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Addison, Joseph

Eronaut, translated from the German
by Ma Howitt
African Water-fowl-(Baliceps Rex)... 135
America, Sketches of Spanish
America, the Telegraph in
American Antiquities at the Louvre

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354

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Animals, Paintings of
Apollo Gallery at the Louvre
Arab Art

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Chimpanzee, the

Chinese Emperor, Mein-ning

Christopher Columbus

City Saw-mills, a Day at

Cluny, the Museum of

Copper-plate Engraving and Printing... 292

Curious Cup in Niello

Curiosities of Antiquity, Hand Rings

Chains, Necklaces, and Amulets

Curiosities of the Chemistry of Art

Cyrus, Tomb of

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DEAD BRIDAL, THE, by Jonathan Freke

Slingsby

Chapter I.

Chapter II.

Chapter III.

Chapter IV.

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English Houses of Parliament
English Railways

Episode in the Peninsular War
Epitaphs

Eugenie, Empress of France...
Faded and Gone, a Poem

Fairies in New Ross

Farmer's Return, the

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Fête of the Madonna Del Arco
First Pneumatic Machines

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Diary of Journey to the Diggings, by
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THE ILLUSTRATED

MAGAZINE OF ART.

THE ENGLISH HOUSE OF COMMONS.

In the English House of Commons we have the very type and model of all the representative assemblies of modern Europe. It is the only body which survived the long struggle between arbitrary power and popular rights, by which Europe was convulsed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and remained to become the ruler of a great empire, and the last resort for the complaints and appeals of two hundred millions of conquered people. The various bodies, which within the last century have rightly or wrongly professed to represent the French people, unconsciously perhaps, or without acknowledgment, have taken those of Great Britain as their model, either in the mode of their election, or in that of conducting their proceedings, or of both. The National Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, the Chamber of Deputies, and the National Assembly again have been so many imitations of a system, which, unhappily, France does not seem to have possessed enough political education to equal, nor enough public virtue or patriotic disinterestedness to perpetuate. A very little of that hopeful cheerfulness in defeat and disaster, and that moderation in victory, which have at all times distinguished the advocates of the popular cause in England, would long ago have placed France at the head of the civilized world. The earlier settlers in America, the pilgrim fathers, and all others who despaired of carrying the contest for civil and religious liberty to a successful issue in the old world, and sought an asylum in the forests of the far west, with pardonable adherence to old customs and traditions, carried with them the forms and theories by which they had in England sought to protect themselves against arbitrary violence. The primitive assemblies by which the villages on the banks of the Hudson and Delaware regulated their affairs with grave solicitude, were as good a miniature as time and circumstances would permit of the larger, and more powerful, but not more intrepid body, whose members made the walls of St. Stephen's ring with their eloquent protests against encroachments on their freedom, or fiery denunciations of the " man Charles" and his accomplices; and the governor who summoned their meetings and gave to their acts the sanction of his fiat, was as faithful a rendering of a gay cavalier king, as could be presented in the person of a stiff and austere Puritan. It may not be uninteresting to our readers to trace from small beginnings the growth of that mighty lever, which, resting on faithful hearts and intellectual cultivation as on a pivot, now moves the world.

From the very nature of its origin the English House of Commons draws the elements of its power and influence. The period in which it took its rise was one of rapine and violence. For a system of law, imperfect indeed, but at least founded on right, and administered with impartiality, the Norman Conquest substituted the will of the strongest. The first peal which was rung out from the bells of Battle Abbey celebrated not more the conquest of a kingdom and the foundation of a dynasty, than the breaking up of the old framework of society, and the erection of a system in which priests, vowed to poverty and celibacy, became infamous for their rapine and licentiousness; and soldiers, who had sworn to protect the weak and succour the helpless, were the terror of all who had no defence but in the mercy of their conquerors. From the 11th century we hear little of the vanquished people. The Saxons showed themselves as true men on the field of VOL. I.-No. I.

Hastings. After that the historian who seeks to chronicle the vices and victories of kings, the intrigues of courts, and the corruption of statesmen, sees them no more. They laboured in obscurity amongst the fens of Lincolnshire, danced in the forests of Nottingham, and sang old songs by their cabin firesides amongst the wild hills and wilder heaths of Yorkshire; digged, and delved, and spun, and wove, and sold broadcloth in the cities and the fields, in poverty, in oppression, and disappointment, but with unconquerable energy and stolid perseverance. Many a peasant's son, weary of a life of insult and outrage, sought refuge in the church from the strong hand of power, and found himself thus the dispenser of the blessings and curses of an authority superior to the fortunes or changes of the world, the Saxon priest jingling the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the face of the Norman baron. But these petty triumphs were as insignificant in their results as they were mean in their origin. The influence which any number of priests or monks, filling subordinate positions in the church or in the monastery, could have upon the condition or prospects of men of their race, was trifling in the extreme. A surer foundation for hope was in the wants of the conquerors, caused by their wars and profuse living, and the increasing wealth of the conquered, hoarded up and accumulated by habits of untiring industry. The Normans seem to have appreciated the truth which lies hidden in the fable of the goose which laid the golden egg. They were aware, wild and reckless though they were, that if they showed themselves too grasping they would destroy confidence, and thus diminish production; that to plunder the citizens and serfs without inquiry, and without a show of justice and legality, would be to mortgage the future to supply the wants of the present. How did they act? They summoned the vanquished people to send persons to represent them to Westminster, and bid them tax themselves,-called upon them to declare openly and on oath the amount of their property, and set apart on behalf of themselves and their constituencies a certain portion per cent. to meet the wants of their lord the king, or in other words the chief of the conquering army.

It is in this assembly that the conquered people first appear on the surface of society, and it is here that we find the origin of the English House of Commons. But it must not be supposed, that in these early times, the burghers and freeholders were by any means willing to elect, or to be elected. A seat in parliament was not a dazzling reward of ambition. No man sought to wade to it through oceans of beer, to buy it by parcels of guineas, to storm it by a rush of lying bombast on the platform. These were not the days of honied falsehood, of patting children on the head to win the heart of the mother, and, en consèquence-the father's vote, of banners, music, caricature, intimidation, kidnapping, and all the other machinery which a modern candidate puts in force to secure his return. But when the king's writ arrived, ordering the sheriff "to send to parliament two deputies from each borough within the county, and these provided with sufficient powers from their community to consent in their name to what he and his council should require of them," there were fear and trepidation in the hearts of all the citizens, and lamentation in all their dwellings. One or more had to be sent away from their shops and looms, their monies and their usances, it might be more than a hundred miles, mounted on a packhorse, across

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almost impassable roads, and over wild heaths, exposed to inclement weather, assaults of highwaymen and bandit barons, to remain for a week in communication with the conquerors, sneered at and hustled by the Norman men-at-arms, scorned by the nobles for their base birth and their ignoble occupation, and there, in the cloistered halls of the old city of Westminster, subjected day after day, with 'bated breath and whispering humbleness, to a searching examination to force them to reveal the exact amount which might be wrung from themselves and their fellow-townsmen, without causing their utter and irretrievable ruin. It may be readily believed also, that the burghers themselves were anything but anxious to elect, seeing that in doing so, they not only supplied the infor mation for the more effectual spoiling of their own goods, but were compelled to bear the expenses of their representatives, during their forced residence in the capital. There were then no clamouring for the suffrage, no fierce contests in the registering courts, no bribery, or corruption, or intrigue, or committees. No news, we are told by Hume, could be more disagreeable to a borough than to find that it must elect, or to any individual than that he was elected.

From the first these representatives of the people sat apart, and were called into the presence of the barons only to be questioned, and, having rendered their account, were dismissed to their homes. But, from frequently meeting together, the citizens began to feel more confidence in their united strength, and from frequently seeing their conquerors, they began to fear them less. From merely rendering their accounts, they at last began to deliberate, and finally to complain. During the reign of Henry IV., in the year 1400, they began the practice of withholding the supplies until they received an answer to their petitions; and in 1509, Sir Thomas More, for the first time, as a member of the House of Commons, opposed a demand for money. This was in fact a bargaining for their rights, in return for money, between the subjects and the conquerors. Things at last arrived at such a pitch, that in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when some objection was made to voting the supplies before certain grievances were redressed, and a lawyer arose in the house, and said that he marvelled much that the house should stand upon the granting of a subsidy, seeing that their houses and lands, and money, and all that they possessed, were Her Majesty's, and that she might do with them as she pleased, he was received with shouts of laughter.

But whatever might be the state of feeling amongst the Commons themselves upon this head, the monarch's notions of his rights were in no wise altered. He was still, in his own eyes, the head of a conquering army, the supreme arbiter of the lives and fortunes of his subjects. No murmurs of the mutinous herd whom his convenience caused him to collect at rare intervals at Westminster, that they might tax themselves, no concessions which policy might compel him to make in the hour of need, abated one tittle of his rights. Superior to all restraints, save those which expediency might impose, he was, in every sense of the word, in his own estimation, the absolute sovereign of a kingdom, which was his by the double law of the sword and of hereditary descent. It was the assertion of this supposed right on the one hand, and the people's indignant protest against it on the other, which gave rise to the struggles which ended in the death of the first Charles. The assembly which his ancestors had called into existence for, purposes of tyranny, had, by the natural course of events, become the surest bulwark of popular freedom.

The influence which the House of Commons thus acquired, and the important part which it consequently began to play in the government of the country, soon made it an object of ambition to the noble and the high-born to enter it. As soon as its right to vote the supplies, and to render the laws proposed by the other branches of the legislature null and void for want of its sanction, was freely acknowledged; as soon as it became an engine of great power, the aristocracy determined to lay hold of it, and work it for their own ends. The burgesses and yeomanry never knew the value of the institution they had created, until they had lost it. When the Revolution

or

of 1688 occurred, the people were no longer a power in the state. The great Whig lords who ran to offer their congratu lations to William, had filled the House of Commons with their relatives and dependents, who re-echoed their cries, and acted upon their wishes. It must not be supposed, however, that any violent revolution, any open robbery of popular rights, any coup d'etat was necessary to make the aristocracy a ruling body. Time, which works so many noiseless changes, and, unseen and unheard, brings about so many stupendous results, effected this also. Scattered all over the country were localities which bore honoured names, and were linked to ennobling memories; towns, which in the fourteenth fifteenth centuries were celebrated for their stuffs and their broadcloths, the industry of their population, the amount of their traffic; towns which weary travellers on the great roads reached with joy, as havens of rest for their limbs, stiffened by ten or fifteen hours exposure on horseback, or in a waggon { places where proud merchants heaped up fortunes, huge for those days; where generation after generation of noble families filled the ancestral pew in the ancestral church, the observed and admired of a host of faithful dependents, and where each successive election, in those old times occurring at greater intervals than now, sent a member to parliament, in whose selection the votes of a great mass of honest, though rude and ill-informed men, possessed a large, though no doubt contested influence. The creation of new manufactures, the progress of science, the discovery of new lines of route, and the use of new material in the arts, and above all, the invention of the steam engine, which transferred the great seats of commerce and industry to the coal districts, and gathered together large masses of population, by whom the influences of the territorial aristocracy was unfelt and unknown, wrought a wonderful change in the electoral body. Places which had for centuries sent members to parliament, began to decline; the population decreased, or remained stationary,-houses fell into ruin, business began to decay, until at last towns in various parts of the country became like old Sarum, nothing remaining to mark their site save a difference in the hue of the corn or the grass which grew over the line of the streets. These were the "rotten boroughs." The towns and their inhabitants having wholly disappeared, the representatives were thenceforward nominated by the lords of the soil. It is one of the most singular facts in the history of England that this abnormal state of things came in process of time to be considered by the Tory party one of the greatest bulwarks of the constitution. Abolish the rotten boroughs, and you deprive noble families of their prescriptive and inalienable rights; abolish the rotten boroughs, and you throw the election into the hands of a wild and unbridled democracy, incapable of calm judgment, and exulting in destruction; abolish the rotten boroughs, and you deprive parliament of the. services of numbers of young and able men, whom a large and uneducated constituency could never appreciate, but whose talents and promise a noble patron can detect at a glance, and secure to the service of the country by a nomination to a seat; and above and beyond all these, abolish the rotten boroughs, and instead of effecting a salutary reform, you evince such spirit of change and innovation, which can end in nothing but revolution and anarchy.

Such were the principal features in the arguments used by the advocates of the old system. The agitators for reform, who urged the claims of the great towns of modern growth, such as Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, and the suburban districts of London to a just and equal share in the representation, had only to reply to all this, that the rotten boroughs were but an abuse which had grown up through a long course of ages, that whatever might be the peculiar advantages attaching to some parts of it, nothing could justify or excuse the total exclusion of large masses of the population from all share in the representation. Independently of this, it was a gross abuse that and wealthy mercantile communities, whose interest in the monetary affairs of the kingdom, in the foreign relations and commercial tariffs and treaties, and modes of taxation which the parliament

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