with the few. The people was swallowed up in the
lords and commons.
Such was the parliament whose favor conferred a secure tenure of office, whose judgment was the oracle of British statesmen.
In those days they never indulged in abstract reasoning, and cared little for general ideas.
Theories and philosophy from their lips would have been ridiculed or neglected; for them the applause at St. Stephen
's weighed more than the approval of posterity, more than the voice of God in the soul.
That hall was their arena of glory, their battle-field for power.
They pleaded before that tribunal, and not in the forum of humanity.
They studied its majorities, to know on which side was ‘the best of the lay’ in the contest of factions for office.
How to meet parliament was the minister's chief solicitude; and sometimes, like the spendthrift at a gaming-table, he would hazard all his political fortunes on its one decision.
He valued its approval more than the affections of mankind, and could boast that this servitude, like obedience to the Divine Law
, was perfect freedom.1
The representation in parliament was manifestly inadequate, and might seem to introduce that unmixed aristocracy which is the worst government under the sun. But the English
system was so tempered with popular franchises that faithful history must place it among the very best which the world had seen.
If no considerable class desired to introduce open and avowed republicanism, no British statesman of that century had as yet been suspected of deliberately