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“But, sir, I fear I have too long engaged your attention to no real purpose ; and that the public safety is this day risked, without a blush, by the malice and disappointment of faction. The honorable gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Fox] has declared, with that sort of consistency that marks his conduct, 'Because he is prevented from prosecuting the noble Lord in the blue ribbon (Lord North) to the satisfaction of public justice, he will heartily embrace him as his friend.' So readily does he reconcile extremes, and love the man whom he wishes to prosecute! With the same spirit, sir, I suppose he will cherish this peace, too-because he abhors it !"
We have here another instance of that keen and polished sarcasm which Mr. Pitt had more perfectly at command than any orator in our language, and which enabled him, as Charles Butler remarks, " to inflict a wound even in a single member of a sentence, that could never be healed.” From this passing notice of Mr. Fox, he turns to Lord Shelburne, for whom he had a personal attachment as a friend and adherent of his father, and bestows upon him the following splendid eulogium :
" This noble Earl, like every other person eminent for ability, and acting in the first department of a great state, is undoubtedly an object of envy to some, as well as of admiration to others. The obloquy to which his capacity and situation have raised him, has been created and circulated with equal meanness and address; but his merits are as much above my panegyric, as the arts to which he owes his defamation are beneath my attention. When, stripped of his power and emoluments, he once more descends to private life without the invidious appendages of place, men will see him through a different medium, and perceive in him qualities which richly entitle him to their esteem. That official superiority which at present irritates their feelings, and that capacity of conferring good offices on those he prefers, which all men are fond of possessing, will not then be any obstacle to their making an impartial estimate of his character. But notwithstanding a sincere predilection for this nobleman, whom I am bound by every tie to treat with sentiments of deference and regard, I am far from wishing him retained in power against the public approbation ; and if his removal can be innocently effected, if he can be compelled to resign without entailing all those mischiefs which seem to be involved in the resolution now moved, great as his zeal for his country is, powerful as his abilities are, and earnest and assiduous as his endeavors have been to rescue the British empire from the difficulties that oppress her, I am persuaded he will retire, firm in the dignity of his own mind, conscious of his having contributed to the public advantage, and, if not attended with the fulsome plaudits of a mob, possessed of that substantial and permanent satisfaction which arises from the habitual approbation of an upright mind. I know him well; and dismiss him from the confidence of his sovereign and the business of the state when you please, to this transcendent consolation he has a title, which no accident can invalidate or affect. It is the glorious reward of doing well, of acting an honest and honorable part. By the difficulties he encountered on his accepting the reins of government, by the reduced state in which he found the nation, and by the perpetual turbulence of those who thought his elevation effected at their own expense, he has certainly earned it dearly; and with such a solid understanding, and so much goodness of heart as stamp his character, he is in no danger of losing it."
Mr. Pitt next took up the Coalition, which had not yet assumed any definite shape, and delighted the House with one of those sudden hits as to its going on to be consummated, which have always so peculiar a power in a large and promiscuous assembly
“I repeat it, sir, it is not this treaty, it is the Earl of Shelburne alone whom the movers of this question are desirous to wound. This is the object which has raised this storm of faction; this is the aim of the unnatural Coalition to which I have alluded. If, however, the banesul alliance is not already formed—if this ill-omened marriage is not already solemnized, I know a just and lawful impediment—and, in the name of the public safety, I HERE FORBID THE BANS!"
Pausing for a moment during the applause which followed this bold image, he then addressed himself to Mr. Fox with a proud consciousness of integrity, glancing at the same time at the supposed motives of those, lately the bitterest enemies, who were now transformed into bosom friends.
“My own share in the censure, pointed by the motion before the House against his Majesty's ministers, I will bear with fortitude, because my own heart tells me I have not acted wrong. To this monitor, which never did, and, I trust, never will deceive me, I shall confidently repair, as to an adequate asylum from all clamor which interested faction can raise. I was not very eager to come in, and shall have no great reluctance to go out, whenever the public are disposed to dismiss me from their service. It has been the great object of my short official existence to do the duties of my station with all the ability and address in my power, and with a fidelity and honor which should bear me up, and give me confidence, under every possible contingency or disappointment. I can say, with sincerity, I never had a wish which did not terminate in the dearest interests of the nation. I will, at the same time, imitate the honorable gentleman's candor, and consess that I too have my ambition. High situation and great influence are desirable objects to most men, and objects which I am not ashamed to pursue—which I am even solicitous to possess, whenever they can be acquired with honor and retained with dignity. On these conditions, I am not less ambitious to be great and powerful than it is natural for a young man, with such brilliant examples before him, to be. But even these objects I am not beneath relinquishing, the moment my duty to my country, my character, and my friends, renders such a sacrifice indispensable. Then I hope to retire, not disappointed, but triumphant; triumphant in the conviction that my talents, humble as they are, have been earnestly, zealously, and strenuously employed, to the best of my apprehension, in promoting the truest welfare of my country; and that, however I may stand chargeable with weakness of understanding or error of judgment, nothing can be imputed to me in my official capacity which bears the most distant connection with an interested, a corrupt, or a dishonest intention.
“But it is not any part of my plan, when the time shall come that I quit my present station, to threaten the repose of my country, and erect, like the honorable gentleman, a fortress and a refuge for disappointed ambition. The self-created and self-appointed successors to the present administration have asserted, with much confidence, that this is likely to be the case. I can assure them, however, when they come from that side of the House to this, I will for one most cordially accept the exchange. The only desire I would indulge and cherish on the subject, is, that the service of the public may be ably, disinterestedly, and faithfully performed. To those who feel for their country as I wish to do, and will strive to do, it matters little who are out or in; but it matters much that her affairs be conducted with wisdom, with firmness, with dignity, and with credit. Those intrusted to my care I shall resign, let me hope, into hands much better qualified to do them justice than mine. But I will not mimic the parade of the honorable gentleman in avowing an indiscriminate opposition to whoever may be appointed to succeed. I will march out with no warlike, no hostile, no menacing protestations ; but hoping the new administration will have no other object in view than the real and substantial welfare of the community at large; that they will bring with them into office those truly public and patriotic principles which they formerly held, but which they abandoned opposition; that they will save the state, and promote the great purposes of public good, with as much steadiness, integrity, and solid advantage, as I am confident it must one day appear the Earl of Shelburne and his colleagues have done. I promise them, beforehand, my uniform and best support on every occasion, where I can honestly and conscientiously assist them."
He had now carried the House to the utmost point of interest and expectation. Something more directly relating to himself was obviously yet to come ; and it is not wonderful that the ablest of the eloquent men before him, when they saw the perilous height to which he had raised his audience, felt he could never descend to his own personal concerns without producing in the minds of his hearers a painful shock and revulsion of feeling. But no, his crowning triumph was yet to come.
“Unused as I am to the factions and jarring clamors of this day's debate, I look up to the independent part of the House, and to the public at large, if not for that impartial approbation which my conduct deserves, at least for that acquittal from blame to which my innocence entitles me. My earliest impressions were in favor of the noblest and most disinterested modes of serving the public: these impressions are still dear, and will, I hope, remain forever dear to my heart: I will cherish them as a legacy infinitely more valuable than the greatest inheritance. On these principles alone I came into Parliament, and into place; and I now take the whole House to witness, that I have not been under the necessity of contradicting one public declaration I have ever made.
“I am, notwithstanding, at the disposal of this House, and with their decision, whatever it shall be, I will cheerfully comply. It is impossible to deprive me of those feelings which must always result from the sincerity of my best endeavors to fulfill with integrity every official engagement. You take from me, sir, the privileges and emoluments of place, but you can not, and you shall not, take from me those habitual and warm regards for the prosperity of Great Britain, which constitute the honor, the happiness, the pride of my life, and which, I trust, death alone can extinguish. And, with this consolation, the loss of power, sir, and the loss of fortune, though I affect not to despise them, I hope I soon shall be able to forget."
Here he went on to quote the beautiful lines of Horace in respect to Fortune (Odes, book iii. Ode 29, line 53-6):
* The reader can not have forgotten the declaration of Mr. Fox, made only a few months before, that nothing could ever induce him to think of a coalition with Lord North, and that he was willing to be considered as infamous if he ever formed one. See page 445.
Laudo manentem; si celeres quatit
Pennas, resigno quæ deditwhen the thought struck him that the next words, “et mea virtute me involvo," would appear unbecoming if taken (as they might be) for a compliment to himself. Mr. Wraxall, who was present, describes him as instantly casting his eyes upon the floor, while a momentary silence elapsed, which turned upon him the attention of the whole House. He drew his handkerchief from his pocket, passed it over his lips, and then, recovering as it were from his temporary embarrassment, he struck his hand with great force upon the table, and finished the sentence in the most emphatic manner, omitting the words referred to :
Laudo manentem; si celeres quatit
Pauperiem sine dote quæro.5 “ The effect was electric; and the cheers with which his friends greeted him as he sat down, were followed with that peculiar kind of buzz, which is a higher testimony to oratorical merit than the noisier manifestations of applause."
Lord North, in following Mr. Pitt that night, spoke of his eloquence as “ amazing ;" and added, “It is no small presumption of my innocence that I could hear his thunder without being dismayed, and even listen to it with a mixture of astonishment and delight.” But the Coalition was too strong to be dissolved. The vote of censure was passed by a majority of seventeen, and the Earl of Shelburne resigned.
The King now sent for Mr. Pitt, and urged him, in the most pressing terms, to accept the office of prime minister; but, with that strength of judgment which never deserted him in the most flattering or the most adverse circumstances, he steadfastly rejected the offer, satisfied that it would be impossible to resist the combined force of Lord North and Mr. Fox in the House. To gratify the King, however, while endeavoring to form a ministry to his mind, Mr. Pitt remained in office for six weeks, carrying on the government with a dignity of deportment, and an ease and dexterity in the dispatch of business, which excited the admiration of all, and produced the frequent remark, “there is no need of a ministry while Mr. Pitt is here.” In the mean time, the King, though urged by repeated addresses from the House, continued to shrink back from the Coalition ; and it is now known that he seriously meditated a retirement to Hanover, as the only means of relief from the painful situation to which he was reduced. It was Thurlow that deterred him from so hazardous a step. “ Your Majesty may go to your Electoral dominions," said the Chancellor, bluntly; “nothing is easier ; but you may not find it so easy to return when you grow tired of staying there. James II. did the same; your Majesty must not follow his example.” He therefore advised the King to submit with patience, assuring him that the Coalition could not remain long in power without committing some error which
While propitious, I praise her, and bless her glad stay;
And honest, though poor, I shall never repine. 6 More than twenty years after, Mr. Canning, while defending himself under circumstances somewhat similar, in respect to Catholic emancipation, began to quote the passage so finely turned by Pitt; but as he uttered the words “ Laudo manentem,” it suddenly occurred to him how they had been used before, and he instantly varied them, in his graceful manner, saying, “or, rather, to use the paraphrase of Dryden,”
“I can applaud her when she's kind;
I puff the prostitute away." 1 Age of Pitt and Fox, page 155.
would lay them open to successful attack. The King saw the wisdom of his advice. He permitted the Coalition ministry to be formed, April 2, 1783, but with an ex: press reservation that he was to be understood as no way concerned in their meas
Soon after the close of this session, Mr. Pitt visited France in company with Mr. Wilberforce, and spent some months in studying the institutions of the country. He was treated with great distinction; and, as Mr. Wilberforce states, “it was hinted to him, through the intervention of Horace Walpole, that he would be an acceptable suitor for the daughter of the celebrated Necker, afterward Madame De Staël. Necker is said to have offered to endow her with a fortune of £14,000 a year.” But he declined the proposal, and remained unmarried to the end of life. With all the diversity of his powers, there were two characters which Mr. Pitt would have been quite unable to sustain—to play the part of the lover or the husband would have been equally beyond his reach.
The measure foretold by Thurlow came earlier than was expected. During the first week of the next session (November 18th, 1783), Mr. Fox brought forward his East India Bill. In opposing this scheme, Mr. Pitt spoke the sentiments of most men in the kingdom. The firmest Whigs, like Lord Camden, the most strenuous enemies of oppression, like Wilberforce, united with the supporters of the Crown and the entire moneyed interest of the country to denounce it in the strongest terms. There were two features which exposed the bill to this general reprobation. First, it put the civil and military government of India in the hands of Commissioners, appointed, not, as usual in such cases, by the Crown, but by Parliament. Considering the manner in which Fox came into office, this was calculated to awaken the very worst suspicions. It looked like a direct defiance of the sovereign-like a determination on the part of the Coalitionists to make use betimes of their ascendency in Parliament, and establish themselves so firmly in power, through this immense increase of patronage, that the King would be unable to remove them. As already stated in the memoir of Mr. Fox, few men at the present day believe he had any such scheme of desperate ambition. He was actuated, there is reason to think, by humane sentiment. He did not mean to have his plan crippled in its execution by the personal animosity of the King, and he therefore gave to Parliament the first appointment of the Commissioners for four years; and while he expected, no doubt, to add greatly to the strength of his administration by these means, the idea of his aiming at an imperium in imperio, or “a perpetual dictatorship" over England, is now generally discarded. Still, the jealousy which prevailed was perfectly natural. Mr. Fox had made it for himself; and Mr. Pitt used it against him, only as the best men in the kingdom believed it to be founded in truth. Secondly, the bill stripped the Company of all their commercial rights, and placed their property in the hands of another board of Commissioners. This was a much more doubtful measure." It was tantamount,” as Lord Camden truly said, “to a commission of bankruptcy or a commission of lunacy against them; it pronounced them to be unable to proceed in their trade, either from want of property or from want of mental capacity.” Nothing could justify it but the extremest necessity; and though Mr. Fox was convinced of that necessity, he ought, in prudence at least, to have delayed such a measure until the other part of his plan had been tried ; until experience had shown that the
8 The reason which he was reported to have given, viz., that " he was married to his country," if not a mere jest, was probably, as Lord Brougham remarks, a fabrication of the day, like the words (“Oh, my country !") which were represented to have been the last that he uttered on his death-bed. “Such things," as his Lordship justly remarks, “were too theatrical for so great a man, and of too vulgar a cast for so consummate a performer, had he stooped to play a part in such cir cumstances."
abuses in India were incapable of redress by a change of its civil and military government—that the Company were fit only to be treated as bankrupts or lunatics. It is unnecessary to dwell on the means by which the East India Bill was defeated, and the Coalition ministry driven from power. They have been detailed in the memoir of Mr. Fox. What share Mr. Pitt had in Lord Temple's communications with the King has never been made known; but the course taken was regarded by all concerned as an extreme measure on the part of the Crown to repel an extreme measure of Mr. Fox, which endangered the rights of the King and the balance of the Constitution. The great body of the people gave it their sanction, and rejoiced in a step which they would have resisted, in almost any other case, as an invasion of their rights.
Mr. Pitt now came in as Prime Minister at the age of twenty-four (December 22d, 1783), under circumstances wholly without precedent in the history of English politics. Against him was arrayed an overwhelming majority in the House, led on by the most eloquent men of the age, inflamed by a sense of injury and disappointed ambition. So hopeless did his prospect appear, that a motion for a new writ to fill his place for the borough of Appleby was received with a general shout of laughter. In the contest which followed, and which turned the eyes of the whole empire on the House of Commons for nearly three months, the young minister's situation was not only trying beyond measure, in a political point of view, but, as Wraxall observes, " appeared at times to be not wholly exempt from personal danger. Fox might be said, without exaggeration, to hold suspended over his head the severest marks of the indignation of the offended House. His removal from the King's presence and councils as an enemy of his country—his impeachment or his commitment to the Tower—any or all of these propositions might, nay, might certainly have been carried in moments of effervescence, when the passions of a popular assembly, inflamed by such a conductor as Fox, seemed to be ripe for any acts of violence."9 Under these circumstances, Mr. Pitt displayed a presence of mind, a skill and boldness in repelling attack, a dexterity in turning the weapons of his adversaries against themselves, and making the violence of their assault the very means of their final discomfiture, which we can not even now contemplate, as remote spectators of the scene, without wonder and admiration. Mr. Fox's first step was to demand, rather than request of the King, that Parliament should not be dissolved, intimating, in his speech on the subject, that it would not be safe to adopt such a measure “merely to suit the convenience of an ambitious young man.” Mr. Pitt, who had wisely determined to fight the battle for a new Parliament in and through the present House, replied by a friend (for he had not yet been re-elected as a member), that he had no designs of this sort, and “ that if any idea of proroguing or dissolving Parliament should be entertained any where, Mr. Pitt would instantly resign.” To make himself still more sure, Mr. Fox next moved a resolution, declaring “the payment of any public money for services, voted in the present session, after Parliament should be prorogued or dissolved (if such events should take place before an act should have passed appropriating the supplies for such services), to be a high crime and misdemeanor.” To this Mr. Pitt made no objection, and the motion was carried by general consent. These things combined brought Mr. Pitt apparently to the feet of Mr. Fox. The majority were not to be broken down by a new election, and if they stopped the supplies, he had no longer the resource of proroguing Parliament, and using the money on hand as absolutely necessary for continuing the government: he must resign, or bring the country at once into a state of anarchy. So certain did Mr. Fox consider the result, that he said on the floor of the House, “ To talk of the permanency of such an administration would be only laughing at and insulting them;" and at the close
9 Historical Memoirs, vol. iv.,