up, once in life, before the canonical hour of twelve o’clock; unless by the registraar, who is probably either above or without canon law. This functionary keeps a book of notice, open to public inspection; and so any parent or guardian who may feel suspicion of the tendency of child or ward to contract a mis-alliance, has only to keep up acquaintance with the notice book in order to counteract the design. We need, however, scarcely say that the manuscript work in question is seldom perused with attention by the proper parties, and the oddest imaginable relations are occasionally formed by the official, who, generally, reads a few verses from the 1st chapter of Genesis, to seal his blessing with scripture, and all is over.

We have described possible occurrences under the law of Scotland, but the practice is particularly public. Contracts of this kind are formed always after due notice in the parish church, or churches, when the parties reside in different parishes. The whole probabilities of the case have been discussed for weeks before the occurrence of the solemnity, as this proclamation is generally repeated twice or thrice on successive Sabbaths. All the arguments for and against the match have been debated by everybody acquainted with the parties for a considerable period. The session-clerk has made the necessary entries. The minister of the congregation at which the bride attends is requested to perform the ceremony, which becomes one of an entirely religious character, to which the fullest publicity has been given. In no country on the face of earth are fewer secret marriages effected than in Scotland ; and in none do fewer complaints exist on the topic which Lord Brougham and the legislature propose to redress and amend.

The Lunacy bill, intended to obviate an old and a very serious defect, at a great and extravagant cost, after the general adoption of means under the present law, almost commensurate to the evil, is delayed for the session; and the Marriage and Registration bills promise to be the most productive jobs for the variety of young and deserving Whigs, who wait appointments with all the anxiety and impatience evinced by Yau Amburgh’s young lions for their food. We have no quarrel with the prudential anxieties of those gentlemen for their own interests, or with the activity of the Lord-Advocate on their behalf. That unfortunate official has to stand sponsor, not for the learning, but for the living of a numerous flock, and must be naturally desirous to have all of them well housed. If, moreover, new appointments, commissionerships, and so on, must be made, no reason exists against their distribution amongst this class of politicians. They are not less deserving than their opponents. Their influence is not likely to be more prejudicial than that of their antagonists. The most inveterate economist would probably allow them to be the least of two evils. Certainly they are better than the Mules— the followers of Peel; because they know something of their own mind. Our complaint is against the multiplication of places—not against the men in whose favour they will be multiplied.

The Scottish Sanatory Act has bored its way like a mole under ground. # We know nothing of it except from the dust it throws up—the little hillocks made by it here and there, as, when it was proposed for a second reading and denied; when it was ultimately read a second time; or when a committee was appointed to consider the details. A bill of a similar character, belonging to any other section of the empire, would have been openly discussed. The measure comprehends immense interests, and its purposes require enormous powers. Very few of the public are, however, acquainted with its provisions. They generally know the want of sanatory regulations; and they hear that the worthy Lord-Advocate and his parliament are doing something against the cholera, typhus fever, doctors, and druggists. With the exception of the members of the metropolitan municipality, few of them knew anything more of the business up to the middle of last month. They assumed that anything in the form of a sanatory act was sanatory; and the Edinburgh Town Council negative the opinion, and ask delay and a careful consideration of details. The bill has been already too long delayed; and now its advocates say—When you are offered a measure, you seek a reprieve for dung hills—commutation of the sentence on bad drainage, and you cast many objections before the bill you sought. The great error is in the last clause of this sentence, which assumes that our want of a sanatory act justifies the legislature in imposing upon us anything under that name. Their proposed bill is liable to numerous objections—“to objections as/* say the auctioneers, “too numerous to mention;'9 but its obvious tendency to centralise all power is an insuperable obstacle. Nothing will warn our Whigs against centralization. They want to do everything as the Socialists propose to cook their food and bring up their children in one establishment, with a boiler like a beer-tun, or on a nursery floor of two acres, and by steam. That system will neither do well in England nor in Scotland. People want to mend the ways of their own parish, and pay for the gas of their own street lamps, and not those of the streets in other towns. Nothing is more amusing than the terrible protests of the London "Whig journals against the imprudence, oppression, and tyranny of the Austrians towards Hungary on the present occasion. The poor Austrians have done nothing more than copy the Whig policy of Britain. They merely wanted leave to do everything for Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, Bohemia, Lombardy, Venetia, and the Tyrol, at Vienna; as the Whigs try to do everything for Scotland, Ireland, Wales, India, and all our forty-three colonies, at London. The Austrians made slight differences, certainly, in the mode of Government. They proposed universal suffrage, or something approaching to it, like Mr. Hume’s suffrage; and they have fallen into dreadful trouble by their liberality. The Hungarians, whom the London Whig journals support so lustily, are merely fighting for the privileges sought by Mr. Smith O’Brien for Ireland—whom, we fear, Mr. Roebuck would almost permit to be hung in his strict attachment to legal sternness, unless, indeed, the Times of 19th ult. misreported, as is more than likely, the speech of the member for Sheffield. Let it be understood in passing-understood in London and elsewhere—by Mr. Roebuck and by others, that if Mr. Smith O’Brien should, or might be hung, M. Kussoth, General Georgy, the Dembinskis, and all the other friends of the London Whigs, commanding in Hungary, including General Bern, the clever correspondent of Lord Dudley Stuart, should be doubly hung; for we know not how virtue in Hungary can be transformed into crime in Ireland, by merely being conveyed westward; although we put in remembrance our opposition to the mad freaks and wicked proceedings of Mr. O'Brien and bis friends. The Whigs must cease centralising, or they will waken some day from their dream with the discovery of a federal union.

