Thomas Babington Macaulay
ON THE REFORM BILL
My honorable friend，the member for the University of Oxford［Sir Robert Inglis］tells us that if we pass this law［extension of suffrage］England will soon be a republic.The reformed House of Commons will，according to him，before it has sat ten years，depose the king and expel the lords from their House.Sir，if my honorable friend could prove this，he would have succeeded in bringing an argument for democracy infinitely stronger than any that is to be found in the works of Paine.My honorable friend's proposition is in fact this：that our monarchical and aristocratically institutions have no hold on the public mind of England；that these institutions are regarded with aversion by a decided majority of the middle class.This，sir，I say，is plainly deducible from his proposition；for he tells us that the representatives of the middle class will inevitably abolish royalty and nobility within ten years；and there is surely no reason to think that the representatives of the middle class will be more inclined to a democratic revolution than their constituents.Now，sir，if I were convinced that the great body of the middle class in England look with aversion on monarchy and aristocracy，I should be forced，much against my will，to come to this conclusion that monarchical and aristocratically institutions are unsuited to my country.Monarchy and aristocracy，valuable and useful as I think them，are still valuable and useful as means and not as ends.The end of government is the happiness of the people，and I do not conceive that，in a country like this，the happiness of the people can be promoted by a form of government in which the middle classes place no confidence，and which exists only because the middle classes have no organ by which to make their sentiments known.But，sir，I am fully convinced that the middle classes sincerely wish to uphold the royal prerogatives and the constitutional rights of the peers.
The question of parliamentary reform is still behind.But signs，of which it is impossible to misconceive the import，do most clearly Indicate that，unless that question also be speedily settled，property，and order，and all the institutions of this great monarchy，will be exposed to fearful peril.Is it possible that gentlemen long versed in high political affairs can not read these signs？Is it possible that they can really believe that the representative system of England，such as it now is，will last till the year 1860？If not，for what would they have us wait？Would they have us wait merely that we may show to all the world how little we have profited by our own recent experience？
Would they have us wait，that we may once a－gain hit the exact point where we can neither refuse with authority nor concede with grace？Would they have us wait，that the numbers of the discontented party may become larger，its demands higher，its feelings more acrimonious，its organization more complete？Would they have us wait till the whole tragicomedy of 1827 has been acted over again；till they have been brought into office by acry of“No Reform，”to be reformers，as they were once before brought into office by a cry of“No Popery，”to be emancipators？Have they obliterated from their minds—gladly，perhaps，would some among them obliterate from their minds—the transactions of that year？And have they forgotten all the transactions of the succeeding year？Have they forgotten how the spirit of liberty in Ireland，debarred from its natural outlet，found a vent by forbidden passages？Have they forgotten how we were forced to indulge the Catholics in all the license of rebels，merely because we chose to with- hold from them the liberties of subjects？Do they wait for associations more formidable than that of the Corn Exchange，for contributions larger than the Rent，for agitators more violent than those who，three years ago，divided with the king and the Parliament the sovereignty of Ireland？Do they wait for that last and most dreadful paroxysm of popular rage，for that last and most cruel test of military fidelity？
Let them wait，if their past experience shall induce them to think that any high honor or any exquisite pleasure is to be obtained by a policy like this.Let them wait，if this strange and fearful infatuation be indeed upon them，that they should not see with their eyes，or hear with their ears，or understand with their heart.But let us know our interest and our duty better.Turn where we may，within，around，the voice of great events is pro-claiming 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 retina power and a charm which may too soon pass away；now，in this your accepted time，now，in this your day of 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，amid the wreck of laws，the confusion of ranks，the spoliation of property，and the dissolution of social order.