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capitulated. They made terms with him under the sanction of the British name. It was agreed that their persons and their property should be safe and that they should be conveyed to Toulon. They were accordingly put on board a vessel ; but before they sailed, their property was confiscated, numbers of them taken out, thrown into dungeons, and some of them I understand, notwithstanding the British guarantee, actually executed.
Where then, Sir, is this war, which on every side is pregnant with such horrors, to be carried ? Where is it to stop ? Not till you establish the House of Bourbon ! And this you cherish the hope of doing, because you have had a successful campaign. Why, Sir, before you have had a successful campaign. The situation of the allies, with all they have gained, is surely not to be compared now to what it was when you had taken Valenciennes, Quesnoy, Condé, etc., which induced some gentlemen in this House to prepare themselves for a march to Paris ; with all that you have gained, you surely will not say that the prospect is brighter now than it was then. What have you gained but the recovery of a part of what you before lost ? One campaign is successful to you—another to them; and in this way, animated by the vindictive passions of revenge, hatred, and rancour, which are infinitely more flagitious, even, than those of ambition and the thirst for power, you may go on for ever; as, with such black incentives, I see no end to human misery. And all this without an intelligible motiveall this because you may gain a better peace a year or two hence ! So that we are called upon to go on merely as a speculation. We must keep Bonaparte for some time longer at war, as a state of probation. Gracious God, Sir, is it a state of probation? Is peace a rash system? Is it dangerous for nations to live in amity with each other? Is your vigilance, your policy, your common powers of observation to be extinguished by putting an end to the horrors of war? Cannot this state of probation be as well undergone without adding to the catalogue of human sufferings ? " But we must pause !" What! must the bowels of Great Britain be torn out-her best blood be spilt-her treasure wasted-that you may make an experiment? Put yourselves—Oh! that you would put yourselves—in the field of battle, and learn to judge of the sort of horrors that you excite. In former wars a man might, at
least, have some feeling, some interest, that served to balance in his mind the impressions which a scene of carnage and of death must inflict. If a man had been present at the battle of Blenheim, for instance, and had enquired the motive of the battle, there was not a soldier engaged who could not have satisfied his curiosity, and even, perhaps, allayed his feelings —they were fighting to repress the uncontrolled ambition of the Grand Monarque. But, if a man were present now at a field of slaughter, and were to inquire for what they were fighting-“ Fighting "! would he answer ; they are not fighting, they are pausing.' Why is that man expiring ? Why is that other writhing in agony ? What means this implacable fury?" The answer must be, “ You are quite wrong, Sir, you deceive yourself. They are not fighting-Do not disturb them—they are merely pausing !—this man is not expiring with agony—that man is not dead-he is only pausing ! Lord help you, Sir! They are not angry with one another; they have no cause of quarrel—but their country thinks there should be a pause. All that you see, Sir, is nothing like fightingthere is no harm, nor cruelty, nor bloodshed in it whateverIt is nothing more than a political pause! it is merely to try an experiment-to see whether Bonaparte will not behave himself better than heretofore ; and in the meantime we have agreed to pause, in pure friendship!” And is this the way, Sir, that you are to show yourselves the advocates of order? You take up a system calculated to uncivilize the world, to destroy order, to trample on religion, to stifle in the heart, not merely the generosity of noble sentiment, but the affections of social nature; and in the prosecution of this system, you spread terror and devastation around you.
Sir, I have done. I have told you my opinion. I think you ought to have given a civil, clear, and explicit answer to the overture which was fairly and handsomely made to you. If you were desirous that the negotiation should have included all your allies, as the means of bringing about a general peace, you should have told Bonaparte so; But I believe you were afraid of his agreeing to the proposal. You took that method before. “Aye, but,” you say, “the people were anxious for peace in 1797." I say they are friends to peace now; and I am confident that you will one day own it. Believe me, they are friends to peace; although, by the laws which you
have made, restraining the expression of the sense of the people, public opinion cannot now be heard as loudly and unequivocally as heretofore. But I will not go into the internal state of this country. It is too afflicting to the heart to see the strides which have been made, by means of, and under the miserable pretext of this war; against liberty of every kind, both of speech and of writing ; and to observe in another Kingdom the rapid approaches to that military despotism which we affect to make an argument against peace. I know, Sir, that public opinion, if it could be collected, would be for peace, as much now as in 1797 and I know that it is only by public opinion—not by a sense of their duty-not by the inclination of their own minds—that ministers will be brought, if ever, to give us peace. I conclude, Sir, with repeating what I said before ; I ask for no gentleman's vote who would have reprobated the compliance of ministers with the proposition of the French government ; I ask for no gentleman's support to-night who would have voted against ministers, if they had come down and proposed to enter into a negotiation with the French; but I have a right to ask-I know, that in honour, in consistency, in conscience, I have a right to expect the vote of every gentleman who would have voted with ministers in an address to his Majesty, diametrically opposite to the motion of this night.
RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN was, perhaps, the most brilliant orator of the eighteenth century. His great speech on the impeachment of Warren Hastings was considered by many good judges to be the best delivered at the trial. If his fame as a dramatist has somewhat obscured his reputation as a speaker, that does not alter the fact that he achieved high fame as a rhetorician in a peculiarly rhetorical age. The wittiest debater of his time, he was also in some respects the most ornate. For if his periods were less laboured than Burke's, they were also more polished from a literary point of view. Of course Sheridan is not to be estimated by purely Parliamentary standards. He was a conscious artist, playing upon the political as he played upon the dramatic, stage, with a trained eye for scenic effect. But though he was a great actor at Westminster, he was also much more. He was a master of the English language, whose periods and cadences rose and fell with a calculated and effective splendour. Even when he simply amused the House of Commons, he spoke with the fluency and ease of an expert composer. It was not his object to convince or to persuade, so much as to instruct and to delight. A staunch and loyal Whig, he did not greatly occupy himself with the foundation of the Whig creed. He went with his party, and illustrated their principles with his imagination, eloquence, and humour. He belongs to the class of speakers who aim rather at illuminating fact by fancy than at pushing an argument to a conclusion. The success of such an orator as Sheridan implies leisure as well as taste in the House of Commons. He did not consider the demands of business. He rose to deliver speeches carefully prepared, and adorned with all the art which literary skill could bestow. They must be regarded as brilliant contributions to a political tournament rather than parts of a practical discussion upon
matters of pressing moment. Sheridan did not think of votes. He treated Parliament to the best form of entertainment he could provide, the highest kind of literary rhetoric that his accomplishments enabled him to produce. But at the same time he held strong political convictions, and he has not always received credit for the tenacity with which he adhered to them. He was always a firm and consistent Whig, who never shrank from the expression of his opinions because they were unpopular. His hold upon the House of Commons was extraordinary, and the brilliancy of his gifts was always employed upon the side which he had conscientiously taken up. His speeches deserve to be studied because they put the Whig creed in a literary form, not the creed of the old Whigs as expounded by Burke, but the doctrines usually associated with the name of Fox. The House of Commons which Sheridan addressed was a critical and fastidious audience, but susceptible to the effect of oratory such as his, which appealed at once to the reason and to the feelings. If Sheridan had belonged to the class which then ruled England he would have held high office in the State. As it was, he belonged to the class of speakers who are always heard with willingness, because they give of their best, and do not forget in the use of rhetoric that it has serious ends to serve. It would be a great mistake to confound him with men who speak for speaking's sake, or with adventurers who treat politics as an instrument of political ambition. He was quite as sincere as Pitt, and had no dread of unpopularity. But it was not in debate that he shone. He wanted room. He had to develop his own ideas independently of others when he wished to produce conviction upon the public mind. No statesman of his time adhered more closely to his principles, or confronted obloquy with more cheerfulness. His wit and his eloquence were never bestowed upon any cause in which he did not himself believe. What really distinguishes his oratory from the general run of public speaking is that it bears upon it the mark of high