The Scotch complain with truth, more of omission than commission. We ask a sale of Encumbered Estates (Scotland) Bill, and might as well beg the moon, from our present legislature. We solicit corresponding facilities for our business to those prepared and proposed, and rightly proposed, for Ireland. We find our countrymen expatriated from the fertile regions of the Western Highlands and Islands, because the Duke of Argyle docs not wish to improve his principality; and the Marquis of Breadalbane has a deer forest of forty or fifty miles long. We find poorer, and, literally, penniless landlords copying the example of the leviathans in laud. We have these atrocities to the public interest, and often even to individuals committed under legislative sanction. We demand free trade in land, that our waste places may be cultivated; that one-half of the country may not be depopulated; that the resources of the soil may be evolved, and made subservient to the support and employment of the people. In answer, we are told that the country is poor; that the soil is had, and the climate is worse, so that the capital aud the labour requisite for its improvement would be thrown away. More objectionable means of spending money exist, however, than by paying labourers even to trench bad soil in a cold climate. We have no right to compel the existing landowners to pay out money in this way. If they think their waste lands valueless, they will be disposed to accept a small price for them. If capitalists can be found willing to give them anything for nothing, then they should accept and be thankful; but the Legislature will not permit them. The entail law stands in the way. Somebody in leading-strings cannot consent, or some other person refuses to concur; and because the land is held in joint ownership by the present aud the future, the manufacture of wildernesses proceeds briskly, and their maintenance is secure.

The persons who say that the improvement of land in the West Highlands and Islands will not pay, are answered by experience. One gentleman, a Glasgow merchant, Mr. M‘Ewan, purchased, in the first year of the potato failure, an estate in the island of Islay. He has published his experience; and it is highly favourable. When the Duke of Argyle, and other little potentates, were begging money to feed and expatriate the peasantry on their estates, Mr. M‘Ewan frankly told the people ou his estate that no charity would be given by him, none sought from the public, and none permitted, if his influence could prevent the contagion of dependence from spreading amongst them, except in the cases of the sickly and the infirm, for whom lie would provide; but he offered employment on the soil at their own doors, on fair wages. He began his operations. The agriculturists of the Highlands pronounced them Utopian, but he persevered ; and, from statements in his letter to Dr. Begg, which may be found, we believe, in a valuable pamphlet published by that gentleman, lie appears to have been eminently successful. Other landlords might have been equally successful. The Duke of Argyle, instead of pestcriug the Highland Relief Committee for money, to buy food for his “banished cottiers” from old Iona and Tyree, could have found work to them, and wealth to himself, and strength to the country, by employing them on his own estates. We need badly a sale of Encumbered Estates (Scotland) Bill; for, although the Lord Advocate’s Entail Act a&s been a partial improvement, yet its benefits are too limited for the Held that has to be wrought. Relief to the Highlanders never would be sought in charity if the laud were relieved from the thraldom of impoverished or spiritless owners. The people arc accused of indolence, and the charge is not deficient in truth, but the fault is created and fostered by law. They are made indolent by bad legislation. Men who i cannot be ensured in the enjoyment of the product from their toil will not be patient and persevering in their labour. The Highlanders are not only tenants at will, with the exception of a few extensive sheep farmers, but they are debarred from the most productive parts of the land. The infatuation on the minds of some of the most extensive landholders is inexplicable. Men are driven from their native land to “ tear in” and till forests and prairies in the west, who leave behind them land, from its position and other circumstances, naturally more valuable, but uncultivated. We have no doubt that owners are told'by practical agriculturists of the unproductiveness of the soil and the disadvantages, of the climate, as Mr. M‘E\van was told and warned gainst his outlay ; but let us have ^free-trade in laud, and men will be found willing to expend the money, and take, the risk of the results. The Western Highlands and Isles have soil in many places equal to the Lothians, and a climate not inferior to any part of Scotland. They arc intersected by innumerable lochs and arms of the sea, forming the cheapest means of I conveying heavy produce. They are situated in the eye of the most desirable markets, for they ail communicate by these water channels with the Clyde. They have the most unquestioned facilities for rearing all descriptions of stock, and supplying all kinds of provisions. The soil is more accessible during winter than even in the Scottish lowlands, supplying thus the most necessary advantages in what is called green cropping. This district of country is quite competent to rear and fatten all the stock imported into England or Scotland, and all the provisions brought from America or elsewhere. In making up this supply, an enormously larger population would be supported in comfort than now exist in penury. The Western Highlands and Islands, instead of supporting in misery two hundred thousand persons, might have a population of two million subsisting in comfort, buying manufactures for the produce they sold; and between whom and the looms and forges of .this country no tariff barrier would intervene. Sufficient evidence has been afforded that the soil of Scotland might employ profitably a far larger population than are now engaged in its cultivation. Instead of being a nation of nearly three millions, we might be nearly five millions, and be all the happier for the increase. Free trade in laud is requisite to accomplish this change, and it cannot be obtained without the sanction of the Legislature, so that the business of the country with the Parliament is most important—its safety, and the subsistence of its children—an important business, requiring energy and talent for its accomplishment.

