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There was something extremely touching of the dying statesman, could never have in the spontaneous and universal feeling regarded him with the peculiar interest which was called forth by Sir Robert Peel's | which personal intercourse seldom fails to short illness and almost sudden death. We create, even where it has only served as the have no doubt that the ceremonial inquiries occasion for personal hostility and conflict. of strangers and political opponents were Thousands who never left their names at the not only dictated by kindly courtesy, but door, or saw them recorded in the papers, prompted by genuine anxiety and regret. inquired anxiously for the latest intelligence. The carriages which crowded the purlieus Scarcely a passenger went by without stopof Whitehall were filled alike by those who ping to repeat the universal question, or had honored him and those who had wronged heard the discouraging answer without an bim, or had complained of wrong at his expression or look of regret. Some hours hands. The bitterest spirit of party could after the announcement of the fatal result, scarcely create a difference of feeling at such groups of people still remained opposite the a time; and the hearty and unreserved sym- house of the deceased, looking at the silent pathy which every public journal expressed, and empty walls in which he had breathed his from the moment of the fatal accident, re- last. The bodily remains were within ; the presented not only the general sentiment of last visitors bad withdrawn; no sight could the country, but the shock which professed be expected to attract or reward curiosity; and practical politicians universally experi- the crowd was only brought and kept enced on the sudden removal from the arena together by the natural and unconscious tenof the great parliamentary leader. Yet it dency to realize a feeling by connecting it was still more interesting to observe the sen- with a visible locality as its home. Neither sation which was created by the melancholy the shutters in shop-windows, nor the circumstances in those, who, being neither lowered flags on the riv nor all the other colleagues nor rivals, opponents or followers, I becoming and customary symbols of general
VOL. XXI. NO. II.
mourning, were more significant of the pub- , and more exclusive champions, and no one lic consciousness of loss than these spectators knew the exact point at which he might collected in Whitehall Gardens to look on next take his stand in the struggle between vacancy, while the pomps and vanities of a movement and resistance. Those who royal levée were inviting the gaze of idlers trusted him believed not that he would within a quarter of a mile. About the same adopt this measure or that, but that he hour, the House of Commons adjourned in would judge of successive questions honestly respect to the memory of its chief, on the and carefully, and, above all, that the counmotion of his veteran opponent of more than try would be guided by his judgment. Such thirty years. The earnestness and sincerity was the private or unexpressed opinion with which Mr. Hume declared that he could which has now almost for the first time made not express his feelings were more fitting to itself heard in the form of general regret for the occasion than any flight of eloquence. the loss which the country has suffered. It The speeches which were delivered on the was not unnatural that, during his lifetime, next day in both Houses of Parliament, the the public or audible sentiment should
apdemonstrations of respect and sorrow which pear to be widely different. It is the funchave been made by the chief provincial tion of platforms and meetings, and it has towns, and the compliments paid to the de. become the function of newspapers, to express ceased statesman by the French Assembly, the peculiarities and distinctive shades of sufficiently record the unanimous estimation political opinion, and often of party feeling. of Sir Robert Peel's services and public Sir Robert Peel was to all parties either obcharacter.
noxious or formidable, and no sect of politiSome, perhaps, may have been surprised cians could glorify in his person the embodiat the universal sorrow for one whose living ment of its own peculiar doctrines. Until virtues had received a recognition so scanty the recent change took place in the manageand so cold ; but it would be sceptical to ques- ment of the Morning Chronicle, the statestion the sincerity of the general feeling, man, most trusted by the country, had no although it would be alike unsafe and un supporter in the daily press ; and it is regenerous to insist too strongly on the praises markable that in the latter part of his adwrung from opponents under the impulse of ministration he was the object of open hosa sudden misfortune. Some part tof the tility to the whole body of the metropolitan general impression is, no doubt, to be attri- newspapers, with the exception of one weekly buted to the natural sympathy which accom- journal. That public writers should reserve panies all who are placed in a great, or even their praises for those who share and reprein a conspicuous position. The imagination sent their own views of policy, is unavoidais more easily moved by the fate of those ble, and possibly useful; but the public whose person and character have long been opinion, which they are mainly instrumental familiar to it; nor is the reality of death at in forming, requires, from time to time, the any time so vividly felt as when it occupies correction of the silent uncontroversial judgall minds simultaneously. Nevertheless, ment which we have spoken of as private there remains, after every deduction, a large opinion. amount of genuine regret and sincere appre- A part, also, of the frequent indisposition ciation which is personal and peculiar to the to recognize, during his lifetime, the merits deceased alone. The contrast between the which have of late been so fully admitted, eulogies heaped upon the dead, and the may be attributed to a serious defect in bis faint praise or bitter hostility which so often character, his incapacity of exciting personal waited on the living statesman, is not only attachment and enthusiasm in those with the result of natural sympathy, but the index whom he acted. The traditions of the party of the wide variance which often exists be- in which he was bred had never prescribed tween public and private opinion. The the careful cultivation of social influences wide-spread reliance on his patriotism and over political adherents, which has so long practical wisdom, which was known to all contributed to cement the power of the who mixed in society beyond the range of Whig aristocracy ; but all parties alike are mere professional politicians, had little oppor- sensible to a genial and hearty bearing on tunity of expressing itself in public, and lit- the part of their chosen leaders. Sir Robert tle need of utterance. He had not only Peel may have obtained and deserved the ceased to be a party leader, but he was not regard of those who were nearest to him, but considered the representative of any special he had none of the warmth and expansivepolitical doctrines.
