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MR. SANDYS'S SPEECH,
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, ON HIS MOTION TO ADDRESS HIS
MAJESTY FOR THE DISMISSAL OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE,
one, perhaps, who has held a distinguished rank in the councils of Britain experienced more obloquy and persecution than Sir Robert Walpole. It was his fate to encounter, in his long ministerial ca. reer, an opposition not less powerful in talent, than considerable in numbers, who arraigned his publick conduct with a violence of censure, and assailed his private character with a virulence of aspersion that have scarcely a parallel in the licentiousness of political contention.
It is not difficult to account for this exasperated hostility against him. During the period of his administration the people were pretty nearly divided into two parties, entertaining principles of domestick as well as foreign policy, which, from their wide and essential difference, could not be reconciled.
Sir Robert Walpole had the support of all the weight of regal influence, and was also deeply intrenched in the confidence and attachment of the friends of the protestant succession. To sap authority thus strongly fortified, the opposite party seized on the most popular grounds, and unweariedly en. deavoured to render the administration odious by representing the minister in a light the best calculated to alarm the jealousy and to excite the apprehensions of the nation.
In the passionate invective of his enemies, he was exhibited to popular detestation as a desperate adventurer battening on the spoils of a treasury impoverished by the drains of his rapacious peculations, and who by an uninterrupted system of criminal and corrupt conduct had vitiated publick morality, extinguished publick spirit, stopped the current of national prosperity, abridged the power, and tarnished the lustre and glory of the British name.
This is not the place, nor are we disposed to enter at large in defence of sir Robert Walpole. however be permitted to us transiently to remark that posterity, at least the enlightened portion of it, has already acquitted him of these foul charges, and raised him to a high and honourable renown. The earl of Chatham, once the bitterest of his foes, had the honęsty in the decline of his life to recant his former sentiments, and publickly to pronounce an eulogy on the minister and the man, Edmund Burke, more recently did the same, and with even less qualification of praise. The younger Pitt, who pot improperly as a minister, has sometimes been compared to him, often avowed an admiration of his talents, and extolled the wisdom of his administration,
These commendations we have particularly selected as proceeding not from any indulgent or overweening partiality to the memory of sir Robert Walpole, but rather as extorted by a sense of candour and truth in the great men by whom they were bestowed, against the settled habit of their opinions, and the force of their early prejudices.
At the meeting of parliament in 1740, the opposition availing themselves of the discontents which prevailed throughout the country, determined to address the throne for the dismissal of sir Robert Walpole. This duty was confided to Mr. Sandys, a zealous partisan and an eloquent debater, who accordingly in the house of commons appriged the minister of the intended motion,
On receiving the intimation, which was totally un, expected, he immediately arose, and with becoming
dignity and composure replied “ That as he was conscious of no crime, he had no doubt of being able to make a proper defence, and laying his hand on his breast he cited the appropriate lines :
“ Hic murus aheneus esto, “ Nil conscire sibi, nullâ pallescere culpa.” We insert the speeches, on this occasion, both of Mr. Sandys and sir Robert Walpole. They will be found instructive as documents of history, and not barren of rhetorical pretensions. The reply of the minister is a masterly vindication of himself. In this light it must have been considered by the house at the time, for the motion was negatived by a larger than the usual majority. The general style of Wal. pole's eloquence is plain, perspicuous, forcible and manly, not courting, yet, not always avoiding metaphorical, ornamental, and classical allusions.” But his chief excellence as a parliamentary speaker consisted in quickness of apprehension, sharpness of reply, and in the dexterity and promptitude with which he turned the arguments of his adversaries against themselves. By his contemporaries he is said sometimes to have aspired to the first order of eloquence. The speech, delivered in his defence, we think, one of the happiest of his productions which have descended to us. There can be no doubt of its authenticity, having been discovered in his own writing, among
AMONG the many advantages arising from our happy form of government, there is one which is reciprocal to king and people, which is, a legal and regular method by which the people may lay their grievances, complaints, and opinions, before their sovereign, not only with regard to the measures he pursues, but also with regard to the persons he employs. In absolute monarchies,' the people may suffer, they may complain, but though their sufferings be publick,
their complaints must be private. They must not so much as murmur against their king's measures or ministers. If they do, it is certain perdition to the few that are guilty of so much indiscretion. This is a most terrible misfortune to the people in all absolute monarchies, and occasions those severe punishments and cruel tortures, which are so frequent in all such ; but it is a misfortune to the absolute monarch, as well as to the people under his despotick sway ; for as he has no way of coming at the knowledge of the unpo. pularity of his measures or ministers, he often goes on pursuing the same measures, or employing the same ministers, till the discontents of his people become universal and furious ; and then, by a general insurrection, he and his ministers are involved in one common ruin. However upright his intentions may have been, however much he may have been imposed on by his ministers, an impetuous, domineering mob can seldom make any difference. The despotick monarch himself, and sometimes his whole family, are born down by the impetuosity of the torrent, and become a sacrifice to the resentment of an injured populance.
In this kingdom, sir, it can never be so, as long as the king allows parliaments to sit regularly and freely, and the members of this house perform faith. fully the duty they owe to their king, their constituents, and their country. As members of this house, sir, we are obliged to represent to his majesty, not only the grievances, but the sentiments of the people, with regard to the measures he pursues, and the persons he advises with, or employs, in the executive part of our government; and therefore, whilst we sit here and do our duty, no general discontent can arise, without his majesty's being informed of its causes, and of the methods for allaying it. If we neglect to do so, or from selfish motives abstain or delay giving his majesty a proper information and advice upon any such occasion, we neglect or betray not only our duty to our country and constituents, but also our duty to our sovereign.
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