Table of Contents
|Editor/Translator:||Keen, Paul, fl. 2003|
|Editor/Translator Alternative Name:||Paul Keen|
|First Published Date:||1818|
|Genre:||Social and Political Writings|
SATURDAY, APRIL 18, 1818
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The Yellow Dwarf,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY
"A stirring DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion."—SHAKSPEARE.
NUMBER 16. SATURDAY, APRIL 18, 1818. PRICE 4d.
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
LETTER TO MR. CANNING[note] .—We have published a correct and entire copy of this Letter, of which the garbled and incorrect transcripts which have been printed, have given rise to some altercation, which we shall hereafter notice. In reprinting it, we must acknowledge that there are some parts of it of which we do not approve, especially, those observations which have been construed to mean, and which may imply, an approbation of tyrannicide in the present state of European Governments and society. The fact which has confounded the judgments of enthusiastic and well-meaning persons is, that in the Republics of Greece, the applause of the wisest and best of men was bestowed on those who took off usurpers by violent death. Undoubtedly, if modern societies were so constituted as were those ancient republics, to kill a tyrant, that is, a person who assumes unaccustomed and illegal power, not only would be a praise-worthy act, but should be inculcated as a sacred duty. In each of those communities, the main power of the state was concentrated in one town, and the sovereignty was exercised by an assembly of the people. The boundary which was transgressed by tyrants was definite and distinctly drawn. By foreign guards or by bands of retainers they dispersed the sovereign assemblies, and by preventing their accustomed meetings, dissolved the political union. Against such events, which the small number and the concentration of the citizens rendered possible, the State had no other security than in the avowed principle, that no open or secret means would be spared to put an end to the life of a wretch, who had deprived all others of the protection of the laws, and who was therefore unworthy to enjoy it himself. Tyrannicide, therefore, not only operated as the means of prevention, by its example, but was often, from, the insulated condition of the tyrant, the means of restoring freedom. The people and the sages of Greece did not scrutinize the motives of those who performed acts so beneficial in their consequences, and whether it was public feeling or private resentment which led to the act, those who performed it were covered with the same honours. It was in Athens, indeed, as much the duty of a man to kill a tyrant, as it is in England to stop a thief. But the reasoning on which the law and the moral feeling were founded, is not applicable either to great nations, where tyranny can only be established by a system not dependent on the life or death of a man, nor to modern constitutions, in which such uncertainty prevails, that the, ruler who exceeds his power scarcely knows that he does so. But to kill a Minister would be as unwarrantable as to kill his footman. It would be a purely useless waste of death and suffering, which might be palliated by individual provocation, but could not be justified to society. Relief from oppression must be effected by general and not by individual feeling.
Mr. Canning affects to consider this as a slanderous attack on his character, though it would be difficult to imagine that any part of it refers to private transactions, unless the behaviour of a Minister to a King be deemed a private affair. Mr. Canning thought himself at liberty to enquire into the private characters of those who petitioned against the Bill of Indemnity. He did this not as a part of a trial, but to render trial unnecessary. He put the question as much as he could on the character of the parties, yet he starts when his public conduct is investigated or animadverted on. But before Mr. Canning proceeds to vindicate his character from new attacks, why does he not answer the old ones? Has his colleague, Lord Castlereagh[note] , yet retracted his charges? In his letter to Mr. Canning, dated St. James's-square, Sept. 19, 1809, he says:—"Notwithstanding this promise, by which I consider you pronounced it unfit that I should remain charged with the conduct of the War, and by which my situation as a Minister of the Crown was made dependent upon your will and pleasure, you continued to sit in the same Cabinet with me, and to leave me not only in the persuasion that I possessed your confidence and support as a colleague, but you allowed me, IN BREACH OF EVERY PRINCIPLE OF GOOD FAITH, BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE, though thus virtually superseded, to originate and proceed in the execution of a new enterprise of the most arduous and important nature, with your apparent concurrence and ostensible approbation."
This "new enterprise," we need not say, was the bungling and calamitous Expedition to Walcheren, the result of which proved that Mr. Canning's judgment of his Colleague was well-founded,—which also proved, that the fruitless sacrifice of thousands of British lives, of millions of money, and of the reputation and honour of the country, was the result of that "breach of every principle of good faith, both public and private," with which his Colleague reproached him.
And does he think, while the memory of this transaction lasts, to regain by red-taffeta phrases and cat-a-mountain looks the confidence of the people of England? Does he think, while this recorded judgment of his Colleague remains,—that Colleague, whom he thus thought unfit for a subordinate situation— that Colleague, to whom he now bows as to a superior,—to affect resentment at any other condemnation?
It is in vain to say, that Lord Castlereagh is reconciled to Mr. Canning, and that Mr. Canning thinks better of Lord Castlereagh. It remains to be proved that Mr. Canning, when out of office, had better means of making himself acquainted with Lord Castlereagh's abilities, than when both were in office together. It remains to be proved, that the person who is guilty of a breach of "every principle of good faith " at one time, by bestowing his " ostensible approbation^1 on the person whom he despised, may not at another time practice a similar deception for similar purposes. It remains to be proved also, that an ambitious but incapable Statesman will not accept the support of an eloquent out profligate rival, who will consent to make himself an underling. In short, it remains to be proved, that the
[p. 342] | [Page Image]accommodation was not as disgraceful as the rupture; and Mr. Canning's opinion of Lord Castlereagh's talents, and Lord Castlereagh's opinion of Mr. Canning's morality, may remain the same, and may rest on as good foundation as they did in 1809.
To all this abundant lack of proof, we should add, that Mr. Canning has not proved that the Addingtons and Braggges nave improved in understanding. He may, indeed, be as willing to entrust the liberties of Englishmen to their discretion, as he was to trust to the judgment of Lord Castlereagh the lives of those whose bones are in Walcheren; but however convenient this may be to him, there is not a man in the country who on that account will suppose he thinks better of them. The Lisbon job[note] continues to smell rankly under all the flowers of his eloquence, and sheds the last grace on a Statesman, to whom certainly modern times can furnish no equal.
Let Mr. Canning speak on; he is amusing, and not dangerous. The people know, as well as his colleagues, the value of his assertions. The cause of Reform can stand the lightnings of that ridicule which has fallen so harmlessly on those who now surround him; his arguments, (on the average, he produces one a-year), can as easily be answered, as if they had fallen from lips less practised to deception[note]; and it is useful to have in the eye of the world some character like this, the moving example of the practices which lie supports.
To conclude our remarks on this subject,—we condemn all those appeals for punishment upon oppressors, which are mischievous in their effects, and which in general mean nothing else than vengeance. Persons who use these words should well weigh the end and purpose of punishment, which becomes cruelty when those who suffer it are not forewarned of it by some law which they are bound to obey.
LETTER TO MR. CANNING.
A Letter to the Rigid Honourable George Cunning, M. P.
———Quænam ista Jocandi
SIR,—I shall address you without ceremony, for you are deserving of none. There is nothing in your station, in your abilities, or in your character, which entitles you to respect. The first is generally the reward of political, and frequently of private crime. Your talents, such as they are, you have abused; and as for your character, I know not an individual of any party, or in any class of society, who does not consider the defence of it a paradox too outrageous and untenable even for the profligate indifference of these candid, complying times. Between the shrugs and smiles of your associates, and the frowns of your honest countrymen, you fall to the ground. Low as public principle has sunk, you are still justly appreciated; and no one is deceived by qualities, which, even in their happiest exertion, are not calculated or employed to conciliate his esteem.
Think you that the good-natured greedy spectators, who suffered themselves to be tickled by the tricks, were seduced into one emotion of regard for the person of their mountebank? Not a jot; though that mountebank was a Minister. It was not, I confess, sufficiently present to their reflections, that the same grimaces had been employed to distract their attention, while the confederate thieves were picking their pockets; nor did they appear to understand, that the same exhibition was now played off to cheat them of more than their pecuniary property: but you are still not forgotten for a moment; your gingling, and chattering, and balancing, were all inimitably performed and admirably becoming; perhaps some of the younger senators, transported by low ambition, envied, one instant, your cap and bells; but neither young nor old envied yourself. In plain words; there was not a Member in the House, not a stranger, not a clerk, or door-keeper, who had a higher opinion of you after than before your speech, or felt more inclined to change characters with Mr. George Canning; not one. It is, however, to the eternal discredit of that Assembly, that you were not, by so shameless a display of your immodest parts, by capers which discovered your hideous nakedness, plunged below the depths of your former disgrace.
The adventurer who meditated apostacy in his tender years, and whose virtue melted away, almost before puberty, under the first seductive palm, might, by the advantages of an elevation, however unmerited, and by the external decency of subsequent life, have preserved a tolerable respectability, a character equivocal, perhaps, but not altogether abandoned, and such as the convenient morality of the day might regard without unqualified disdain. But it is not to he expected, that the unredeemed profligate, one who cannot boast that his course, even of vice, has been steady, since he has
"Obliquely waddled to his end in view;"
one whose recorded treacheries had disqualified him for all trust, until his meanness had reduced him to impotence, and made his alliance no longer dangerous;—one who has shown himself insensible alike to the reproaches of opponents insulted, and the remonstrance of friends betrayed, and has slid downwards, through paths more dirty and devious there were ever yet tried by selfishness, dropping from power to pension, and from pension to less profitable place, with all the tranquillity and more than the boldness of virtue—it is not, I say, Sir, to be expected, that such a shameless unredeemed adventurer should be allowed more than the mere privilege of existence, in a country where the public good is still, at least, the pretext of all political conduct. If such a person is allowed to enjoy, unmolested, his ill-gotten gains, we exclaim, that all honest indignation is dead, and our patriots are slumbering at their post. What then must we think of our condition; what must we think of ourselves, when we find this delinquent not only clamorous but insolent;—not only insolent, but, instead of the passive unobtrusive air of convicted imposture, assuming, in the face of the Legislative Assembly who knows him, and of the whole nation who despises him, the tone, not of innocence but of accusation!!! To what a state of degradation are we sunk, when a criminal becomes a plaintiff, and when a man, for whose presence it is necessary to make an apology in any honest society, dares to insult the sufferings of the oppressed, to arraign the motives of men of unsullied reputation!! And how much more must we bewail our condition, when we find such an atrocious outrage of all common decency, not only borne, but actually applauded, by those who are entrusted with our liberties and our lives. You are yourself aware, Sir, that in no other assembly in England would yon have been allowed to proceed, for an instant, in so gross a violation of all (he decencies of life, as was hazarded by that speech, which found a patient, a pleased audience in the House of Commons. There must be in that body, composed, as it Undoubtedly is, of men who, in the private relations of life, may be distinguished for many good qualities,—there must be an habitual disregard of decency, a contempt of public principle, an absurd confidence, that, either individually or in mass, they are protected from the censures of their fellow citizens, and absolved from the rules of common life. Were it not for such a groundless persuasion, there is not a gentleman (for such a* being is not quite extinct in Parliament) who would not have thought himself compromised by listening to your insolent attacks upon the national character; and to a flashy declamation, which, from beginning to end, supposed an audience devoid of all taste, judgment, spirit, and humanity.
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I am at a loss, Sir, to account for the effrontery even, of your colleagues in office, who share with you the public hatred, though they are far from being fair competitors for the contempt which is consummately your own. Those worthy persons must have had some motive, deeper than their usual superficial designs, for entrusting their defence to such "hangman's hands." Were they afraid of your partially redeeming your character by silence? Were they resolved, that if you were yet not enough known, some decisive overt act should reduce you below the Ministerial level? Did they suspect, that you were again willing to rebel or to betray? How was it, that you were selected for the odious task of justifying the only vigorous measures of the imbecile Sidmouth, directed against the aged, the infirm, the powerless of his own countrymen? How was it, that you were required to emerge from your suspected silence, in behalf of him whom you had first insulted by the offer of your alliance, then by your vulgar hostility, and, lastly, by the accepted tender of an insidious reconciliation?
You know, Sir, and the world should know, that when your seducer, Pitt, was tired of yon, you offered yourself to this silly, vain man, who thought your keeping too dear at the proposed price, and accordingly declined the bargain.
You know, and the world may remember, the immediate consequence of this slight of proffered iniquity. Your lampoons in Parliament, your speeches in the papers (I forget where they fell, but whether in one or the other they were equally unprepared and opportune): these, and other assaults, manfully directed against those where forbearance was the sole protection of your insolence, can hardly have slipped through the meshes of the ill-woven memories of your colleagues. Perhaps, then, it was intended to reduce you to irretrievable humiliation, and to fit you to the lowest agency, by making you the loudest encomiast of the most undefensible measure of him whom you have vilified as the "most incapable of all Ministers, the most inept of all Statesmen."
You had before given this satisfactory pledge to the other of your colleagues, who might have borne your abuse, but did not choose to bear your treachery; and showed himself, accordingly, more tender of his own honour than he has been of that of his country. You have kissed the hand that chastised you, and have lost but few opportunities of testifying your feigned repentance to him who commands you from that eminence which you were adjudged incapable to occupy, even so as to save the few appearances required from Ministerial manners.
Your submission to Lord Castlereagh, tricked out, as he appears, in those decorations of fortune, which might well deceive a vulgar eye, was not surprising: it was the natural deference of meanness to success. But it was not expected, even from your condescension, that the butt of his party, the agent of that department which had, even in these times of peace, with infinite address, contrived to make the executive administration not only hateful but ridiculous, that the very Minister who had no character for talents, should be defended by him who had no character for honesty.
It is not my purpose with you, Sir, to refute your arguments in defence of the late iniquitous agents employed in destroying the little confidence and mutual good-will which might still have subsisted between the governors and governed of this distracted country. In spite of the sophistry which such an attempt was sure to bring into play, and which shook, no doubt, the timid minds of many of our poor alarmists; in spite of the general spirit of acquiescence, and the panic terror which makes the pretended preservation of peace and order the surest snare of the well-meaning, selfish politician; there was still enough of common sense left amongst the Members of the House of Commons to expose so rude a violation of the Constitution, and to lay bare the fallacies which were employed to excuse the past, and to prepare for future infractions of British freedom. Your reply to those who spoke the language of their constituents, of all unprejudiced Englishmen, of human nature itself, and who stepped forwards to rescue the Parliament from indelible disgrace, was such as is seldom hiccuped up from the drunken triumph of Ministerial majorities. I give you full credit for the foul words which you dared to apply to an honourable young man, whose instinctive sense of right far surpasses your vain, vicious experience, and showed him the naked iniquity of your proposed indemnities in behalf of the only traitors to be found in England, of the vile agents of a weak, suspicious administration. The envy of reputation which you have lost, and of talents more graceful and essential than your own flimsy, tinsel trappiags, was certain to secure your especial hostility. The antipathy of bad to good, naturally inflamed you into fury against the interposition of Mr. Lambton; and, to confess a disgraceful truth, you found many enough amongst your compeers willing to join you in the shameless outcry. A young man, placed by his fortune, as well as by his honest propensities, beyond the reach of corruption, at the outset of a courageous, though forlorn career, which threatens a protracted defence of the tattering fabric of English freedom, is a monster in the eyes of the base, the vain, the timid, who readily conspire to remove such a standing reproach of their venality, their folly, and their fear. I do not wonder that the menials around you felt themselves elevated by the momentary depression of virtue; but I do wonder that the forms, even of the House of Commons, admitting as they do of language current only amongst the lowest and most depraved classes of society, should have been infringed upon so grossly without a word from him who is appointed to regulate the jargon of that ill-polished Assembly.
The paltry subterfuge, hesitated between regretted insolence and forced retraction, the hand obtruded upon the object of your insult at the close of the debate, but more than all, the rudeness of the assault (the usual prelude of all your political amours) might well make that gentleman suspect that he was menaced by your future intimacy. Some such apprehension, and the clamours of your party, may have prevented him or his friends from remarking the curious felicity with which, of all the indiscretions of the opposing party, you chose to select credulity as the prominent feature. What, Sir! one of the present Cabinet dare to accuse any individual of too much faith in common rumour or in proffered information? A Member of that Cabinet, whose belief in the idle, malicious falsehoods of spies, pimps, bullies, and all the abandoned, broken characters, whom their promises allured into perjury, has been proved by the verdict of Juries,—has been recorded in the Courts,—has been the object Of general indignation;—and, after having been the cause and excuse of a wanton attack on our liberties, has been judged by that Cabinet itself so little qualified for examination, that their Parliament has been" instructed to indemnify the rogues who told the lies, and the fools who believed them. What! an apologist for the gulled, the gaping Sidmouth, to deprecate the indiscriminating reception of tales and tale-bearers—a defender of him who put his trust in Castles,—who employed Oliver,—and who, on the faith of atrocious fabrications, of which he was alike the encourager and the dupe, has persecuted and imprisoned, has fettered and fractured, and would have put to death, his fellow countrymen, even to decimation. You tell us you should have thought yourself "a dolt and ideol" to have listened for a moment to complaints against an agent of the home department, a runner of Bow-street, a gaoler's turnkey, or a secretary's secretary.
Mighty Well, "Sir! but let a runaway from the hulks, a convicted folon, tell you, that a bankrupt apothecary, a broken down farmer, and a cobler, are the centre of a widely spread conspiracy; have formed and partially executed a plan for
[p. 344] | [Page Image]raising the kingdom, and for taking the Tower of London; have provided arms; have published manifestoes; let the same respectable evidence impeach the loyalty of the Nobles and Gentry in some districts, and of the lower classes in all; let this single felon assert that he is honest, and the majority of his countrymen are rogues; you do not think yourself a dolt and ideot— you do not think Lord Sidmouth a dolt and ideot, for succeeding, chiefly upon such information, to hang, draw, and quarter the first individuals designated by this credible witness. But whatever you or your colleagues thought, the Jury did think the Secretary of the Home Department a dolt and ideot, and snowed their opinion be their verdict. It is of no moment to me, Sir, when or why you may please to think yourself a "dolt and ideot" (for I will harp upon this House of Commons' phrase), bin I will take leave to observe, that there is this difference between the credulity of such men as Mr. Lambton, and of such Ministers as you and your colleagues—the farmer may interpose to save, but the consequence of the latter must he to destroy.— The vorst evil that can possibly arise from the former is the exculpation of yourself and your hateful fraternity, from some unfounded charge (an exculpation which I own to be productive of mischievous results); but the least evil that can be produced by the credulity of the Head of the Police, is the suspension of our liberties—is the imprisonment, the ruin, the torture, of our innocent fellow subjects—is the present diffusion of suspicion and terror and treachery, and the establishment of wicked precedents, which accustom the people to extraordinary acts of Government, and must finally be fatal to the Constitution. When next, therefore, you indulge your legislative audience with the hypothesis of your doltship and ideotcy, do not found that improbability of so extreme a case upon your prudent scepticism and discouragement of all informers. The Suspension Bill has been suspended, but the asses' mouths of the Home-office are as open as ever to any charge, provided only that it be to the discredit and destruction of some suspected, that is, some independent, member of the community.
It is not, I have before told you, my object to refute your detestable doctrines; whatever was tangible, whichever of those doctrines had any real existence (for the greater part of your arguments were but the phantoms of folly and insolence), had been bandied and disposed of before you arranged them in the hues of your own florid eloquence, and by appropriating these principles to yourself, consigned them, to eternal infamy: nor shall I undertake the ungrateful labour; of following yon through all your flippancies; nor blow away the superficial froth to arrive at the vile, vapid liquor beneath. It is sufficient for my purpose to tell you, that the general tone of your discourse was such as would have disgraced the defence of virtue, and was intolerable in the apologist and defender of depravity; and such as will not be borne as long as this people have it in their power to controul, in any way, the conduct of their presumed Representatives. Had your pleasantries been as polite as they were rustic, had they been, as humane as they were atiocious, they would still have been misapplied in a discussion professedly treating of the fundamental interests of your country, and even in your own view of the question, of delinquencies arising confessedly from the distresses of your fellow subjects. That you should brand with the names of "rebel and traitor" those whom you have been unable to prove rebellious and traitorous, is bill in the ordinary course of official perseverance and incorrigible folly; bat that you should presume to assail those unfortunate individuals, the victims of your own recorded credulity, by making a mockery of old age, and of the natural infirmities which have beep occasioned by your own injustice!!, Such an outrage upon your audience—how is that to be accounted for? The revered and ruptured Ogden!!![note] And this mad, this monstrous sally was applauded,—was received, with roars of laughter! and if there was a confession from some more candid lips, that such allusions were not "quite in good taste," an excuse was drawn from the warmth of the debate: clear as it was to those accustomed to your patchwork, that the stupid alliteration was one of the ill-tempered weapons coolly selected from your oratorical armoury.
Certainly, Sir, you found the Legislative Assembly more tractable than your Sovereign, who has, more than once, repulsed your rude familiarity. His Majesty, were he now on the, throne, would recognise the frontless upstart who placed the hand of his Sovereign upon the seat of the wound which had been inflicted upon him as the reward of his duplicity; and of him who referred him to a brother Minister, with the indecent freedom of equal intimacy, When, Sir, you placed the King's hand upon your thigh, when you told him you could send to Pembroke, yon gave rise to a resentment, such as would have affected your honest interests, whilst the throne of England was filled by a gentleman. But, I presume, the silent rebuke of offended Majesty was not sharp enough to be felt by the coarseness of your texture; for the insult offered to those who should be the representatives of the people, and to the people themselves, is equally rude and familiar, and is ten times more overbearing, in every respect, than that which before offended your Sovereign. You have never, Sir, before found a body of your countrymen so patient, so lost to all sense of shame, as your fellow Members of the House of Commons. Even the underlings of the Foreign-office broke into murmurs at your unusual arrogance. The little knot of dependants, who were willing to make common stock and carry themselves to market with you, have become ashamed of the trifling oscillating buffoon, whom they mistook for the head of a party, and who accepted the first and lowest vacancy that could replace him in the precincts of power. Even the miserable chuck-farthing, "Ward, who has learnt from you how to run riot on his own roguery, owns, that, he hesitates between the disgrace of "serving without wages, and of being dismissed without u character."
In the House of Commons alone you find yourself taken on your word, with no inquiries made; and when you display the whole deformity of a heart devoid of all just and generous and gentlemanly feeling; and when you show, by arts untried before, not only how despicable you are yourself, hut how you despise all around you, you are not hissed to the ground (as you would infallibly have been, had you ventured at such topics before a popular assembly); you are heard, you are encouraged, you are cheered; your, inhuman taunts on the irons and the infirmities of those who demand reparation for the injuries they have endured from a bloody police; your ridicule of the prisoner and the oppressed, are received with shouts of laughter,— with loud shouts of laughter!!!.
Go on, Sir, I pray you; proceed with your pleasantries; light up the dungeon with the flashes of your merriment; make us familiar, make us pleased with the anguish of the captive; teach us how to look upon torture and tyranny as agreeable trifles; let whips and manacles become the playthings of Parliament; let patriotism and principle be preserved only as vain names, the materials of a jest; and, as you have convulsed the bed of sickness with your unhallowed mirth, disturb, with appropriate mockery, the long foretold approaching Euthanasia of the expiring Constitution.
But confine your efforts to that assembly, where they have been so favourably, so thankfully received. You will find no other hearers. You are nothing but on that stage. The clerks, the candles, the heated atmosphere, the mummeries and decorations, the trained, packed, paper audience, confused, belated, and jaded into an appetite for the grossest stimulants; these are the preparations indispensable to your exhibition.
Thank heaven, however, the House of Commons is not the
[p. 345] | [Page Image]only tribunal; and it is possible that, in spite of your extraordinary progress and probable success, there may still be, in this country, a body of men, now dispersed, but whom their common interests will one day collect and unite, for the defence of their rights and the punishment of their oppressors.
Believe me, Sir, not an echo of those shouts of laughter which hailed your jests upon rebellious old age and traitorous disease, not an echo has been lost in the wide circumference of the British Islands. Those shouts still ring in. our ears: they will never die away as long as the day of retribution is deferred; they Will never die away until we are finally extirpated by your triumph, or you are annihilated by our indignation.— Do not flatter yourself, that, by securing the connivance of Parliament, you are safe from all national censure. Parliament does not represent the feelings, any more than the interests of the British nation. It would be an insult upon the character of this great, this glorious people, to suppose that their Representatives were sent to the House of Commons to encourage the playful ferocity of a hardened politician. The nobler portion of the nation are certainly not Members of either House: the better educated, the more enlightened, and the more wealthy, at least tile more independent, are to be found without the walls of Parliament. You are (and what dishonest man is not?) an enemy to Reform. But you shall be told, Sir, that the extreme necessity of Reform, and of choosing our Representatives from some other classes of society, was never so decidedly shewn as in the reception of your speech. If Mr. Canning was, on a former occasion [note], applauded for saying, that the constitution of that Assembly could not be bad, which "worked so well in practice" as to admit of the selection of such men as Mr. Wyndham and Mr. Horner, I am sure it is to be allowed me to say, that the assembly can have no feelings or opinions in common with the rest of their countrymen, which could receive with shouts of approving laughter such a speech as this of Mr. Canning.
Your practice, Sir, may work well in the House of Commons; but are we to become accomplices in the crime of acquiescence in such riotous, wanton ribaldry? God forbid. Your impunity will be our reproach; let me therefore record the judgment of one who shall be heard, since he speaks the sentiment of your countrymen. You cannot be far from the close of your career, for either we shall be so lost that all your farther efforts will be superfluous, or you will be so resisted as to disable you for ever at once for all noxious exertion. This, then, may be the time for summing up the evidence, furnished by the unbiassed, uncontradictory witnesses of your life; and for enabling your countrymen to pass to verdict. Your current is muddy, even at the spring, and runs clear in no part of its winding, babbling course. Let him speak who ever knew you in possession of any respectable reputation. The rag you stole from Mr. Sheridan[note] 's mantle was always too scanty to cover your nakedness: like all mimics, you caught only the meaner characteristics of your archetype; oratorical, not orator; poetaster, not poet; willing, not wit. You were never the first or best in any one line of action. You might not have been altogether inept or slow in playing second parts, but on no one occasion have you ever evinced that integrity, either of principle or capacity, which the lowest amongst us are accustomed to require from the pretenders to excellence. Your spirit was rebuked in presence of those accomplished persons whom the followers of all parties recognised as brings of a higher order, and were willing to yield even more deference than their unambitious merit required. The chances of survivorship have left you a treat man in these days of little men; but you keep true to the epic rule, you end as on began: power has conferred upon you no dignity, elevation has not made your posture more erect The decency of character consists in its entire conformity to the original conception formed of you In early life. It has borrowed nothing from station, nothing from experience. It becomes you, and would disgrace any other man. Mean and trifling as you are, it is not however to be overlooked, that you have the power of mischief. You belong to a class of men who have been adjudged most pernicious in a state. Amongst your other school-boy acquisitions, you read Latin, Sir; let me quote to you a sentence of one who knew how to write it, and who was perhaps as capable of appreciating the merit of a timely joke as Mr. Canning. It is my Lord Bacon, who, commenting upon the aphorism of Solomon, "Homines derisores civilatem perdunt," has these words:—
"Mirum videri possit, quod in descriptione hominum, qui ad respublicas labefactandas et perdendas veluti natura comparetti et facti sunt, delegerit Salomon charaolerem: non hominis superbi et insolentis; non tyrannici et crudelis; non temerarii et violenti; non impii et scclerati; non injusti et oppressors; non seditiosi et turbulenii; non libudinosi et voluptuarii: non denique insipientis et inhabilis; sed derisoris. Verum hoc sapienticæ ejus Regis, qui rerum publicarum conservationes et eversiones optime norat, dignissimum est. Neque enim similis fere est pestis Hegnis et respubiicts quam si consiliarii Regum aut Senatores, quique gubernaculis rerum admoventur, sint ingenio derisores[note]."
You see then, Sir, that we have not quite so much to fear from your colleagues as from yourself. Look in this glass, and you will start back at your own frightful image. And yet this great man would have thought this "plague" still more deadly, could he have divined to what lengths a future Statesman, and Senator, and Minister of England would dare to push this pernicious mockery.
Such an unqualified attempt, not to vindicate, but to make light of acts of tyranny and cruelty, would in an assembly of free Rome have been answered with a dagger. When the Republic was overthrown, the most odious and frantic of the Emperors did, indeed, amuse himself in your way, Sir, and indulged his turn for talking and trifling, by declamatory defences and accusations of culprits, in presence of his slavish Senate. Between your apologies for Oliver and your other coadjutors in office, and your invectives against your state prisoners, you complete the parallel: or, if you are displeased with Caligula, you may prefer a rivalry with the other Caesar, who, directing the punishment of some old men, told the executioner to number them out from bald head to bold head.
You see, Sir, that you are not quite original, even in your facetious assaults upon old age. You said something, I observe, about the misapplication, of popular, complaints to the present state of the country; and you used the remarkable allusion, that they were not less out of time and place than, it would have been to discourse about Tarquin and Brutus in the days of Imperial Rome.
I shall overlook the pleasant comparison between the present state of England and that of Rome after she had lost her liberties. I suppose this, too, is one of your jokes, though I do not see the aecustomary "loud laugh" that accompanies your
[p. 346] | [Page Image]waggeries. But I will tell you, that you are no less ignorant than impertinent, in adopting this illustration. The Romans, after the triumph of tyranny, did find it very much to the purpose to recur to the example of their patriots and "more than two hundred years after the establishment of the Imperial Government, the character of the younger Brutus was studies, as the perfect idea of Roman virtue." They still read Cicero, they still-admired that noble sentiment, which taught them, that the most truly graceful, the most beneficial, the most glorious boast-worthy act of an honest citizen, was to slay a tyrant[note]."
They did more; they aspired sometimes to imitate their glorious tyrannicides; and, notwithstanding the fear of anarchy, which was carefully instilled into the subjects of the empire, and was in fact the origin of their servitude, their despots found that there was still some limit to their intemperate trifling with the rights and feelings of human nature.
You may not yet have forgotten, that the historian tells us, that the Romans might perhaps have borne the cruelty of Nero, but were driven into revolt at last against his buffoonery. As for the declaimer Caligula, a brutal joke, too frequently tried, cost him his life.
Hampden was no assassin, but what think you he would have said to a Minister of Charles I.? "You are not protected by your personal insignificance; the power, almost absolute, which has been and may again be placed in your hands, may make you a respectable victim; and be assured, Sir, that if I should ever be a prisoner of state, and, after being maimed by your gaolers, should be assaulted by your jokes, I will put you O death with the same deliberation as I now give you this timely warning. This is no idle, although it is only a defective menace; nor is the resolution confined to one individual."
IDEM TRECENTI JURAYIMUS,
LETTER OF THE ANONYMOUS AUTHOR.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE EXAMINER.
SIR,—You are requested to insert in your paper the Reply of the Right Hon. George Canning to my public remonstrance with that Gentleman, on the insult he lately dared to offer to the People of England.
I am agreeably disappointed. After ten days deliberation, he acknowledges the tribunal, and has determined to plead.
While his Judges are deciding on the merits of his defence, it shall be my care to provide the Gentleman with another opportunity of displaying his taste and his talents in the protection of his character.
In the mean time, whilst Mr. Lambton is a "Dolt and an Ideot," I am content to be a "Liar and a Slanderer and an Assassin," according to the same inimitable Master of the Vulgar Tongue.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTER TO THE RIGHT HON.
MR. CANNING'S LETTER TO THE ANONYMOUS AUTHOR.
Gloucester Lodge, April 10, 1818.
SIR,—I received early in the last week the Copy of your Pamphlet, which you (I take for granted) had the attention to send to me.
Soon after I was informed, on the authority of your publisher, that you had withdrawn the whole impressions from him, with the view (as was supposed) of suppressing the publication.
I since learn, however, that the Pamphlet, though not sold, is circulated under blank covers.
I learn this from (among others) the Gentleman to whom the Pamphlet has been industriously attributed, bat who has voluntarily and absolutely denied to me, that he has any knowledge of it or its author.
To you, Sir, whoever you may be, I address myself thus directly, for the purpose of expressing to you my opinion, that You are a Liar and a Slanderer, and want courage only to be an Assassin.
I have only to odd, that no man knows of my writing to you; that I shall maintain the same reserve so long as I have an expectation of hearing from you in your own name; and that I shall not give up that expectation till to-morrow (Saturday) night.
The same address which brought me your Pamphlet will bring any letter safe to my hands.—I am, Sir, your humble servant,
(Mr. Ridgway is requested to forward this letter to its destination.)
UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE AND ANNUAL
[We insert the following article in continuation of our Correspondent's communication, though it contains some assertions for the correctness of which we cannot pledge ourselves, and some opinions in which we do not concur.]
SECT. II.----CONDUCT OF THE RADICAL REFORMERS, AND OF THE
MINISTERIAL AND OPPOSITION PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT.
[FROM A CORRESPONDENT.]
IT was not in the two Housed of Parliament only that a marked and virulent opposition was shewn to the petitions of the people; the Ministerial newspapers also joined in showering their abuse upon them, making use of the words of the Opposition Members; using their names as authorities against all Reform, and calling upon Ministers for coercive measures.
The newspapers which are generally found supporting the measures of the Outs, were not on this occasion behind hand in supporting the party: accordingly, on the 5th of February, just a week from the meeting of the Parliament, appeared an article by the Editor of one of them, bitterly complaining of the Reformers, as demagogues, who had by their conduct prevented the Opposition from turning out the Ministers, and taking their places themselves. This was, to be sure, an unpardonable offence, particularly as the party was pleased to dignify itself with the appellation of "THE CONSTANT and INCORRUPTIBLE friends of liberty."
In the same newspaper, only four days from the opening of the Session, an article was inserted, as if from the Editor, but we must be allowed to suppose it came from the pen of Lord Grey, as it contained not only the same opinions, but the same phraseology which Lord Grey himself a few days afterwards used in the House of Lords. It called upon its readers to remark, that the most decided opinions had been expressed in both Houses of Parliament against the scheme of Universal Suffrage; the PETITIONS, it admitted, amounted to about a THOUSAND, and were signed by nearly HALF A MILLION OF MEN; it deprecated, not only the scheme, as "destructive of the Constitution" but it asserted also, that "ELECTION BY HOUSEHOLDERS WOULD HAVE NEARLY THE SAME EFFECT."
Here it may be asked, will you allow no man to change his opinion? We reply, yes: change as often as you see reason to change; only, if you are a public man, and have declared your opinion, giving good reasons for holding it,—if by your reasoning you have induced others to adopt your, opinion, you are bound, when you change that opinion, to give the reasons for the change, and when you have done this, we can judge of you:
[p. 347] | [Page Image]but if you change your opinion, and instead of giving good reasons for the change, you abuse all those who retain theirs;— if, instead of reasons to satisfy them that you have acted properly, you impute to them all manner of crimes;—if you hold them up to abhorrence and execration,—if you point out the best and wisest among them as objects for persecution,—and if your situation is such as may reasonably furnish a corrupt reason for the change, which you can find no argument to justify, you stand a convicted renegade, and have no right to complain of being brought into the contempt yon merit. The title of apostate is fairly yours; but on this point Lord Grey himself shall speak for us.
On the proposal to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in 1794. Mr. Grey said,—"What was the conduct of the Minister in 1782, when his PRETENDED SINCERITY for A PARLIMENTARY REFORM had been defeated in that House by a motion for the order of the day?—He had abandoned it for ever. WILLIAM PITT, THE REFORMER OF THAT DAY, WAS WILLIAM PITT THE PROSECUTOR, AYE, AND PERSECUTOR TOO, OF REFORMERS NOW! He who thought it fit to inflame the passions of the people, and to instigate them, to a CONTEMPT OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS then, would not now allow the people to judge of their own rights and dearest interests, BUT PERSECUTED, WITH THE REAL BITTERNESS OF AN APOSTATE, his own partner in the question of Parliamentary Reform. He had that very day been examining, as a prisoner, John Horn Tooke, for persevering in his sentiments. This same William Pitt, who had once taught the public to believe that nothing honest was to be expected from the House of Commons, and that the people should do every thing far themselves, now insisted that the people should do nothing for themselves, but should submit implicitly to the House of Commons the right-even of their personal freedom! What was the NATURAL INFERENCE from all this?—Why, that this famous Reformer only wanted to obtain, the confidence of the people, in order to betray their interests and sacrifice their rights. What were these acts, of Which such complaints were made in the Report of the Committee of Secrecy?—Nothing more than that a set of people had expressed a determination to pursue by legal means the object of Parliamentary Reform. He knew nothing of any of these Societies, except from report; he was not a member of either of them,[note]—he had even disapproved of some of their plans; but THIS WAS NOT A TIME FOR HIM, ON ACCOUNT OF SOME DIFFERENCE OF OPINION UPON SPECULATIVE POINTS, TO ABANDON THEM TO THE FURY OF THEIR APOSTATE FOE. There might be imprudence in some of their measures,—there might be among them men of desperate fortunes and sinister purposes; but IF ANY EVILS HAD ARISEN FROM THE DOCTRINE OF APPLYING TO THE PEOPLE, INSTEAD OF APPLYING TO PARLIAMENT, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been the chief cause of that evil. What was the object of these people? Their ostensible object, said the Minister, is Parliamentary Reform;—their real object is the destruction of the Government of the Country. How was that explained? By the resolutions, said the Minister, of these persons themselves; for they do not talk of applying to Parliament, but of applying to the people, for the purpose of obtaining "Parliamentary Reform. IF THIS LANGUAOE BE CRIMINAL, paid Mr. Grey, I AM ONE OF THE GREATEST CRIMINALS. I say, that FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS I HAVE NO HOPE OF A PARLIAMENTARY REFORM; that I HAVE NO HOPE OF REFORM BUT FROM THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES;—that this House will never reform itself, or destroy the corruption by which it is supported, by any other means than those of the RESOLUTIONS OF THE PEOPLE, acting on the prudence of this House, and on which the people ought to resolve. THIS THEY CAN ONLY DO BY MEETING IN BODEES.—This was the language of the Minister in 1782, but I do not know what his sentiments are now; FOR WHO CAN KNOW THE SENTIMENTS OF AN APOSTATE, who has no rule for his guidance but his conscience? These were the sentiments of the Duke of Richmond at that time~, but he accompanied; these sentiments with a plan, precisely idiot these Societies now recommended, Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments. What, then, have these persons done more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Duke of Richmond? He wished to know by what construction of law or common sense it was, we were to conclude that men intended what they did not profess? That when they said they meant to obtain a Parliamentary Reform by Constitutional means, they intended to pull doom the Constitution, by force."[note]—Parliamentary History, vol. 31, p. 531.
Lord Grey would not leave the people to the mercy of their apostate foe:—as little are we disposed to leave our liberties to the management of apostate foes—to the Hollands; the Greys, the Erskines, the Mackintoshes, the Brands, the Tierneys, the Wilberforces, the Byngs, or any other apostates. We would as willingly leave them in the good keeping and to the tender mercies of Messrs. Castlereagh, Reynolds; Oliver, Castles, and Canning.
There is not a word in this speech which, does not apply to almost the whole party,—his Lordship among the rest. How triumphant a reply has this Noble Lord and Sir James Mackintosh furnished to every allegation, every word of abuse, every calumny, every misrepresentation of both parties!
They have chosen to pursue the same line of conduct so ably reprobated and condemned in the extracts we have taken from Sir James's book.
They have followed the same course towards the Reformers, which the pensioned and unhappy Burke took against themselves.
If, instead of adopting the conduct they deprecated in him, they had followed the advice they at that time gave;—if, instead of holding out the Reformers as objects of abhorrence and persecution, they had treated them with good manners;—if, instead of the mean and vulgar practice of imputing had motives to those who differed from them in opinion, they had reasoned with them, and exposed the fallacy of their opinions, they would have been entitled to respect. But they chose to adopt another course,—that course was Mr. Burke's; and as they imitated him iii his bad ways all the execration, all the abhorrence they cast upon him, is due to themselves.
How eloquent men become, when inspired by truth in the cause of liberty, all history proves.
How tame and puerile and wretched the apostates from this cause generally become, we have examples enough before our eyes.
Let any man Compare the debates of 1794 with the debtless of 1817, it will be impossible for him to believe that he is reading the speeches of the same persons. Some of the ablest men on both sides have gone to their account, but those who remain cannot be recognised as the speakers of that period; the whole is now a miserable mediocrity. Such debates as obtained at that time, would have driven the Ministers of the present day out of the very windows of the Home: against such an Opposition, they could not have kept their seats a single day,—(...) which they now retain most triumphantly,—seats which their opponents would rather they should keep, than drive them from their
[p. 348] | [Page Image]benches by any show even of attachment for the people. Such are, however, the natural consequences of the conduct of men verging to a state of slavery,—of slavery the most abject, because it has not been forced on them by power, but submitted to as the means of preventing others the enjoyment of freedom.— Such are the natural consequences of the conduct of men who never travel beyond their own narrow circle,—who flee from all who are not of their cabal,—who eat not at their common table, and talk not in their vile jargon,—who are not persuaded, and willing to act upon the persuasion, that all the world vegetates because they vegetate,—that all the World are benumbed because they are palsied. But more of this presently, when we come to treat of the particular conduct of the junto in its corporate capacity.
Having assailed the Reformers in Parliament and in the news-papers, next came a book,—and then a Review, as it was called. The book was the production of Mr. R. H. Evans,—who, with singular inconsistency, undertook to compromise his principles to his duty towards his patron, at the very time that he stated these principles broadly. Mr. Evans[note] is too well read to full into many of the errors of his partisans, and his statements and reasonings are necessarily directly opposed to his propositions; but he had to please his party, and to satisfy his conscience if he could; he had to serve u God and Mammon:" that he should therefore fail in. the attempt, is nothing very wonderful. His book, although a mass of inconsistency, is notwithstanding a very useful book; much may be learned from it by those who do not possess the means of a more particular inquiry, and we can safely recommend its perusal. His reasonings are all on one side, and his propositions all on the other side, in direct contradiction to his reasonings; his book is, in fact, calculated to deter people from adopting his propositions, and it might almost be supposed he had written it for the purpose of exposing their fallacy. Mr. Evans dedicated his book to Lord Erskine, and of course it must be made palatable to the present opinions, or whatsoever they ought to be called, which that Noble Lord now professes to entertain; and Mr. Evans has done his reputation no service by the fulsome stuff with which he larded it. After repeating the words of his patron oh the ignorance of the Reformers, he lays down certain propositions; one of which is, that EVERT MAN PAYING DIRECT TAXES should be allowed to vote—p. 3: yet, in page 36, he is not willing even to let house-keepers vote! Who, it may be asked, are the blunderers? He takes a short review of the practice of elections from 49th Henry III. to the present time, perverting his subject somewhat now and then, to please his patron, but shewing very distinctly that Parliaments were Sessional by law and in practice. In page 17, he tells us, that "without the inestimable right of voting, it is absurd to call a man free." After commenting on the same Statutes down to the 12th Charles II., he adduces as a corollary, "that every Englishman, having property of any kind or quantity, paying direct taxes, should be entitled to vote—p. 27; and he enforces the opinion of Sir William Jones, who asks,— " Does a man who is virtually, not actually, represented, delegate or depute any person to make those laws which may affect his property, his freedom, and his life?—NONE,—for he has no suffrage. How then is he represented according to the Constitution? There is no end of absurdities deducible from so idle a play upon words." Mr. Evans then turns about again, and proposes an absurdity,—and thus he proceeds, to the end of his book, reasoning, for radical Reform, supporting his reasonings with quotations from the Statutes and other undeniable authorities, and then proposing something which he knows cannot be supported by reason; thus he loses himself in the intricate windings of the labyrinth, into which the sacrifice of his judgment to others has led him, and out of which no talents can extricate him.
More caution was, however, used, more, art was displayed by Dr. Allen[note] , who, at his residence in Holland House, wrote an article, which appeared in the Edinburgh Review for March, 1817, under pretence of reviewing, "Common Consent— Mr. WALTER FAWKES[note] 'S Manual, and Mr. Evans's Letter to Erskine;" but, in fact, for the purpose of calumniating the Reformers,— It commences thus;—"Because, we are friends to Reform, we lament the course pursued by Reformers;" and to shew its respect for Reform, it begins by lauding the House of Commons for rejecting the petitions of the people,—makes eight distinct charges against the Reformers,—and says not one word, from the beginning to the end, in favour of any kind of Reform; It. is worthy of the cabal whence it proceeded, and the work in which it appeared; both of them being alike inimical to the people,—both of them equally supporters of abuse and corruption,—both of them equally enemies of good government.— Dr. Allen may, if he pleases, accuse us "of estranging public men from the cause, by unmerited contumely and abuse." We shall reply by a reference to the acts of his party, and to the articles which have appeared in the party-serving Review, with its camelion coat, which always, on this subject, borrows its hue from Holland-house. Our limits will not allow us to expose the pernicious intentions of this advocate for arbitrary power, who would persuade us that the law which was intended-to COMPEL THE KING TO CALL A PARLIAMENT ONCE IN EVERY YEAR AT THE LEAST, meant any thing but what the words express; that it was not binding upon the King, who, by his PREROGATIVE (which, as the word is used by the Doctor, means power, if he had it), might, when he had once called a Parliament, continue it of his own free-will for the whole period of his reign. But we shall, in a work shortly to be published, treat his sophisms as they deserve, and rectify his wilful perversions of both law and history.
Let it be repeated ever so often, that we are assisting "to estrange public men from our cause,—we shall reply, Our cause is Reform of Parliament, and we can estrange no man who is not a Reformer. WE DENY THAT THE OUTS ARE REFORMERS, and we think we have proved that assertion;—we trust we have done so to the satisfaction of our readers.
We know that many men, who in private life are most worthy, are not Reformers,—have never professed Reform; and to those our remarks do not apply in respect to apostacy: and it will hardly be maintained that we can "estrange" them.
Those who deserve Lord Grey's epithet of apostates, have " estranged" themselves. To those who are neither Reformers nor Apostates, our remarks only apply so far as their conduct as public men is injurious to the people. No public man, then, have WE estranged from our cause; and the charge is as little applicable to ANY OTHER calumniated Reformer.
[To be continued.]
MR. WILBERFORCE.—This Gentleman is always slow to discern any virtues in the people, and never distrusts his judgment except when it leads him to find any vices or errors in the Court. He has spent his parliamentary life in palliating the extravagance and atrocities of men in power, recommending moderation in his speeches, and giving his vote in support of measures of violence.—Ministers are fully aware of his value. They have made him a Member, we believe, of every White-washing Committee for the last thirty years. Mr. W. is a man of austere aristocratic principles, but of mild and conciliatory manners. Ministers, with whom he lives in habits of intimacy, enjoy the benefit of his indulgent temper; and the people, whom he cannot know as individuals, suffer from the rigour of his principles.—The Scotsman.