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84. AGAINST POLITICAL JOBBING, 1794.-R. B. Sheridan.
Is this a time for selfish intrigues, and the little dirty traffic for ucre and emolument? Does it suit the honor of a gentleman to ask at such a moment? Does it become the honesty of a minister to grant? 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 money 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? O, shame! shame! Is it intended to confirm the pernicious doctrine so industriously propagated, 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! we will 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 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 ribbon blue," cries out the illustrious Knight, "and the fountain of honor 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 honorable 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? Or, are we to believe that he has within himself a conscious feeling that disqualifies him from rebuking the ill-timed selfishness of his new allies? Let him take care that the corruptions of the Government shall not have lost it the public heart; that the example of selfishness in the few has not extinguished public spirit in the many!
85. POPULAR AND KINGLY EXAMPLES, 1795. - R. B. Sheridan.
We are told to look to the example of France. From the excesses of the French People in the French Revolution, we are warned against giving too much liberty to our own. It is re choed from every quarter, and by every description of persons in office, from the Prime Minister to the exciseman, "Look to the example of France!" The implication is a libel upon the character of Great Britain. I will not admit the inference or the argument, that, because a People,
bred under a proud, insolent and grinding despotism,-maddened by the recollection of former injuries, and made savage by the observation of former cruelties, - -a People in whose minds no sincere respect for property or law ever could have existed, because property had never been secured to them, and law had never protected them, that the actions of such a People, at any time, much less in the hour of frenzy and fury, should furnish an inference or ground on which to estimate the temper, character or feelings, of the People of Great Britain.
What answer would gentlemen give, if a person, affectedly or sincerely anxious for the preservation of British liberty, were to say: Britons, abridge the power of your Monarch; restrain the exercise of his just prerogative; withhold all power and resources from his government, or even send him to his Electorate, from whence your voice exalted him ;- for, mark what has been doing on the Continent! Look to the example of Kings! Kings, believe me, are the same in nature and temper everywhere. Trust yours no longer; see how that shameless and perfidious despot of Prussia, that trickster and tyrant, has violated every principle of truth, honor and humanity, in his murderous though impotent attempt at plunder and robbery in Poland! He who had encouraged and even guaranteed to them their Constitution,- see him, with a scandalous profanation of the resources which he had wrung by fraud from the credulity of Great Britain, trampling on the independence he was pledged to maintain, and seizing for himself the countries he had sworn to protect! Mark the still more sanguinary efforts of the despot of Russia, faithless not to us only, and the cause of Europe, as it is called, but craftily outwitting her perjured coadjutor, profiting by his disgrace, and grasping to herself the victim which had been destined to glut their joint rapacity. See her thanking her favorite General, Suwarrow, and, still more impious, thanking Heaven for the opportunity; thanking him for the most iniquitous act of cruelty the bloody page of history records, the murderous scene at Praga, where, not in the heat and fury of action, not in the first impatience of revenge, but after a cold, deliberate pause of ten hours, with temperate barbarity, he ordered a considerate, methodical massacre of ten thousand men, women and children! These are the actions of monarchs! Look to the example of Kings!"
86. NECESSITY OF REFORM IN PARLIAMENT. - Lord Grey. Born, 1764; died, 1845
I AM aware of the difficulties I have to encounter in bringing forward this business; I am aware how ungracious it would be for this House to show that they are not the real representatives of the People; I am aware that the question has been formerly agitated, on different occasions, by great and able characters, who have deserted the cause from despair of success; and I am aware that I must necessarily g into what may perhaps be supposed trite and worn-out arguments. come forward on the present occasion, actuated solely by a sense of duty, to make a serious and important motion, which, I am ready fairly
to admit, involves no less a consideration than a fundamental change in the Government. At the Revolution, the necessity of short Parliaments was asserted; and every departure from these principles is, in some shape, a departure from the spirit and practice of the Constitution; yet, when they are compared with the present state of the representation, how does the matter stand? Are the elections free? or are Parliaments free? Has not the patronage of peers increased? Is not the patronage of India now vested in the Crown? Are all these innovations to be made in order to increase the influence of the Executive power, and is nothing to be done in favor of the popular part of the Constitution, to act as a counterpoise?
It may be said that the House of Commons are really a just repre sentation of the People, because, on great emergencies, they never fail to speak the sense of the People, as was the case in the American war, and in the Russian armament; but, had the House of Commons had a real representation of the People, they would have interfered sooner on these occasions, without the necessity of being called upon to do so. I fear much that this House is not a real representation of the People, and that it is too much influenced by passion, prejudice or interest. This may, for a time, give to the Executive Government apparent strength; but no Government can be either lasting or free which is not founded on virtue, and on that independence of mind and conduct among the People which creates energy, and leads to everything that is noble and generous, or that can conduce to the strength and safety of a State.
Men who their duties know,
But know their rights, and, knowing, dare maintain." *
87. THE CONSERVATIVE INNOVATOR, 1829.-Wm. Huskisson. Born, 1770 ; dred, 1830.
I HAVE been charged with being the author in some instances, and the promoter in others, of innovations of a rash and dangerous nature. I deny the charge. I dare the authors of it to the proof. Gentlemen, when they talk of innovation, ought to remember, with Lord Bacon, that "Time has been and is the great Innovator." Upon that Innovator I have felt it my duty cautiously to wait, at a becoming distance and with proper circumspection; but not arrogantly and presumptuously to go before him, and endeavor to outstrip his course.
By Sir Wm. Jones. Born, 1746; died, 1794.
Time has raised these great interests, and it is the business of a statesman to move onwards with the new combinations which have grown around him. This, Sir, is the principle by which my feelings have been constantly regulated, during a long public life; and by which I shall continue to be governed, so long as I take any part in the public affairs of this country. It is well said, by the most poetical genius, perhaps, of our own times,
"A thousand years scarce serve to form a State, —
This is the feeling which has regulated, which will continue to reg ulate, my conduct. I am no advocate for changes upon mere abstract theory. I know not, indeed, which is the greater folly, that of resist ing all improvement, because improvement implies innovation, or that of referring everything to first principles, and to abstract doctrines. The business of the practical man is, to make himself acquainted with facts; to watch events; to understand the actual situation of affairs, and the course of time and circumstances, as bearing upon the present state of his own country and the world. These are the grounds by a reference to which his reason and judgment must be formed; according to which, without losing sight of first principles, he must know how to apply them, and to temper their inflexibility. This is the task of practical legislation.
SATIRE ON THE PENSION SYSTEM, 1786.- Curran.
John Philpot Curran was born in Newcastle, Ireland, July 24th, 1750. His Senatorial career was confined to the Irish Parliament, and was entirely eclipsed by his reputation at the bar. "There never lived a greater advocate," says Charles Phillips; "certainly never one more suited to the country in which his lot was cast. His eloquence was copious, rapid and ornate, and his powers of mimicry beyond all description." In his boyhood he had a confusion in his utterance, from which he was called by his school-fellows "stuttering Jack Curran." He employed every means to correct his elocution, and render it perfect. "He accustomed himself," says one of his biographers, "to speak very slowly, to correct his precipitate utterance. He practised before a glass, to make his gestures graceful. He spoke aloud the most celebrated orations. One piece, -the speech of Antony over the dead body of Cæsar,- he was never weary of repeating. This he recommended to his young friends at the bar, as a model of eloquence. And while he thus used art to smooth a channel for his thoughts to flow in, no man's eloquence ever issued more freshly and spontaneously from the heart. It was always the heart of the man that spoke." Under our Forensic department several choice specimens of Curran's speeches will be found. Curran died October 14th, 1817.
THIS polyglot of wealth, this museum of curiosities, the Pension List, embraces every link in the human chain, every description of men, women and children, from the exalted excellence of a Hawke or a Rodney, to the debased situation of the lady who humbleth herself that sho may be exalted. But the lessons it inculcates form its greatest perfection: It teacheth, that Sloth and Vice may eat that bread which Virtue and Honesty may starve for after they have earned it. It teaches the idle and dissolute to look up for that support which they, are too proud to stoop and earn. It directs the minds of men to an entire reliance on the ruling Power of the State, who feeds the ravens of the Royal aviary, that cry continually for food. It teaches them to imitate those Saints on the Pension List, that are like the lilies of the
field; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet are arrayed like Solomon in his glory. In fine, it teaches a lesson, which, indeed, they might have learned from Epictetus, that it is sometimes good not to be over-virtuous; it shows, that, in proportion as our distresses increase, the munificence of the Crown increases also; in proportion as our clothes are rent, the royal mantle is extended over us.
Notwithstanding that the Pension List, like charity, covers a multitude of sins, give me leave to consider it as coming home to the members of this House; — give me leave to say, that the Crown, in extending its charity, its liberality, its profusion, is laying a foundation for the independence of Parliament; for, hereafter, instead of orators or patriots accounting for their conduct to such mean and unworthy persons as freeholders, they will learn to despise them, and look to the first man in the State; and they will, by so doing, have this security for their independence,· that while any man in the Kingdom has a shilling, they will not want one!
89. REPLY TO THREATS OF VIOLENCE, 1790.- Curran.
WE have been told this night, in express words, that the man who dares to do his duty to his country in this House may expect to be attacked without these walls by the military gentlemen of the Castle. If the army had been directly or indirectly mentioned in the course of the debate, this extraordinary declaration might be attributable to the confusion of a mistaken charge, or an absurd vindication; but. without connection with the subject, a new principle of government is advanced, and that is the bayonet! And this is stated in the fullest house, and the most crowded audience, I ever saw. We are to be silenced by corruption within, or quelled by force of arms without. If the strength of numbers or corruption should fail against the cause of the public, it is to be backed by assassination. Nor is it necessary that those avowed principles of bribery and arms should come from any high personal authority; they have been delivered by the known retainers of Administration, in the face of that bench, and heard even without a murmur of dissent or disapprobation.
For my part, I do not know how it may be my destiny to fall; it may be by chance, or malady, or violence; but, should it be my fate to perish the victim of a bold and honest discharge of my duty, I will not shun it. I will do that duty; and, if it should expose me to sink under the blow of the assassin, and become a victim to the public cause, the most sensible of my regrets would be, that on such an altar there should not be immolated a more illustrious sacrifice. As to myself, while I live, I shall despise the peril. I feel in my own spirit the safety of my honor, and in my own and the spirit of the People do I feel strength enough to hold that Administration, which can give a sanction to menaces like these, responsible for their consequences to the Nation and the individual.