We referred to the state of the Scottish representation as a reason for the carelessness evinced to Scottish business. The majority of our members belong to the class of respectable men, who are competent to manage their own affairs, to mix in society without reproach, and to pass through the world in an easy and creditable way. They will not materially trouble themselves on public affairs. The wonder regarding them is their presence in Parliament under any condition. Why were they scut there, and why did they go ? are very reasonable queries; but difficult to answer. If them be any genius in Scotland, it is not represented amongst the members. Mr. Fox Maulc has more talent than ambition, and he is subject to the atmospheric influences of the Upper House. lie is rather a Peer than a Commoner, while his public appearances are limited to the necessities of his office. The Earl of Lincoln is named the forlorn hope of the Peel party; but although he represents a Scotch constituency, he can scarcely be called a Scotch member, having merely condescended to sit for Falkirk, in want of any other place. Mr. Ewart, the member for Dumfries, is a persevering man, crowded with good intentions, but he is English, and only came for refuge to Dumfries inconsequence of an eviction; and remains there, by reason of its cheapness when compared with Liverpool. Mr. Bouveric is also an English Peer’s son, who fell ini o Kilmarnock by accident, and may remain there for many years, especially as he displays some symptoms of an intention to advocate reciprocity, a prevalent doctrine amongst his constituents. The town of Greenock is represented by the Earl of Minto’s son, Lord John Russell’s brother-in-law, who never opened his mouth in Parliament, but once wrote a pamphlet on education. The neighbouring town of Paisley is represented by another virtual Englishman, although originally connected with the banks of Cart, a man of strong good sense, but a quiet member. Glasgow has sent a mercantile and a statistical member. The former makes remarkably condensed speeches in the Commons, and the talent of his colleague is not oratorical. The House would lose nothing if they both adopted the same course. Mr. Hastie, of Glasgow, may be a very good merchant, and Mr. Macgregor an excellent hank manager, or Secretary of the Board of Trade, but they do not adequately represent Glasgow. The Government do not wish to encourage Mr. Macgregor, who revealed the secrets of the bill manufactory and statute production, but who is devoid of oratorical powers. They were indebted to the secretary’s working habits; but they dislike the member. The feelings of the Whigs are often unaccountable. We never discovered a good reason for petting Mr. Wilson and opposing Mr. Macgregor. They are equal in every respect, except years and experience, in which Mr. Macgregor has the advantage. We certainly do not undervalue the pub-lie services of the one gentleman, but the Whigs ap-j pear to have profited as much from the exertions of the other; and do not, we think, display the necessary gratitude. Mr. Macgregor, although a native of Scotland, is not much attached to Scottish interests. His effort to make a new borough of Kensington, Chelsea, and Brompton, was not liked amongst his constituency, who believed that they needed a member more, and that Scotland could consume the savings gained by the disfranchisement of Sudbury without attaining a fair proportion of representation. The statistical member for Glasgow is, moreover, not quite so skilful of speech as of figures. He may be an arithmetical genius, but he is not an oratorical; and the latter particular is that in which Scotch senators are deficient.

