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!
Who, then, is to be the Reforming Statesman, and begin the noble work for us? He is the preliminary; one such; with him we may prosecute the enterprise to length after length; without him we cannot stir in it at all. A true _king_, temporary king, that dare undertake the government of Britain, on condition of beginning in sacred earnest to "reform" it, not at this or that extremity, but at the heart and centre. That will expurgate Downing Street, and the practical Administration of our Affairs; clear out its accumulated mountains of pendantries and cobwebs; bid the Pedants and the Dullards depart, bid the Gifted and the Seeing enter and inhabit. So that henceforth there be Heavenly light there, instead of Stygian dusk; that God's vivifying light instead of Satan's deadening and killing dusk, may radiate therefrom, and visit with healing all regions of this British Empire,--which now writhes through every limb of it, in dire agony as if of death! The enterprise is great, the enterprise may be called formidable and even awful; but there is none nobler among the sublunary affairs of mankind just now. Nay tacitly it is the enterprise of every man who undertakes to be British Premier in these times;--and I cannot esteem him an enviable Premier who, because the engagement is _tacit_, flatters himself that it does not exist! "Show it me in the bond," he says. Your Lordship, it actually exists: and I think you will see it yet, in another kind of "bond" than that sheepskin one!
But truly, in any time, what a strange feeling, enough to alarm a very big Lordship, this: that he, of the size he is, has got to the apex of English affairs! Smallest wrens, we know, by training and the aid of machinery, are capable of many things. For this world abounds in miraculous combinations, far transcending anything they do at Drury Lane in the melodramatic way. A world which, as solid as it looks, is made all of aerial and even of spiritual stuff; permeated all by incalculable sleeping forces and electricities; and liable to go off, at any time, into the hugest developments, upon a scratch thoughtfully or thoughtlessly given on the right point:--Nay, for every one of us, could not the sputter of a poor pistol-shot shrivel the Immensities together like a burnt scroll, and make the Heavens and the Earth pass away with a great noise? Smallest wrens, and canary-birds of some dexterity, can be trained to handle lucifer-matches; and have, before now, fired off whole powder-magazines and parks of artillery. Perhaps without much astonishment to the canary-bird. The canary-bird can hold only its own quantity of astonishment; and may possibly enough retain its presence of mind, were even Doomsday to come. It is on this principle that I explain to myself the equanimity of some men and Premiers whom we have known.
This and the other Premier seems to take it with perfect coolness. And yet, I say, what a strange feeling, to find himself Chief Governor of England; girding on, upon his moderately sized new soul, the old battle-harness of an Oliver Cromwell, an Edward Longshanks, a William Conqueror. "I, then, am the Ablest of English attainable Men? This English People, which has spread itself over all lands and seas, and achieved such works in the ages,--which has done America, India, the Lancashire Cotton-trade, Bromwicham Iron-trade, Newton's Principia, Shakspeare's Dramas, and the British Constitution,--the apex of all its intelligences and mighty instincts and dumb longings: it is I? William Conqueror's big gifts, and Edward's and Elizabeth's; Oliver's lightning soul, noble as Sinai and the thunders of the Lord: these are mine, I begin to perceive,--to a certain extent. These heroisms have I,--though rather shy of exhibiting them. These; and something withal of the huge beaver-faculty of our Arkwrights, Brindleys; touches too of the phoenix-melodies and _sunny_ heroisms of our Shakspeares, of our Singers, Sages and inspired Thinkers all this is in me, I will hope,--though rather shy of exhibiting it on common occasions. The Pattern Englishman, raised by solemn acclamation upon the bucklers of the English People, and saluted with universal 'God save THEE!'--has now the honor to announce himself. After fifteen hundred years of constitutional study as to methods of raising on the bucklers, which is the operation of operations, the English People, surely pretty well skilled in it by this time, has raised--the remarkable individual now addressing you. The best-combined sample of whatsoever divine qualities are in this big People, the consummate flower of all that they have done and been, the ultimate product of the Destinies, and English man of men, arrived at last in the fulness of time, is--who think you? Ye worlds, the Ithuriel javelin by which, with all these heroisms and accumulated energies old and new, the English People means to smite and pierce, is this poor tailor's-bodkin, hardly adequate to bore an eylet-hole, who now has the honor to"--Good Heavens, if it were not that men generally are very much of the canary-bird, here, are reflections sufficient to annihilate any man, almost before starting!
But to us also it ought to be a very strange reflection! This, then, is the length we have brought it to, with our constitutioning, and ballot-boxing, and incessant talk and effort in every kind for so many centuries back; this? The golden flower of our grand alchemical projection, which has set the world in astonishment so long, and been the envy of surrounding nations, is--what we here see. To be governed by his Lordship, and guided through the undiscovered paths of Time by this respectable degree of human faculty. With our utmost soul's travail we could discover, by the sublimest methods eulogized by all the world, no abler Englishman than this?
Really it should make us pause upon the said sublime methods, and ask ourselves very seriously, whether, notwithstanding the eulogy of all the world, they can be other than extremely astonishing methods, that require revisal and reconsideration very much indeed! For the kind of "man" we get to govern us, all conclusions whatsoever centre there, and likewise all manner of issues flow infallibly therefrom. "Ask well, who is your Chief Governor," says one: "for around him men like to him will infallibly gather, and by degrees all the world will be made in his image." "He who is himself a noble man, has a chance to know the nobleness of men; he who is not, has none. And as for the poor Public,--alas, is not the kind of 'man' you set upon it the liveliest symbol of its and your veracity and victory and blessedness, or unveracity and misery and cursedness; the general summation and practical outcome of all else whatsoever in the Public and in you?"