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Between 1793 and 1795 very stringent measures were adopted for putting down this spirit. Acts of Parliament were passed, as already stated in the memoir of Mr. Fox, suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, imposing severe restrictions on the holding of political meetings, and giving a wider extent to the crime of treason. They were designed, however, only as temporary measures, and were limited to three years. Still, they brought great reproach on Mr. Pitt, though it now appears that they originated not with him, but with the followers of Mr. Burke, who had been recently brought into the ministry. Lord Campbell, speaking of this period, says, “Now began that system of policy for the repression of French principles, which has caused the period in which it prevailed to be designated, in the language of exaggeration, the Reign of Terror.' I think the system was unwise, and that Lord Loughborough is chiefly answerable for it. I am afraid that, if he did not originate, he actively encouraged it, and that he, as the organ of the alarmist party, forced it upon the reluctant Prime Minister. Pitt had not only come forward in public life on the popular side, but I believe that his propensities continued liberal, and that, if he could have fulfilled his wishes, he would have emancipated the Catholics—he would have abolished slavery --he would have established free trade—and he would have reformed the House of Commons. His regard for the liberty of the press he had evinced by carrying Fox's Libel Bill by the influence of government, notwithstanding the furious opposition of Lord Chancellor Thurlow. He was likewise particularly adverse to any stringent measures against reformers, being aware that, having himself very recently belonged to that body, he would appear rather in an invidious light as the persecutor of his former associates. But he found that he could not adhere to constitutional laws and constitutional practices, without the disruption of his administration. During this period, also, occurred those state trials, arising out of some wild attempts at parlia. mentary reform, in which Erskine was so much distinguished. Some reproach has fallen upon Mr. Pitt for allowing them to go on. It appears, however, from the statement of Lord Campbell, that "Lord Loughborough was the principal adviser of them. He had surrendered himself to the wildest apprehensions of Burke, he feared that any encouragement to parliamentary reform was tantamount to rebellion ; and he believed that general bloodshed would be saved by the sacrifice of a few individuals. *** When the plan was first proposed of arresting the members of the Corresponding Society, and proceeding capitally against them, it is said that Pitt, who had studied the law, expressed some disapprobation of the notion of constructive treason,' but he did not like to rely upon the objection that the Duke of Richmond and himself had supported similar doctrines, and no doubt in his heart he believed that, under the pretense of parliamentary reform, deeper designs were now carried on. torney and Solicitor General, being consulted by the Chancellor, gave an opinion that the imputed conspiracy to change the form of government was a compassing of the King's death within the meaning of the statute of Edward III.—and the King himself, upon this opinion, was eager for the prosecutions. So in an evil hour an order was made that they should be instituted, and warrants were signed for the arrest of the supposed traitors." "Happily, English juries," adds Lord Campbell," and the returning sober sense of the English people, at last saved public liberty from the great peril to which it was then exposed.” * * *“To the credit of George III., when the whole subject was understood by him, he rejoiced in the acquittals, and, laying all the blame on the Chancellor, he said, “You have got us into the wrong box, my Lord, you have got us into the wrong box. Constructive treason won't do, my Lord, constructive treason won't do.'"'34
Mr. Pitt saw, within three years from the commencement of the war, how idle it was to think of refusing to recognize the French Republic as forming part of the po33 Lives of the Chancellors, vol. vi., p. 254.
34 Id. ib.,
litical system of Europe. She had extorted that recognition from all around her at the point of the bayonet, and had nearly doubled her territory and dependencies at the expense of her neighbors. He therefore brought down a message from the King, acknowledging her government as established under the Directory in October, 1795, and in October, 1796, sent a plenipotentiary to Paris with proposals of peace. His terms were highly liberal. He offered to restore the conquests he had made from France, being all her rich colonies in the East and West Indies, receiving nothing in return, and only asking for Austria, as the ally of England, a similar restoration of the territory which had been wrested from her by the French. This the Directory refused, and, after a short negotiation, ordered the English embassador to quit Paris in twenty-four hours.
The next year, 1797, was one of the darkest seasons that England had known for centuries. In April, Austria was compelled to sue for peace, leaving the English to carry on the contest single-handed ; and at the moment when this intelligence arrived, a mutiny had broken out in the fleets both at the Nore and Spithead, more extensive and threatening than has ever occurred in the English navy; while Ireland was on the brink of rebellion, and actually had deputies in France soliciting the aid of her troops. Never were the funds so low, even in the worst periods of the American war. These events were ushered in by the greatest calamity that can befall a commercial people, a drain of specie arising from the operation of the war, which endangered the whole banking system of the country. Whether Mr. Pitt was to blame or not for the causes which produced this drain, it is certain that his daring resolution saved the country in this alarming crisis. He issued an order of the Privy Council, February 26th, 1797, requiring the Bank of England to suspend specie pay. ments. He might have avoided the personal hazard thus incurred by throwing the responsibility on Parliament, which was then in session-the order, indeed, was generally considered as unconstitutional; but the case would not admit of delay, a single night's debate on such a question might have destroyed all credit throughout the kingdom. Parliament and the country justified the course he took, while the bankers in every part of the empire united to sustain him. The mutiny was quelled by a judicious union of firmness and concession ; Ireland was held down for another year; and Great Britain, instead of being plunged into the gulf of national and individual bankruptcy as predicted by Mr. Fox, was placed on a vantage ground, which enabled her to sustain the pressure of the war without injury to her financial system. It is not wonderful that the friends of Mr. Pitt were loud in their applause of “the pilot that weathered the storm."
About the middle of the same year, July, 1797, Mr. Pitt renewed his proposals of peace. He sent Lord Malmesbury to Lisle, offering, as in the former case, to restore all his conquests, and, as Austria was now out of the way, demanding nothing in return. There were at this juncture two parties in the Directory, one for peace and the other for war; and the negotiation changed its aspect, from time to time, during the two months of its continuance, as the one or the other obtained the mastery. It is a curious circumstance, showing the difficulties he had to encounter, that a similar division existed in his own cabinet; so that among the “ astounding disclosures" made in Lord Malmesbury's diary, we find that it was necessary for his Lordship to send two sets of dispatches every time he communicated with his government, one of a more general nature to be read by Lord Loughborough and his associates, who were bent on defeating the negotiation, and the other for Mr. Pitt, Lord Grenville, and Mr. Dundas! The violent part of the Directory at last prevailed. War became the policy of the government, and Lord Malmesbury was dismissed. The French were to be deluded with new visions of conquest. Bonaparte was sent to subdue Egypt, and thus open a pathway to India; and the whole of Hindostan, with its hundred and fifty millions of inhabitants, was to become a tributary of the Republic. Mr. Pitt laid the subject before Parliament, November 10th, 1797, in a masterly speech, which is given in this collection. Parliament, without one dissenting voice. approved of his conduct, and united in the emphatic declaration, “We know that great exertions are wanted; we are ready to make them; and are, at all events, determined to stand or fall by the laws, liberties, and religion of our country." The people came forward with that noble spirit and unanimity which has always distinguished the English in times of great peril, and subscribed fifteen hundred thousand pounds, not as a loan, but as a voluntary gift for carrying on the war.
The Directory lasted a little more than four years, and then yielded to the power of Bonaparte, who usurped the government, and became First Consul in December, 1799. He immediately proposed a peace, and it was now Mr. Pitt's turn to reject the offer. Wounded by the insults which he had received in the two preceding negotiations, doubting whether the power of the First Consul would be at all more permanent than that of others who had gone before him, and convinced, at all events, that he could not be sincere in his offer, since the genius and interests of Bonaparte led only to war, Mr. Pitt declined to negotiate on the subject. It appeared afterward, as already stated, that Bonaparte did not wish for peace. When the question came before Parliament, February 30, 1800, he delivered the third of his speeches contained in this volume. It is the most elaborate of all his efforts; and though worse reported than the other two, so far as language is concerned (Mr. Canning, indeed, says that Mr. Pitt suffered more in this respect than any orator of his day), it can hardly be too much admired for its broad and luminous statements, the closeness of its reasonings, and the fervor of its appeals.
In 1800, Mr. Pitt accomplished his favorite plan of a legislative union of Ireland with Great Britain. But he was unable to effect it without a distinct intimation to the Roman Catholics that they should receive, as a reward for their acquiescence, the boon of emancipation which they had been so long seeking. He did this without the privity of the King, and knowing his scruples on the subject, but still with a firm belief that his Majesty, in attaining so great an object, would yield those scruples to the wishes of the most enlightened men in the kingdom. But the moment he disclosed his plan to his colleagues, Lord Loughborough, says Lord Campbell, “set secretly to work, and composed a most elaborate and artful paper, showing forth the dangers likely to arise from Mr. Pitt's plan, in a manner admirably calculated to make an impression on the royal mind." The King was thus fortified against the proposal before Mr. Pitt had time to present his reasons; and, adopting the course he had taken with the East India Bill of Mr. Fox, declared at the levee, with a view to have his words circulated, “ that he should consider any person who voted for the measure proposed by his minister as personally indisposed toward himself!" Mr. Pitt justly considered this as a direct exclusion from the public service, and so informed the cabinet, January 220, 1800, having held the office of Prime Minister between sixteen and seventeen years. It was generally supposed at the time that he retired with a view to open a more easy way for negotiating a peace with France. He certainly desired peace, but the circumstances here stated were the true cause of his withdrawing from the government.
Mr. Addington (afterward Lord Sidmouth) succeeded him, and Mr. Pitt gave the new minister a cordial support. Mr. Wilberforce, in his diary, says, “ Pitt has really behaved with a magnanimity unparalleled in a politician, and is wishing to form for Addington the best and strongest possible administration.” He approved of the peace; and again, when the rupture took place, he gave the declaration of war, June 18th, 1803, his warmest support. His speech on this occasion (which, through an accident in the gallery, was never reported) is said by Lord Brougham to have " excelled all his other performances in vehement and spirit-stirring declamation; and this may be the more easily believed when we know that Mr. Fox, in his reply, said, • The orators of antiquity would have admired, probably would have envied it.' The last half hour is described as having been one unbroken torrent of the most majestic declamation."
Mr. Addington had a timidity and inertness which wholly unfitted him for carrying on the war. The people were clamorous for a change of ministers, and Mr. Pitt was again called to the head of affairs, May 12th, 1804. Lord Brougham has reproached him for accepting office without insisting upon Catholic emancipation ; but his former step had thrown the King into a fit of derangement for nearly three weeks, a new agitation of the subject might have produced the same result, and, as it was now obvious that emancipation could never be granted during the life of George III., Mr. Pitt, surely, was not to exclude himself from office on a mere point of etiquette, without the slightest advantage to the cause. He now formed his last great coalition against Bonaparte, but the battle of Austerlitz (December 20, 1805) was a death blow to his hopes. Worn out with care and anxiety, his health had been declining for some months. On the 21st of January, 1806, the Bishop of Lincoln apprised him that his end was approaching. Mr. Pitt heard him with perfect composure, and after a few moments, rising as he spoke, and clasping his hands with the utmost fervor, he exclaimed, " I throw myself entirely (laying a strong emphasis on the last word) upon the mercy of God through the merits of Christ.” He now arranged all his secular concerns with perfect calmness, and died at a quarter past four, Thursday morning, the 23d of January, 1806, in the forty-seventh year of his age. He was buried near his father in Westminster Abbey, and his debts, amounting to £40,000, were paid by the public. Mr. Wilberforce, who knew him more intimately than any other man, has given this testimony to his character : “Mr. Pitt had his foibles, and of course they were not diminished by so long a continuance in office; but for a clear and comprehensive view of the most complicated subject in all its relations; for that fairness of mind which disposes a man to follow out, and, when overtaken, to recog. nize the truth; for magnanimity, which made him ready to change his measures when he thought the good of the country required it, though he knew he should be charged with inconsistency on account of the change; for willingness to give a fair hearing to all that could be urged against his own opinions, and to listen to the suggestions of men whose understandings he knew to be inferior to his own; for personal purity, disinterestedness, integrity, and love of country, I have never known his equal. His strictness in regard to truth was astonishing, considering the situation he so long filled."
In person, Mr. Pitt was tall and slender; his features were somewhat harsh, but lighted up with intelligence by the flashes of his eye ; his gesture was animated, but devoid of grace ; his articulation was remarkably full and clear, filling the largest room with the volume of sound. His manner of entering the House was strikingly indicative of his absorption in the business before him. “From the instant he passed the doorway,” says Wraxall, “ he advanced up the floor with a quick and firm step, his head erect and thrown back, looking neither to the right nor the left, nor favoring with a nod or a glance any of the individuals seated on either side, among whom many who possessed £5000 a year would have been gratified even by so slight a mark of attention.” Those who knew him best as a speaker expatiated with delight on " the perfection of his arrangement, the comprehensiveness of his reasonings, the power of his sarcasm, the magnificence of his declamation, the majestic tone of his voice, the legislative authority of his manner, and his felicitous observance of the temper of his audience." Mr. Canning has given the following sketch of his character, which will form an appropriate conclusion to this memoir.
“ The character of this illustrious statesman early passed its ordeal. Scarcely had he attained the age at which reflection commences, when Europe with astonishment beheld him filling the first place in the councils of his country, and managing the vast mass of its concerns with all the vigor and steadiness of the most matured wisdom. Dignity—strength—discretion—these were among the masterly qualities of his mind at its first dawn. He had been nurtured a statesman, and his knowledge was of that kind which always lay ready for practical application. Not dealing in the subtleties of abstract politics, but moving in the slow, steady procession of reason, his conceptions were reflective, and his views correct. Habitually attentive to the concerns of government, he spared no pains to acquaint himself with whatever was connected, however minutely, with its prosperity. He was devoted to the state. Its interests engrossed all his study and engaged all his care. It was the element alone in which he seemed to live and move. He allowed himself but little recreation from his labors. His mind was always on its station, and its activity was unremitted.
“He did not hastily adopt a measure, nor hastily abandon it. The plan struck out by him for the preservation of Europe was the result of prophetic wisdom and profound policy. But, though defeated in many respects by the selfish ambition and short-sighted imbecility of foreign powers—whose rulers were too venal or too weak to follow the flight of that mind which would have taught them to outwing the storm—the policy involved in it has still a secret operation on the conduct of surrounding states. His plans were full of energy, and the principles which inspired them looked beyond the consequences of the hour.
“He knew nothing of that timid and wavering cast of mind which dares not abide by its own decision. He never suffered popular prejudice or party clamor to turn him aside from any measure which his deliberate judgment had adopted. He had a proud reliance on himself, and it was justified. Like the sturdy warrior leaning on his own battle-ax, conscious where his strength lay, he did not readily look beyond it.
“As a debater in the House of Commons, his speeches were logical and argumentative. If they did not often abound in the graces of metaphor, or sparkle with the brilliancy of wit, they were always animated, elegant, and classical. The strength of his oratory was intrinsic; it presented the rich and abundant resource of a clear discernment and a correct taste. His speeches are stamped with inimitable marks of originality. When replying to his opponents, his readiness was not more conspicuous than his energy. He was always prompt and always dignified. He could sometimes have recourse to the sportiveness of irony, but he did not often seek any other aid than was to be derived from an arranged and extensive knowledge of his subject. This qualified him fully to discuss the arguments of others, and forcibly to defend his own. Thus armed/it was rarely in the power of his adversaries, mighty as they were, to beat him from the field. His eloquence, occasionally rapid, electric, and vehement, was always chaste, winning, and persuasive—not awing into acquiescence, but arguing into conviction. His understanding was bold and comprehensive. Nothing seemed too remote for its reach or too large for its grasp.
h. Unallured by dissipation and unswayed by pleasure, he never sacrificed the national treasure to the one, or the national interest to the other. To his unswerving integrity the most authentic of all testimony is to be found in that unbounded public confidence which followed him throughout the whole of his political career.
“ Absorbed as he was in the pursuits of public life, he did not neglect to prepare himself in silence for that higher destination, which is at once the incentive and reward of human virtue. His talents, superior and splendid as they were, never made him forgetful of that Eternal Wisdom from which they emanated. The faith and fortitude of his last moments were affecting and exemplary.”