Изображения страниц

only surpassed by that of his son, an arrogance which reduced his colleagues to the rank of subalterns, a Roman patriotism which demanded for England a universal tyranny, an ambition lavish of money and men, gave the nation its rapacity and its fire, and only saw rest in far vistas of dazzling glory and limitless power, an imagination which brought into Parliament the vehemence and decamation of the stage, the brilliancy of fitful inspiration, the boldness of poetic imagery. Such are the sources of his eloquence:

"But yesterday, and England might have tood against the world; now none so poor to to her reverence."



"We shall be forced ultimately to retract; t us retract while we can, not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo these violent oppressive Acts; they must be repealed-you will repeal them; I pledge myself for it, that you will in the end repeal them; I stake my reputation on it. I will consent to be taken for an idiot, if they are not finally repealed.

"You may swell every expense, and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German prince, that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign prince; your efforts are for ever vain and impotent-doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies. To overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and their possessions to the rapace of hireling cruelty! If I were an American as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms-never-never-never!

[ocr errors]

But, my Lords, who is the man, that in addition to these disgraces and mischiefs of our army, has dared to authorize and associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the savage? To call into civilized alliance the wild and inhuman savage of the woods; to delegate to the merciless Indian the defence of disputed rights, and to wage the horrors of barbarous war against our brethren? My Lords, these enormities cry aloud for redress and punshment; unless thoroughly done away, it will be a stain on the national character-it is a vio lation of constitution-I believe it is against

[ocr errors]

There is a touch of Milton and Shakspeare in this tragic pomp, in this impassioned solemnity, in the sombre and violent brilliancy of this overstrung and overloaded style. In such superb and blood-like purple are English passions

Anecdotes and Speeches of the Earl of Chatham, 7th ed., 3 vols., 1810, ii. ch. 42 and


clad, under the lds of such a banner they fall into battle array; the more powerfully that amongst them there is one altogether holy, the sentiment or right, which rallies, occupies, and ennobles them:

millions of people so dead to all the feelings of "I rejoice that America has resisted. Three liberty, as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.

main inviolate; let it be taxable only by their own consent given in their provincial assemblies; else it will cease to be property.

"Let the sacredness of their property re

three millions in America, who prefer poverty "This glorious spirit of Whiggism animates with liberty to gilded chains and sordid affluence, and who will die in defence of their rights as men, as freemen. . . . The spirit which now resists your taxation in America is the same which formerly opposed loans, benevolences, and ship money in England; the same spirit which called all England on its legs, and by the Bill of Rights vindicated the English constitution; the same spirit which established the great fundamental, essential maxim of your lib erties; that no subject of England shall be taxed but by his own consent.

"As an Englishman by birth and principle, I recognize to the Americans their supreme unalienable right in their property, a right which they are justified in the defence of to the last extremity." t

that of others too; it was with this idea If Pitt sees his own right, he sees that he moved and managed England. For it, he appealed to Englishmen against themselves; and in spite of themselves they recognized their dearest instinct in this maxim, that every human will is inviolable in its limited and legal province, and that it must put forth its whole strength against the slightest usurpation.

Unrestrained passions and the most manly sentiment of right; such is the abstract of all this eloquence. Instead of an orator, a public man, let us take a writer, a private individual; let us look at the letters of Junius, which, amidst national irritation and anxiety, fell one by one like drops of fire on the fevered limbs of the body politic. If he makes his phrases concise, and selects his epithets, it was not from love of style, but in order the better to stamp his insult. Oratorical artifices in his hand become instruments of tor ture, and when he files his periods it was to drive the knife deeper and surer *bid. ii. ch. 29. ↑ Ibid ii. ch. 42

with what audacity of denunciation, of hatred? Yet this is not vile, for it with what sternness of animosity, with thinks itself to be in the service of what corrosive and burning irony, ap- justice. Amidst these excesses, this is plied to the most secret corners of the persuasion which enhances them; private life, with what inexorable per- these men tear one another; but they sistence of calculated and meditated do not crouch; whoever their enemy persecution, the quotations alone will be, they take their stand in front of show. He writes to the Duke of Bed- him. Thus Junius addresses the king: ford:

He writes to the Duke of Grafton:


"There is something in both your character and conduct which distinguishes you not only from all other ministers, but from all other It is not that you do wrong by design, but that you should never do right by mistake. It is not that your indolence and your activity have been equally misapplied, but that the first uniform principle, or, if I may call it, the genius of your life, should have carried you through

