Графични страници
PDF файл

as the light of the sun does upon the eye, even when not directed towards it.

I would not have the young Orator, however, underrate too mueh the intellect or capacity of his audience, and thence deem it necessary to enter into tiresome details and frivolous illustrations. He is allowed to be more diffuse in an assembly of the people than in either house of parliament, or in courts of law ; but his copiousness must not proceed to redundancy, and he must not forget in the ardor of amplification that too much is more offensive than too little. I am not now speaking of those noisy and conceited babblers, who seem to mistake loquaciousness for eloquence, and to consider volubility of tongue and intrepidity of face as the only requisite in a public speaker-I am for restraining the luxuriance even of real genius, and for subjecting the vehemence of passion itself to the controul of reason. The popular speaker will sometimes spread out his matter, but always in order to exhibit a more distinct and more comprehensive view of the subject, or to present an important truth in a variety of the most striking lights. He will never stoop to a vulgar strain; but he knows that the true sublime is perfectly compatible with simplicity. His ideas and sentiments seem to arise out of each other, and to follow in so clear and natural an order, as very much contributes to increase the strength as well as lustre of the whole ; and all his words, though uttered with the greatest fluency, shew his happy choice and masterly command of the plainest, yet strongest expressions in the language.

General Elections are the grand scenes for the display and exertion of popular oratory; and it would be easy to fill many volumes with a collection of speeches delivered on such occasions. But very few of them can be selected as models of eloquence, as they commonly breathe too much of the spirit of rivalship, jealousy, animosity, and

party. The following are among the least exceptionable on this account.




IN 1774.


At the dissolution of parliament on the last day of September 1774, Mr. Burke, who had hitherto represented Wendover, went down to Malton, one of the Yorkshire boroughs under the influence of the Marquis of RockINGHAM, at whose desire he was chosen without hesitation. But, in the mean time, a very respectable party of dissenters, merchants, and freemen of Bristol, who highly appoved of his late exertions in favor both of civil and religious liberty, put him in nomination for their city; and some of them set off express for London, and thence for Malton to request his concurrence. They arrived at the latter place just after his election ; but their offer was so flattering, that, with the consent of his new constituents, he immediately repaired to Bristol. Three candidates had already started, Lord CLARE, one of the late representatives, who declined on the second of the poll ; Mr. BRICKDALE, his lordship's colleague, but neither quite so unpopular, nor so obnoxious ; and Mr. Cruger, an American merchant, who from interest and principle was averse to any rupture between the colonies and the mother-country. Mr. Burke appeared on the hustings at the Guildhall, Bristol, in the afternoon of the sixth day's poll (October 13] and thus addressed the Electors,

[ocr errors]


I am come hither, to solicit in person that favor, which my

friends have hitherto endeavoured to procure for me, by the most obliging, and to me the most honorable exertions.

“ I have so high an opinion of the great trust which you have to confer on this occasion, and, by long experience, so just a diffidence in my abilities to fill it in a manner adequate even to my own ideas, that I should never have ventured of myself to intrude into that awful situation. But since I am called upon by the desire of several respectable fellow-subjects, as I have done at other times, I give up my fears to their wishes. Whatever my other deficiencies may be, I do not know what it is to be wanting to

my friends.

“ I am not fond of attempting to raise public expectations by great promises. At this time, there is muchcause to consider, and very little to presume.

little to presume. We seem to be approaching to a great crisis in our affairs, which calls for the whole wisdom of the wisest among us, without being able to assure ourselves, that any wisdom can preserve us from many and great inconveniencies. You know I speak of our unhappy contest with America. I confess, it is a matter on which I look down as from a precipice. It is difficult in itself, and it is rendered more intricate by a great variety of plans of conduct. I do not mean to enter into them. I will not suspect a want of good intention in framing them. But however pure the intentions of their authors may have been, we all know that the event has been unfortunate. The means of recovering our affairs are not obvious. So many great questions of commerce, of finance, of constitution, and of policy, are involved in this American deliberation, that I dare engage for nothing, but that I shall give it, without any predilection to former opinions, or any sinister bias whatsoever, the most honest and impartial consideration

of which I am capable. The public has a full right to it; and this great city, a main pillar in the commercial interest of Great Britain, must totter on its base by the slightest mistake with regard to our American measures.

“ Thus much, however, I think not amiss to lay before you; That I am not, I hope, apt to take up or lay down my opinions lightly. I have held, and ever shall maintain to the best of my power, unimpaired and undiminished the just, wise, and necessary constitutional superiority of Great Britain. This is necessary for America, as well as for us. I never mean to depart from it. Whatever may be lost by it, I avow it. The forfeiture even of your fa- ! vor, if by such a declaration I could forfeit it, though the first object of my ambition, never will make me disguise my sentiments on this subject.

“ But, I have ever had a clear opinion, and have ever held a constant corresponding conduct, that this superiority is consistent with all the liberties a sober and spirited American ought to desire. I never mean to put any colonist, or any human creature in a situation, not becoming a free-man. To reconcile British superiority with

I American liberty, shall be my great object, as far as my little faculties extend. I am far from thinking that both. even yet, may not be preserved.

“ When I first devoted myself to the public service, I considered how I should render myself fit for it ; and this I did by endeavouring to discover what it was that gave this i country the rank it holds in the world. I found that our prosperity and dignity arose principally, if not solely, from two sources, our constitution and commerce. Both these I have spared no study to understand, and no endeavour to support.

“ The distinguishing part of our constitution is its liberty. To preserve that liberty inviolate seems the particular duty and proper trust of a member of the House of Commons. But the liberty, the only liberty I mean, is a



liberty connected with order ; that not only exists with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them. It inheres in good and steady government, as in its substance and vital principle.

“ The other source of our power is commerce, of which you are so large a part, and which cannot exist, no more than your liberty, without a connection with many virtues. It has ever been a very particular and a very favorite object of my study, in its principles, and in its details. I think many here are acquainted with the truth of what I say. This I know, that I have ever had my house open, and my poor services ready, for traders and manufacturers of every denomination. My favorite ambition is to have those services acknowledged. I now appear before you to make trial, whether my earnest endeavours have been so wholly oppressed by the weakness of my abilities, as to be rendered insignificant in the eyes of a great trading city; or whether you chuse to give a weight to humble abilities, for the sake of the honest exertions with which they are accompanied. This is my trial to-day. My industry is not on trial. Of my industry I am sure, as far as my constitution of mind and body admitted.

" When I was invited by many respectable merchants, freeholders, and freemen of this city, to offer them my services, I had just received the honor of an election at another place, at a very great distance from this. I immediately opened the matter to those of my worthy consti-, tuents who were with me; and they unanimously advised me not to decline it. They told me that they had elected me with a view to the public service; and, as great questions relative to our commerce and colonies were imminent, that in such matters I might derive authority and support from the representation of this great commercial city: they desired me therefore to set off without delay, very well persuaded that I never could forget my obliga

« ПредишнаНапред »