Page images

broke through all their toils-is before them. But what will their efforts avail? No sooner has he wounded one than he lays another dead at his feet. For my part, when I saw his attack upon the king, I own my blood run cold: I thought he had ventured too far, and that there was an end of his triumphs. Not that he has not asserted many truths. Yes, si there are in that composition many bold truths, by which a wise prince might profit. It was the rancour and venom with which I was struck. In these respects, the North Briton is as much inferior to him, as in strength, and wit, and judgment. But while I expected from this daring flight his fina ruin and fall, behold him still rising higher, and coming down souse upon both houses of parliament. Yes, he did make you his quarry, and you still bleed from the wounds of his talons. You crouched, and still crouch, beneath his rage. Nor has he dreaded the terrors of your brow.* Sir, he has attacked even you-he has-and I believe you have no reason to triumph in the encounter. In short, after carrying away our royal eagle in his pounces, and dashing him against a rock, he has laid you prostrate. King, lords, and commons, are but the sport of his fury. Were he a member of this house, what might not be expected from his knowledge, his firmness, and integrity! He would be easily known by his contempt of all danger, by his penetration, by his vigour. Nothing would escape his vigilance and activity. Bad ministers could conceal nothing from his sagacity; nor could promises or threats induce him to conceal any thing from the public. What is the cause of this general aversion to law, this universal conspiracy against government? It does not arise from the natural depravity of the people, nor from the accidental misbehaviour of our courts at law. The whole is chargeable upon administration,

Sir Fletcher Norton, the Speaker, was remarkable for his large, overhanging eye-brows.

[ocr errors]

The ministers are the grand criminals. It is their malversation and unconstitutional encroachments that have roused up in the nation this spirit of opposition, which tramples under foot all law, order, and decorum. Till they are removed and punished, the kingdom will Be a scene of anarchy and confusion.


Was born Jan. 13, 1748. He was educated first at Eton, and afterwards at Hertford College, Oxford. He was returned to Parliament for Midhurst in 1768. He was at first on the side of ministry, but declared himself on the side of opposition on the dispute with America. He became secretary for foreign affairs in 1782, and again in 1806, when it was too late for his country and himself. He died September, 1806. Of this great man I shall speak more at large when I come to his later speeches. The following boyish rhapsody, on a question relating to the Lowther estate, is remarkable only for its contrast to the speeches which he made afterwards....for its affectation and bluster, and imbecility. It may be easily believed, as is reported of him, that at the time he made this and other speeches like it, he wore red heels and blue powder, and was distinguished as the greatest coxcomb in Eu rope. He was not then the same figure that I afterwards beheld in the Louvre, with hairs grown grey in the service of the public, with a face pale and furrowed with thought, doing honour to the English character as its best representative, conciliating by his frank, simple, unaffected manners, the affection and esteem of strangers, and wandering carelessly and unconsciously among those courts and palaces, whose profound policy and deep-laid machinations he alone, by his wisdom and the generous openness of his nature, was able to resist. His first acquaintance with Burke seems to have been the æra of his manhood; or rather, it was then that he first learned to know himself, and found his true level. A man in himself is always the same, though he may not always appear to be so.

I TAKE great shame to myself, that I have not risen sooner to declare my sentiments on this important ques


tion; for I think it disgraceful in any man to sit silent on such an occasion, who ever had the use or faculty of speaking in this house: but, sir, my silence was owing to my astonishment; I was confounded! I was amazed! for though I saw this bill at first in the same light in which I behold it now; yet, when I looked round me, and saw who the honourable gentlemen are who introduced it; that they are men of character, men of abilities, men of knowledge, men of reputed integrity; I hesitated, I strove to persuade myself, that I must rather be mistaken myself, than that any thing so bad, so violent, so lawless, so monstrous, could be advanced by such men as those who proposed this bill. But I could not long remain undecided; I soon beheld the proposition in all its naked genuine deformity: then, sir, as I was at first struck dumb with astonishment, I was seized with horror and indignation. Who, sir, that has a conscience to revere justice, a sense of liberty, or a regard for the constitution, can listen, without feeling an honest zeal to defeat a proposition, which, at one blow, destroys our constitution, our liberty, and our laws? Gentlemen are loud in their clamours against ministerial influence. I avow the systematic support of that minister, in all his measures, who has my good opinion and confidence ; but that minister shall never have my assistance and support, who dares to propose what these gentlemen, who are so proud of their opposition to ministers, now propose. Mr. Speaker, it is under the law that every man holds his property, and enjoys his liberty in security and ease.

But I firmly believe, as far as I am informed, that no man can have a better title to his estate, than the very title which the crown has vested in Sir James Lowther to the estate in question. If that title is to be taken away by act of parliament, why not bring an act to take any other part of his estate? Why not of another man's? For, if bills are thus to pass for transferring the property of one man to another, there can be no

thing sacred, nothing secure amongst us. I wish therefore, sir, the gentlemen who brought in this bill would, for their honour's sake, withdraw it. As to myself, the same conscience which dictates my present opposition, shall carry me on to oppose the bill in every step, through every stage. But if it succeeds here, it cannot succeed elsewhere. I do therefore again deprecate the honour and justice of this house, that we may not suffer the scandal of passing this bill to lie at our doors, and give the honour of rejecting it to the other house of parlia



This speech discovers true zeal and earnestness. It seems to belong to an earlier period of our history.

On the Lord Mayor and Alderman Oliver being committed to the Tower.

I FIND myself under a great difficulty, either to agree to this amendment, or to differ from it: for, by agreeing to a censure, I may seem to adopt an opinion of the worthy alderman's guilt, which I have no right to entertain. Did I ever think him guilty, I durst not condemn him unheard. As a judge, I am bound to think the man whom I try innocent, till he has been fairly heard, and till his guilt results out of conviction. It is speaking too well of this proceeding to say, that this magistrate was not allowed counsel. He was allowed counsel, so far as to let us see the faces of counsel at the bar; but clogged with a condition that gagged their mouths from speaking what was necessary for their

client's defence. It is an aggravation of injustice, to commit it under a false colour and insidious affectation of justice. The honourable gentleman must therefore pardon me, if I cannot vote for his amendment as a mea. sure of kindness to Mr. Oliver; for if you, Mr. Speaker, are ordered to reprimand that gentleman, we all know your ability to do it to some purpose nor can human nature be exposed to a more humiliating state, or to sharper feelings, than by submitting to such a reprimand as you will give. But in going to the Tower, there is nothing to afflict him; on the contrary he will carry in his own bosom the blessings of a good conscience, and be followed by the general applause of his fellow citizens, whilst his judges and prosecutors will be pursued by the curses of the people, scorned by those who hate, and pitied by those who think moderately of them. But if there was no reason for this amendment, I should think, sir, the feelings of gentlemen would incline them to adopt it, merely to get rid of a matter, of which we are all so sick and weary. I consent to it for the sake of peace, even at the expence of justice. With this view to peace, I have opposed every part of this wretched business, in every stage. They who now differ, may live to applaud me for it. I see that many gentlemen of the highest rank and character, some of whom, by their doubts gave a sanction, and others who added vigour and impulse to this prosecution, are now withdrawn. Several gentlemen who uniformly opposed this motion have turned their backs upon the house, with many bitter expressions of the indignation which they felt. With what temper and opinion I may ever return to this unpleasant seat, I know not; but I will not leave it, as long as there is a twig to catch at, by which I can hope to keep the peace of this unfortunate country. Mr. Speaker, it is natural for men to complain of what they hear from the report of others; but it is what they see and feel that provokes them to action. Here then lies the difference betwixt commitment and reprimand. The

« PreviousContinue »