"SIR-It is the misfortune of your life, and "My lord, you are so little accustomed to originally the cause of every reproach and dis receive any marks of respect or esteem from tress which has attended your government, tha the public, that if, in the following lines, a comyou should never have been acquainted with the pliment or expression of applause should es- language of truth until you heard it in the com cape me, I fear you would consider it as a mock-plaints of your people. It is not, however, toc ery of your established character, and perhaps are still inclined 1 make an indulgent allowance late to correct the error of your education. We an insult to your understanding.' for the pernicious lessons you received in your youth, and to form the most sanguine hopes from the natural benevolence of your disposi tion. We are far from thinking you capable of a direct, deliberate purpose to invade those original rights of your subjects on which all their civil and political liberties depend. Had it been possible for us to entertain a suspicion so dishonourable to your character, we should long since have adopted a style of remonstrance very distant from the humility of complain The people of England are loyal to the House of Hanover, not from a vain preference of one family to another, but from a conviction that the establishment of that family was neces sary to the support of their civil and religious liberties. This, Sir, is a principle of allegiance equally solid and rational; fit for Englishmen to adopt, and well worthy of your Majesty's encouragement. We cannot long be deluded by nominal distinctions. The name of Stuart, of itself, is only contemptible:-armed with the sovereign authority, their principles are formidable. The prince who imitates their conduct, should be warned by their example; and while he plumes himself upon the security of his title to the crown, should remember that, as it was acquired by one revolution, it may be lost by

every possible change and contradiction of conduct, without the momentary imputation or colour of a virtue; and that the wildest spirit of inconsistency should never once have betrayed you into a wise or honourable action." + Junius goes on, fiercer and fiercer; even when he sees the minister fallen and dishonored, he is still savage.

It is vain that he confesses aloud that in the state in which he is, the Duke might “disarm a private enemy of his resentment." He grows worse:

"You have every claim to compassion that can arise from misery and distress. The condition you are reduced to would disarm a private enemy of his resentment, and leave no consolation to the most vindictive spirit, but that

such an object, as you are, would disgrace the dignity of revenge. . . . For my own part, I do not pretend to understand those prudent forms of decorum, those gentle rules of discretion, conduct of the greatest and most hazardous affairs. ... I should scorn to provide for a future retreat, or to keep terms with a man who preserves no measures with the public. Neither the abject submission of deserting his post in the hour of danger, nor even the sacred shield of cowardice, should protect him. I would pursue him through life, and try the last exertion of my abilities to preserve the perishable infamy of his name, and make it immortal." + Except Swift, is there a human being wno has more intentionally concentrated and intensified in his heart the venom

which some men endeavour to unite with the

Junius' Letters, 2 vols., 1772, xxiii. i. 162.

+ Ibid. xii. i. 75.

↑ Ibid. xxxv. ii. 56.


Let us look for less bitter souls, and try to encounter a sweeter accent. There is one man, Charles James Fox, happy from his cradle, who learned every thing without study, whom his father trained in prodigality and recklessness, whom, from the age of twenty-one, the public voice proclaimed as the first in eloquence and the leader of a grea party, liberal, humane, sociable, not frustrating these generous expectations, whose very enemies pardoned his faults, whom his triends adored, whom labor never wearied, whom rivals never embittered, whom power did not spoil; a lover of converse, of literature, of pleasure, who has left the impress of his rich genius in the persuasive abun dance, in the fine character, the clear

* Ibid. xxxv. ii. 29.

ness and continuous ease of his speech- | A sort of impassioned exaggeration es. Behold him rising to speak; think reigns in the debates to which the of the discretion he must use; he is a trial of Warren Hastings and the statesman, a premier, speaking in Par- French Revolution gave rise, in the liament of the friends of the king, lords acrimonious rhetoric and forced dec. of the bedchamber, the noblest families lamation of Sheridan, in the pitiless of the kingdom, with their allies and sarcasm and sententious pomp of the connections around him; he knows younger Pitt. These orators love the that every one of his words will pierce coarse vulgarity of gaudy colors; they like a fiery arrow into the heart and hunt out accumulations of big words, honor of five hundred men who sit to contrasts symmetrically protracted, hear him. No matter, he has been be- vast and resounding periods. They do trayed; he will punish the traitors, and not fear to repel; they crave effect. here is the pillory in which he sets Force is their characteristic, and the “the janissaries of the bedchamber," characteristic of the greatest amongst who by the Prince's order have deserted them, the first mind of the age, Edmund him in the thick of the fight: Burke, of whom Dr. Johnson said: "Take up whatever topic you please, he (Burke) is ready to meet you."

