« PreviousContinue »
not. The act to which lie alludes is, I supposo, the Establishment Act. I greatly doubt whether his Grace has ever read the one or the other. The first of these systems cost me, with every assistance which my then situation gave me, pains incredibile. I found an opinion common through all the ollices, and general in the public at large, that it would prove impossible to reform and methodize the office of paymaster-general. I undertook it, Jiowever; and I succeeded in my undertaking. Whether the inilitary service, or whether the general cconomny of our finances have profited by that act, I leave to those who are acquainted with the army and with the treasury to judge.
An opinion full as general prevailed also, at the same time, that nothing could be done for tlic regulation of the civil list establishment. The very attempt to introduce method into it, and any limitations to its services, was held absurd. I had not seen the man who so much as suggested one cconomical prin ciple or an cconomical expedient upon that subject. Nothing but coarse amputation or coarser taxation were then talked of, both of them without design, combination, or the least shadow of principle. Blind and headlong zeal or factions fury were the whole contribution brought by the most noisy, on that oc- , casion, towards the satisfaction of the public or the relicf of thic crown.
Let me tell my youthful censor, that the necessities of that time required something very different from what others then suggested or what bis Grace now conccives. Let me inform him, that it was ono of the most critical periods in our annals.
Astronomers have supposed, that, if a certain comet,
whose path intersected thic ecliptic, had mct the earth in some (I forget what) sign, it would have whirled ils along with it, in its eccentric course, into God knows what regions of heat and cold. Had the portentous comet of the Rights of Man, (which“ from its horrid hair shakes pestilence and war,” and “with fear of change perplexes monarchs,'') had that comet crossed upon us in that internal state of England, nothing human could have prevented our being irresistibly hurried out of the highway of heaven into all the vices, crimes, horrors, and miseries of the French Revolution.
Jlappily, France was not then Jacobinized. Her hostility was at a good distance. We liad a limb cut off, but we preserved the body: we lost our colonics, but we kept our Constitution. There was, indccd, much intestine heat; there was a dreadful fermentation. Wild and savage insurrection quitted the woods, and prowled about our streets in the name of Reform. Such was the distemper of the public mind, that there was no madınan, in his maddest ideas and maddest projects, who might not count upon numbers to support his principles and execute his designs.
Many of the changes, by a great misnomer called Parliamentary Reforms, went, not in the intention of all the professors and supporters of them, undoubtcdly, but went in their certain, and, in my opinion, not very remote effect, liome to the utter destruction of the Constitution of this kingdom. Had they taken place, not France, but England, would have had tho honor of leading up the death-dance of democratic revolution. Other projects, exactly coincident in time with those, struck at the very existence of the kingilon under any Constituition. There arc wlio remember the blind fury of some and the lamentablo helplessness of others; hore, a torpid confusion, from il panic fear of the danger, – there, the same inaction, from a stupid insensibility to it; liere, well-wisher's to the mischicl, - there, indifferent lookers-on. At the same time, a sort of National Convention, dubious in its nature and perilous in its example, nosed Parliament in the very scat of its authority, sat with a sort of superintendence over it, — and liltlo less than dictated to it, not only laws, but the very form and essence of legislature itself. In Ireland things ran in a still more cccontric course. Government was inerved, confounded, and in a manner suspended. Its cquipoise was totally gone. I do not mean to speak disrespectfully of Lord North. IIe was a man of admirable parts, of general knowlcdge, of a versatile understanding fitted for every sort of business, of infinite wit and pleasantry, of a delightful temper, and with a mind most perfectly disinterested. But it would be only to degrade myself by a weak adulation, and not to honor the memory of a great man, to deny that he wanted something of the vigilance and spirit of command that the timo required. Indee 1, a darkness next to the fog of this awful day lowered over the whole region. For a little time the helm appeared abandoned.
Ipsc diem noctemquc ncgat discernere cælo,
Nec mcininisse viw mediâ Palinurus in undii. At that time I was connected with men of high place in the community. They loved liberty as much as the Duke of Bedford can do; and they understood it at least as well. Perhaps their politics, as usual, took a tincture from their character, and
thuy cultivated what they loved. The liberty they pursued was a liberty inseparable from order, from virtue, from morals, and from religion, -- and was neither hypocritically nor fanatically followed. They did not wish that liberty, in itself one of the first of blessings, should in its perversion become the greatest curse which could fall upon mankind. servo the Constitution entiro, and practically equal to all the great ends of its formation, not in: ono single part, but in all its parts, was to thein the first object. Popularity and power they regarded alike. These were with them only different means of obtaining that object, and had no preference over cach other in their minds, but as one or the other might afford a suror or a less certain prospect of arriving at that end. It is some consolation to me, in the cheerless gloom which darkens the evening of my life, that with them I cominenced my political career, and never for a moment, in reality nor in appearance, for any length of time, was separated from their good wishes and good opinion.
By what accident it matters not, nor upon what desert, but just then, and in the midst of that humt of obloquy which ever has pursued me with a full cry through life, I had obtained a very considerable degree of public confidence. I know well enough how equivocal a test this kind of popular opinion forms of the merit that obtained it. I am no stranger to the insecurity of its tenure. I do not boast of it. It is mentioned to show, not how highly I prize the thing, but my right to value the use I made of it. I endeavored to turn that short-lived advantage to myself into a permanent benefit to my country. Far am I from detracting from the merit of some gentlemen,
ont of olice or in it, on that occasion. No! It is not my way to refuse a full and heaped measure of justice to the aids that I receive. I have through life been willing to give everything to others, -- and to reserse nothing for myself, but the inward conscience that I had omitted no pains to discover, to animate, to discipline, to direct the abilities of the country for its service, and to place them in the best light to improve their age, or to adorn it. This conscience I have. I have never suppressed any man, never checked him for a moment in his course, by any jeal- i ousy, or by any policy. I was always ready, to the height of my means, (and tlicy were always infinitely below my desires,) to forward those abilities which overpowered my own. lle is an ill-furnished undertaker who has so machinery but his own hands to work with. Poor in my own faculties, I ever thought myself rich in theirs. In that period of dificulty and danger, more especially, I consulted and sincerely coöperated with men of all parties who seemed disposed to the same ends, or to any main part of them. Nothing to prevent disorder was omitted: when it appeared, nothing to subdue it was left inconselled por unexccuted, as far as I could prevail. At the time I spoak of, and having a momentary lead, so aided and so encouraged, and as a feeble instrument in a iniyhty hand — I do not say I saved my country;
I I am sure I did my country important service. Thero were few, indecu, that did not at that time acknowledge it, - and that time was thinteen years ago.
It was but one voice, that no man in the kinglom botter deserved an honorable provision should be mado for lim.
So much for my general conduct through the wholo