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This is a fair specimen of Mr. Canning's general style ; but if we wish to know the boldness and originality with which he illustrates the questions that come before him, the following extract from a speech delivered at Liverpool, in the year 1812, will sufficiently point them out to us. He is answering those who have insinuated that he was not a friend to peace:
“Commerce and peace are, in the ordinary course of things, linked together. And it has been endeavoured to be insinuated by our opponents, that they alone could be the faithful guardians of the interests of a great commercial town, who are, as they are pleased to call themselves, lovers of peace. Such interests, they insist, must perish in the hands of those who (like myself, I suppose) are friends and advocates of war. Lovers of peace! Who are not lovers of peace in the abstract ? Friends and advocates of war! Who are so mad or so malignant as to prefer war for war's sake? Who are advocates of war, as war, any more than of famine or of pestilence? They who indulge themselves in such loose and general propositions, must surely be conscious that they are deceiving the audience whom they address. They must know, that the questions of peace and war are amongst the most difficult and complicated questions that human imagination can conceive, or that human genius can be called upon to disentangle. The propositions which they so glibly announce as simple propositions of elementary truth, are (as they know full well) interwoven with considerations and circumstances which render the discussion of them perplexed and intricate in the extreme. The question of peace is beset with difficulties which they themselves, if the helm of the state were put into their hands, would find, at the present moment, wholly insurmountable. But these difficulties they carefully keep out of sight, when they wish to make an impression on popular feelings.
“In what a state of the world is it that these gentlemen talk of peace, and of themselves as lovers of peace, just as calmly as if it were only a mere question of taste and fancy; as if to choose were to have, and to have were securely to enjoy! What, gentlemen, should you think of the sense or the fairness of men who, in the midst of the distress and desolation occasioned in one of your West India islands by a hurricane or tornado, while the air was involved in a pitchy darkness, and the city rocking with volcanic explosions, were to run about the streets, proclaiming themselves 'the friends of light and of perpendicular position ? Who does not love light better than darkness ? who would not rather have the walls of his house standing erecţ than tumbling about his ears? But what, I say, should you think of men of their candour or of their sense,
who, in the midst of such a public calamity, instead of lending a helping hand to their fellow-sufferers, and bearing patiently their own share of afflictions not to be avoided, should labour to impress upon the minds of the people additional motives of consternation and despair, and to make their sufferings intolerable, by insinuating that they had been unnecessarily incurred ?
"Gentlemen, the order of things in the moral and political world is not less convulsed, at the present moment, than in the physical world, by such visitations of Providence as those which I have just described. The storm is abroad. For purposes inscrutable to us, it has pleased Providence to let loose upon mankind a scourge of nations, who carries death and devastation into the remotest corners of the earth. But, amidst this universal havoc, this general prostration of the nations of Europe, this rocking of the battlements of our own separate fortress, we are asked, with an air of simplicity which would be quite touching, if we could imagine it to proceed from mere defect of understanding, Why are we not at peace ?'
" A grosser delusion than is attempted by insinuating that war is our choice, and peace within our reach, but wilfully rejected, was never yet imposed upon mankind. The question is not whether we love peace, but whether we can obtain it: the only arguable difference between men of honest minds and sober understandings must be as to the terms on which peace ought to be made: and the main characteristic of those terms all rational men would agree to be this---that they should be such as to afford a fair and reasonable security for its continuance. But this can be effected by honorable terms alone, and for this one plain reason, that a peace purchased by ignominy would be but a short intermission of war."
Again mark the beauty of the following passage:
“ Gentlemen, it does seem somewhat singular, and I conceive that the historian of future times will be at a loss to imagine how it should happen, that at this particular period, at the close of a war of such unexampled brilliancy, in which this country has acted a part so much beyond its physical strength and its apparent resources, there should arise a sect of philosophers in this country, who begin to suspect something rotten in the British constitution. The history of Europe, for the last twenty-five years, is something like this. A power went forth, animated with the spirit of evil, to overturn every community of the civilized world. Before this dreadful assailant, empires, and monarchies, and republics bowed : some were crushed to the earth, and some bought their safety by compromise. In the midst of this wide-spread ruin, among tottering columns and falling edifices, one fabric alone stood erect and braved the storm ; and not only provided for its own internal security, but sent forth, at every portal, assistance to its weaker neighbours. On this edifice floated that ensign (pointing to the English ensign), a signal of rallying to the combatant and of shelter to the fallen.
