Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

*

able, and somewhat inconsistent with the practice of a free State; but I tell you, that my opinion is decidedly in favour of the Ballot.'

' I would not accept the highest office in the gift of the Crown; I would not even receive the warm enthusiastic approbation of you, my fellow-countrymen, if either were gained by the concealment of a single opinion, or by the compromise of a single principle.'

His language, further on, speaks fully how earnest he is, how strong and true of purpose:

• I have been thus explicit in stating to you my views, and I call upon you, and my countrymen at large, to arm for one of the deadliest struggles that has ever occurred in the history of this country, and which must inevitably take place. I call upon my countrymen, from one end of the kingdom to the other, to express, with one voice, their fixed determination never to rest satisfied until their liberties are secured, and all those reforms obtained which the Reform Bill—itself only a means to an end-places within our reach. Preserving all loyalty to the King, let us show him, at the same time, that if he be disposed to place confidence in a particular party and class of politicians, we, on the other hand, will exercise our right of expressing our disapproval of such men and their measures, and our determination to oppose them to the utmost of our power. (Cheers.) I will only say, in conclusion, that my humble services may be commanded by you and my country at all times; and that I shall be always happy to co-operate with you in the ranks, or in any situation in which I may be considered to be capable of producing benefit.'

If there be truth in printed words, there can be no doubt that Lord Durham is earnest and sincere in his purpose of making the great mass of the community the source of power both legally and morally.

It has been objected to him that he is personally an Aristocrat; that he loaths the contact of inferiors. This may be partly true. In the contested elections of Westminster he called himself a Whig, and he was not sparing in his expressions of contempt for the Radicals, who were opposed to his party; but it must be borne in mind that the error was one of the head rather than of the heart. He had seen much of the rascality of contested elections and of the immoral conduct of electors who made patriotism a cover for venality. That he judged of the sack by the sample, or that because he had found many electors to be unworthy, he judged all to be so, might be an unreasoning error savouring of aristocratic morgue ; but it is no evidence of criminality of intention. His training was not of the kind best calculated to bring forth benevolent feelings, and it bespeaks a noble nature which improves in benevolence in mature age. Lord Durham may still possess a Coriolanus spirit, which shrinks from the contact of petty selfseekers, who brawl forth catchwords of patriotism as a means of importance they can no otherwise attain; but no high or generous spirit will condemn him for this, if they believe his words spoken at Newcastle to be words of sooth, of which they bear internal evidence :

• Your invitation, therefore, to me, and your reception of me this day, are peculiarly gratifying to me. (Hear.) If I were indeed the person that I am described to be, by hired libellers and calumniators, (great cheering,) would you have rallied round me as you have done to-day? (Cries of “ No, no!" and cheers.) No, gentlemen, sure I am that no political considerations upon earth would ever have induced you to flock round me, if I had been such as I have been described by those persons. (Cheers.) If, gentlemen, I had been such as I have been represented by some, an oppressor of the poor, insterd of honouring, you would have disowned me. Happily, I can say, with truth and justice, that among the many thousands who depend for their daily sustenance upon me, there is not one that would raise his voice against me, knowing as they all do full well, that their happiness, their comfort, and their wel. fare, are the dearest objects of my heart. (Cheers.) Again, gentlemen, if I had been the proud Aristocrat that it has been the pleasure of some to call me, should I have had, both in public and private, the support and friendship of all classes, from the highest to the lowest? (Cheers.) The real secret, gentlemen, is, that I have too much pride to compromise with the base and the unworthy. (Great cheering.) I have ever unshrinkingly exposed their misdeeds and their false pretensions. Therefore is it that I have incurred their unrelenting enmity. (Cheers.) I have, however, the consolation of knowing, that their hatred and enmity are the best and surest passports to the approbation of all good men. Besides, I know that there is as much sound sense, as much true honour, and as much real independence to be found under the coarse working-jacket of a mechanic as beneath the ermined robe of the peer.'

