Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

this is the case in England and Scotland, where society is in a sound state, how much more must it be the case in the diseased part of the empire, in Ireland ? Ask any man there, whatever may be his religion, whatever may be his politics, Churchman, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Repealer, Precursor, Orangeman, ask Mr. O'Connell, ask Colonel Conolly, whether it is a slight matter in whose hands the executive power is lodged. Every Irishman will tell you that it is a matter of life and death; that in fact more depends upon the men than upon the laws. It disgusts me therefore to hear men of liberal politics say, “What is the use of a Whig Government? The Ministers can do nothing for the country. They have been four years at work on an Irish Municipal Bill, without being able to pass it through the Lords.” Would any ten Acts of Parliament make such a difference to Ireland as the difference between having Lord Ebrington for Lord Lieutenant, with Lord Morpeth for Secretary, and having the Earl of Roden for Lord Lieutenant, with Mr. Lefroy for Secretary? Ask the popular Irish leaders whether they would like better to remain as they are, with Lord Ebrington as Lord Lieutenant, or to have the Municipal Bill, and any other three bills which they might name, with Lord Roden for Viceroy ; and they will at once answer, “ Leave us Lord Ebrington; and burn your bills.” The truth is that, the more defective the legislation, the more important is a good administration, just as the personal qualities of a Sovereign are of more importance in despotic countries like Russia than in a limited monarchy. If we have not in our Statute Book all the securities necessary for good government, it is of the more importance that the character of the men who administer the government should be an additional security.

But we are told that the Government is weak. That is most true : and I believe that almost all that we are tempted to blame in the conduct of the Government is to be attributed to weakness. But let us consider what the nature of this weakness is. Is it that kind of weakness which makes it our duty to oppose the Government? Or is it that kind of weakness which makes it our duty to support the Government? Is it intellectual weakness, moral weakness, the incapacity to discern, or the want of courage to pursue, the true interest of the nation? Such was the weakness of Mr. Addington, when this country was threatened with invasion from Boulogne. Such was the weakness of the Government which sent out the wretched Walcheren expedition, and starved the Duke of Wellington in Spain; a government whose only strength was shown in prosecuting writers who exposed abuses, and in slaughtering rioters whom oppression had driven into outrage. Is that the weakness of the present Government? I think not. As compared with any other party capable of holding the reins of Governirent, they are deficient neither in intellectual nor in moral strength. On all great questions of difference between the Ministers and the Opposition, I hold the Ministers to be in the right. When I consider the difficulties with which they have to struggle, when I see how manfully that struggle is maintained by Lord Melbourne, when I see that Lord John Russell has excited even the admiration of his opponents by the heroic manner in which he has gone on, year after year, in sickness and domestic sorrow, fighting the battle of Reform, I am led to the conclusion that the weakness of the Ministers is of that sort which makes it our duty to give them, not opposition, but support; and that support it is my purpose to afford to the best of my ability.

If, indeed, I thought myself at liberty to consult my own inclination, I should have stood aloof from the conflict. If you should be pleased to send me to Parliament, I shall enter an assembly very different from that which I quitted in 1834. I left the Whigs united and dominant, strong in the confidence and attachment of one House of Parliament, strong also in the fears of the other. I shall return to find them helpless in the Lords, and forced almost every week to fight a battle for existence in the Commons. Many, whom I left bound together by what seemed indissoluble private and public ties, I shall now find assailing each other with more than the ordinary bitterness of political hostility. Many with whom I sate side by side, contending through whole nights for the Reform Bill, till the sun broke over the Thames on our undiminished ranks, I shall now find on hostile benches. I shall be compelled to engage in painful altercations with many with whom I had hoped never to have a conflict, except in the generous and friendly strife which should best serve the common cause. I left the Liberal Government strong enough to maintain itself against an adverse Court; I see that the Liberal Government now rests for support on the preference of a sovereign, in whom the country sees with delight the promise of a better, a gentler, a happier Elizabeth, of a sovereign in whom we hope that our children and our grandchildren will admire the firmness, the sagacity, and the spirit which distinguished the last and greatest of the Tudors, tempered by the beneficent influence of more humane times and more popular institutions. Whether royal favor, never more needed and never better deserved, will enable the Government to surmount the difficulties with which it has to deal, I cannot presume to judge. It may be that the blow has only been deferred for a season, and that a long period of Tory domination is before us. Be it so. I entered public life a Whig; and a Whig I am determined to remain. I use that word, and I wish you to understand that I use it, in no narrow sense. I mean by a Whig, not one who subscribes implicitly to the contents of any book, though that book may have been written by Locke; not one who approves the whole conduct of any statesman, though that statesman may have been Fox; not one who adopts the opinions in fashion in any circle, though that circle may be composed of the finest and noblest spirits of the age. But it seems to me that, when I look back on our history, I can discern a great party which has, thrcugh many generations, preserved its identity; a party often depressed, never extinguished; a party which, though often tainted with the faults of the age, has always been in advance of the age; a party which, though guilty of many errors and some crimes, las the glory of having established our civil and religious liberties on a firm foundation, and of that party I am proud to be a member. It was that party which, on the great question of monopolies, stood up against Elizabeth. It was that party which, in the reign of James the First, organized the earliest parliamentary opposition, which steadily asserted the privileges of the people, and wrested prerogative after prerogative from the Crown. It was that party which forced Charles the First to relinquish the ship-money. It was that party which destroyed the Star Chamber and the High Commission Court. It was that party which, under Charles the Second, carried the Habeas Corpus Act, which effected the Revolution, which passed the Toleration Act, which broke the yoke of a foreign church in your country, and which saved Scotland from the fate of unhappy Ireland. It was that party which reared and maintained the constitutional throne of Hanover against the hostility of the Church and of the landed aristocracy of England. It was that party which opposed the war with America and the war with the French Republic; which imparted the blessings of our free Constitution to the Dissenters; and which, at a later period, by unparalleled sacrifices and exertions, extended the same blessings