" To an impartial observer---I will not say to an inhabitant of this little fortress---to an impartial observer, in whatever part of the world, one should think something of this sort would have occurred. Here is a fabric constructed upon some principles not common to others in its neighbourhood; principles which enable it to stand erect while every thing is prostrate around it. In the construction of this fabric there must be some curious felicity, which the eye of the philosopher would be well employed in investigating, and which its neighbours may profit by-adopting. This, I say, gentlemen, would have been an obvious inference. But what shall we think of their understandings who draw an inference directly the reverse ? and who say to us---- You have stood when others have fallen ; when others have crouched, you have borne yourselves aloft ; you alone have resisted the power which has shaken and swallowed up half the civilized world. We like not this suspicious peculiarity. There must be something wrong in your internal conformation. With this unhappy curiosity, and in the spirit of this perverse analysis, they proceed to dissect our constitution. They find that, like other states, we have a monarch: that a nobility, though not organized like ours, is common to all the great empires of Europe : but that our distinction lies in a popular assembly, which gives life, and vigor, and strength to the whole frame of the government. Here, therefore, they find the seat of our disease. Our peccant part is, undoubtedly, the House of Commons. Hence our presumptuous exemption from what was the common lot of all our neighbours : the anomaly ought forthwith to be corrected ; and, therefore, the House of Commons must be reformed."
The extraordinary felicity of illustration which is also displayed in the passage we are now about to extract, and the powerful language in which it is couched, deserve great consideration.
" What should we think of that philosopher, who, in writing at the present day a treatise upon naval architecture and the theory of navigation, should omit wholly from his calculation that new and mighty power,---new, at least, in the application of its might, ---which walks the water, like a giant rejoicing in his course :---stemming alike the tempest and the tide ;---accelerating intercourse, shortening distances ; ---creating, as it were, unexpected neighbourhoods, and new combinations of social and commercial relation :---and giving to the fickleness of winds and the faithlessness of waves the certainty and steadiness of a highway upon the land ? Such a writer, though he might describe a ship correctly, though he might show from what quarters the winds of heaven blow, would be surely an incarious and an idle spectator of the progress of nautical science, who did not see in the power of STEAM a corrective of all former calculations. So, in political science, he who, speculating on the British Constitution, should content himself with marking the distribution of acknowledged technical powers between the House of Lords, the House of Commons, and the Crown, and assigning to each their separate provinces ---to the Lords their legislative authority,---to the Crown its veto, (how often used ?)---to the House of Commons its power of stopping supplies, (how often, in fact, necessary to be resorted to ?)---and should think that he had thus described the British constitution as it acts, and as it is influenced in its action ; but should omit from his enumeration that mighty power of Public Opinion, embodied in a Free Press,
which pervades, and checks, and, perhaps, in the last resort, nearly governs the whole; ---such a man would; surely, give but an imperfect view of the government of England as it is now modified, and would greatly underrate the counteracting influences against which that of the executive power has to contend."
We have hitherto extracted from Mr. Canding's speeches, such passages as evince a strong and vigorous understanding, calling to its aid the appearances of nature, the productions of science, and whatever is most likely to arrest attention by its appropriateness, grandeur, or sublimity. But Mr. Canning is not less distinguished for the playfulness of his satire, and the manner in which he introduces anecdotes the most singular, and the most ludicrous, and makes them bear upon. the conduct of his adversaries. The following was introduced into a speech delivered at Liverpool, in the year 1820:
“ The presumption of your antagonists appears to have been equalled only by the weakness with which they came into the field : and in proportion as their means of success were diminished, they seem to have aimed at the achievement of greater objects. Whether it was that they imagined their principles of reform to have made greater progress in Liverpool than in any other part of the country, I cannot say. But it was surely no small presumption, especially on the part of those who are continually declaiming against the undue interference of powerful individuals, and against the servile surrender of the freedom of election !-- it was no small presumption, I say, for any such party to think that they might, with one hand, grasp the representation of Liverpool, and, with the other, indicate the representative of the county.
“ Gentlemen, the process by which this twofold operation was to be brought about, was one of a curious kind. It reminds me of what I have read, in some of the political pamphlets of, I believe, the reign of Queen Anne, of an empiric who, not liking to sound his own praises, but wishing to have them sounded, hit upon a notable expedient of obtaining the benefit, without incurring the reproach of such a proclamation. A youth preceded him, in the crowd, crying, with a loud voice, “My father cures all sorts of diseases.' The doctor marched behind him, with a sedate and solemn step, simply declaring, The youth says true.' Now, Colonel Williams appears to have acted, on our hustings, the part of the ingenuous youth, when he proposed Dr. Crompton to you as a healer of all diseases of the political constitution. Dr. Crompton followed, with a modest and measured pace, not singing his own praises, but admitting the truth of the praises which had been sung."
Again, in 1822, he introduced the following:
“ But parliamentary reform is the panacea for every evil. I read, a few days ago, (I cannot immediately recollect where,) a story of an artist who had attained great eminence in painting, but who had directed his art chiefly to one favorite object. That object happened to be a red lion. His first employment was at a public-house, where the landlord allowed him to follow his fancy. Of course the artist recommended a red lion. A gentleman in the neighbourhood, having a new dining-room to ornament, applied to the artist for his assistance ; and, in order that he might have full scope for his talents, left to him the choice of a subject for the principal compartment of the room. The painter took due time to deliberate ; and then, with the utmost gravity and earnestness--
Don't you think,' said he to his employer,' that a handsome red lion would have a fine effect in this situation ?' The gentleman was not entirely convinced, perhaps ; however, he let the painter have his way in this instance ; determined, nevertheless, that in his library, to which he next conducted the artist, he would have something of more exquisite device and ornament. He showed him a small panel over his chimney-piece. • Here,' says he, I must have something striking. The space, you see, is but small, the workmanship must be proportionably delicate. What think you,' says the painter, after appearing to dive deep into his imagination for the suggestion, what think you of a small red lion?' Just so it is with parliamentary reform. Whatever may be the evil, the remedy is a parliamentary reform ; and the utmost variety that you can
extort from those who call themselves 'moderate reformers' is, that they will be contented with a small red lion!