The county representation is merely respectable, although better than the boroughs. Mr. Bailie, Mr. Gumming Bruce, and Lord Dnumlanrig, in their several walks, address the legislature so as to command an attentive hearing. The county representation produces no member equivalent to Mr. D’Israeli on the one side, or Mr. Cohden on the other; but it is better than the boroughs. Mr. Hume is a native of Montrose, and represents the respectable eastern knot, and may do so during his pleasure; but he is in reality more English than Scotch. His feelings and sympathies are thoroughly English. He might have saved himself much labour by remaining steady in Montrose; but Mr. Hume, although one of the most useful and honest men in Parliament, is not peculiarly a Scottish representative, is not even particularly conversant with Scottish affairs; and devotes his time and his labour most zealously and assiduously to the general good.

For the leaders of Scotch opinion we would naturally look to the metropolitan representation—the four gentlemen who sit in Parliament for Mid-Lothiau; but at present we must look in vain to that quarter. The county member is not given to legislative exhibitions, and the Lord-Advocate is tbe very man against whom the country requires the protection of a few able debaters. The city of Edinburgh is represented by one gentleman who owes his scat to the respect entertained for his father, as Louis Napoleon is indebted for his presidency to the pre-existence of his uncle; and by another who was elected in a period of deserved antipathy to Air. Macaulay. The one member will not speak, and the other is never heard when he does speak. Two more respectable men in their several and proper departments could not be wished; but for the representation of the most intellectual and literary city in the kingdom they are ill adapted. The descent, even from the days of Abercromby and Campbell, is painful. The city of Jeffrey and Cockbum could surely produce members able to take a higher standing in the house than the gentlemen by whom it is now represented, without resorting to Leeds or drawing upon India for a representative. And even if one heavy, plodding, useful man be advisable to manage improvement bills, the annuity tax, and the poor-rates, the metropolis has, we trust, still another person who might be able to take a leading position in the House of Commons, and do justice to his country.

A few weeks since, a convention of parochial representatives was held in Edinburgh, to consider the state of the poor-law. They appointed a committee, and then separated. It was a lame conclusion to a great design, and worthless for other than “signal” purposes. It was a grand “sign-post," and nothing more. Many individuals feel that something should be done to rescue the country from the post-mortem legislation to which it has been long subjected; but they know not what to do. The parochial boards have shown them the course that they should take, and the hint will probably he adopted. A convention of this nature, quietly collected after the meeting of Parliament, to review its Scotch measures, and, before the commencement of a session, to consider our legislative necessities, would procure for 6cotch business a becoming share of attention. The question naturally occurs, by whom would the members be elected? And of course it is the most important question connected with the affair. The poor-rate delegates had an authorised and legal basis, while a genera convention would rest merely on the people who are willing, in the eye of the law—nothing more than producers, out of whom rates and taxes must be excavated. The Convention of Royal Burghs was once in a position to have accomplished this work; but it is defunct, a nortuum corpus —its vitality is suspended, probably never to he revived. Any convention of a useful character can only be formed by the representatives of voluntary associations ; and might degenerate into a political club— useful in its way, but not for this immediate purpose. We require the revival of industry, the cultivation of our waste lands, the removal of all barriers lo the employment of any or all our resources; and the destruction of that tendency to centralisation and com-missionerships, which exercises a baneful influence on freedom wherever it exists.

These are the points for which chiefly we require some such organisation. They are different from general political questions, because our wants of that description we hold nearly, but not altogether, in common with our fellow subjects. “ Not altogether,” because while England has its forty-shillings freehold suffrage —a most Conservative qualification assuredly, but one, nevertheless, of a good and desirable character—Scotland has only a two hundred shillings county qualification, and yet we are not 'five times richer than England. Why should our artizans, our rural tradesmen, the most industrious and the most valuable class of any population, be denied the advantages and the privileges bestowed on English artizans, and English village patriarchs and their sons? Why should our old currency usages—a system that has carried the country with credit through many difficulties and changes—be blackguarded by Peel, and changed to please him— as the marriage-law is abused by Brougham, and altered for his satisfaction.

Why, merely to please English members, should our prisons be made palaces, and our homes of honest men left equivalent, in damp and darkness, almost to the dungeons of Chillon, since they are so likely never to require confinement in the first, and never to enter the second ? Why are all local, but important, laws, privileges, interests—or, if they will, even prejudices —changed and transmuted; and all important business and objects delayed, burked, or neglected by the English members, as the great and preponderating majority of the Imperial Parliament? Not, certainly, by the fault of English members; but most assuredly by the errors of Scotch electors.


Return to our Historic Articles Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast