Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

exertion of skill, and new directions to labor and ingenious industry, than you agitate your question of reform to set men mad upon theories of government, instead of supporting it by the peaceable enjoyment of its practical blessings, checking the rising prosperity of peace, and plunging us back into all the dangers and difficulties from which we had almost miraculously emerged. In this way the friends of reform would again be clamored down, and stigmatized with new topics of reproach, enforced by all the new corruptions which peace would furnish, and in which the seeds of other wars would be again certainly deposited and ripened. Depend upon it the enemies of reform are unalterable enemies to it upon principle, and will find no time seasonable for its adoption. That which men are determined to oppose, from a corrupt interest in abuse, they will equally oppose at all times and upon all occasions, though dissimilar times and occasions, as they happen accidentally to shift, will be alternately made use of as pretences.

“ But it is farther said, in objection to the times, that there is at this moment a dangerous disaffection prevalent in the minds of men to the government of this country, and that pestilent and destructive theories have poisoned public opinion against all monarchical constitutions. There may, Sir, be many persons disaffected to government." [Hear! Hear! from the opposite side.] “ I put the case which the gentlemen on the other side are so loud to give assent to; and, though the existence of disaffection may be true concerning all government in all times, yet I deny it to be true in the degree which has in this house been so repeatedly asserted. But admitting, for the sake of argument, that the imputation of wide-spread disaffection is just, how is the evil to be remedied? If despair of obtaining any moderate reform has driven any considerable numbers to republicanism, to whom is the fault to be imputed? Will any man deny, that the foundation of this spirit, whatever may be its extent, was laid in the declarations of the right honorable gentleman himself, who affirmed that it was impossible an upright or useful administration could exist whilst the house was constituted as it is, and who has unanswerably illustrated the truth of his position by the evidence of his own ? Did the right honorable gentleman imagine, that he could prescribe bounds beyond which this spirit should not pass ? Did he imagine that he could plant the root, and prevent the shoots from springing up? Does the right honorable gentleman think, that he can extinguish in the minds of the people that distrust of the present system of government which he himself has taught them to entertain? Or does he think by coercion to make them tamely submit to those abuses which he himself was the foremost to expose ? Does he think to guard the constitution from violence by persecuting those who would peaceably reform it? Does he think to silence the voice of complaint by a sullen refusal to remedy the grievance? This road may be pursued for a season, BUT THE END THEREOF IS DEATH. Instead of inflaming by persecution, let me advise you to conciliate by seasonable concession. The system of terror can nei- . ther remove nor silence a deep-rooted and well-founded discontent. Let me remind you of the opinion of Mr. BURKE upon this subject. Much as I now differ from that great man, much as I lament that he has mis-employed his extraordinary talents to render prevalent those errors which have entailed such frightful consequences, it is impossible not to admire that profound wisdom which formerly distinguished his efforts in the cause of humanity and justice. In the fatal contest with America, he most luminously marked out the great duties and interests of governments in moments of emergency, and has shewn them to be inseparable. “ If there be one criterion,' said Mr. Burke, which more than all the rest distinguished a wise and prudent government from an administration

weak and improvident, it is this: well to know when and in what manner to yield what it is impossible to keep. Early reformations are amicable compromises with a friend in power-Late reformations are terms imposed upon a conquered enemy. Early reformations are made in cool blood-Late reformations are made in a state of inflammation. In such a state, the people see in government nothing respectable. They will look at the grievance, and they will look at nothing else. Like a furious populace provoked by the abuses of a house of ill fame, they no longer think of regulation--they go to work the shortest way they abate the nuisance--they pull down the house.'-This is a sort of epitome of universal history; above all, of the history of the times we live in. From the proud rejection of these maxims of policy and prudence, the governments of Europe are one after another tumbling into ruin by sudden violence instead of being insensibly altered by peaceable reformation. To this cause the original independence of America is to be ascribed. In the beginning she sought only the reasonable privileges of a dependent community. It was the refusal that gave birth to her independence. We refused to look at her grievances whilst they were curable. The same procrastinating spirit prevailed at that period which prevails now, and the same delusion as to the effects of terror and coercion. Lord Chatham's warning voice was rejected. Give satisfaction to America,' said that great statesman-Conciliate her affection-Do it to night. Do it before you sleep.' But we slept, and did it not; and America was separated from us for ever.

" Ireland in the same manner obtained a sudden and unsought for independence, and has been brought to her present state of alarming hostility to this country. We refused to see what stared us in the face in characters reddening into blood; but the light broke in upon us at last, not through well constructed windows; but through the yawning chasms of our ruin. We were taught wisdom through humiliation.'-I am afraid we have much more to learn in that useful but melancholy school. The identical system by which America was lost to Great Britain, ministers are now acting over again with regard to Ireland at this moment. They refuse to redress her grievances: they refuse to listen to her complaints: what America was, Ireland, perhaps even England itself, will shortly be, if you obstinately refuse to adopt that system of conciliation which alone can bring back affection and obedience to any government that has lost it.

“ I can have no interest, Sir, in painting my country in such dismal colors,I can have no desire to see the land I live in, and in which I inherit so many comforts and advantages, involved in confusion and blood. My only wish is to see a happy, powerful, disinterested union, which may save from destruction the constitution of our fathers. But whatever is to be done, must be done quickly. When you are the voluntary givers, you can command the limits of what you give, and fix the qualifications of the gitt. But if discontent arises, and what is now petitioned for is brought forward as an imperious demand, you are disrobed of all choice and deliberation. Think of this awful conjuncture, whilst thinking is of any use. For my own part, I solemnly declare that I think there is no alternative between an immediate reform by which the nation may be made happy, and a revolution by which it will be involved in blood and ruin. I may be told, that bad men may avail themselves of a moderate reform to compass the utter overthrow of the constitution. But if there really be those whom no concession can satisfy, yet by the very attempt you will add to the number of those who will feel rew attachment to the constitution, and new ardor in its defence. You will separate those who are sincerely attached to the genuine principles of the constitution, from those who may secretly wish to destroy it.

This fatal sys

You will unmask those whose views go beyond reform: you will deprive them of that pretence which gives effect to their animosity; and you will furnish the government with new strength to resist their machinations. Let ministers instantly forego that fatal system of coercion which forced America from her connexion into the arms of France, and which is, at this very moment, driving Ireland to seek the same protection. Let them relinquish the insane attempt to retain the affection of that country by the point of the bayonet, which is hourly tearing out of the hearts of Irishmen those feelings of kindness and love for England, upon which the permanence of the union between the two countries can alone be looked to. tem of coercion and terror, which ministers seem resolved to persevere in, has made half Europe submit to the arms of France, and has given the air of romance or rather of enchantment to the careir of her conquests. Now in Holland- -now on the Rhine-almost at the same moment overturning the states of Italy, and overawing the empire at the gates of Vienna. Without meaning to under-rate the unexampled energies of a mighty nation repelling the atrocious combinations of despotism against her liberties, I may assert safely, that she principally owed her triumphs to the very abuses which provoked the strife. The nations with which she contended had no privileges to fight for, nor any governments worth preserying; they felt therefore no interest in their preservation. Whilst the powers of such governments remained, their subjects were drawn up in arms, and appeared to be armies; but when invasion had silenced the power which oppressed them, they became in a moment the subjects and the soldiers of their invaders. Take warning from so many examples--the principles of revolution are eternal and universal.

“ Let me conclude with repeating again, that the condition of this country renders a reform 01st critically

[blocks in formation]
« ПредишнаНапред »