“Gentlemen, I wish that these theories were only entertaining ; but they have mischief in them; and I wish that against them the country should be on its guard. I confess I am against even the smallest of these red lions ; l object not to the size, but to the species. I fear the smallest would be but the precursor of the whole menagerie; and that, if once propitiated by his smallness, you open the door for his admission, you will find, when you wanted him to turn out again, that he had been pampered into a formidable
size in his cage." . We might (would our space admit, or were it at all necessary,) produce a variety of other extracts, to prove that our opinion of Mr.
Canning's abilities, as an orator, ought not to be considered overrated, .but we forbear. The passages we have already quoted sufficiently
prove the brilliancy of his imagination, and the extraordinary powers of raillery and wit which he unquestionably possesses. The Right Honorable Gentleman is at such a time of life as fully justifies us in the anticipation, that many splendid effusions will yet be added to those we already possess : for the present, we take our leave of him, with the highest respect for his genius and character, and close this imperfect sketch of his merits, with the eloquent apostrophe with which he concluded his farewell address to Liverpool, in the year 1822.
“ Gentlemen, wherever my lọt may be cast, may this great community continue to flourish in the prosperity now happily beginning to be restored to it, after the fluctuations of war and peace :---in the principles from which it has never swerved, since I have had the honor to be acquainted with it ;~--in the honorable and ļiberal spirit which pervades all classes of its society, and which marks even its political divisions ;---and in that cordial union which binds all its members together without distinction of party, in any thing which relates to the interest of your town, or to the benefit of the humbler part of its population. May it flourish an image of splendid commercial greatness, unalloyed by the besetting vices which sometimes grow to such greatness ;---an image of those princely merchants whose history one of your own body has illustrated ; mixing, like them, with the pursuits of trade, the cultivation of liberal science; decorating your town with the works of art, as much as it is enriched by enterprise and industry; and placing it' by the variety of its useful, and the munificence of its charitable, establishments, among the most celebrated of the cities of the world. May you Aourish in the happiness and renown to which these qualities entitle you ; and, when you look for another individual to occupy the station which I have, for ten years, filled, may you find one more competent to the task than I have been ---one more devoted to your interests, more anxious for your prosperity, or more thankful for your kindness, I am sure you cannot find."
At the time of the arrival of Julius Cæsar, Britain was peopled by various independent tribes, some of whom were the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants, and others had established themselves by right of conquest. Amongst those of the latter description were the Trinobantes, a rude people who had originally emigrated from Belgium, and possessed themselves of the country along the northern bank of the Thames; from the mouth of which, as far as a few miles beyond London, their dominion extended. The manner of their living appears to have been almost wholly uncivilized; the woods furnished their only shelter; the beasts of the chase their only support. Ignorant of the arts and devoid of ingenuity, mutual defence was the only object for which they associated together; and when the pressing danger which caused them to assemble was overcome by their bravery, or rendered nugatory by the intestine divisions of their enemies, they separated as it were by consent, each one taking either the route which his former knowledge had approved, or the path he had left untried. The Romans are said to have first induced them to make bricks, their previous habitations having been mere huts, formed of reeds interwoven after the manner of hurdles, and covered with straw. Cæsar declares, that what the Britons called a town, was nothing more than a thick wood surrounded by a ditch and fortified by a rampart, into which they retired when apprehensive of invasion. Such a town was London at that time, and when the peculiarity of its situation is considered, it will be readily admitted that few places could be found in a level country more adapted to render them secure in case of attack. From the centre of their inclosure, which appears to have been a little to the eastward of the spot where St. Paul's now stands, the descent both to the river and to the west is considerable and steep. On the south flowed the Thames, which being unconfined by embankments, rolled in a free and unrestrained course over the low grounds both to the east and west of London, and which, according to the account of Cæsar, was fordable at one place only, and there with difficulty. On the west was the Flete or Fleet, a stream then navigable for a considerable distance from its junction with the Thames, which took place near to where the present Blackfriars' Bridge is erected. On the east was an extensive tract of low and marshy land, which was often overflowed by the Thames, and always impassable. The Trinobantes, therefore, acted wisely in fixing upon this spot, which seemed to have been pointed out to them by nature as * a house of defence," and which being situate almost at the inland extremity of their dominion, was peculiarly adapted to secure them from the attacks of wandering pirates.