« PreviousContinue »
LORD HENRY BROUGHAM (1779-1868)
THE CHAMPION OF POPULAR LIBERTIES
HE active career of Brougham covered the period between the
age of the oratory of the French Revolutionary excitement and
that of Gladstone and Disraeli, beginning with opposition to the policy of Pitt and extending to the French Revolution of 1848, of which he so highly approved that he wished he were naturalized as a French citizen. In his day he was the greatest of Liberal orators, a man eminent in passionate invective and vehemence of declamation. It was as a commoner he was great, a man of the people, and the acceptance of a title in 1830 robbed him of much of his strength. A native of Edinburgh, and early distinguished for his learning and versatility, he was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review and of its leading early contributors. Choosing the law as his profession, he had won fame as a forensic orator before he entered Parliament in 1810. Here he soon reached the front rank as a debater.
THE INDUSTRIAL PERIL OF WAR WITH AMERICA [In the election canvass of 1812 Brougham was a candidate for Parliament, and did not hesitate to denounce in vigorous language the governmental policy of war with America, and also to hold Pitt very severely to account for the miseries arising from the war with France. The selection given from his speech at Liverpool during this campaign is an excellent example of his vigor and vehemence.]
I trust myself once more in your faithful hands; I fling myself again on you for protection ; I call aloud to you to bear your own cause in your hearts; I implore of you to come forth in your own defense, for the sake of this vast town and its people, for the salvation of the middle and lower orders, for the whole industrial part of the whole country; I entreat you by your love of peace, by your hatred of oppression, by your weariness of
LORD HENRY BROUGHAM
burthensome and useless taxation, by yet another appeal to which those must lend an ear who have been deaf to all the rest; I ask it for your families, for your infants, if you would avoid such a winter of horrors as the last. It is coming fast upon us; already it is near at hand; yet a few more weeks and we may be in the midst of those unspeakable miseries, the recollection of which now rends your very souls. If there is one freeman amongst this immense multitude who has not tendered his voice, and if he can be deaf to this appeal, if he can suffer the threats of our antag. onists to frighten him away from the recollection of the last dismal winter, that man will not vote for me. But if I have the happiness of addressing one honest man amongst you, who has a care left for his wife and children, or for other endearing ties of domestic tenderness (and which of us is altogether without them ?), that man will lay his hand on his heart when I now bid him do so, and with those little threats of present spite ringing in his ear, he will rather consult his fears of greater evil by listening to the dictates of his heart, when he casts a look towards the dreadful season through which he lately passed, and will come bravely foward to place those men in Parliament whose whole efforts have been directed towards the restoration of peace and the revival of trade.
Do not, gentlemen, listen to those who tell you the cause of freedom is desperate; they are the enemies of that cause and of you; but listen to me, —and I am one who has never yet deceived you,-I say, then, that it will be desperate if you make no exertions to retrieve it. I tell you that your language alone can betray it, that it can only be made desperate through your despair. I am not a man to be cast down by temporary reverses, let them come upon us as thick and as swift and as sudden as they may. I am not he who is daunted by majorities in the outset of a struggle for worthy objects, -else I should not now stand here before you to boast of triumphs won in your cause. If your champions had yielded to the force of numbers, of gold, of power, if defeat could have dismayed them, then would the African slave-trade never have been abolished; then would the cause of reform, which now bids fair to prevail over its enemies, have been long ago sunk amidst the desertions of its friends; then would those prospects of peace have been utterly benighted, which I still devoutly cherish, and which even now brighten in our eyes; then would the Orders in Council, which I overthrew by your support, have remained a disgrace to the British name, and an eternal obstacle to our best interests. I no more despond now than I have done in the course of those sacred and glorious contentions, but it is for you to say whether to-morrow shall not make it my duty to despair. To-morrow is your last day; your last efforts must then be made ; if you put forth your strength the day is your own ; if you
LORD HENRY BROUGHAM
desert it, it is lost. To win it, I shall be the first to lead you on and the last to forsake you.
Gentlemen, when I told you a little while ago that there were new and powerful reasons to-day for ardently desiring that our cause might succeed, I did not sport with you ; yourselves shall now judge of them. I ask you,- Is the trade with America of any importance to this great and thickly-peopled town? [Cries of “Yes, yes!”] Is a continuance of the rupture with America likely to destroy that trade? [Loud cries of “ It is, it is !”] Is there any man who would deeply feel it, if he heard that the rupture was at length converted into open war? Is there a man present who would not be somewhat alarmed if he supposed that we should have another year without the American trade? Is there any one of nerves so hardy, as calmly to hear that our government has given up all negotiation, abandoned all hopes of speedy peace with America ? Then I tell that man to brace up his nerves; I bid you all be prepared to hear what touches you all equally. We are by this day's intelligence at war with America in earnest; our government has at length issued letters of marque and reprisal against the United States. [Universal cries of God help us, God help us !”'] Aye, God help us! God of His infinite compassion take pity on us! God help and protect this poor town, and this whole trading country!
Gentlemen, I stand up in this contest against the friends and followers of Mr. Pitt, or, as they partially designate him, the “immortal statesman,” now no more. Immortal in the miseries of his devoted country! Immortal in the wounds of her bleeding liberties ! Immortal in the cruel wars which sprang from his cold miscalculating ambition ! Immortal in the intolerable taxes, the countless loads of debt which these wars have flung upon us, which the youngest man among us will not live to see the end of! Immortal in the triumph of our enemies, and the ruin of our allies, the costly purchase of so much blood and treasure! Immortal in the afflictions of England, and the humiliations of her friends, through the whole results of his twenty years' reign, from the first rays of favor with which a delighted court gilded his early apostasy, to the deadly glare which is at this instant cast upon his name by the burning metropolis of our last ally. But may no such immortality fall to my lot; let me rather live innocent and inglorious ; and when at last I cease to serve you, and to feel for your wrongs, may I have an humble monument in some nameless stone, to tell that beneath it there rests from his labors in your service “ an enemy of the 'immortal statesman'—a friend of peace and of the
VISCOUNT PALMERSTON (1784-1865)
A MASTER OF PARLIAMENTARY TACTICS
OR some fifty years Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston,
played a leading part in British politics, being lord and master
in the management of foreign affairs for the greater part of that period. Succeeding his father as third Viscount in 1802, he entered Parliament in 1806, and remained there to the end of his life. He became a member of the Cabinet as Secretary of War in 1809, and held this portfolio until 1828, under five different Tory ministers. Joining now the Whig party, he became Secretary of Foreign Affairs under Earl Grey in 1830. He resigned in 1841, on the question of free trade in corn, but resumed his office in 1846. In 1855 he was made Prime Minister, and vigorously prosecuted the Crimean War. With slight intermission he held the premiership until his death in 1865. Palmerston made numerous enemies abroad and at home. His self-asserting character, brusqueness of speech, and interferences in foreign affairs, were little calculated to soften party animosity in England, while his arbitrary manner won him foes abroad. Firebrand Palmerston” was the name his quickness of temper brought him. One example of his haste was his approval of the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon in 1851, without consulting the Queen or the Prime Minister. Yet withal he was a national rather than a party leader, and won genuine acceptance of his course from the people. He had great business ability and political tact, was dexterous in parliamentary tactics, and a ready, witty, and often brilliant debater.
CIVIL WAR IN IRELAND [It was the question of Catholic emancipation in Ireland, which Lord Palmerston favored, that caused him, in 1828, to resign from Wellington's cabinet, and turn from Tory to Whig principles. His opinion of forcible coercion in Ireland is well expressed in a speech made in the House of Commons in 1829.]