« PreviousContinue »
that which took place in the year 1757, when, by a union of parties from whose dissension much mischief bad flowed, the interests of both king and people were reconciled, and the good genius of England triumphed at home and abroad.
• On occasions like these, when the public liberty or safety is in peril, it is the duty of every honest statesmen to say, with the Roman, “ Non me impedient private offensiones, quo minus pro republica salute etiam cum inimicissimo consentiam. Such cases, however, but rarely occur ; and they have been in this respect, among others, distinguished from the ordinary occasions, on which the ambition or selfishness of politicians resorts to such unions, that the voice of the people has called aloud for them in the name of the public weal; and that the cause round which they have rallied has been sufficiently
general, to merge all party titles in the one undistinguishing name of Englishman. By neither of these tests can the junction between Lord North and Mr Fox be justified. The people at large, so far from calling for this ill-omened alliance, would on the contrary-to use the language of Mr Pitt_have “forbid the banns; " and though it is unfair to suppose that the interests of the public did not enter into the calculations of the united leaders, yet, if the real watchword of their union were to be demanded of them in “ the Palace of Truth," there can be little doubt that the answer of each would be, distinctly and unhesitatingly, " Ambition."
• It has been truly said of Coalitions, considered abstractedly, that such a union of parties, when the public good requires it, is to be justified on the same grounds on which party itself is vindicated. But the more we feel inclined to acknowledge the utility of party, the more we must dread and deprecate any unnecessary compromise, by which a suspicion of unsoundness may be brought upon the agency of so useful a principle
- the more we should discourage, as a matter of policy, any facility in surrendering those badges of opinion, on which the eyes of followers are fondly fixed, and by which their confidence and spirit are chiefly kept alive.
« « Court and country,” says Hume,“ which are the genuine offspring of the British government, are a kind of mixed parties, and are influenced both by principle and by interest. The heads of the factions are commonly most governed by the latter motive; the inferior members of them by the former." Whether this be altogether true or not, it will, at least, without much difficulty be conceded, that the lower we descend in the atmosphere of party, the more quick and inflammable we find the feeling that circulates through it. Accordingly, actions and professions, which, in that region of indifference, high life, may be forgotten as soon as done or uttered, become recorded as pledges and standards of conduct, among the lower and more earnest adherents of the cause; and many a question, that has ceased to furnish even a jest in the drawing-rooms of the great, may be still agitated, as of vital importance, among the humbler and less initiated disputants of the party. Such being the tenacious nature of partisanship, and such the watch kept upon every movement of the higher political bodies, we can well imagine what a portent it must appear to distant and unprepared observers, when the stars to which they trusted for guidance are seen to “ shoot madly from their VOL. XLV. NO. 89.
spheres," and not only lose themselves for the time in another system, but unsettle all calculations with respect to their movements for the future.
* If, indeed, in that barter of opinions and interests, which must necessarily take place in Coalitions between the partisans of the People and of the Throne, the former had any thing like an equality of chance, the mere probability of thus gaining any concessions in favour of freedom might justify to sanguine minds the occasional risk of the compromise. But it is evident that the result of such bargains must generally be to the advantage of the Crown—the alluvions of power all naturally tend towards that shore. Besides, where there are places as well as principles to be surrendered on one side, there must in return be so much more of principles given up on the other, as will constitute an equivalent to this double sacrifice. The centre of gravity will be sure to lie in that body, which contains within it the source of emoluments and honours, and the other will be forced to revolve implicitly round it.'
The account of Mr Fox's India Bill, and his consequent removal from office, is given with equal brevity and spirit. But too little, we humbly conceive, is said of the extraordinary interference of the Sovereign with the deliberations of the Upper House, and of the perilous experiment which was afterwards made, of retaining a ministry in office for upwards of four months, in the face of reiterated resolutions and addresses of the House of Commons for their removal. No such thing, we are persuaded, would now be ventured on, in any conceivable emergency: and these portentous measures deserve therefore to be conspicuously recorded, as the last expiring efforts of the principle of governing by prerogative, or the marked and direct exercise of the royal authority, which seems no longer to be recognised as a practical element in the Constitution. It is obvious, indeed, on the slightest reflection, that such an open array of hostility—such an unsoftened collision of the great powers of the State, would lead, on any question of vital importance, to nothing less than the actual dissolution of the government: and accord, ingly, it is well known that, in this desperate, and, we trust, final conflict, the Commons distinctly intimated their purpose of withholding the supplies, while the Sovereign actually contemplated a virtual abdication of the throne, and a retreat to his Continental dominions ! *
But if Mr Moore has said less than he might have done on this very marking passage of our recent story, his remarks on the connexion between the Heir-apparent and the Whig Opposition are full of that dignified impartiality and practical wisdom, for which a poet and a satirist is so little apt to get credit.