to the Roman Catholics. To the Whigs of the seventeenth century we owe it that we have a House of Commons. To the Whigs of the nineteenth century we owe it that the House of Commons has been purified. The abolition of the slave trade, the abolition of colonial slavery, the extension of popular education, the mitigation of the rigour of the penal code, all, all were effected by that party; and of that party, I repeat, I am a member. I look with pride on all that the Whigs have done for the cause of human freedom and of human happiness. I see them now hard pressed, struggling with difficulties, but still fighting the good fight. At their head I see men who have inherited the spirit and the virtues, as well as the blood, of old champions and martyrs of freedom. To those men I propose to attach myself. Delusion may triumph; but the triumphs of delusion are but for a day. We may be defeated: but our principles will only gather fresh strength from defeats. Be that, however, as it may, my part is taken. While one shred of the old banner is flying, by that banner will I at least be found. The good old cause, as Sidney called it on the scaffold, vanquished or victorious, insulted or triumphant, the good old cause is still the good old cause with me. Whether in or out of Parliament, whether speaking with that authority which must always belong to the representative of this great and enlightened community, or expressing the humble sentiments of a private citizen, I will to the last maintain inviolate my fidelity to principles which, though they may be borne down for a time by senseless clamour, are yet strong with the strength and immortal with the immortality of truth, and which, however they may be misunderstood or misrepresented by contemporaries, will assuredly find justice from a better age. Gentlemen, I have done. I have only to thank you for the kind attention with which you have heard me, and to express my hope that, whether my principles have met with your concurrence or not, the frankness with which I have expressed them will at least obtain your approbation.

A SPEECH

DELIVERED IN

The House Of Commons ON THE 29TH OF JANUARY, 1840.

On the twenty-eighth of January, 1840, Sir John Yarde Buller moved the following resolution :

“That Her Majesty's Government, as at present constituted, does not possess the confidence of the House." After a discussion of four nights the motion was rejected by 308 votes to 287. The following speech was made on the second night of the debate.

The House, Sir, may possibly imagine that I rise under some little feeling of irritation to reply to the personal reflections which have been introduced into the discussion. It would be easy to reply to these reflections; it would be still easier to retort them: but I should think either course unworthy of me and of this great occasion. If ever I should so far forget myself as to wander from the subject of debate to matters concerning only myself, it will not, I hope, be at a time when the dearest interests of our country are staked on the result of our deliberations. I rise under feelings of anxiety which leave no room in my mind for selfish vanity or petty vindictiveness. I believe with the most intense conviction that, in pleading for the Government to which I belong, I am pleading for the safety of the Commonwealth, for the reformation of abuses, and at the same time for the preservation of august and venerable institutions : and I trust, Mr. Speaker, that when the question is whether a Cabinet be or be not worthy of the confidence of Parliament, the first Member of that Cabinet who comes forward to defend himself and his colleagues will find here some portion of that generosity and good feeling which once distinguished English gentlemen. But

room. There with thet to which for the refo

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »