« AnteriorContinua »
reform of the poor's laws, so absurd, so indigested, and so impracticable, that it found not a single advocate, either in or out of the house ; and the sanguine expectations he had excited of a 'reform on this, as on other occasions of still higher moment, were most completely disappointed.' P. 238.
The disgrace brought on the bank of England naturally ercites the warmth of our historian; and the minister is said to have succeeded in converting it into a mere engine of government, in bringing an indelible disgrace on its reputation, and in making it entirely subservient to the advancement of his own ruinous, wicked, and frantic projects. But Mr. Pitt is not the only one who is thus chastised. The earl of Liverpool, late lord Hawkesbury, and still better known under the nanie of Charles Jenkinson,' is described as one who might almost be regarded as the evil genius of Britain personified; and the late king of Prussia is adorned with the epithet of that selfish, crafty, and unprincipled monarch.'
After the specimens we have given of the estimation in which the late premier is held by our writer, our readers will justly conclude that Mr. Fox is the object of his unbounded admiration. In such a situation of his mind, a principal actor in a third party could scarcely expect very favourable treatment; and Mr. Horne Tooke is, in consequence of his trial, thus introduced.
• After an interval of eleven days-no doubt days of chagrin and perplexity-on the part of the ministry, was brought to the bar of this high court of justice the celebrated John Horne Tooke, formerly and for many years a priest of the church of England—a man possessed of extraordinary intellectual talents, but of a peculiar kind, and blended with a considerable alloy of eccentricity. Of obscure and nameless origin, he suddenly appeared in the political world as an extravagant and erring spirit burst from its confine. He first distinguished himself as a violent partizan of Mr. Wilkes, at the time of the famous Middlesex contest - being then curate of Brentford, where the election was held. Such was the enthusiastic ardor of his patriotic zeal at this early period of his life, that, to preserve the liberties of his country inviolate, he publicly declared his readiness to dye his black coat red. He possessed no mean degree of learning and knowledge, and his powers of elocution and self-possession were very uncommon. His habitual influence over the wills and passions of those with whom he was connected indicated a mind of great energy: On some occasions he exhibited himself to the judicious part of the public as a sincere and enlightened champion of the liberties of the people, and on others as an artful and aspiring demagogue,
This singular man had the presumption, at the last general election, to offer himself as a candidate for the city of Westminster-pretending to be offended at the virtual compromise which had taken place between the court and country parties in the persons of lord Hood and Mr. Fox. On the eventual failure of his hopes (although he polled a very great number of votes) he presented a petition to the house of commons against the return, drawn in the most audacious terms of political invective and reproach, but containing also much indisputable and melancholy truth. * This petition, being referred, in the usual mode, to a committee, was declared frivolous and vexatious; but by a wise policy, too frequently and fatally departed from in matters of higher moment, no farther notice whatever was taken of it by the house."
p. 129. The historian is here singularly unfortunate in his attempc to delineate this very extraordinary character. To say, in England, that a man is of obscure and nameless origin, is a poor attempt to depreciate the merits of one who had received his education at Westminster and Eton, and had been distinguished for his abilities in the university of Cambridge; in which places he formed intimacies with persons of high rank and station, which were increased in the course of his travels over Europe. Where also is the presumption of this singular man in offering himself a candidate for Westminster, any more than in Tierney and Whitbread, men of equally 'obscure and nameless origin,' making similar offers at Southwark and Bedford ? The singular attempt was made by one who presented himself to the people -unassisted by'aristocratical influence, and without the all-powerful arms of wealth-he stood on real constitutional grounds, used none of the usual arts of elections, and obtained a considerable number of votes from the sense entertained of his abilities and integrity. In the progress of the work, however, our historian appeals for a sentiment to the authority of this singular rian. "The public (says a man of talents, who has been unjustly stigmatised as a favourer of violent reform -- Mr. Horne Tooke) ought never to receive a benefit at the expence of an individual.-But our writer requires, it seems, some particular marks by which his characters are to be distinguished. It is “the celebrated M. de Calonne,” because we presume he held a high office in France;--it is one D'Ivernois, created Sir Francis D'Ivernois, a dealer, wholesale and retail, in ridiculous paradoxes,' because the writer did not recollect that this one d'Ivernois had been distinguished in his own country. We do not hold the reveries of the knight in very high estimation ; yet if he should in his future annual volumes celebrate our author, as Belsham, a dealer in history, the retort would be justifiable ; for assuredly the name of D'Ivernois is not less known in this country, and through the whole of Europe, than that of our historian.
Our historian is not always sufficiently solicitous to give an accurate statement of facts. O'Coigley is said to have been capitally convicted, and immediately executed ;' whereas the execution did not for some time follow the convictionattempts being made in the interval to discover from him the extent of the conspiracy in which he had been engaged, Nos
thing beyond presumptions (it is added) appearing against his companions,-- Allen and Leary were, by the lenity of the English maxims of jurisprudence, set at liberty.' Now in what that lenity consisted we are at a loss to discover : Leary was declared by the jury not guilty; and it appeared, during the course of the trial, that he was merely a poor Irish boy, who followed his master in the capacity of groom. By the maxims of jurisprudence of the most barbarous country in Europe, such a servant would have been dismissed from the bar, and a contrary procedure would have been a disgrace to the country.--How far the historian is justified in pronouncing so positively on a circumstance which was disputed in the house of commons, it is not for us to determine.
• In the course of the preceding winter a treaty of marriage hal been negotiated between the prince of Wales and the princess Caroline, daughter to the duke of Bruns.vic. Early in the month of April the princess arrived in England, when the nuptials were celebrated witla extraordinary magnificence. It was, however, well understood that the prince acceded to this alliance with much reluctance-bis attachment to the accomplished Mrs. Fitzherbert, with whom the marriageceremony, though invalid by law, had undoubtedly passed, having suffered no diminution. He was induced to this fatal compliance by two considerations; first, the pressing instances of the king to dissolve his connexion with the lady who had so long been in possession no less of his esteem than his affection ; and, secondly, the promise positively made to him that immediate provision should be made for the discharge of his debts, now increased to a vast amount.' P. 172. Now, if we could suppose the marriage ceremony to have
as we know of no act by which it has been invalidated, the two parties must be evidently still under that bond.—In the case of another prince of the blood royal, united; avowedly, by the marriage-bond, to the daughter of a peer, an inquiry took place in Doctor's Commons, and the marriage was set aside; and consequently the issue by that marriage may be debarred from the privileges which they would otherwise have enjoyed in this country: but, as the marriage contract had the nction of the laws of another country, it is justly doubted whether the decision of our Commons can affect the rights of the royal issue of this marriage, which they may inherit from their father, independently of the laws of this island. On this account, our historian should have been extremely careful in his assertion respecting the supposed marriage of the prince of Wales; for if that also had taken place out of this island, chculties might arise in the succession to the electorate, and other territories appending to the Brunswic family, and not to the crown of Great
We will now give our readers a specimen of an attempt at
fine writing, which was excited by a reflexion on the eloquence of Mr. Pitt.
• Great as the influence of the crown may be supposed in the house of commons, it is impossible to attribute the vast majorities of the present minister, particularly since the commencement of the war with France, to the operation of that influence merely. Eloquence, that fatal talent when misapplied, will of itself produce mighty effects : and it must be remarked, that the eloquence of Mr. Pitt has ever been exerted in unison with the rooted prejudices of the house and of the nation, and in no one instance has it ever been employed to counteract a popular error. Hatred to France is a political chord, which vibrates to every touch ; and when that master-passion is, by the force of imagination, connected with a reverence to religion, respect to morals, to social order, to regular government, and, in a word, to all the ties which unite the different classes of men in the bonds of civilization and humanity, it must require comparatively small skill to guide and direct the effects of it. The generous solicitude which transiently showed itself for the success of the French nation, in their efforts to establish a free constitution, was suddenly and 'totally absorbed in the horror excited by their subsequent enormities, without sufficiently considering the provocations which gave rise to them, or, what was of still greater moment, that a whole nation ought not to be execrated for the offences of comparatively a few individuals. What are usually styled the crimes of France are, in deed and in truth, for the most part, only her misfortunes and calamities; and they are no doubt as much the subject of abhorrence and detestation with the great mass of the people in that country as in this. Is it possible to prefer anarchy to tranquillity, oppression to protection, or malevolence to benignity? So long as the passions of that high-spirited nation are infiamed and exasperated by opposition, so long will they be more or less chargeable with excesses moral and political---so long will they remain strangers to the countless and invaluable blessings of liberty : for genuine liberty can in no clime, age, or country, ever be separated from the control of law,-liberty itself being the law of reason, of justice, and of humanity. And, “Oh Law!" understood in this its best and highest sense, to use the sublime language of a justly-admired writer, “no less can be said than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world; all things in heaven and earth do her homage,--the very least as feeling her care, the greatest as not exempted from her power. Both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all, with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.” P. 155.
The apostrophe to Law is a sublime but very trite quotation. and uncle Toby affords, in another place, a concluding sentiment to a paragraph. On the prayer, at the end of the viceroy's speech to the first and last parliament in Corsica, it is observed that the petition was lost in empty air long before it reached the pen of the recording angel.' We have less reason to regret the event, as the crown of Corsica is afterwards styled that most egregious and ridiculous bauble.'
If, however, the writer sometimes suffer himself to be carried away by a little conceit, he rises occasionally with great dignity. The dissolution of the national convention of France gave him an opportunity of showing considerable powers, though the judgement passed upon its actions cannot be expected, in the present state of public opinion, to meet with general approbation.
• This assembly terminated its sittings very nobly; for the last decrees which it passed were for the abolition of the punishment of death at the return of peace, and for granting a general amnesty, though limited perhaps by too many exceptions: and on the 27th of October (1795), the day appointed by law, the president declared that “the national convention was dissolved.” Such was the extraordinary merits of an assembly, whose merits and demerits, whose glorious acts, and whose criminal excesses, will long be the theme of history. With a daring hand she signed the death-warrant of the successor of a hundred kings, and broke the sceptre which the superstition of fourteen centuries had consecrated. Standing greatly alone against a confederacy of crowned despots, she brought her armed myriads into the field, and compelled her enemies to flee with shame and confusion from the land which they had in their vain and foolish imaginations already conquered, and of which they were eager to divide the spoils. But the magnanimity of this assembly was sullied by licentiousness and contaminated by cruelty: their actions will excite the admiration of every age; and a distant posterity will perhaps pardon, while it deplores, their frailties and their faults.'
P. 215. We were pleased to see that a singular occurrence was not omitted in this history, which relieves the mind overwhelmed with descriptions of battles, treasons, carnage, and desolation. A government that would not, when it had opportunity, extend its territory, is a rare phænomenon; and the little republic of San Marino delivered an answer worthy of a Fabricius.
• In the progress of his march, general Buonaparte, finding himself
near the celebrated mountain which comprises the whole territory of the ancient republic of St. Marino, was seised with the noble enthusiasm of displaying in the most flattering and conspicuous manner the respect which was due to this genuine remnant of the sons of freedom. The ambassador Monge, deputed by the French general, told the chiefs of this obscure but happy community, that he came in the name of the French people to assure the ancient republic of St. Marino of their inviolable friendship. He entered into a concise history of the principal events of the revolution, and signified the glorious success with which their efforts had been crowned. After complimenting them for the asylum afforded to liberty within their walls, during the centuries when it seemed banished the rest of Europe, the ambassador intimated, that if it was the wish of the government of St. Marino to enlarge the limits of their territory, the French republic would gladly embrace the occasion to give them the