Now, supposing for a moment that these words of Lord Durham were untrue; supposing him to be of a tyrannous, proud, and haughty nature, individually; still it would not follow that he would be altogether an inefficient leader for the Movement or Pro-gression party. Honesty of purpose is one main requisite; without which, popularity and intellect would be alike unavailing in him who might bear the title of the people's advocate. If Lord Durham were to become personally unpopular, his would be the loss. The people can exist in comfort, without loving their ruler; the ruler who is not loved by the people can have but a sorry life of it. Castlereagh cut his own throat, and the fourth Guelph lived a life of unsatisfied privacy. The groans and yells which followed the coffin of Castlereagh, must have blanched many a cheek and appalled many a heart amongst the retainers of misrule he left behind him. Only the high-couraged and benevolent heart can bear up under the undeserved dislike of a people; what, then, must it require to endure the curses which conscience whispers have been deserved ?

The objectors to Lord Durham appear to have accused him of pride unjustly, while they have overlooked a serious defect of which ample evidence may be traced through the whole of his political

life. He is a prejudiced man; his training has given him sundry unsound notions on the subject of loyalty, which will not bear the test of reason,—which will not conform to the doctrines of utility agreeable to sound Radical principles. He cannot imagine a mode of good rule which does not comprise the three ingredients of the · British Constitution,' King, Lords, and Commons. He cannot imagine a King of England to be capable of wrong-doing. This prejudice seems as strong now as it was in the beginning of his career, and will probably be the rock on which he will split

. His attachment to the House of Brunswick' seems so inordinate, that he can believe nothing derogatory of them. In his speech in the House of Commons, in February, 1810, he is excessively indignant because

• Ministers, with the word economy in their mouths, but with extravagance in their hearts, had placed a falsehood in the Speech of the Prince Regent.

In April, 1818, he declared, in the same place,

“There was not in the three kingdoms a warmer friend to the House of Brunswick than himself; he was bred up in the principles that placed that family on the throne.'

In his speech at Durham, in October, 1819, we find him upholding the Prince Regent, through thick and thin, on the occasion of the Manchester massacre :

Some slave had brought forward the words on the banners of the meeting that day—“ Liberty or Death,” as a proof of the traitorous nalure of the meeting! When the time came that the coupling of those words should be deemed the harbinger of rebellion, he should be glad to disown the country which had given him birth. (Loud applause.) Who had heard unmoved the song of Scottish independence burst upon his ear?

“ Who would be a traitor knave?

Who would fill a coward's grave ?
Who would live to be a slave ?

Let him turn and flee.
Who for Scotland's king and law-
For Scotland's rights his sword would draw ?
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'-

Let him follow me." (Applause.) He, for one, would not consent in silence to hear such sentiments branded as seditious.

• It was the cry of liberty, in similar terms, which expelled the Stuarts, and made way for the Brunswick family to the throne of these realms. Conscious as he was, that it was the reverence of those principles which would keep them on the throne to which they had been raised, he was much alarmed at witnessing the approbation which had been bestowed on the transactions at Manchester, in the name of the Prince Regent. But they might be assured, from the natural goodness of the Prince Regent's heart, that the sentiments were those of his Ministers only.'

• Natural goodness of the Prince Regent's heart!' If erer

there existed a human being in whom selfishness destroyed human feeling, the fourth Guelph was that man. The understanding of Lord Durham must have been utterly prostrate when he made this speech, or it must have been a piece of irony too deep for ordinary apprehension.

In his speech on the Reform Bill, in April 1832, he speaks thus of the Marquis of Londonderry:

My Lords, I will retaliate nothing; I will make use of no harsh expressions towards the noble Marquis

, for whom I have formerly entertained great respect and personal friendship.'

Now, is this possible? Can Lord Durham ever have so defiled his own nature as to respect this gross, bad man. If these be words of course, spoken in courtesy, they are unworthy of an honest man.

If they be meant in sincerity, what must be the intellect of Lord Durham if he can have entertained friendship for Lord Londonderry? We must not yet say, noscitur à sociis ; we must believe that he has only complied with Parliamentary falsehood. Let him carefully eschew these things, or he will forfeit his hold on the people.

In his speech, in October 1834, to the Political Union of Dundee, he shows that his judgment as to forms of government, is not of the soundest, but it is no impeachment of his honesty:

• I confess that, if I believed all that is stated in the address of the Political Union, I should despair of the prosperity of my country; but I do not believe that every thing is in such a state as is there represented. Much I know remains to be done, and with your assistance it shall be done; but I do not believe that all is so bad and rotten in our institutions as is set forth in this address. My object is not to destroy and reconstruct, but to ameliorate and to amend. There is much that is good and valuable in our institutions, if it were fairly drawn out; but much of this has, through Tory misrule, been perverted to other purposes. I hold, that in our form of government, by King, Lords, and Commons, there will be found as great a degree of liberty as ever existed in any other country of the world, and as much rational liberty as any people under the sun can or ought to enjoy. (Cheers.) I ask you of the working classes, who are the sinews of the State, what would be the consequence of any system calculated to produce confusion ? I am not aware of any class that would suffer more from such a state than the operatives. Any thing which tends to derange the laws which regulate the employment of capital and labour, must necessarily tend to destroy the mercantile and agricultural prosperity of the country; and, if you take my advice, you will take care that when you ameliorate you do not destroy

In his speech of November 1834, at the dinner at Newcastle, there is another evidence of his favourite weakness :

• Another cry is, “The monarchy is in danger!” From whom? (Hear.) I look around to the north, the south, the east, and the west, and I never hear a word uttered bearing the semblance of the shade of a

[ocr errors]

shadow of an objection to Monarchical institutions. I never hear any thing approaching to a demand for Republican institutions; and wisely, in my opinion, convinced as I am that a constitutional Monarchy affords the best security for liberty. (Hear.) I must say, that those are very ill-advisers of the Crown who put such notions into the head of the Sovereign, (cheering ;) who attempt to persuade him, that the great fund of loyalty which has always existed in this country, has suffered a diminution. I believe, in fact, that it prevails more strongly at the present moment than ever it did ; and that it is only pent up, and not exhibited, because, in the first place, there is no occasion for calling it forth ; and because, in the next, those who ought to excite it, have exhibited too little sympathy for the wishes and wants of the people.'

His toast, at the conclusion of the speech, is marked by still greater feebleness :

• The last words that I have uttered naturally prepare you for the toast that I am about to give, and which I am sure you will receive with the same hearty and cordial cheers with which you received the health of that hope of the country, the Princess Victoria.'

Hope of the country! The same phrase was used about the Princess Charlotte, after whose death the country, nevertheless, continued to exist, though without hope. It is painful to hear a man like Lord Durham talk such absurd stuff, as if the existence of a young, and, probably, spoiled girl, could in any way affect the well-being of a great nation. It makes one sick to think of the welfare of millions being thus hyperbolically made dependent on the health of a purposeless unit, a mere plaything, a puppet, to be moved by the hands of others. Whatever Lord Durham may think or wish, the time is coming when irresponsible Aristocrats will cease to hold any sway over this noble nation.

But whether Lord Durham shall go on with the Movement, or stop short with a prejudice, he will be at the present time the popular leader, for there is no deceit in him. To quote his own words, in his Reform speech in the House, in 1821,

We would rather be served by a man of plain, downright, even stupid honesty, than by the most eminently-gifted rascal that ever wore a livery.'

Onward with us, then, Lord Durham, so far as your conscience will warrant! and when your conscience shall stop you, even should we leave you behind, we will honestly bear testimony to your honest worth.

JUNIUS REDIVIVUS. March 22, 1835.

« VorigeDoorgaan »