"The whole compass of language affords no terms sufficiently strong and pointed to mark the contempt which I feel for their conduct. It is an impudent avowal of political profligacy, as if that species of treachery were less infamous than any other. It is not only a degradation of a station which ought to be occupied only by the highest and most exemplary honour, but forfeits their claim to the characters of gentlemen, and reduces them to a level with the meanest and basest of the species; it insults the noble, the ancient, and the characteristic independence of the English peerage, and is calculated to traduce and vilify the British legislature in the eyes of all Europe, and to the latest posterity. By what magic nobility can thus charm vice into virtue, I know not nor wish to know; but in any other thing than politics, and among any other men than lords of the bedchamber, such an instance of the grossest perfidy would, as it well deserves, be branded with infamy and execration.” * Then turning to the Commons:

"A parliament thus fettered and controlled, without spirit and without freedom, instead of limiting, extends, substantiates, and establishes beyond all precedent, latitude, or condition, the prerogatives of the crown. But though the British House of Commons were so shamefully lost to its own weight in the constitution, were so unmindful of its former struggles and triumphs in the great cause of liberty and mankin, were so indifferent and treacherous to those primary objects and concerns for which it was originally instituted, I trust the characteristic spirit of this country is still equal to the trial; I trust Englishmen will be as jealous of secret influence as superior to open violence; I trust they are not more ready to defend their interests against foreign depredation and insult, than to encounter and defeat this midnight conspiracy against the constitution." ↑

If such are the outbursts of a nature above all gentle and amiable, we can judge what the others must have been.

* Fox's Speeches, 6 vols., 1815, ii. 271; Dec. 7, 1783. 1 Ibid. p. 268.

Burke did not enter Parliament, like Pitt and Fox, in the dawn of his youth, but at thirty-five, having had time to train himself thoroughly in all matters, learned in law, history, philosophy, literature, master of such a universal erudition, that he has been compared to Bacon. But what distinguished him from all other men was a wide, comprehensive intellect, which, exercised by philosophical studies and writings, seized the general aspects of things, and, beyond text, constitutions, and figures, perceived the invisible tendency of events and the inner spirit, covering with his contempt those pretended statesmen, a vulgar herd of common journeymen, denying the existence of every thing not coarse or material, and who, far from being capable of guiding the grand movements of an empire, are not worthy to turn the wheel of a machine.

Beyond all those gifts, he possessed one of those fertile and precise imag inations which believe that finished knowledge is an inner view, which never quit a subject without having clothed it in its colors and forms, and which, passing beyond statistics and the rubbish of dry documents, recom. pose and reconstruct before the reader's eyes a distant country and a foreign landscapes, and all the shifting detail nation, with its monuments, dresses, of its aspects and manners. these powers of mind, which constitute

To al!

*An Inquiry into our Ideas of the Sublims and the Beautiful.

a man of system, he added all those courageous anger. It is either the energies of heart which constitute an expose of an administration, or the enthusiast. Poor, unknown, having whole history of British India, or the spent his youth in compiling for the complete theory of revolutions, and publishers, he rose, by dint of work the political conditions, which comes and personal merit, with a pure repu- down like a vast, overflowing stream, to tation and an unscathed conscience, dash with its ceaseless effort and accuere the trials of his obscure life or the mulated mass against some crime that seductions of his brilliant life had men would overlook, or some injustice fettered his independence or tarnished which they would sanction. Doubtless the flower of his loyalty. He brought to there is foam on its eddies, mud in its politics a horror of crime, a vivacity bed: thousands of strange creatures and sincerity of conscience, a humanity, sport wilċ.y on its surface. Burke a sensibility, which seem only suitable to does not select, he lavishes: he casts a young man. He based human society forth by myriads his teeming fancies, on maxims of morality, insisted his emphasized and harsh words, dec upon a high and pure tone of feeling lamations and apostrophes, jests and in the conduct of public business, and execrations, the whole grotesque or seemed to have undertaken to raise horrible assemblage of the distant reand authorize the generosity of the hu- gions and populous cities which his man heart. He fought nobly for noble unwearied learning or fancy has travcauses; against the crimes of power in ersed. He says, speaking of the usuriEngland, the crimes of the people in ious loans, at forty-eight per cent., and France, the crimes of monopolists in at compound interest, by which EngIndia. He defended, with immense re-lishmen had devastated Índia, that search and unimpeached disinterestedness, the Hindoos tyrannized over by English greed:

"That debt forms the foul putrid mucus, in which are engendered the whole brood of creeping ascarides, all the endless involutions, the eternal knot, added to a knot of those inexpugnable tape-worms which devour the nutri

"Every man of rank and landed fortune being long since extinguished, the remaining miser-ment, and eat up the bowels of India.” * able last cultivator who grows to the soil after having his back scored by the farmer, has it again flayed by the whip of the assignee, and is thus by a ravenous because a short-lived succession of claimants lashed from oppressor to oppressor, whilst a single drop of blood is left as the means of extorting a single grain of


[ocr errors]

He made himself everywhere the champion of principle and the persecutor of vice; and men saw him bring to the attack all the forces of his wonderful knowledge, his lofty reason, his splendid style, with the unwearying and untempered ardor of a moralist and a knight.

