Magazine article The Spectator

190th Special: To Our Non-Political Readers

Magazine article The Spectator

190th Special: To Our Non-Political Readers

Article excerpt

The Spectator on its active role in the 'great business' of reforming Parliament, which led the next year to the Great Reform Act

190 years of The Spectator

Lucretius tells us, in some famous lines, that it is a pleasant thing to watch the sea in a tempest, from the shore: it is a far more gratifying employment to be throwing out Manby's lifesaving apparatus, and saving the sinking mariners from the wreck. We have more than once observed, that it is difficult to be a mere spectator in times like these. It is all very well, in the piping times of domestic content, to sit still and report progress; but when, as in the great business of Reform, everything is at stake, it is the duty of even neutrals to arm. It is sometimes criminal not to take a side -- there are cases in which he that is not with us must be against us. Such is the grand struggle that is now agitating the country from its centre to its remotest corners. No man, or body of men, with the right feelings of citizens, unless in a state of extreme and woeful ignorance, can merely look upon the passage of the Great Measure as he would look upon any common spectacle. It would, in truth, be but a poor topic of consolation for us to reflect upon in later life, long after the Bill has passed, and when its beneficial consequences are spreading contentment and prosperity over the whole land, that we amused ourselves, at the moment of crisis, in watching the patriotic efforts of better citizens; and that, having more power of doing good than many others, we satisfied our conscience with doing less. …

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