« ПредишнаНапред »
to respect the servants of his choice. Furthermore, we venture to declare, that unless in verity and good conscience we believe them to be wholly incapable, it is but reasonable to give them credit for seeing somewhat further than others into the conse quences of measures, which may often rest upon facts, the knowledge of which is confined to themselves. This is very distant from a blind devotion to government, which if disinterested, is imbecility, and if selfish, belongs to what is most abject in the constitution of our minds. But the hypocritical abuse of the language of patriotism to the purposes of a party out of power, and therefore in opposition to government, has always appeared to us to be one of the most mortifying proofs of the littleness of ambition. All the selfish arts which are practised in the pursuit of greatness are of the same wretched description; and one of the lowest and vilest of these is the cajolement of the populace, by perfidious misrepresentations of the measures of the government, by advantages taken of the jealousy of rulers so natural to the governed, by inflaming discontent, and fosteriny delusion. But the climax of dishonour is only then accomplished, when Britons, in the progress of their party zeal, become capable, not only of viewing, with vindictive complacency, the calamities of their country, as the steps to their own preferment, but of endeavouring to wound their political adversaries through the very sides of the commonwealth.
That party principle, if principle it can be called, has been strong enough to carry men to this unenviable state of feeling, we must have been very idle or stupid observers not to have been long ayo convinced. We have, indeed, long ago been convinced that the following bad consequences result from the prevalence of party principle. First, that it instructs those who execute the business of government, not to rely upon the goodness of their measures. But on something they must rely, or the councils of the country must be in perpetual oscillation. They must, therefore, rely on some attractions to their cause beyond the mere intrinsic recommendations of virtue and ability. Thus, indiscriminate opposition is the best apology for the corruptions of power. : 2dly. That it instructs all that are within its influence, in the practice of tampering with great and noble sentiments, until they forget, at length, their real import and value; and the dignity of virtue is debased by the abuse of its authority.
3dly. That it instructs the people to distrust, if not despise, political men, whether in or out of place; and by degrees to look to their own understandings for expounding their rights, and, perhaps, to their physical strength for asserting them. And, indeed, to what other conclusion are they likely to come, when they see that the opposition to measures has no reference to the interest of the nation; but that they are approved or condemned by the same men, as they happen to fill the benches of power, or scold in the ranks of opposition.
But beyond these mischiefs, arising from the prevalence of party spirit, a small part only of which we have affected to enumerate, there are moral evils produced by it which circulate their influence through all the classes of society. There is among the members of a party such a spirit of favouritism towards each other; each has so strong a motive to uphold the character of the rest of the body, and to defame the individuals in the opposite interest, that between a spurious benevolence, and an unjust hostility, the actions of men receive names and constructions which confound the distinctions of virtue and vice. A leader or active supporter of a party may be grossly immoral, with little loss of character among his political associates, while the virtues of a political opponent, if their existence cannot be denied, are assumed as the test of hypocrisy, and are thus converted into crime; but where facts are too stubborn and notorious to be distorted or misrepresented, at last comes the grand reserve and final shift of profligacy--the distinction between private and public character.
We will close these general observations upon party with declaring ourselves to think, that a member of the legislature is as much bound in conscience to deliver a sincere and impartial sentiment, on every question coming under the consideration of parliament, as a judge is bound to decide impartially in the administration of distributive justice; and that the people have a right to a full and fair exercise of the talents of those, who compose the great deliberative assemblies of the nation.
We have delivered our sentiments thus generally on the state and character of party politics, of which we cannot but entertain a very low opinion; that we might, as far as possible, repel from ourselves the degrading suspicion of our being in any other interest than the broad interest of the nation; and we think that this opportunity has fairly been afforded us by the present subject of our consideration. We will now enter upon the scene opened by the book before us.
Mr. Rose, at the same time that he gives Mr. Fox credit for perfect rectitude and impartiality of intention in the execution of his historical work, declares himself to suspect his statements and reflections to have been rendered chargeable with incorrect. ness, by the influence of a strong political bias; “ which political bias every thing in his situation and habits tended to increase and confirm." Mr. Rose tells us, in his introduction to his observations, that the particular interest which he felt in the story and character of Sir Patrick Hume, whom he considers as having been unfairly dealt with by Mr. Fox, led him first to examine Mr. Fox's narrative, the authorities by which it was supported, and the reflections with which he accompanied it; on the attentive perusal of which he perceived, or thought he perceived, an uniform leading cause of partiality, both in the narrative and in the reflections. A certain political bias seemed to him to pervade the whole; a bias so strong and so marked, that it might seem, says Mr. Rose, to be doubtful, whether the history was not written rather to support the system, than the system adopted from the consideration of the history; and these general observations he endeavours to support by a variety of particular instances from the work of Mr. Fox.
