« ПредишнаНапред »
come nearer in a balance of insignificance to the numerous host of the majority.”
It was at this time evident that the great Whig Seceders would soon yield to the invitations of Mr. Pitt and the vehement persuasions of Burke, and commit themselves still further with the Administration by accepting of office. Though the final arrangements to this effect were not completed till the summer, on account of the lingering reluctance of the Duke of Portland and Mr. Windham, Lord Loughborough and others of the former Opposition had already put on the official livery of the Minister. It is to be regretted that, in almost all cases of conversion to the side of power, the coincidence of some worldly advantage with the change should make it difficult to decide upon the sincerity or disinterestedness of the convert. That these Noble Whigs were sincere in their alarm there is no reason to doubt; but the lesson of loyalty they have transmitted would have been far more edifying, had the usual corollary of honours and emoluments not followed, and had they left at least one instance of political conversion on record, where the truth was its own sole reward, and the proselyte did not subside into the placeman. Mr. Sheridan was naturally indignant at these desertions, and his bitterness overflows in many passages of the speech before us. Lord Mornington having contrasted the privations and sacrifices demanded of the French by their Minister of Finance with those required of the English nation, he says, in answer ;
"The Noble Lord need not remind us, that there is no great danger of our Chancellor of the Exchequer making any such experiment. I can more easily fancy another sort of speech for our prudent Minister. I can more easily conceive him modestly comparing himself and his own measures with the character and conduct of his rival, and saying, -'Do I demand of you, wealthy citizens, to lend
your hoards to Government without interest? On the contrary, when I shall come to propose a loan, there is not a man of you to whom I shall not hold out at least a job in every part of the subscription, and an usurious profit upon every pound you devote to the necessities of your country. Do I demand of you, my fellow-placemen and brother-pensioners, that you should sacrifice any part of your stipends to the public exigency? On the contrary, am I not daily increasing your emoluments and your numbers in proportion as the country becomes unable to provide for you? Do I require of you, my latest and most zealous proselytes, of you who have come over to me for the special purpose of supporting the war - a war, on the success of which you solemnly prolest, that the salvation of Britain, and of civil society itself, depend—do I require of you, that you should make a temporary sacrifice, in the cause of human nature, of the greater part of your private incomes? No, gentlemen, I scorn to take advantage of the eagerness of your zeal; and to prove that I think the sincerity of your attachment to me needs no such test, I will make your interest co-operate with your principle : I will quarter many of you on the public supply, instead of calling on you to contribute to it; and, while their whole thoughts are absorbed in patriotic apprenhensions for their country, I will dexterously force upon others the favourite objects of the vanity or ambition of their lives."
66 Good God, Sir, that he should have thought it prudent to have forced this contrast upon our attention ; that he should triumphantly remind us of every thing that shame should have withheld, and caution would have buried in oblivion ! Will those who stood forth with a parade of disinterested patriotism, and vaunted of the sacrifices they had made, and the exposed situation they had chosen, in order the better to oppose the friends of Brissot in England—will they thank the Noble Lord for reminding us how soon these lofty professions dwindled into little jobbing pursuits for followers and dependants, as unfit to fill the offices procured for them, as the offices themselves were unfit to be created ?-Will the train of newly titled alarmists, of supernumerary negotiators, of pensioned paymasters, agents and commissaries, thank him for remarking to us how profitable their panic has been to themselves, and how expensive to their country? What a contrast, indeed, do we exhibit !- What! in such an hour as this, at a moment pregnant with the national fate, when pressing as the exigency may be, the hard task of squeezing the inoney from the pockets of an impoverished people, from the toil, the drudgery of the shivering poor, must make the most practised collector's heart ache while he tears it from them — can it be, that people of high rank, and professing high principles, that they or their families should seek to thrive on the spoils of misery, and fatten on the meals Wrested from industrious poverty ? Can it be, that this should be the case with the very
persons, who state the unprecedented peril of the country as the sole cause of their being found in the ministerial ranks? The Constitution is in danger, religion is in danger, the very existence of the nation itself is endangered; all personal and party considerations ought to vanish; the war must be supported by every possible exertion, and by every possible sacrifice; the people must not murmur at their burdens; it is for their salvation, their all is at stake. The time is come,
when all honest and disinterested men should rally round the Throne as round a standard; — for what? ye honest and disinterested men, to receive, for your own private emolument, a portion of those very taxes wrung from the people, on the pretence of saving them from the poverty and distress which you say
enemy would inflict, but which you take care no enemy shall be able to aggravate. Oh! shame! shame! is this a time for selfish intrigues, and the little dirty traffic for lucre and emolument ? Does it suit the honour of a gentleman to ask at such a moment? Does it become the honesty of a Minister to grant ? Is it intended to confirm the pernicious doctrine, so industriously propagated by many, that all public men are impostors, and that every politician has his price? Or even where there is no principle in the bosom, why does not prudence hint to the mercenary and the vain to abstain a while at least, and wait the fitting of the times ? Improvident impatience ! Nay, even from those who seem to have no direct object of office or profit, what is the language which their actions speak? The Throne is in danger!
support the Throne; but let us share the smiles of Royalty;'the order of Nobility is in danger !-'I will fight for Nobility,' says the Viscount, but my zeal would be
much greater if I were made an Earl.' • Rouse all the Marquis within me,' exclaims the Earl, and the
peerage never turned forth a more undaunted champion in its cause than I shall prove.' • Stain my green riband blue,' cries out the illustrious Knight, and the fountain of honour will have a fast and faithful servant.' What are the people to think of our sincerity ? - What credit are they to give to our professions?— Is this system to be persevered in ? Is there nothing that whispers to that Right Honourable Gentleman that the crisis is too big, that the times are too gigantic, to be ruled by the little hackneyed and every-day means of ordinary corruption ?"
The discussions, indeed, during the whole of this Session, were marked by a degree of
personal acrimony, which in the present more sensitive times would hardly be borne. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Sheridan came, most of all, into collision; and the retorts of the Minister not unfrequently proved with what weight the haughty sarcasms of Power may descend even upon the tempered buckler of Wit.
It was in this Session, and on the question of the Treaty with the King of Sardinia, that Mr. Canning made his first appearance, as an orator, in the House. He brought with him a fame, already full of promise, and has been one of the brightest ornaments of the senate and the country ever since. From the political faith in which he had been educated, under the very eyes of Mr. Sheridan, who had long been the friend of his