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The same sentiments are expressed, and the like doctrines expounded, on various occasions, not always, as we venture to think, with equal justice. It is a truth of that character which is, in modern literary slang, called a truism, that local self-government has all the advantages which Mr. Smith attributes to it. It has also, when applied in certain places, under certain circumstances, and to certain subjects, disadvantages. Vestries, local boards, parish meetings, aud borough assemblages, are not always governed by broad practical views, unjobbing practices, and timely dealing with necessary subjects. Hence bigotry, party and personal feeling, excessive selfishness and indifference, and stupid narrow-mindedness, are, and have always been, qualilities by no means uncommon among bodies of the description in question. In some matters, we may depend upon it, it is better that the legislating power and management should not be that immediately connected with particular local associations. A model parish managing its own affairs is an interesting exhibition of excellent government; but instances where the parochial management is in the hands of an overbearing squire and his unfortunate dependants, or of an acute local lawyer and his creatures, or even a majority of pigheaded farmers or small shopkeepers, whose minds and fists are equally closed to all consideration except keeping down the immediate expenses--such pictures as these, we say, are not equally pleasing.
Moreover, whether for good or evil we will not speculate, but times have much changed since the early periods of our social and political institutions. Parishes and districts are not isolated, as of yore. Modern means of intercommunication have rendered it not only possible but advisable to secure greater harmony of action over large areas, and more certain responsibility to central authority throughout the country, than was wont to be the case. Thus, local constables, for long the laughing-stock of thieves and tramps, are being gradually superseded by county constabulary-the old parochial pauper system has been succeeded by that of the new poor-law. The real problem of the day is not to preserve in their integrity all the institutions and the peculiar
privileges which were useful of old, but to modify and abolish them when advisable, and to invent new ones as our present need may require. History would be a mere incumbrance, and experience an evil, if they were employed as trammels and fetters. What our furefathers did we must do-exercise our liberties in devising the best practicable method of managing our affairs under tha exigencies which absolutely arise ; and it by no means follows that our freedom will be diminished because we depute officials to perform functions_“functionaries” we must call them-to do what formerly we did for ourselves. Labour is more subdivided now-a-days. More has to be done in the business of life, which now travels faster. Time is less readily spared for much talking, and leisurely amateur occupations of a public nature. Whether happily or no, such is the ordering of affairs, and we must submit to it. Nevertheless, it is well to have a warning voice like that which-deep and repeated - Mr. Toulmin Smith emits, to bid the public know what it is they are losing, and whither they are tending. The utility of such a contem porary critic is all the more enhanced, because he speaks very distinctly, and with great boldness. There can be no mistake as to his meaning. We soon learn where his hobby-horses are stabled, and when they will be summoned, to be hard-ridden by their owner. The reader, armed with this knowledge, cannot fail to peruse the Parliamentary Remembrancer with great advantage. He will not be able, probably, to see with the author the perfectness of ancestral wisdom, or of the liberty which they enjoyed in institutions which are being sacrificed.
We wish we could venture to extract in full from No. 42 (July 2, 1859), the vigorous paper upon “Volunteer Rifle Clubs," which is replete with learning, but marked with the one-sidedness to which we have already adverted. Mr. Smith here points out that the invitation to the arming of the people was said in parliament, “ by men who pretend to be well informed, to be a povelty, an experiment, something greater than any government ever before dealt with;' that it was solemnly declared that the consequences of the people possessing the means of self-defence,
'may be in the highest degree dangerous ;'" and then proceeds to discuss the subject from a constitutional point of view. Nothing, he urges, but a grovelling materialism, which is the surest mark of the decay of a nation, and of its coming downfall, can seek to deny the need there is, that the people of every nation should be familiar with the use of arms. He insists, that to pretend that the liberties of a nation can be safe when the citizens are altogether given up to the pursuit of national wealth, and the defence of their liberties and nationality is altogether given over to those who are paid to fight, is the most alarming symptom that the age of national servility has ever reached. The constitution of England has always forbidden the existence of standing armies. The greatest feats of arms ever done by England were done when there was no standing army. We are now paying some forty (?) millions per annum as the result of the unconstitutional adoption of a standing army in England during the last 150 out of the 1400 years of our history. When a large standing army exists as a distinct profession, war is encouraged; but a people accustomed to the use of arms will never seek a quarrel, or hurry into war. Thus, Switzerland has maintained her independence without ever having been aggressive, because every man there knows the use of arms; and is known that not merely a standing army, but the whole people, would have to be met and overcome before the invader could set foot upon the soil. He quotes Lord Bacon's sayings, that 6 walled towns, stored arsenals and armouries, goodly races of horse, chariots of war, ordnance, artillery, and the like-all this is but a sheep in a lion's skin, except the heed and disposition of the people be stout and warlike ; and that, whatsoever prince doth rest upon standing armies for maintenance, the liberties and independence of a nation may be spreading its feathers for a time, but he will need them soon after.” The fundamental laws of England, says Mr. Smith truly enough, “have always affirmed the obligation of every Englishman to have a knowledge of the use of arms. But they have affirmed it in a very different spirit from what might be inferred, if we look no further than
such acts as 44 Geo. III. c. 54, and 60 Geo. III. c. 1, or than what is being brought to practice in most of the new volunteer rifle clubs." We fear that another assertion of Mr. Smith, to the effect that “mistrust and exclusiveness, the characteristics of our time, were unknown to the law in former times," is both too general and too flattering to our ancestors to be entirely accepted. There were also jealousies, sects, orders, classes, parties, and dissensions in the days of old, examples of which may even be found in our statute-book. Human nature does not, in material points, change much; though it may be developed in different directions, and express itself in various forms, according to national instincts, and those circumstances which modif all life and history. However, the sketch of the laws relating to the use of arms among Englishman, is well deserving of consideration throughout the country at this time. The old law, “at which modern liberal statesmen are so much alarmed, is expressed in very clear terms in the laws in use so far back as the time of Edward the Confessor, and which were reduced to writing in the time of William I., and sworn to be maintained by him.” By this we see that all free men of the whole realm ought, according to their ability and profession, to have arms, and to keep them always ready for the defence of the kingdom; and a view of their arms must be publicly taken every year. Coming down to the statute of Winchester (A. D. 1285), we find that, referring to the ancient law, it reiterates that “every man between fifteen years of age and sixty years, should be assessed and sworn to arms, according to the quantity of their lands and goods,” and two constables are appointed to take a view of the arms twice a year. Taking another leap of some two hundred and fifty years, we are brought to the 3 Henry VIII. c. 3, which requires that every man in the kingdom under sixty years of age, not being lame, decrepit, or maimed, or with other reasonable impediment, and excepting the clergy and judges, shall “use and exercise shooting," and have a bow and arrow for the purpose; and that every man-child shall, from six years old, be “induced, and learned, and brought up in shooting.” Further, it is provided
" that butts be made in every city, town, and place, according to the law of ancient time used; and that the inhabitants and dwellers in every of them be compelled to make and continue such butts, aud to exercise themselves with long bows in shooting at the same, and elsewhere, on holidays and other times convenient.” Bacon is cited to show that the practice of arms belonged to all classes; for he says, “servants, and attendants upon noblemen and gentlemen, are in no ways inferior unto the yeomanry for arms."
Not only does the law at this period refer to the use of the bow, but Mr. Smith quotes 23 Hen. VIII. c. 6, to show that "handguns” were also practised in like manner, for the purpose of aiding in the “defence of the realm when need shall require.”
“ The butts were, as they still ought to be, maintained in every parish, at the expense of the parish, for the use of all the parishioners
The regular inquiry used to be always made by the jury at every quarter sessions, if there were any youth or man within the jurisdiction who did not have and exercise arms, as he was bound to do; and if there were any parish or place that did not keep the butts, as ought to be done."' « The law," continues Mr. Smith, "remains still the same.” The acts of Henry VIII. happen indeed to have been recognised so lately as 3 Geo. IV. c. 42, s. 4, when a particular clause of each, but not any part that has been above named, was repealed. And there is nothing in either of the acts 44 Geo. III. c. 54, or 60 Geo. III. c. 1, which does in reality affect the principle that has been shown to have been thus embodied from the earliest times in the fundamental law of England. On the contrary, the former of these acts has the express proviso, “that nothing in this act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, in any manner to alter, vary, or repeal any of the provisions of any of the acts passed in the last session of parliament, relating to the defence of the realm, and for the purpose of enabling his Majesty more effectually and speedily to exercise his ancient and undoubted prerogative in requiring the military service of his liege subjects, in case of invasion of the realm.”—(44 Geo. III. c. 54, s. 35.)