Page images

We shall take advantage of this subject to present a statement of the house of commons in 1812, to which we are indebted to Oldfield. 87 peers in England and Wales return

218 90 commoners

137 Government

16 21 peers and peeresses return in Scotland

31 14 commoners

14 36 peers in Ireland

51 19 commoners

20 Total of peers

300 Total by government and commons 187

487 Returned independent of nomination 171 Total commons

658 Duke of Norfolk returns

11 Rutland

6 Newcastle

7 Marquis of Buckingham

6 Earl Fitzwilliam

6 “ Darlington

7 Lonsdale

9 Mr. George Rose

3 Sir C. Hawkins

4 John Buller

4 &c.' We observe by the last London list of books that the third volume of Dr Tomline's work is announced for publication. We shall therefore defer to another opportunity those subjects, which we have not been able to touch upon in this present article. We hope that we shall then have it in our power to present to our readers much information concerning the domestic and private life of Mr Pitt, the want of which, we believe, every one now feels.

We shall finish this article with a few remarks, which the reading of this work has suggested to us. There are several peculiarities in the British house of commons, that procure vast facilities and advantages to individuals endowed with great talents. The first peculiarity is, that the discussion is confined exclusively to half a score of members, for during the great debates, to which we have referred in this article, seldom more than that number took a part. It is true that occasionally there starts up, in these debates, a new member,

who makes what the reporters call a maiden speech, which is heard with great attention, reported with great care, and then, in all probability, the name and the voice are forever lost amidst the din and the shouts of the chiefs of the epic. In these maiden speeches we have observed that the most fatal symptoms are well set, and well prepared sentences and periods, certain moral truisms, and frequent references to the Greeks and the Romans. Such symptoms are commonly mortal. We quote the following as a specimen :

Mir Drake began ex abrupto—“ This, Mr Speaker, is another picture of that abominable system of procrastination. The Roman patriots, sir, used to promote the welfare of their country; but, sir, the patriots of this day endeavor to oppose it.” Here Mr Drake's memory failed him, and he was obliged to sit down.'

But unless those members speak with promise, they are heard a second time with great indifference, and finally scraped and groaned down, if the less positive expression of the feeling of the house, by one half the members going into the coffee rooms, and the other half going to sleep, is not accompanied by a prompt obedience. Respect is also had to the

personal character of the memberor of the powerful counties he may represent; but the members are prone to take advantage of the neighboring coffee rooms, and without speaking again of the instance of Mr Hartley and of many worthy and honorable baronets, we have seen it recorded, that Mr Burke, rising to speak and seeing many members leaving their seats, thought proper to resume his own. Whatever advantages may attend the practice of allowing the commons to select their own orator, it has the air of great rudeness; and we are able to account for its origin in no other way, than by supposing that it was first exercised under some of the arbitrary sovereigns to still those who were obnoxious to their censure. No such custom existed during the commonwealth, and as many members spoke then as now speak in our congress.

A great deal also may be learned from the constitution of the house. Many members are sent there merely to vote, who would probably greatly displease their patrons, if they should attempt to speak. Many others who spend great sums to obtain seats have no constituents, and an M. P. is only serviceable to such persons for the purpose of franking letters, of adding a little io their distinction and dignity in drawing rooms and at dinner parties, and as being one proof, besides the right to carry

a gun,

that a man is a gentleman. And after all, this is one of the least expensive modes, which an Englishman adopts to prove his claims to that condition. Men seldom go to parliament for the mere purpose of speaking for their constituents, inasmuch as the members of the house of commons have constituents in a more enlarged sense than the members of the American congress, because from the circumstances of our country, there is a much greater variety of interests in it, requiring more specific representation. It often happens, however, that instructions are sent in relation to certain priviliges and customs, by virtue of which members of the house of commons are forced to speak; as was most particularly the case in relation to the slave trade. There is, notwithstanding, as we observed above, a class of members whose sole object is the honor and dignity of a seat in parliament. They care little in what way they get there; and being there, have no particular constituents, whose interests they are called to defend. They have not, as with us, each thirty five thousand constituents, who can reward them with their approbation and often with state offices, whereby such weight is acquired at home, that the national government is forced to extend its patronage to them :-by which circuitous process many a member of congress, who would be immediately defeated on the floor of the house in any attempt to gain influence by taking an active part in the debates, is still enabled by means of long speeches painfully composed and delivered, and diligently printed and distributed through the post office,—to acquire or sustain that popularity among his constituents, which shall send him up to the executive government, clothed in all the importance of a powerful local interest.

