« PreviousContinue »
which is in itself the seminal principle of everything else : with a vessel so laden, they will be too wise to leave the harbour, and trust the fallacy of any wind : nothing can prevent the ultimate success of the Catholics but intemperance. For this they will be too wise ; the charges uttered against them they will answer by their allegiance : So should I speak of the Catholics. To the Protestant I would say, you have gotten the land and powers of the country, and it now remains to make those acquisitions eternal. Do not you see, according to the present state and temper of England and France, that your country must ultimately be the seat of war? Do not you see, that your children must stand in the front of the battle, with uncertainty and treachery in the rear of it. If, then, by ten or twelve seats in Parliament given to Catholics, you could prevent such a day, would not the compromise be everything ? What is your wretched monopoly, the shadow of your present, the memory of your past power, compared to the safety of your families, the security of your estates, and the solid peace and repose of your island ? Besides, you have an account to settle with the empire ; might not the empire accost you thus ? “For one hundred years you have been in possession of the country, and very loyally have you taken to yourselves the power and profit thereof. I am now to receive at your hands the fruits of all this, and the unanimous support of your people: where is it ? now, when I am beset with enemies and in my day of trial." Let the Protestant ascendancy answer that question, for I cannot. Above twenty millions have been wasted on their shocking contest, and a great proportion of troops of the line locked up in the island, that they may enjoy the ascendancy of the country, and the empire not to receive the strength of it. Such a system cannot last : their destinies must be changed and exalted; the Catholics no longer their inferior, nor they inferior to every one, save only the Catholic ; both must be free, and both must fight,—but it is the enemy, and not one another : thus the sects of religion renouncing, the one all foreign connection, and the other all domestic proscription, shall form a strong country; and thus the two islands, renouncing all national prejudices, shall form a strong empire-a phalanx in the west to check, perhaps ultimately to confound the ambition of the enemy. I know the ground on which I stand, and the truths which I utter, and I appeal
to the objects you urge against me, which I constitute my judges, to the spirit of your own religion, and to the genius of your own revolution; and I consent to have the principle which I maintain tried by any test, and equally sound, I contend, it will be found, whether you apply it to constitution where it is freedom, or to empire where it is strength, or to religion where it is light.
Turn to the opposite principle, proscription and discordit has made in Ireland not only war, but even peace calamitous : witness the one that followed the victories of King William, to the Catholics, a sad servitude, to the Protestants a drunken triumph, and to both a peace without trade and without constitution. You have seen in 1798 rebellion break out again, the enemy masking her expeditions in consequence of the state of Ireland, twenty millions lost, one farthing of which did not tell in empire, and blood barbarously, boyishly, and most ingloriously expended. These things are in your recollection : one of the causes of these things, whether efficient, or instrumental, or aggravating, the proscriptive system, I mean, you may now remove; it is a great work !-or has ambition not enlarged your mind, or only enlarged the sphere of its action ? What the best men in Ireland wished to do but could not do, the patriot courtier, and the patriot oppositionist, you may accomplish. What Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Langrishe, men who had no views of popularity or interest, or any but the public good; what Mr. Daly, Mr. Burgh, men whom I shall not pronounce to be dead, if their genius live in this measure ; what Mr. Forbes, every man that loved Ireland; what Lord Pery, the wisest man Ireland ever produced; what Mr. Hutchinson, an able, enlightened, and accomplished servant of the Crown; what Lord Charlemont, superior to his early prejudices, bending under years and experience, and public affection; what that dying nobleman; what our Burke ; what the most profound divines, Dr. Newcome, for instance, our late Primate (his mitre stood in the front of that measure), what these men supported, and against whom? Against men who had no opinion at that time, or at any time, on the subject, except that which the minister ordered, or men, whose opinions were so extravagant, that even bigotry must blush for them ; and yet these men above mentioned had not before them considerations which should make you wise—that the Pope has
evaporated, and that France has covered the best part of Europe. That terrible sight is now before you ; it is a gulf that has swallowed up a great portion of your treasure, it yawns for your being—were it not wise, therefore, to come to a good understanding with the Irish now; it will be miserable if anything untoward should happen hereafter, to say we did not foresee this danger; against other dangers, against the Pope we were impregnable; but if instead of guarding against dangers which are not, we should provide against dangers which are, the remedy is in your hands—the franchises of the constitution. Your ancestors were nursed in that cradle, the ancestors of the petitioners were less fortunate, the posterity of both born to new and strange dangers ; let them agree to renounce jealousies and proscriptions, in order to oppose what, without that agreement, will overpower both. Half Europe is in battalion against us, and we are damning one another on account of mysteries, when we should form against the enemy, and march.
GEORGE CANNING began public life as a pupil of the younger Pitt, and died, like his master, Prime Minister of England. He made his way, if any man did, by speaking, especially by speaking in the House of Commons. While he was Member for Liverpool, from 1812 to 1822, he addressed his constituents upon public affairs with more freedom than was then usual. But Parliament was his chosen sphere, and there he delivered all the speeches that are now associated with his
There it was that he referred to himself as having by his foreign policy, called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old. There it was that he exercised by his eloquence a power which can only be understood by a careful study of the speeches themselves. After his quarrel with Castlereagh in 1809, he was long out of office, and his own little party did not count for much. But he could always reckon upon an attentive hearing, and his friends never shared the public distrust which some of his actions inspired. As Foreign Secretary he was bold and resolute. As Prime Minister he had no opportunity of developing his schemes. But in debate he shone with unrivalled lustre as a master of exposition, of comment, and of reply. He had the art of so putting his points that for the moment they seemed unanswerable, and that even when they were afterwards answered, they remained the best arguments for his side of the case. He always gave the House of Commons the clearest reasons for adopting the course he wished them to take. To compare Canning with other orators is not easy. He resembled Burke rather than Pitt because his mind always recurred to principles as affording the ground from which policy could be reached. But when once he had started on his logical course, he pursued it straight to the particular goal at which he was aiming.
He did not, like Burke, sometimes lose himself in the labyrinth of an attractive theory. He came to the point before he indulged in the luxury of a rhetorical digression. His official experience, though so frequently interrupted, was enough to imbue him with the necessity of directing his faculties to practical aims, and of cultivating lucidity as a fine art. If his hearers were to be perplexed, it must be his motive, and not his meaning, of which they were in doubt. Perhaps the very clearness of his language heightened the impression that he was capable of intrigue. It seemed impossible to believe that a man who spoke so clearly could be honestly puzzled by conflicting arguments in those parts of a subject which he did not endeavour to expound. Yet that might be the fact. For the conscience of government is complicated, and all the bearings of a question have to be comprehended before it can be determined as a whole. Burke passed his life in theorising. Pitt had no time for theories. Canning may not have had a complete scheme of political philosophy, although he always tried to put his thoughts in a philosophical form, and to represent his policy as the inevitable result of orderly reasoning. Such a process can hardly be achieved without ignoring many details, and thus suppression may be imputed where sequence alone is involved. Canning had the highest sense of truth and honour when he used those political arguments which he believed would be the most successful, and took into his consideration the temper, even the mood, of his audience, who were apt to think that the whole case had been presented to them when they had heard it as it quite clearly and simply appeared to Canning. He never, for instance, wavered in his support of Catholic emancipation, easy as it would be to show that his arguments for it varied in strength and cogency with the apparent likelihood of passing it into law. The mere fact that he once brought in a Bill which would have emancipated Catholic Peers only is enough to prove that he tried different modes