But leaving this, let us remark one thing which is very plain: That whatever be the uses and duties, real or supposed, of a Secretary in Parliament, his faculty to accomplish these is a point entirely unconnected with his ability to get elected into Parliament, and has no relation or proportion to it, and no concern with it whatever. Lord Tommy and the Honorable John are not a whit better qualified for Parliamentary duties, to say nothing of Secretary duties, than plain Tom and Jack; they are merely better qualified, as matters stand, for getting admitted to try them. Which state of matters a reforming Premier, much in want of abler men to help him, now proposes altering. Tom and Jack, once admitted by the Queen's writ, there is every reason to suppose will do quite as well there as Lord Tommy and the Honorable John. In Parliament quite as well: and elsewhere, in the other infinitely more important duties of a Government Office, which indeed are and remain the essential, vital and intrinsic duties of such a personage, is there the faintest reason to surmise that Tom and Jack, if well chosen, will fall short of Lord Tommy and the Honorable John? No shadow of a reason. Were the intrinsic genius of the men exactly equal, there is no shadow of a reason: but rather there is quite the reverse; for Tom and Jack have been at least workers all their days, not idlers, game-preservers and mere human clothes-horses, at any period of their lives; and have gained a schooling _thereby_, of which Lord Tommy and the Honorable John, unhappily strangers to it for most part, can form no conception! Tom and Jack have already, on this most narrow hypothesis, a decided _superiority_ of likelihood over Lord Tommy and the Honorable John.
But the hypothesis is very narrow, and the fact is very wide; the hypothesis counts by units, the fact by millions. Consider how many Toms and Jacks there are to choose from, well or ill! The aristocratic class from whom Members of Parliament can be elected extends only to certain thousands; from these you are to choose your Secretary, if a seat in Parliament is the primary condition. But the general population is of Twenty-seven Millions; from all sections of which you can choose, if the seat in Parliament is not to be primary. Make it ultimate instead of primary, a last investiture instead of a first indispensable condition, and the whole British Nation, learned, unlearned, professional, practical, speculative and miscellaneous, is at your disposal! In the lowest broad strata of the population, equally as in the highest and narrowest, are produced men of every kind of genius; man for man., your chance of genius is as good among the millions as among the units;--and class for class, what must it be! From all classes, not from certain hundreds now but from several millions, whatsoever man the gods had gifted with intellect and nobleness, and power to help his country, could be chosen: O Heavens, could,--if not by Tenpound Constituencies and the force of beer, then by a Reforming Premier with eyes in his head, who I think might do it quite infinitely better. Infinitely better. For ignobleness cannot, by the nature of it, choose the noble: no, there needs a seeing man who is himself noble, cognizant by internal experience of the symptoms of nobleness. Shall we never think of this; shall we never more remember this, then? It is forever true; and Nature and Fact, however we may rattle our ballot-boxes, do at no time forget it.
From the lowest and broadest stratum of Society, where the births are by the million, there was born, almost in our own memory, a Robert Burns; son of one who "had not capital for his poor moor-farm of Twenty Pounds a year." Robert Burns never had the smallest chance to got into Parliament, much as Robert Burns deserved, for all our sakes, to have been found there. For the man--it was not known to men purblind, sunk in their poor dim vulgar element, but might have been known to men of insight who had any loyalty or any royalty of their own--was a born king of men: full of valor, of intelligence and heroic nobleness; fit for far other work than to break his heart among poor mean mortals, gauging beer! Him no Tenpound Constituency chose, nor did any Reforming Premier: in the deep-sunk British Nation, overwhelmed in foggy stupor, with the loadstars all gone out for it, there was no whisper of a notion that it could be desirable to choose him,--except to come and dine with you, and in the interim to gauge. And yet heaven-born Mr. Pitt, at that period, was by no means without need of Heroic Intellect, for other purposes than gauging! But sorrowful strangulation by red-tape, much _tighter_ then than it now is when so many revolutionary earthquakes have tussled it, quite tied up the meagre Pitt; and he said, on hearing of this Burns and his sad hampered case, "Literature will take care of itself."--"Yes, and of you too, if you don't mind it!" answers one.
And so, like Apollo taken for a Neat-herd, and perhaps for none of the best on the Admetus establishment, this new Norse Thor had to put up with what was going; to gauge ale, and be thankful; pouring his celestial sunlight through Scottish Song-writing,--the narrowest chink ever offered to a Thunder-god before! And the meagre Pitt, and his Dundasses and red-tape Phantasms (growing very ghastly now to think of), did not in the least know or understand, the impious, god-forgetting mortals, that Heroic Intellects, if Heaven were pleased to send such, were the one salvation for the world and for them and all of us. No; they "had done very well without" such; did not see the use of such; went along "very well" without such; well presided over by a singular Heroic Intellect called George the Third: and the Thunder-god, as was rather fit of him, departed early, still in the noon of life, somewhat weary of gauging ale!--O Peter, what a scandalous torpid element of yellow London fog, favorable to owls only and their mousing operations, has blotted out the stars of Heaven for us these several generations back,--which, I rejoice to see, is now visibly about to take itself away again, or perhaps to be _dispelled_ in a very tremendous manner!
For the sake of my Democratic friends, one other observation. Is not this Proposal the very essence of whatever truth there is in "Democracy;" this, that the able man be chosen, in whatever rank be is found? That he be searched for as hidden treasure is; be trained, supervised, set to the work which he alone is fit for. All Democracy lies in this; this, I think, is worth all the ballot-boxes and suffrage-movements now going. Not that the noble soul, born poor, should be set to spout in Parliament, but that he should be set to assist in governing men: this is our grand Democratic interest. With this we can be saved; without this, were there a Parliament spouting in every parish, and Hansard Debates to stem the Thames, we perish,--die constitutionally drowned, in mere oceans of palaver.
All reformers, constitutional persons, and men capable of reflection, are invited to reflect on these things. Let us brush the cobwebs from our eyes; let us bid the inane traditions be silent for a moment; and ask ourselves, like men dreadfully intent on having it _done_, "By what method or methods can the able men from every rank of life be gathered, as diamond-grains from the general mass of sand: the able men, not the sham-able;--and set to do the work of governing, contriving, administering and guiding for us!" It is the question of questions. All that Democracy ever meant lies there: the attainment of a truer and truer Aristocracy, or Government again by the _Best_.
Reformed Parliaments have lamentably failed to attain it for us; and I believe will and must forever fail. One true Reforming Statesman, one noble worshipper and knower of human intellect, with the quality of an experienced Politician too; he, backed by such a Parliament as England, once recognizing him, would loyally send, and at liberty to choose his working subalterns from all the Englishmen alive; he surely might do something? Something, by one means or another, is becoming fearfully necessary to be done! He, I think, might accomplish more for us in ten years, than the best conceivable Reformed Parliament, and utmost extension of the suffrage, in twice or ten times ten.
What is extremely important too, you could try this method with safety; extension of the suffrage you cannot so try. With even an approximately heroic Prime Minister, you could get nothing but good from prescribing to him thus, to choose the fittest man, under penalties; to choose, not the fittest of the four or the three men that were in Parliament, but the fittest from the whole Twenty-seven Millions that he could hear of,--at his peril. Nothing but good from this. From extension of the suffrage, some think, you might get quite other than good. From extension of the suffrage, till it became a universal counting of heads, one sees not in the least what wisdom could be extracted. A Parliament of the Paris pattern, such as we see just now, might be extracted: and from that? Solution into universal slush; drownage of all interests divine and human, in a Noah's-Deluge of Parliamentary eloquence,--such as we hope our sins, heavy and manifold though they are, have not yet quite deserved!