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SPEECH OF MR. CANNING ON THE FALL OF BONAPARTE, DELIVERED AT LIVERPOOL, JANUARY 10, 1814.
INTRODUCTION. MR. CANNING was elected member for Liverpool, in opposition to Mr. Brougham, in the autumn of 1812, and at the end of fourteen months he visited his constituents to congratulate them on the success of the Allies on the Continent, which had filled all England with exultation and triumph.
After the retreat of Bonaparte from Moscow, in the winter of 1812–13, nearly all Europe combined for bis overthrow; and though he still maintained the contest, bis fall was rendered certain by the advance of an overpowering force from every quarter to invade the French territory.
The speech of Mr. Canning on this occasion, for selectness of thought, for beauty of language, for ardor and enthusiasm, was perhaps superior to any of productions.
SPEECH, &c. GENTLEMEN, as your guest, I thank you from is just to speak well; and I do no more than Acknowl.
my heart for the honorable and affec- justice to the gentleman (Mr. John Backhouse) odgment or tionate reception which you have given whom you have appointed to conduct the office
As the representative of Liver- in question (with whom I had no previous acpool, I am most happy in meeting my constitu- quaintance), in bearing public testimony to his ents again, after a year's experience of each oth- merit, and in assuring you that it would be diffier, and a year's separation ; a year, the most cult to find any one who would surpass him in eventful in the annals of the world, and com- zeal, intelligence, and industry. prising within itself such a series of stupendous Having dispatched what it was necessary for changes as might have filled the history of an me to say on these points, I know, gen. view of pubage.
tlemen, that it is your wish, and I feel lic affairs. Gentlemen, you have been so good as to couple it to be my duty, that I should now proceed to Regard for the with my name the expression of your communicate to you my sentiments on the state opeakers Cohe acknowledgments for the attention of public affairs, with the same frankness which
which I have paid to the interests of has hitherto distinguished all our intercourse with your town. You, gentlemen, I have no doubt, each other. That duty is one which it does not recollect the terms upon which I entered into now require any effort of courage to perform. your service; and you are aware, therefore, that To exhort to sacrifices, to stimulate to exertion, I claim no particular acknowledgment at your to shame despondency, to divert from untimely hands for attention to the interests of Liverpool, concession, is a duty of a sterner sort, which you implicated as they are with the general inter- found me not backward to discharge, at a period ests of the country. I trust, at the same time, when, from the shortness of our acquaintance, I that I have not been wanting to all or to any of was uncertain whether my freedom might not you in matters of local or individual concern. offend you. My task of to-day is one at which But I should not do fairly by you, if I were not no man can take offense. It is to mingle my to take this opportunity of saying that a service congratulations with your rejoicings on the events (which certainly I will not pretend to describe which have passed and are passing in the world. as without some burden in itself) has been made If, in contemplating events so widely (I had allight to me, beyond all example, by that institu- most said so tremendously) important, tion which your munificence and provident care it be pardonable to turn one's view for and exultation
for Englishmen have established : I mean the office in London, a moment to local and partial considerthrough which your correspondence with your ations, I may be permitted to observe, that, while members is now carried on. I had no preten- to Great Britain, while to all Europe, while to sion, gentlemen, to this singular mark of your the world and to posterity, the events which have consideration ; but neither will it, I hope, be recently taken place are matter of unbounded and thought presumptuous in me to confess, that I universal joy, there is no collection of individuals might not have been able to discharge the serv. who are better entitled than the company now ice which I owe you, in a way which would assembled in this room (in great part, I presume, have satisfied my own feelings as well as yours identically the same, and altogether representing -that I might, in spite of all my endeavors, have the same interests and feelings as that of which been guilty of occasional omissions, if I had not I took leave, in this room, about fourteen months been provided with some such medium of com- ago) to exult in the present state of things, and munication with my constituents. Of an absent to derive from it, in addition to their share of the and meritorious individual, it is pleasing as it general joy, a distinct and special satisfaction.
This failure ow.
cloice of men,
We can not forget, gentlemen, the sinister day in a state of public affairs as doubtful as that
omens and awful predictions under in which we took leave of each othdictions which which we met and parted in October, er; if confederated nations had been in these prieci
1812. The penalty denounced upon still arrayed against this country, and of the present you for your election of me was embarrassment the balance of Europe still trembling to the rich and famine to the poor. I was warned in the scale, I should not have hesitated now, as that, when I should return to renew my acquaint- I did not hesitate then, to declare my decided and ance with my constituents, I should find the grass unalterable opinion, that perseverance, under growing in your streets. In spite of that denun- whatever difficulties, under whatever privations, ciation, you did me the honor to elect me; in spite afforded the only chance of prosperity to you, beof that warning, I venture to meet you here again. cause the only chance of safety to your country; It must be fairly confessed that this is not the sea- and the only chance of safety to the country, beson of the year to estimate correctly the amount cause the only chance of deliverance to Europe. of superfluous and unprofitable vegetation with Gentlemen, I should be ashamed to address you which your streets may be teeming ; but, with now in the tone of triumph, if I had not addressout presuming to limit the power of productive ed you then in that of exhortation. I should be nature, it is at least satisfactory to know that the ashamed to appear before you shouting in the fields have not been starved to clothe your quays train of success, if I had not looked you in the with verdure; that it is not by economizing in face and encouraged you to patience under diffithe scantiness of the harvest that nature has re- culties. It is because my acquaintance with you served her vigor for the pastures of your Ex. commenced in times of peril and embarrassment, change.
and because I then neither flattered nor deceived But, gentlemen, I am sure you feel, with me, you, that I now not only offer to you my congrat
that these are topics which I treat ulations, but put in my claim to yours, on the ing not to the with levity only because they are not, extinction of that peril, on the termination of that
nor were, at the time when they were embarrassment, and on the glorious issue to which seriously urged, susceptible of a serious argu- exertion and endurance have brought that great ment; they did not furnish grounds on which struggle in which our honor and our happiness any man would rest his appeal to your favor, or were involved. on which your choice of any man could be justi- Gentlemen, during the course of a political fied. If I have condescended to revert to them life, nearly coeval with the commencement of at all, it is because I would leave none of those the war, I have never given one vote, I have recollections untouched which the comparison of never uttered one sentiment, which had not for our last meeting with the present, I know, sug- its object the consummation now happily within gests to your minds as well as to my own; and our view. because I would, so far as in me lies, endeavor I am not ashamed, and it is not unpleasing or to banish from all future use, by exposing their unprofitable, to look back upon the Elevated penis absurdity, topics which are calculated only to dangers which we have passed, and tion of Ezglasd mislead and to inflame. That the seasons would to compare them with the scene which now lies have run their appointed course, that the sun before us. We behold a country inserior in would have shone with as genial a warmth, and population to most of her continental neighbors, the showers would have fallen with as fertilizing but multiplying her faculties and resources by a moisture, if you had not chosen me for your her own activity and enterprise, by the vigor of representative, is an admission which I make her Constitution, and by the good sense of her without much apprehension of the consequence. people; we behold her, after standing up against Nor do I wish you to believe that your choice a formidable foe throughout a contest, in the of any other than me would have delayed the re- course of which every one of her allies, and at turn of your prosperity, or prevented ihe revival times all of them together, have fainted and of your commerce.
failed—nay, have been driven to combine with Í make these admissions without fear, so far the enemy against her—we behold her, at this
as concerns the choice between indi. moment, rallying the nations of Europe to one to great princi. viduals. But I do not admit that it point, and leading them to decisive victory.
was equally indifferent upon what If such a picture were merely the bright visprinciples that choice should be determined. I ion of speculative philosophy, if it were presentdo not admit, that if the principles which it was ed to us in the page of the history of ancient then recommended to you to countenance had un- times, it would stir and warm the heart. Bat, fortunately prevailed in Parliament, and, through gentlemen, this country is our own; and what the authority of Parliament, had been introduced must be the feelings which arise, on such a reinto the counsels of the country, they would not view, in the bosom of every son of that country? have interfered with fatal operation, not indeed What must be the feelings of a community such to arrest the bounty of Providence, to turn back as I am now addressing, which constitutes no the course of the seasons, and to blast the fertility insignificant part of the strength of the nation of the earth, but to stop that current of political so described; which has suffered largely in ber events which, " taken at the flood,” has placed privations, and may hope to participate proporEngland at the head of the world.
tionably in her reward? What (I may be perGentlemen, if I had met you here again on this mitted *o add) must be the feelings of one who
is chosen to represent that community, and who this has been effected by change of principles, finds himself in that honorable station at the mo- to specify the change. What change of princiment of triumph, only because he discountenan- ples or of government has taken place among the ced despair in the moment of despondency? nations of Europe? We are the best judges
From the contemplation of a spectacle so of ourselves—what change has taken place here? The consequence mighty and magnificent as this, I Is the Constitution other than it was when we poradeerib ber should disdain to turn aside to the were told (as we often were told in the bad
controversies of party. Of princi- times) that it was a doubt whether it were worth ples, however, it is impossible not to say some-defending? Is the Constitution other than it was thing; because our triumph would be incom- when we were warned that peace on any terms plete, and its blessings might be transient, if we must be made, as the only hope of saving it from could be led astray by any sophistry; if we popular indignation and popular reform? could consent, in a sort of compromise of com- There is yet another question to be asked. mon joy, to forget or to misstate the causes from By what power, in what part of the The powers which that triumph has sprung. All of one world, has that final blow been struck wheb bave mind, I trust and believe we are, in exulting at which has smitten the tyrant to the the victory. the success of our country; all of one mind, 1 ground ? I suppose, by some enlightened retrust, we now are throughout this land, in determ- public; by some recently-regenerated governining to persevere, if need be, in strenuous exer- ment of pure philanthropy and uncorrupted virtion to prosecute, and I hope, to perfect the great tue ; I suppose, by some nation which, in the work so happily in progress. But we know that excess of popular freedom, considers even a repthere are some of those who share most heartily resentative system as defective, unless each inin the public exultation, who yet ascribe effects, dividual interferes directly in the national conwhich happily can not be disputed, to causes cerns ; some nation of enlightened patriots, ev. which may justly be denied. No tenderness for ery man of whom is a politician in the coffeedisappointed prophecies, gentlemen, ought to in-house, as well as in the Senate : I suppose it is duce us thus to disconnect effect and cause. It from some such government as this that the would lead to errors which might be dangerous, conqueror of autocrats, the sworn destroyer of if unwarily adopted and generally received. monarchical England, has met his doom. I look We have heard, for instance, that the war has through the European world, gentlemen, in vain :
now been successful, because the princi- I find there no such august community. But in changed, as ples on which the war was undertaken another hemisphere I do find such a one, which, during the have been renounced; that we are at no doubt, must be the political David by whom
length blessed with victory, because we the Goliath of Europe has been brought down. have thrown away the banner under which we What is the name of that glorious republic, to entered into the contest; that the contest was which the gratitude of Europe is eternally due commenced with one set of principles, but that —which, from its innate hatred to tyranny, has the issue has been happily brought about by the so perseveringly exerted itself to liberate the adoption of another. Gentlemen, I know of no world, and at last has successfully closed the such change. If we have succeeded, it has not contest? Alas, gentlemen, such a republic I do been by the renunciation, but by the prosecution indeed find; and I find it enlisted, and (God be of our principles ; if we have succeeded, it has thanked !) enlisted alone, under the banner of not been by adopting new maxims of policy, but the despot. But where was the blow struck ? by upholding, under all varieties of difficulty and Where? Alas for theory! In the wilds of desdiscouragement, old, established, inviolable prin- potic Russia. It was followed up on the plains ciples of conduct.
of Leipsic—by Russian, Prussian, and Austrian We are told that this war has of late become arms. But the peo. a war of the people, and that by the But let me not be mistaken. Do I, therefore, Pomer with operation of that change alone the mean to contend—do I, therefore, give Patriotisin their rulers. power of imperial France has been to our antagonists in the argument the
chiefly an baffled and overcome. Nations, it is said, have advantage of ascribing to us the base feeling. at length made common cause with their sov- tenet that an absolute monarchy is better than ereigns, in a contest which heretofore had been a free government? God forbid! What I mean a contest of sovereigns only. Gentlemen, the is this, that, in appreciating the comparative exfact of the change might be admitted, without, cellence of political institutions, in estimating therefore, admitting the argument. It does not the force of national spirit, and the impulses of follow that the people were not at all times national feeling, it is idle—it is mere pedantry, equally interested in the war (as those who think to overlook the affections of nature. The order as I do have always contended that they were), of nature could not subsist among mankind, if because it may be, and must be admitted that there were not an instinctive patriotism; I do the people, in many countries, were for a time not say unconnected with, but prior and para. deluded. They who argue against us say that 1 This slant at America was, of course, to be exjarring interests have been reconciled. We say pected in time of war, and had quite as little bitterthat gross delusions have been removed. Both ad-ness in it as we should naturally look for in a man mit the fact that sovereigns and their people are of Mr. Canning's temperament, at a moment of so identified. But it is for them, who contend that I much exultation.
mount to, the desire of political amelioration. It Clings close and closer to the mother's breast, may be very wrong that it should be so. I can So the loud torrent and the whirlwind's roar not help it. Our business is with fact. And
But bind him to his native mountains more: surely it is not to be regretted that tyrants and What Goldsmith thus beautifully applied to conquerors should have learned, from the lessons the physical varieties of soil and climate has of experience, that the first consideration sug- been found no less true with respect to political gested to the inhabitant of any country by a institutions. A sober desire of improvement, a foreign invasion, is, not whether the political con- rational endeavor to redress error, and to correct stitution of the state be faultlessly perfect or not, imperfection in the political frame of human sobut whether the altar at which he has worship- ciety, are not only natural, but laudable in man. ed—whether the home in which he has dwelt But it is well that it should have been shown, from his infancy-whether his wife and his chil. by irrefragable proof, that these sentiments, even dren—whether the tombs of his forefathers, where most strongly and most justly felt, superwhether the place of the Sovereign under whom sede not that devotion to native soil which is the he was born, and to whom he, therefore, owes foundation of national independence. And it is (or, if it must be so stated, fancies that he, there- right that it should be understood and rememfore, owes) allegiance, shall be abandoned to vio bered, that the spirit of national independence lence and profanation.
alone, aroused where it bad slumbered, enlightThat, in the infancy of the French Revolution, ened where it had been deluded, and kindled Delusion on many nations in Europe were, unfor- into enthusiasm by the insults and outrages of this subject, tunately, led to believe and to act upon an all-grasping invader, has been found suffi
a different persuasion, is undoubtedly cient, without internal changes and compromises Revolution.
true; that whole countries were over- of sovereigns or governments with their people run by reforming conquerors, and flattered them--without relaxations of allegiance and abjuraselves with being proselytes till they found them- tions of authority, to animate, as with one per. selves victims. Even in this country, as I have vading soul, the different nations of the contialready said, there have been times when we nent; to combine, as into one congenial mass, have been called upon to consider whether there their various feelings, passions, prejudiees; to was not something at home which must be mend direct these concentrated energies with one imed before we could hope to repel a foreign in- pulse against the common tyrant; and to shake vader with success.
(and, may we not hope ? to overthrow) the BaIt is fortunate for the world that this question bel of his iniquitous power. should have been tried, if I may so say, to a dis- Gentlemen, there is another argument, more advantage; that it should have been tried in peculiarly relating to our own councountries where no man in his senses will say try, which has at times been inter- che stand that the frame of political society is such as, ac- posed to discourage the prosecution cording to the most moderate principles of reg. of the war. That this country is sufficient to its ulated freedom, it ought to be; where, I will own defense, sufficient to its own happiness, sufventure to say, without hazarding the imputation ficient to its own independence; and that the of being myself a visionary reformer, political complicated combinations of continental policy society is not such as, after the successes of this are always hazardous to our interests, as well war, and from the happy contagion of the exam- as burdensome to our means, has been, at several ple of Great Britain, it is sure gradually to be periods of the war, a favorite doctrine, not only come. It is fortunate for the world that this with those who, for other reasons, wished to emquestion should have been tried on its own mer. barrass the measures of the government, but with its; that, after twenty years of controversy, we men of the most enlightened minds, of the most should be authorized, by undoubted results, to benevolent views, and the most ardent zeal for revert to nature and to truth, and to disentangle the interests as well as the honor of their counthe genuine feelings of the heart from the ob- try. May we not flatter ourselves, that upon structions which a cold, presumptuous, general- this point, also, experience has decided in favor izing philosophy had wound around them. of the course of policy which has been actually
One of the most delightful poets of this coun- pursued ? A love of one's try, in describing the various propor- Can any man now look back upon the trial
the tions of natural blessings and advant- which we have gone through, and The interests of
ages dispensed by Providence to the maintain that, at any period during ditado como various nations of Europe, turns from the luxu- the last twenty years, the plan of in- tected riant plains and cloudless skies of Italy to the sulated policy could have been adopt. Datacak rugged mountains of Switzerland, and inquires ed, without having in the event, at this das, whether there, also, in those barren and stormy prostrated England at the foot of a conqueror? regions, the "patriot passion” is found equally Great, indeed, has been the call upon our exerimprinted on the heart? He decides the questions; great, indeed, has been the drain upon our tion truly in the affirmative; and he says, of the resources; long and wearisome has the strnggle inhabitant of those bleak wilds,
But be coetry
foundation of patriotism.
been; and late is the moment at which peace is Dear is that shed to wbich his soul conforms, brought within our reach. But even though the And dear that bill which lifts him to the storms; And, as a child, when scaring sounds molest,
those of other
Right for Ea
difficulties of the contest may have been en- as all schemes of violence naturally terminate, hanced, and its duration protracted by it, yet is not by a mild and gradual decay, such as waits there any man who seriously doubts whether the upon a regular and well-spent life, but by sudhaving associated our destinies with the destinies den dissolution; at an end, like the breaking up of other nations be or be not that which, under of a winter's frost. But yesterday the whole the blessing of Providence, has eventually secured continent, like a mighty plain covered with one the safety of all ?
mass of ice, presented to the view a drear exIt is at the moment when such a trial has come panse of barren uniformity; to-day, the breath of Peace could not to its issue, that it is fair to ask of heaven unbinds the earth, the streams begin to by me ben safe those who have suffered under the flow again, and the intercourse of human kind earlier period. pressure of protracted exertion (and revives. of whom rather than of those who are assembled Can we regret that we did not, like the faintaround me--for by whom have such privations ing traveler, lie down to rest—but, indeed, to been felt more sensibly ?)-it is now, I say, the perish--under the severity of that inclement seatime to ask whether, at any former period of the son ? Did we not more wisely to bear up, and contest, such a peace could have been made as to wait the change? would at once have guarded the national inter- Gentlemen, I have said that I should be ashamests and corresponded with the national charac-ed, and in truth I should be so, to adter? I address myself now to such persons only dress you in the language of exulta- gland to exult as think the character of a nation an essential tion, if it were merely for the indul- her long privapart of its strength, and consequently of its safe- gence, however legitimate, of an exty. But if, among persons of that description, uberant and ungovernable joy. But they who there be one who with all his zeal for the glory have suffered great privations have a claim not of his country, has yet at times been willing to merely to consolation, but to something more. abandon the contest in mere weariness and de- They are justly to be compensated for what they spair, of such a man I would ask, whether he can have undergone, or lost, or hazarded, by the conindicate the period at which he now wishes that templation of what they have gained. such an abandonment had been consented to by We have gained, then, a rank and authority in the government and the Parliament of Great Europe, such as, for the life of the Her pre-emiBritain ?
longest liver of those who now hear nence among the Is it when the continent was at peace—when, me, must place this country upon an rope.
looking upon the map of Europe, you eminence which no probable reverses can shake.
saw one mighty and connected sys. We have gained, or rather we have recovered, a usurped power.
tem, one great luminary, with his at- splendor of military glory, which places us by tendant satellites circulating around him; at that the side of the greatest military nations in the period could this country have made peace, and world. At the beginning of this war, while there have remained at peace for a twelvemonth? was not a British bosóm that did not beat with What is the answer ? Why, that the experi- rapture at the exploits of our navy, there were ment was tried. The result was the renewal of few who would not have been contented to comthe war.
promise for that reputation alone ; to claim the Was it at a later period, when the continental sea as exclusively our province, and to leave to Not during the system had been established ? When France and the other continental powers the the continental two thirds of the ports of Europe were struggle for superiority by land. That fabled
shut against you? When but a sin- deity, whom I see portrayed upon the wall," was gle link was wanting to bind the continent in a considered as the exclusive patron of British circling chain of iron, which should exclude you prowess in battle; but in seeming accordance from intercourse with other nations ? At that with the beautiful fiction of ancient mythology, moment peace was most earnestly recommended our Neptune, in the heat of contest, smote the to you. At that moment, gentlemen, I first came earth with his trident, and up sprang the fiery among you. At that moment I ventured to rec- war-horse, the emblem of military power. ommend to you perseverance, patient persever- Let Portugal, now led to the pursuit of her ance; and to express a hope that, by the mere flying conquerors—let liberated Spain The benefits strain of an unnatural effort, the massive bonds -let France, invaded in her turn by wbien imposed upon the nations of the continent might, those whom she had overrun or men- gained it. at no distant period, burst asunder. I was heard aced with invasion, attest the triumphs of the by you with indulgence-I know not whether army of Great Britain, and the equality of her with conviction. But is it now to be regretted military with her naval fame. And let those who, that we did not at that moment yield to the even after the triumphs of the Peninsula had bepressure of our wants or of our fears? What gun, while they admitted that we had, indeed, has been the issue? The continental system was wounded the giant in the heel, still deemed the completed, with the sole exception of Russia, in rest of his huge frame invulnerable—let them the year 1812. In that year the pressure upon now behold him reeling under the blows of united this country was undoubtedly painful. Had we nations, and acknowledge at once the might of yielded, the system would have been immortal. British arms and the force of British example. We persevered, and, before the conclusion of another year, the system was at an end : at an end,
Not when Bona parte first
: A figare of Neptune.
to Europe by