· The Whigs,' he observes, who had now every reason to be convinced of the aversion with which they were regarded at court, had. lately been, in some degree, compensated for this misfortune by the ac
* See Bishop Tomlins's Life of Pitt, p. 253, vol. i.
éession to their party of the Heir Apparent, who had, since the year 1783, been in the enjoyment of a separate establishment, and taken his seat in the House of Peers as Duke of Cornwall. That a young prince, fond of pleasure and impatient of restraint, should have thrown himself into the arms of those who were most likely to be indulgent to his ertors, is nothing surprising, either in politics or ethics. But that mature and enlightened statesmen, with the lessons of all history before their eyes, should have been equally ready to embrace such a rash alliance, or should count upon it as any thing more than a temporary instrument of faction, is, to say the least of it, one of those self-delusions of the wise, which show how vainly the voice of the Past may speak amid the loud appeals and temptations of the Present. The last Prince of Wales, it is true, by whom the popular cause was espoused, had left the lesson imperfect, by dying before he came to the throne. But this deficiency has since been amply made up; and future Whigs, who may be placed in similar circumstances, will have, at least, one historical warning before their eyes, which ought to be enough to satisfy the most unreflecting and credulous.
• In some points, the breach that now took place between the Prince and the King, bore a close resemblance to that which had disturbed the preceding reign. In both cases, the Royal parents were harsh and obstinate in both cases, money was the chief source of dissension-and in both cases, the genius, wit, and accomplishments of those with whom the Heir Apparent connected himself, threw a splendour round the political bond between them, which prevented even themselves from perceiving its looseness and fragility.
• In the late question of Mr Fox's India Bill, the Prince of Wales had voted with his political friends in the first division. But, upon finding afterwards that the King was hostile to the measure, his Royal Highness took the prudent step (and with Mr Fox's full concurrence) of absenting bimself entirely from the second discussion, when the Bill, as it is known, was finally defeated. This circumstance, occurring thus early in their intercourse, might have proved to each of the parties in this ill-sorted alliance, how difficult it was for them to remain long and creditably united. On the one side, there was a character to be maintained with the people, which a too complacent toleration of the errors of royalty might,---and, as it happened, did compromise ; while, on the other side, there were the obligations of filial duty, which, as in this instance of the India Bill, made desertion decorous, at a time when cooperation would have been most friendly and desirable. There was also the perpetual consciousness of being destined to a higher station, in which, while duty would perhaps demand an independence of all party whatever, convenience would certainly dictate a release from the restraints of Whiggism.'
In the middle of all these grave and important matters, Mr Moore cannot resist stopping to moralize on the wit and personality of the once famous Rolliad.
• Mr Rolle,' he observes, was one of those unlucky persons, whose destiny it is to be immortalised by ridicule, and to whom the wor]
owes the same sort of gratitude for the wit of which they were the butts, as the merchants did, in Sinbad's story, to those pieces of meat to which diamonds adhered.' And then adds more seriously – The Rolliad and The Antijacobin may, on their respective sides of the question, be considered as models of that style of political satire, whose lightness and vivacity give it the appearance of proceeding rather from the wantonness of wit than of ill-nature, and whose very malice, from the fancy with which it is mixed up, like certain kinds of fireworks, explodes in sparkles. They, however, who are most inclined to forgive, in consideration of its polish and playfulness, the personality in which the writers of both these works indulged, will also readily admit that by no less shining powers can a license so questionable be either assumed or palliated, and that nothing but the lively effervescence of the draught can make us forget the bitterness infused into it. At no time was this truth ever more strikingly exemplified than at ent; when a separation seems to have taken place between satire and wit, which leaves the former like the toad, without the “ jewel in its head ;” and when the hands, into which the weapon of personality has chiefly fallen, have brought upon it a stain and disrepute, that will long keep such writers as those of the Rolliad aud Antijacobin from touching it again.'
The Impeachment of Mr Hastings was the occasion of Sheridan's most splendid success—and is dwelt on with proportional partiality by his biographer. Of the first and greatest speech, on moving the Impeachment, nothing like an adequate report has been preserved: But the testimonies of the most competent judges, of all parties, leave no doubt of its extraordinary merit.
Mr Burke declared it to be “ the most astonishing effort of eloquence, argument, and wit united, of which there was any record or tradition. Mr Fox said, “ All that he had ever heard, all that he had ever read, when compared with it, dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before the sun ;"_and Mr Pitt acknowledged, “ that it surpassed all the eloquence of ancient or modern times, and possessed every thing that genius or art could furnish, to agitate and controul the human mind."— And when we recollect,' adds Mr Moore, the men by whom the House of Commons was at that day adorned, and the conflict of high passions and interests in which they had been so lately engaged ;—when we see them all, of all parties, brought (as Mr Pitt expressed it) “ under the wand of the enchanter,” and only vying with each other in their description of the fascination by which they were bound ;- when we call to mind, too, that he, whom the first statesmen of the age thus lauded, had but lately descended among them from a more aerial region of intellect, bringing trophies falsely supposed to be incompatible with political prowess ;—it is impossible to imagine a moment of more entire and intoxicating triumph.
The greatness of the triumph cannot indeed be questioned. But doubts may well be entertained whether the speech, if it had been preserved, would have produced any thing like the same effect, on its readers at the present day, as it did at the time on its hearers; and this doubt is grounded on the infinite disappointment with which we have perused the extracts from the Second great oration, in Westminster-Hall, with which Mr Moore has enriched his pages. That speech, which divided the public admiration with the former, was taken down in short-hand by Mr Gurney; and a corrected report of it from his notes was long in the hands of Mr Sheridan himself, and passed afterwards into those of his biographer. He has here selected from it, as was his duty, the most shining and remarkable passages-and yet the general impression is that of singular diffuseness, frequent commonplace, and occasional tirades of the most puerile and false eloquence. What better specimen of falsetto, for instance, could be produced from a school exercise, than this description of the Cherub, Innocence?'
• “ You see how Truth-empowered by that will which gives a giant's nerve to an infant's arm-has burst the monstrous mass of fraud that has endeavoured to suppress it.-It calls now to your Lordships, in the weak but clear tone of that Cherub, Innocence, whose voice is more persuasive than eloquence, more convincing than argument, whose look is supplication, whose tone is conviction !-it calls upon you for redress; it calls upon you for vengeance upon the oppressor, and points its heaven-directed hand to the detested, but unrepenting author of its wrongs!”
There is another diatribe, on Filial Affection, which appears to us as strained and mawkish as any thing we ever read in a novel by a young lady ;-and it is really inconceivable to us that such bald and puny rhetoric as the following, should have been listened to with admiration, by the greatest and most fastidious auditory in the world.
•“ And yet, my Lords, how can I support the claim of Filial Love by argument—much less the affection of a son to a mother-where love loses its awe, and veneration is mixed with tenderness ?-Filial Love! the morality of instinct, the sacrament of nature and duty !—or rather let me say, it is miscalled a duty, for it flows from the heart without effort, and is its delight, its indulgence, its enjoyment! It is guided, not by the slow dictates of reason ; it awaits not encouragement from reflection or from thought; it asks no aid of memory; it is an innate, but active, consciousness of having been the object of a thousand tender solicitudes, a thousand waking, watchful cares, of meek anxiety and patient sacrifices, unremarked and unrequited by the object. It is a gratitude founded upon a conviction of obligations, not remembered, but the more binding because not remembered, -because conferred before the tender reason could acknowledge, or the infant memory record them—a gratitude and affection, which no circumstances should subclue, and which few can strengthen, &c. &c. We know
well that short-hand reporters are not to be trusted to, that passages detached from a long speech often wear a very different aspect from what they had as parts of it - and, above all, that the best words that can be spoken to