Mr. Serjeant Heywood entertains an opinion on the general point, diametrically opposite to that of Mr. Rose. He considers his friend Mr. Fox as raised, by the dignity and equity of his principles, far above the influence of party prejudices; and as sustaining the duty and fidelity of an historian, without the smallest taint of party principles. This is only the opinion of the learned serjeant, and from this opinion we shall venture, with great respect, a little to differ; but we have no hesitation in admitting the success with which he has answered Mr. Rose on all the specific points of controversy, and the great ability, fair ness, and industry, which have been displayed by him in that investigation. As we still think that Mr. Fox was, to a certain degree, influenced by the associations and habits of his political life, in the colouring of his narrative, (though we are far from imputing to him any deliberate intention of misleading, and as little doubt his respect for historical truth as the serjeant himself), we think it proper first to explain ourselves a little on this point; and then endeavour to do the serjeant justice as to those particular passages of Mr. Fox's work, which he has so ably vindicated from the censures thrown upon them.
No man will deny, whatever may have been his friendship for Mr. Fox, that that distinguished person drew his earliest breath in the atmosphere of party; and we presume it will be as little denied, that the greatest part of his political life was passed in opposition to government, and in a systematic endeavour to bring the administration of affairs under the guidance of a body of men, united with him as their leader, and bearing his very name as the badge of their political incorporation. We shall not enter into any descriptive character of the uncommon powers of his mind; they have been enlarged upon to satiety; and we
should, perhaps, be deemed very fastidious, if not unfeeling, were we to express, in adequate terms, the sickening effect produced on our minds by the piles of laboured eulogy which have been amassed on this subject, in which there is little else but fulsome common-place and affected hyperboles. We shall only with hearty sorrow lament that an intellect, dipped in the colours of heaven, should so soon have put on the uniform of a party; and, though coupled with dispositions of the heart, framed for the widest circle of beneficial action, should have been doomed, by a perverse arrangement, to consume its strength in fighting the battles of unsuccessful ambition.
The social attractions of Mr. Fox's character, his taste for pleasure and thirst of popularity, his high birth and affability of disposition, all waited upon his ambition, and propitiated his passage to distinction, which way soever he shaped the course of his politics. Nursed in the lap of ministerial favour, and after six years adherence to ministers, retreating into the arms of an opposition, composed of persons of sound but sanguine sentiments, and who, though not unsatisfied with themselves, were compelled to acknowledge the ascendancy of his genius, from the child he became the champion of party, and in a manner pledged to a perpetuity of opposition, by the popularity which hung upon it, and by which it was his delight to be distinguished. We are no friends to the measures which were the objects of Mr. Fox's attacks, from the year 1774 (which was the period of the commencement of his opposition to ministers), to the resignation of Lord North ; but we consider him from that moment a most decided party man, or rather party leader, with the prejudiced zeal, though not with the narrow spirit which usually belongs to that character. Let us not be misunderstood: we are not backward to admit the great qualities of Mr. Fox. To do justice to some of them, is beyond our power. His speeches in parliament have deservedly been compared to the greatest efforts of Athenian or Roman eloquence. The language must be carried to the same excellence in which it has been there displayed, to do justice to their beauty and sublimity, their pregnant simplicity, their energetic purity, their masculine density, and their unaffected vehemence.
From the many excellent qualities of his heart, as we take them from the uniform testimony of all who mixed with him in his ordinary hours, we cannot withhold the tribute of our admiration. Though we never respected his sentiments on the French revolution, and should certainly not select them as evidence of the gentleness of his disposition (for against cruelty and barbarity tenderness is fierce, and ferocity is forbearing); yet, who can contemplate his self-government and forgiving geç nerosity, when the debate on that subject dissolved his political and private friendship with Mr. Burke, without cherishing a fond esteem for this part of his character.
That with all these amiable qualities and extraordinary endowments, his conduct was blameable in many points, both moral and political, cannot be denied, unless by the blindness of friendship, and the extravagance of party-idolatry. He was, doubtless, a great man; and his conduct, as well as his opinions, in all respects and on all subjects, had great influence on the conduct and opinions of his countrymen. The merits of such a person, therefore, are amenable to the justice of history and the sentence of posterity: we have all of us a deep interest in the due appreciation of a character like that of Mr. Fox: it is the property of history and his country. Party biography is not the proper vehicle for carrying it down to succeeding generations. It has been said of him by his friends, that his vices were all of a description to be capable of existing together with the greatest virtues. We do not set up for the censors of the age, nor have we any pleasure in contemplating, much less in exaggerating, the infirmities of the great; but we regard it as a fond and foolish practice, to soften a man's vices out of compliment to his virtues; still worse to represent his virtues as allied to his vices, as investing them with an immunity from censure, or as altering, in any degree, their true character and essential nature. Instead of qualifying, they really aggravate, the evils which belong to them, by shading their turpitude and extending their influence; and when we say this, nothing but stupidity can mistake our meaning; or suppose us to deny that, in the general appreciation of character, the virtues of a man are to be weighed against his vices. But let it be recollected, that to be fairly weighed against his vices, they must both be distinctly
seen and acknowledged with an eye divested of the films of prejudice; they must be laid in the scales as they subsist in truth and in fact, not as they are found in the flimsy sketches of ephemeral eulogy.
The felicity of Mr. Fox's temper was a boon of nature; and as such, can never be ranked, by his country, in equal estimation with those forbearing and controlling virtues, which raise the mind of the patriot above the pitch of ordinary humanity. Great things are done by the gratuitous endowments of nature; but his is the noble and beneficent course, whose conduct, as a statesman, exhibits a pattern of feelings corrected by thought and principle, whose love of his country is a love of its mind and character, no less than of its