Page images
PDF
EPUB

and in consequence thereof made to us, we will embrace the first convenient opportunity to consider and act upon.They did consider; they did act upon it. They obeyed the requi

sition. I know the mode has been chicaned upon; but it 5 was substantially obeyed; and much better obeyed than I

fear the parliamentary requisition of this session will be, though enforced by all your rigour, and backed with all your power. In a word, the damages of popular fury were com

pensated by legislative gravity. Almost every other part of 10 America in various ways demonstrated their gratitude. I

am bold to say, that so sudden a calm recovered after so violent a storm is without parallel in history. To say that no other disturbance should happen from any other cause, is

folly. But as far as appearances went, by the judicious sacri15 fice of one law, you procured an acquiescence in all that

remained. After this experience, nobody shall persuade me, when a whole people are concerned, that acts of lenity are not means of conciliation.

I hope the honourable gentleman has received a fair and 20 full answer to his question.

I have done with the third period of your policy ; that of your repeal ; and the return of your ancient system, and your ancient tranquillity and concord. Sir, this period was

not as long as it was happy. Another scene was opened, 25 and other actors appeared on the stage. The state, in the

condition I have described it, was delivered into the hands of Lord Chatham — a great and celebrated name; a name that keeps the name of this country respectable in every other on the globe. It may be truly called,

Clarum et venerabile nomen 1
Gentibus, et multum nostræ quod proderat urbi.

30

Sir, the venerable age of this great man, his merited rank, his superior eloquence, his splendid qualities, his eminent services, the vast space he fills in the eye of mankind; and, more than all the rest, his fall from power, which, like death, canonizes and sanctifies a great character, will not suffer me 5 to censure any part of his conduct. I am afraid to flatter him ; I am sure I am not disposed to blame him. Let those, who have betrayed him by their adulation, insult him with their malevolence. But what I do not presume to censure, I may have leave to lament. For a wise man, he seemed to 10 me at that time to be governed too much by general maxims. I speak with the freedom of history, and I hope without offence. One or two of these maxims, flowing from an opinion not the most indulgent to our unhappy species, and surely a little too general, led him into measures that were 15 greatly mischievous to himself; and for that reason, among others, fatal to his country ; measures, the effects of which, I am afraid, are for ever incurable. He made an administration, so checkered and speckled; he put together a piece of joinery, so crossly indented and whimsically dove-tailed ; a 20 cabinet so variously inlaid ; such a piece of diversified Mosaic; such a tesselated pavement without cement; here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white ; patriots and courtiers, king's friends and republicans; whigs and tories; treacherous friends and open enemies; that it was indeed a 25 very curious show; but utterly unsafe to touch, and unsure to stand on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards, stared at each other, and were obliged to ask, “Sir, your name?— Sir, you have the advantage of me — Mr. Such-a-one — I beg a thousand pardons —" I venture 30 to say, it did so happen, that persons had a single office

divided between them, who had never spoke to each other in their lives, until they found themselves, they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same trucklebed.

Sir, in consequence of this arrangement, having put so much the larger part of his enemies and opposers into power, the confusion was such, that his own principles could not possibly have any effect or influence in the conduct of affairs.

If ever he fell into a fit of the gout, or if any other cause 10 withdrew him from public cares, principles directly the con

trary were sure to predominate. When he had executed his plan, he had not an inch of ground to stand upon. When he had accomplished his scheme of administration, he was

no longer a minister. 15 When his face was hid but for a moment, his whole system

men, his particular friends, who, with the names of various departments of ministry, were admitted to seem as if they

acted a part under him, with a modesty that becomes all 20 men, and with a confidence in him, which was justified even

in its extravagance by his superior abilities, had never, in any instance, presumed upon any opinion of their own. Deprived of his guiding influence, they were whirled about,

the sport of every gust, and easily driven into any port; and 25 as those who joined with them in manning the vessel were

the most directly opposite to his opinions, measures, and character, and far the most artful and most powerful of the set, they easily prevailed, so as to seize upon the vacant,

unoccupied, and derelict minds of his friends; and instantly 39 they turned the vessel wholly out of the course of his policy.

As if it were to insult as well as to betray him, even long before the close of the first session of his administration, when everything was publicly transacted, and with great parade, in his name, they made an act, declaring it highly just and expedient to raise a revenue in America. For even then, Sir, even before this splendid orb was entirely set, and 5 while the western horizon was in a blaze with his descending glory, on the opposite quarter of the heavens arose another luminary, and, for his hour, became lord of the ascendant.

This light too is passed and set for ever. You understand, to be sure, that I speak of Charles Townshend, officially the 10 re-producer of this fatal scheme; whom I cannot even now remember without some degree of sensibility. In truth, Sir, he was the delight and ornament of this House, and the charm of every private society which he honoured with his presence. Perhaps there never arose in this country, 15 nor in any country, a man of a more pointed and finished wit; and (where his passions were not concerned) of a more refined, exquisite, and penetrating judgment. If he had not so great a stock, as some have had who flourished formerly, of knowledge long treasured up, he knew better, by far, than 20 any man I ever was acquainted with, how to bring together, within a short time, all that was necessary to establish, to illustrate, and to decorate that side of the question he supported. He stated his matter skilfully and powerfully. He particularly excelled in a most luminous explanation and 25 display of his subject. His style of argument was neither trite and vulgar, nor subtle and abstruse. He hit the House just between wind and water. — And not being troubled with too anxious a zeal for any matter in question, he was never more tedious, or more earnest, than the pre-conceived opin- 30 ions and present temper of his hearers required; to whom

he was always in perfect unison. He conformed exactly to the temper of the House ; and he seemed to guide, because he was also sure to follow it.

I beg pardon, Sir, if, when I speak of this and of other 5 great men, I appear to digress in saying something of their

characters. In this eventful history of the revolutions of America, the characters of such men are of much importance. Great men are the guide-posts and land-marks in the state.

The credit of such men at court, or in the nation, is the sole 10 cause of all the public measures. It would be an invidious

thing (most foreign, I trust, to what you think my disposition) to remark the errors into which the authority of great names has brought the nation, without doing justice, at the same

time, to the great qualities whence that authority arose. The 15 subject is instructive to those who wish to form themselves

on whatever of excellence has gone before them. There are many young members in the House (such of late has been the rapid succession of public men) who never saw that

prodigy, Charles Townshend; nor of course know what a 20 ferment he was able to excite in everything by the violent

ebullition of his mixed virtues and failings. For failings he had undoubtedly — many of us remember them; we are this day considering the effect of them. But he had no failings

which were not owing to a noble cause ; to an ardent, gen25 erous, perhaps an immoderate, passion for fame; a passion

which is the instinct of all great souls. He worshipped that goddess wheresoever she appeared ; but he paid his particular devotions to her in her favourite habitation, in her chosen

temple, the House of Commons. Besides the characters of 30 the individuals that compose our body, it is impossible, Mr.

Speaker, not to observe that this House has a collective char

« PreviousContinue »