Another peculiarity of the English house of commons is, that a division takes place every night; and though such a subject as the Missouri question might be renewed for twenty nights successively, in committee on the state of the nation, yet there is always a certain degree of variety, freshness, and animation, produced by a knowledge, that a decision is about to take place. This peculiarity is a consequence of that which we have mentioned. The third peculiarity is, and it is one which will always make greater orators than we are likely to have in this country, because they will always have more experience, that men of great promise and ambition can enter the house of commons at the age of twenty one;

an age at which an individual seldom can enter even a state legislature in this country. Fox was chosen to the house before he was twenty, Pitt before he was twenty two.

Again, parliament is a profession, and a man becomes as skilful and as much attached to it, as to that vocation by which he earns his bread. The distinguished men in the house of commons remain there twenty and thirty years, and many of them as long as they live. The consequence of this is, that they not only become greater men themselves, but learn to do the business of the nation with greater despatch. We believe that the members from Virginia and South Carolina remain in congress longer than those from the New England states, where an opposite policy, either arising from the caprice of the people, or the circumstances of the candidate, prevails to a fatal degree. We may also observe, that all the distinguished English statesmen from the time of Queen Anne, appear to have been accomplished scholars, and particularly well versed in the Latin language. This was especially the case with the Pitts, father and son, though the practice of quoting Latin in parliament is much diminished, and we have seen it stated by a person of great experience in those matters, that Mr Pitt did not make more than a dozen citations from the classics, in the whole course of his ministry.

Art. XI.- Report upon Weights and Measures. By John

Quincy Adams, Secretary of State of the United States. Prepared in obedience to a resolution of the Senate of the 3d of March 1817. Svo. pp. 245. Washington. To one who has never had occasion to turn bis attention to the history and philosophy of weights and measures, it may appear surprising that the subject should have called for all the learning, and research, and wisdom, displayed in this work. Though foreign to the ordinary duties of a statesman, the senate of the United States seem to have been fully aware of the importance and difficulty of the question before them, and of the qualifications for treating it of the distinguished individual to whom they referred it; and we deem it matter of great congratulation, that congress have, by their prudence and caution, hitherto escaped the evils into which other gov


ernments have so often been betrayed by unwary and precipitate measures; and that they have at length, in this ample and elaborate document, the means of acting with a more enlarged and more just view of the subject, than has fallen to the lot of any other legislative body.

There are, we think, few subjects of legislation that impose a severer responsibility upon the supreme authority of a state, than that under consideration. An army, a navy, a revenue, &c., call for measures of a comparatively restricted application, and measures whose operation is, for the most, silent and unobserved. But a new regulation, with regard to weights and measures, extends to almost every individual of a community, and controls him in his daily business, and in his habitual transactions with others. It is difficult to conceive how a despot could make his power felt more generally and constantly, or more vexatiously, than by requiring new systems of weights and measures. So, on the other hand, there are few subjects on which some authoritative regulation is more clearly and indispensably necessary, and in which a wise government can more certainly and more effectually promote the cause of justice and fair dealing among a people.

In a reformation of the existing system of weights and measures, which has been repeatedly called for in this, as well as in other countries, several essential changes have been proposed. It has been thought, in the first place, highly important to refer all our measures to some natural standard, that shall remain immutable amid the revolutions to which human things are liable, and which may be recovered when all artificial measures shall be lost or impaired. It is true, that the measures now in use were originally taken from nature ; but they were taken from objects in themselves variable. Most measures of length, as the foot, the cubit, the span, the fathom, were borrowed from the human body. The reason of this is evident. Measures were originally employed with direct reference to the human person. They were to be applied almost exclusively to articles of clothing and shelter, or to instruments of war and the chase, and which of course were to be used about the person, and to be adapted to it, in their dimensions and physical qualities. The pace, or length of a single step, was intended for spaces of greater extent, and a mile, as the name imports, was an abridged expression for a thousand of these paces. But when it was found necessary to

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »