S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
But, as it is the interest of government that reformation should be early, it is the interest of the people that it should be temperate. It is their interest, because a temperate reform is permanent, and because it has a principle of growth. Whenever we improve, it is right to leave room for a further improvement. It is right to consider, to look about us, to examine the effect of what we have done. Then we can proceed with confidence, because we can proceed with intelligence. Whereas, in hot reformations, in what men more zealous than considerate call making clear work, the whole is generally so crude, so harsh, so indigested, mixed with so much imprudence and so much injustice, so contrary to the whole course of human nature and human institutions, that the very people who are most eager for it are among the first to grow disgusted at what they have done. Then some part of the abdicated grievance is recalled from its exile in order to become a corrective of the correction. Then the abuse assumes all the credit and popularity of a reform. The very idea of purity and disinterestedness in politics falls into disrepute, and is considered as a vision of hot and inexperienced men; and thus disorders become incurable, not by the virulence of their own quality, but by the unapt and violent nature of the remedies.
Edmund Burke: Speech on the Plan for Economical Reform, Feb. 11, 1780.
Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a state, that does not represent its ability, as well as its property. But as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it can never be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be out of all proportion predominant in the representation. It must be represented, too, in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly protected. The characteristic essence of property, formed out of the combined principles of its acquisition and conservation, is to be unequal. The great masses, therefore, which excite envy, and tempt rapacity, must be put out of the possibility of danger. Then they form a natural rampart about the lesser properties in all their gradations.
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.
Our notions about government are not, however, altogether unsettled. We have an opinion about parliamentary reform, though we have not arrived at that opinion by the royal road which Mr. Mill has opened for the explorers of political science. As we are taking leave, probably for the last time, of this controversy, we will state very concisely what our doctrines are. On some future occasion we may, perhaps, explain and defend them at length. Our fervent wish, and, we will add, our sanguine hope, is that we may see such a reform of the House of Commons as may render its votes the express image of the opinion of the middle orders of Britain. A pecuniary qualification we think absolutely necessary; and in settling its amount our object would be to draw the line in such a manner that every decent farmer and shopkeeper might possess the elective franchise. We should wish to see an end put to all the advantages which particular forms of property possess over other forms, and particular portions of property over other equal portions. And this would content us. Such a reform would, according to Mr. Mill, establish an aristocracy of wealth, and leave the community without protection and exposed to all the evils of unbridled power. Most willingly would we stake the whole controversy between us on the success of the experiment which we propose.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Utilitarian Theory of Government, Oct. 1829.
Turn where we may, within, around, the voice of great events is proclaiming to us. Reform, that you may preserve! Now, therefore, while everything at home and abroad forebodes ruin to those who persist in a hopeless struggle against the spirit of the age, now, while the crash of the proudest throne of the Continent is still resounding in our ears, now, while the roof of a British palace affords an ignominious shelter to the exiled heir of forty kings, now, while we see on every side ancient institutions subverted and great societies dissolved, now, while the heart of England is still sound, now, while old feelings and old associations retain a power and a charm which may too soon pass away, now, in this your accepted time, now, in this the day of your salvation, take counsel, not of prejudice, not of party spirit, not of the ignominious pride of a fatal consistency, but of history, of reason, of the ages which are past, of the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce in a manner worthy of the expectation with which this great debate has been anticipated, and of the long remembrance which it will leave behind. Renew the youth of the state. Save property, divided against itself. Save the multitude, endangered by its own ungovernable passions. Save the aristocracy, endangered by its own unpopular power. Save the greatest and fairest and most highly civilized community that ever existed from calamities which may in a few days sweep away all the rich heritage of so many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger is terrible. The time is short. If this bill should be rejected, I pray to God that none of those who concur in rejecting it may ever remember their votes with unavailing remorse, amidst the wreck of laws, the confusion of ranks, the spoliation of property, and the dissolution of social order.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, March 2, 1831.
Nothing, I firmly believe, can now prevent the passing of this noble law, this second Bill of Rights [Murmurs.] Yes, I call it, and the nation calls it, and our posterity will long call it, this second Bill of Rights, this Greater Charter of the Liberties of England. The year 1831 will, I trust, exhibit the first example of the manner in which it behooves a free and enlightened people to purify their polity from old and deeply-seated abuses, without bloodshed, without violence, without rapine, all points freely debated, all the forms of senatorial deliberation punctiliously observed, industry and trade not for a moment interrupted, the authority of law not for a moment suspended. These are things of which we may well be proud. These are things which swell the heart up with a good hope for the destinies of mankind. I cannot but anticipate a long series of happy years; of years during which a parental government will be firmly supported by a grateful nation; of years during which war, if war should be inevitable, will find us an united people; of years pre-eminently distinguished by the progress of arts, by the improvement of laws, by the augmentation of the public resources, by the diminution of the public burdens, by all those victories of peace in which, far more than in any military successes, consists the true felicity of states, and the true glory of statesmen. With such hopes, Sir, and such feelings, I give my cordial assent to the second reading of a bill which I consider as in itself deserving of the warmest approbation, and as indispensably necessary, in the present temper of the public mind, to the repose of the country, and to the stability of the throne.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, July 5, 1831.
Sir, there is no reaction; and there will be no reaction. All that has been said on this subject convinces me only that those who are now, for the second time, raising this cry, know nothing of the crisis in which they are called on to act, or of the nation which they aspire to govern. All their opinions respecting this bill are founded on one great error. They imagine that the public feeling concerning Reform is a mere whim which sprang up suddenly out of nothing and which will as suddenly vanish into nothing. They, therefore, confidently expect a reaction. They are always looking out for a reaction. Everything that they see or that they bear they construe into a sign of the approach of this reaction. They resemble the man in Horace who lies on the bank of the river expecting that it will every moment pass by and leave him a clear passage, not knowing the depth and abundance of the fountain which feeds it, not knowing that it flows, and will flow on forever.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, Sept. 20, 1831.
That advice so pernicious will not be followed, I am well assured; yet I cannot but listen to it with uneasiness. I cannot but wonder that it should proceed from the lips of men who are constantly lecturing us on the duty of consulting history and experience. Have they never heard what effects counsels like their own, when too faithfully followed, have produced? Have they never visited that neighbouring country which still presents to the eye, even of a passing stranger, the signs of a great dissolution and renovation of society? Have they never walked by those stately mansions, now sinking into decay and portioned out into lodging-rooms, which line the silent streets of the Faubourg St. Germain? Have they never seen the ruins of those castles whose terraces and gardens overhang the Loire? Have they never heard that from those magnificent hotels, from those ancient castles, an aristocracy as splendid, as brave, as proud, as accomplished, as ever Europe saw, was driven forth to exile and beggary, to implore the charity of hostile governments and hostile creeds, to cut wood in the back settlements of America, or to teach French in the school-rooms of London? And why were those haughty nobles destroyed with that utter destruction? Why were they scattered over the face of the earth, their titles abolished, their escutcheons defaced, their parks wasted, their palaces dismantled, their heritage given to strangers? Because they had no sympathy with the people, no discernment of the signs of their time; because, in the pride and narrowness of their hearts, they called those whose warnings might have saved them theorists and speculators; because they refused all concession till the time had arrived when no concession would avail.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, Sept. 20, 1831.
What then can you do to bring back those times when the constitution of this house was an object of veneration to the people? Even as much as Strafford and Laud could do to bring back the days of the Tudors; as much as Bonner and Gardiner could do to bring back the days of Hildebrand; as much as Villèle and Polignac could do to bring back the days of Louis the Fourteenth. You may make the change tedious; you may make it violent; you mayGod in his mercy forbid!you may make it bloody; but avert it you cannot. Agitations of the public mind so deep and so long continued as those which we have witnessed do not end in nothing. In peace or in convulsion, by the law or in spite of the law, through the Parliament or over the Parliament, Reform must be carried. Therefore be content to guide that movement which you cannot stop. Fling wide the gates to that force which else will enter through the breach. Then will it still be, as it has hitherto been, the peculiar glory of our constitution that, though not exempt from the decay which is wrought by the vicissitudes of fortune, and the lapse of time, in all the proudest works of human power and wisdom, it yet contains within it the means of self-reparation. Then will England add to her manifold titles of glory this, the noblest and purest of all,that every blessing which other nations have been forced to seek, and have too often sought in vain, by means of violent and bloody revolution, she will have attained by a peaceful and lawful Reform.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, Dec. 16, 1831.
Among the many fallacies of the day that pass unquestioned, there is none more general nor more fallacious than that innovation is popular. The truth is, that a judicious innovator is likely to be, at least for a time, the most unpopular man in the universe: he will be hated by those who are satisfied with old evils; he will be disliked by the timid and the lazy, who dread the peril and the trouble of change; and he will receive little favour from those most conscious of the evil, because his remedies will not act as a charm and remove in an instant the accumulated ills of centuries . Some persons are not aware of the fact that in all men the love of ease is far superior to the love of change; in the serious concerns of life, novelty is never desired for its own sake; then, habit becomes a second nature, and it is only the positive pressure of evil that can drive us to alteration. We do find men occasionally rash and insatiable in changing; but this is only from their being impatient under the sense of real evils, and in error as to remedies.
It is commonly and truly said, when any new and untried measure is proposed, that we cannot fully estimate the inconveniences it may lead to in practice; but we are convinced this is even still more the case with any system which has long been in operation.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Innovations.