« ПредишнаНапред »
SPEECHES IN ANSWER TO LORD MORNINGTON.-004
LITION OF THE WHIG SECEDERS WITH MR. PITT.
PHLET OF MR. REEVES. . -DEBTS OF THE PRINCE
OF WALES.-SHAKSPEARE MANUSCRIPTS.TRIAL
-MUTINY AT THE NORE. -SECESSION
OF MR. FOX FROM PARLIAMENT.
In the year 1994, the natural consequences of the policy pursued by Mr. Pitt began rapidly to unfold themselves both at home and abroad. * The confederated Princes of the Continent, among whom the gold of England was now the sole bond of union, had succeeded as might be expected from so noble an incentive, and, powerful only in provoking France, had by every step they took but ministered to her aggrandizement. In the mean time, the measures of the English Minister at home were directed to the two great objects of his legislation-the raising of supplies and the suppressing of sedition; or, in other words, to the double and anomalous task of making the people pay for the failures of their Royal allies, and suffer for their sympathy with the success of their republican enemies. It is the opinion of a learned Jesuit, that it was by aqua regia the Golden Calf of the Israelites was dissolved and the cause of Kings was the Royal solvent, in which the wealth of Great Britain now melted irrecoverably away. While the successes, too, of the French had already lowered the tone of the Minister from projects of aggression to precautions of defence, the wounds which, in the wantonness of alarm, he had inflicted on the liberties of the country, were spreading an inflammation around them that threatened real danger. The severity of the sen
* See, for a masterly exposure of the Errors of the War, the Speech of Lord Lansdowne this year, on bringing forward his Motion for Peace.
I cannot let the name of this nobleman pass, without expressing the deep gratitude which I feel to bim, not only for his own kindness to me, when introduced, as a boy, to his notice, but for the friendship of his truly Noble descendant, which I, in a great degree, owe to him, and which has long been the pride and happiness of my life.
Muir and Palmer in Scotland, and the daring confidence with which charges of High Treason were exhibited against persons who were, at the worst, but indiscreet reformers, excited the apprehensions of even the least sensitive friends of freedom. It is, indeed, difficult to say how far the excited temper of the Government, seconded by the ever ready subservience of state-lawyers and bishops, might have proceeded at this mo
ment, had not the acquittal of Tooke and his associates, and the triumph it diffused through the country given a lesson to Power such as England is alone capable of giving, and which will long be remembered, to the honour of that great political safe-guard,--that Life-preserver in stormy times, --the Trial by Jury.
At the opening of the Session, Mr. Sheridan delivered his admirable answer to Lord Mornington, the report of which, as I have already said, was corrected for publication by himself. In this fine speech, of which the greater part must have been unprepared, there is a natural earnestness of feeling and argument that is well contrasted with the able but artificial harangue that preceded it. In referring to the details which Lord Mornington had entered into of the various atrocities committed in France, he says :-
66 But what was the sum of all that he had told the House? that great and dreadful enormities had been committed, at which the heart shuddered, and which not merely wounded every feeling of humanity, but disgusted and sickenend the soul. All this was most true; but what did all this prove? What, but that eternal and unalterable truth which had always presented itself to his mind, in whatever way he had viewed the subject, namely, that a long established despotism so far degraded and debased human nature, as to render its subjects, on the first recovery of their rights, unfit for the exercise of them. But never had he, or would he meet but with reprobation that mode of argument which went, in fact, to establish, as an inference from this truth, that those who had been long slaves, ought therefore to remain so for ever! No; the lesson ought to be, he would again repeat, a tenfold horror of that despotic form of government, which had so profaned and changed the nature of civilised man, and a still more jealous apprehension of any system tending to withhold the rights and liberties of our fellow-creatures. Such a form of government might be considered as twice cursed; while it existed, it was solely responsible for the miseries and calamities of its subjects; and should a day of retribution come, and the tyranny be destroyed, it was equally to be charged with all the enormities which the folly or frenzy of those who overturned it should commit.
“. But the madness of the French people was not confined to their proceedings within their own country; we, and all the Powers of Europe, had to dread it. True; but was not this also to be accounted for? Wild and unsettled as their state of mind was, necessarily, upon the events which had thrown such power so suddenly into their hands, the surrounding States had goaded them into a still more savage state of madness, fury, and desperation. We had unsettled their reason, and then reviled their insanity; we drove them to the extremities that produced the evils we arraigned; we baited them like wild beasts, until at length we made them so.
The conspiracy of Pilnitz, and the brutal threats of the Royal abettors of that plot against the rights of nations and of men, had, in truth, to answer for all the additional misery, horrors, and iniquity, which had since disgraced and incensed humanity. Such has been your conduct towards France, that you
have created the passions which you persecute; you mark a nation to be cut off from the world; you covenant for their extermination; you swear to hunt them in their inmost recesses ; you load them with every species of execration, and you now come forth with whining declamations on the horror of their turning upon you with the fury which you inspired."
Having alluded to an assertion of Condorcet, quoted by Lord Mornington, that “ Revolutions are always the work of the minority," he adds livelily :
“ If this be true, it certainly is a most ominous thing for the enemies of Reform in England; for, if it holds true, of necessity, that the minority still prevails, in national contests, it must be a consequence that the smaller the minority the more certain must be the success. In what a dreadful situation then must the Noble Lord be and all the Alarmists !—for, never surely was a minority so small, so thin in number as the present. Conscious, however, that M. Condorcet was mistaken in our object, I am glad to find that we are terrible in proportion as we are few ; I rejoice that the liberality of secession which has thinned our ranks has only served to make us more formidable. The Alarmists will hear this with new apprehensions; they will no doubt return to us with a view to diminish our force, and encumber us with their alliance in order to reduce us to insignificance.”
We have here another instance, in addition to the many that have been given, of the beauties that sprung up under Sheridan's correcting hand. This last pointed sentence was originally thus : " And we shall swell our numbers in order to