Let us read him only several pages at a time only thus he is great; otherwise all this is exaggerated, commonplace, and strange, will arrest and shock us; but if we give ourselves up to him, we will be carried away and captivated. The enormous mass of his documents rolls impetuously in a current of eloquence. Sometimes a spoken or written discourse needs a whole volume to unfold the train of his multiplied proofs and

Burke's Works, 1808, 8 vols., iv. 286, Speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts

Nothing strikes him as excessive in speech, neither the description of tortures, nor the atrocity of his images, nor the deafening racket of his antitheses, nor the prolonged trumpet-blast of his curses, nor the vast oddity of his jests. To the Duke of Bedford, who had reproached him with his pension,

he answers:

"The grants to the house of Russell were so enormous, as not only to outrage economy, but even to stagger credibility. The duke of Bedford is the leviathan among all the creatures of the crown. He tumbles about his unwieldy bulk; he plays and frolicks in the ocean of the royal bounty. Huge as he is, and whilst he lies floating many a rood,' he is still a creature. His ribs, his fins, his whalebone, his blubber, the very spiracles through which he spouts a torrent of brine against his origin, and covers me all over with the spray,-every thing of him

and about him is from the throne."+
Burke has no taste, nor have his com
peers. The fine Greek or French
deduction has never found a place
among the Germanic nations; with
them all is heavy or ill-refined. It is

Ibid. iv. 282.

↑ Ibid. viii. 35 4 Letter to a Noble Lord

of no use for Burke to study Cicero, and to confine his dashing force in the orderly channels of Latin rhetoric; he continues half a barbarian, battening in exaggeration and violence; but his fire is so sustained, his conviction so strong, his emotion so warn and abundant, that we give way to him, forget our repugnance, see in his irregularities and his outbursts only the outpourings of a great heart and a deep mind, too open and too full; and we wonder with a sort of strange veneration at this extraordinary overflow, impetuous is a torrent, broad as a sea, in which the inexhaustible variety of colors and forms undulates beneath the sun of a splendid imagination, which lends to his muddy surge all the brilliancy of

ts rays.



If you wish for a comprehensive view of all these personages, study Sir Joshua Reynolds, and then look at the fine French portraits of this time, the cheerful ministers, gallant and charming archbishops, Marshal de Saxe, who in the Strasburg monument goes down to his tomb with the grace and ease of a courtier on the staircase at Versailles. In England, under skies drowned in pallid mists, amid soft, vaporous clouds, appear expressive or contemplative heads: the rude energy of the character has not awed the artist; the coarse bloated animal; the strange and ominous bird of prey; the growling jaws of the fierce bulldog-he has put them all in: levelling politeness has not in his pictures effaced individual asperities under uniform pleasantness. Beauty is there, but only in the cold decision of look, in the deep seriousness and sad nobil' ity of the pale countenance, in the conscientious gravity and the indomitable resolution of the restrained gesture. In place of Lely's courtesans, we see by their side chaste ladies, sometimes severe and active; good mothers surrounded by their little children,


who kiss them and embrace another morality is here, and with it the sentiment of home and family,

Lord Heathfield, the Earl of Mansfield, Major Stringer Lawrence, Lord Ashburton, Lord Edgecombe, and many others.

propriety of dress, a pensive air, the correct deportment of Miss Burney's heroines. They are men who have done the world some service: Bakewell transforms and reforms their cattle; Arthur Young their agriculture; Howard their prisons; Arkwright and Watt their industry; Adam Smith their political economy; Bentham their peral law; Locke, Hutcheson, Ferguson Bishop Butler, Reid, Stewart, Price their psychology and their morality. They have purified their private man pers, they now purify their public man ners. They have settled their govern ment, they have established themselves in their religion. Johnson is able to say with truth, that no nation in the world better tills its soil and its mind. There is none so rich, so free, so well nourished, where public and private efforts are directed with such assiduity, energy, and ability towards the improvement of public and private affairs. One point alone is wanting: lofty speculation. It is just this point which when all others are wanting, constitutes at this moment the glory of France; and English caricatures show, with a good appreciation of burlesque, face to face and in strange contrast, on one side the Frenchman in a tumbledown cottage, shivering, with long teeth, thin, but otherwise charmed with his lot, feeding on snails and a handful of roots, consoled by a republican cockade and humanitarian programmes; on the other, the Englishman, rec. and puffed out with fat, seated at his table in a comfortable room, before a dish of most juicy roast-beef, with a pot of foaming ale, busy in grumbling against the public distress and the treacherous ministers, who are going to ruin every thing

Thus Englishmen arrive on the threshold of the French Revolution, the French free-thinkers and revoluConservatives and Christians facing

tionaries. Without knowing it, the two nations have rolled onwards for

two centuries towards this terrible shock; without knowing it, they have only been working to make it worse All their efforts, all their ideas, all their which hurls them towards the inevi great men have accelerated the motior. table conflict A hundred and fift▾

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »