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sure so likely to embarrass his future career. Unfortunately, however, the advice was not taken, and a person, who witnessed the close of a conversation, in which Sheridan had been making a last effort to convince Mr. Fox of the imprudence of the step he was about to take, heard the latter, at parting, express his final resolution in the following decisive words: "It is as fixed as the Hanover succession."
To the general principle of Coalitions, and the expediency and even duty of forming them, in conjunctures that require and justify such a sacrifice of the distinctions of party, no objection, it appears to me, can rationally be made by those who are satisfied with the manner in which the Constitution has worked, since the new modification of its machinery introduced at the Revolution. The Revolution itself was, indeed, brought about by a Coalition, in which Tories, surrendering their doctrines of submission, arrayed themselves by the side of Whigs, in defence of their common liberties. Another Coalition, less important in its object and effects, but still attended with results most glorious to the country, was that which took place in the year 1757, when, by a union of parties from whose dissension much mischief had flowed, the interests of both king and people were re
CHAP conciled, and the good genius of England triumphed at home and abroad.
On occasions like these, when the public liberty or safety is in peril, it is the duty of every honest statesman to say, with the Roman, "Non me impedient private offensiones, quo minus pro reipublicæ salute etiam cum inimicissimo consentiam." Such cases, however, but rarely occur; and they have been in this respect, among others, distinguished from the ordinary occasions, on which the ambition or selfishness of politicians resorts to such unions, that the voice of the people has called aloud for them in the name of the public weal; and that the cause round which they have rallied has been sufficiently general, to merge all party titles in the one undistinguishing name of Englishman. By neither of these tests can the junction between Lord North and Mr. Fox be justified. people at large, so far from calling for this illomened alliance, would on the contrary. to use the language of Mr. Pitt-have "forbid the banns ;" and, though it is unfair to suppose that the interests of the public did not enter into the calculations of the united leaders, yet, if the real watchword of their union were to be demanded of them in "the Palace of Truth,' there can be little doubt that the answer of each
would be, distinctly and unhesitatingly,
One of the most specious allegations in de fence of the measure is, that the extraordinary favour which Lord Shelburne enjoyed at court, and the arbitrary tendencies known to prevail in that quarter, portended just then such an overflow of Royal influence, as it was necessary to counteract by this double embankment of party. In the first place, however, it is by no means so certain that the noble minister at this period did actually enjoy such favour. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that his possession of the Royal confidence did not long survive that important service, to which he was made instrumental, of clearing the cabinet of the Whigs; and that, like the bees of Virgil, he had left the soul of his own power in the wound which he had been the means of inflicting upon that of others. In the second place, whatever might have been the designs of the Court, and of its encroaching spirit no doubt can be entertained, Lord Shelburne had assuredly given no grounds for apprehending, that he would ever, like one of the chiefs of this combination against him, be brought to lend himself precipitately or mischievously to its views. Though differing from Mr. Fox on some important points of policy, and following the ex
CHAP. ample of his friend, Lord Chatham, in keeping himself independent of Whig confederacies, he was not the less attached to the true principles of that party, and, throughout his whole political career, invariably maintained them. This argument, therefore, the only plausible one in defence of the Coalition, -fails in the two chief assumptions on which it is founded.
It has been truly said of Coalitions, considered abstractedly, that such a union of parties, when the public good requires it, is to be justified on the same grounds on which Party itself is vindicated. But the more we feel inclined to acknowledge the utility of party, the more we must dread and deprecate any unnecessary compromise, by which a suspicion of unsoundness may be brought upon the agency of so useful a principle — the more we should discourage, as a matter of policy, any facility in surrendering those badges of opinion, on which the eyes of followers are fondly fixed, and by which their confidence and spirit are chiefly kept alivethe more, too, we must lament that a great popular leader, like Mr. Fox, should ever have lightly concurred in such a confusion of the boundaries of opinion, and, like that mighty river, the Mississippi, whose waters lose their own colour in mixing with those of the Missouri, have sacrificed the distinctive hue of his own
political creed to this confluence of interests CHAP with a party so totally opposed to it.
"Court and Country," says Hume*, “which are the genuine offspring of the British government, are a kind of mixed parties, and are influenced both by principle and by interest. The heads of the factions are commonly most governed by the latter motive; the inferior members of them by the former." Whether this be altogether true or not, it will, at least, without much difficulty be conceded, that the lower we descend in the atmosphere of Party, the more quick and inflammable we find the feeling that circulates through it. Accordingly, actions and professions, which, in that region of indifference, high life, may be forgotten as soon as done or uttered, become recorded as pledges and standards of conduct, among the lower and more earnest adherents of the cause; and many a question, that has ceased to furnish even a jest in the drawing-rooms of the great, may be still agitated, as of vital importance, among the humbler and less initiated disputants of the party. Such being the tenacious nature of partisanship, and such the watch kept upon every movement of the higher political bodies, we can well imagine what a portent it must appear to distant and unprepared observers, when the stars Essay "On the Parties of Great Britain."