Free-trade had older ness of nature which invites general cordiality, and converts followers into friends. His national expediency to all other considerareserved coldness of manner, his want of tions. It often happens that party interests sympathy for the reasonable ambition of his prescribe rigid adherence to some proposition younger adherents, and for the difficulties in which passes for a principle. The interests which his policy might place his supporters, of the nation is more changeable and various chilled many a willing attachment, and in its forms; and thus, by a ready fallacy, accounted for much of the bitterness of the mere partisan often succeeds in denouncopponents who had once been on his side. ing the advocate of the true objects of Much self-denial and patriotism was re- government as a mere follower of expediency, quired for the warm support of a Minister and, by a false inference, as a traitor to prinwho forgot to speak to his friends in the ciple. A party which had no common purstreet, or walked out of the House during pose but to promote the public interest, the climax of their speeches. The world at might call itself after the name of Peel, if, large is little affected by the social qualities in adopting its rule of conduct, it had not of a statesman; but there is no more legiti- already ceased to be a party. mate source of influence than that which Still more valuable is the lesson which he arises from the cordial attachment of per- taught by example, that success, and not sonal admirers. In escaping the dangers display, is the object of political exertion. which beset the hero and idol of a social cir- Though his life seemed to be spent in Parcle, the successful Parliamentary leader dis-liamentary debate, it was marked, in all parts pensed with one of the most genuine tests, of its course, by the practical results which and with the happiest, though not the high. it produced in the institutions and adminisest, form of greatness.
tration of the country. By no means exempt Some benefit may, perhaps, arise from from the love of display, nor superior to the this deficiency, if it renders the formation or temptation of claptrap, he distinguished himcontinuance of a Peelite sect not improbable. self from the mere debater and rhetorician There is seldom any advantage in a name by the use to which he turned his oratorical which keeps parties from moving with cir- triumphs. To effect his objects, it was cumstances. In the absence of a body of necessary to possess the power which is exclusive doctrines, a personal influence, like vested in a Parliamentary leader, and which that which was exercised by Fox, might, in can only be acquired by mastery in the art the case of Peel, have stiffened and con- of talk; but at the point where the vanity densed itself into the badge of a separate of the charlatan is satisfied, he felt that the party. In the absence of friendly enthusiasm, function of a statesman began. In his early he has left no rule of conduct sufficiently years, while the world only gave him credit definite and narrow to form the bond of a for repeating, in somewhat more plausible political association. His soundest principle language, the party creed of the Irish secrewas a wise regard for expediency, and his taries of the day, he found means to estabdistinguishing faculty was an admirable lish the efficient police force, which seems sagacity in discerning it. Where the safest to be the only modern institution which has and most convenient course was to be found, taken root in the sister island. The imhe steered the vessel of the State with little provements in the criminal law which regard to the opinions of his crew, or even marked his tenure of the Home-office, to sailing orders which he might himself the establishment of the London police have issued. If any of the rising pilots who force, the Act of 1819 for resuming cash are to weather future storms wish to follow payments, and the Bank Charter Act, which, and imitate their predecessor, they must not a quarter of a century later, provided for the merely profess a preference for the starboard maintenance of the same principle, may serve tack, or for the leeward sea channel, because as specimens of the practical activity to which he may have adopted them with success. Sir Robert Peel's Parliamentary speeches They must learn, like bim, the signs of the served merely as preparations and flourishes. winds and the currents ; and, above all, It is true that he was no philosophical inwhen they have discovered their course, they ventor or far-sighted political prophet. Ricardo must resolve, like him, to follow it. Except and Horner may have anticipated him in the pursuit of his own individual interest, a finance, and less ingenious speculators may politician can have no meaner rule of action have observed the inefficiency of the ancient than that of party expediency. On the watchmen ; but for the certainty of procuring other hand, the highest principle which a change for a five-pound note we are indebted statesman can hold is the preference of to Peel's bill, and if we can carry it along the street in our pockets in safety we may I truth, and seems destined never to speak it.” generally thank the “Peelers." The blue Once, when he was asked to explain his incoat and truncheon which guard our towns, tentions as a landlord, he replied, that if a instead of the cumbrous and dangerous deserving tenant applied to him for a lease, military apparatus which on the continent he would not pledge himself to abstain from watches equally against pickpockets and hesitating long before he refused to take the rebels, may alone outbalance the windy wis proposal into consideration. At another time dom of many an ambitious lifetime. There he informed the House of Commons, with the may be many true doctrines which he never air of a candid convert to a paradoxical novelpreached, but there are none which he ty, that he must, whatever might be the conpreached in vain. Let it be considered how sequences, express his belief that Louis much is included in the proposition, that he Philippe, then in the height of his prosperity, never recommended an object as desirable was the greatest monarch who had ruled which he did not live to realize. His truisms i over France—since the time of Napoleon. and egotisms will soon be forgotten, and pos- | Nevertheless, we believe that the Duke of terity may feel little gratitude for his solemn Wellington is as correct in his judgment as declaration that it was wise to reform proved he is sincere in uttering it, and he at least abuses ; but the changes which he effected i “never made an assertion which he did not will have modified the national history, and believe to be the fact.” In his own case, he by their results he will be judged. If his would probably have answered the inquiry as fame survives, it may serve to point the to the management of his estate, by an anmoral that talking is only useful when it nouncement that “the Field Marshal consifacilitates acting, and that the art of Govern dered the question impertinent ;" and of ment consists, not in enunciating doctrines Louis Philippe he would have said nothing, Conservative or Liberal, but in wisely and unless he had something to say. Yet Sir actually governing
Robert Peel, in fact, said the same, though It is not, however, uninteresting to consi- in a manner less intelligible and less dignider his character in the subordinate capacity fied. The promise, as to the leases, will be of an orator.
found by eliminating the equation to import, The Duke of Wellington, in a few broken that he would act as might seem expedient sentences, interrupted by emotions which af- when the case occurred ; and the proposition fect us very differently from those of softer as to the King of the French amounted to an and more susceptible natures, selected only elaborate and articulate nothing. It is by no one quality of his friend for praise, as that means the uniform duty of a statesman to which had most strongly impressed him. gratify public curiosity. When inopportune, “He always told the truth. * I do not be- it may be more dignified to rebuke it; but lieve that, in the whole course of his life, he Sir Robert found it more popular, perhaps ever made an assertion which he did not be more amusing, to baffle it, while he formally lieve to be the fact.” Thus the straight-forward, complied with it : nor must we forget that time-honored soldier speaks of the much re- it is sometimes a part of secresy to withhold viled “ Traitor of Tamworth ;" not in accord the adniission that there is a secret. Of di. ance, perhaps, with common opinion, and to rect false statement, or of prevarication, he the surprise even of many admirers of the could not be justly accused; but it must be deceased. There was no charge more con- admitted that his obscurities, and his elabostantly brought against him by his opponents rate statements of useless generalities, were than that of verbal sophistry and wilful ob- wholly deliberate and wilful. When he scurity of language. The subtlety which wished to convey a fact, or to communicate they denounced as cunning, the careful am- an opinion, no man was less liable to misconbiguity which seemed a preparation for trim ception. His language was cloudy only ming, the reserve which sometimes covered when it dwelt on matters which, however itself with a cloud of phrases as a safer con- clear to bimself, were not fitted or not ripe cealment than silence, were all rather ex- for parliamentary inspection of his future cused than denied by his adherents, who intentions, he would speak in well-turned could not themselves but sometimes smile at periods, which left bis hearers wondering at the balancing of reciprocally destroying nega- his communicativeness, and at their own incatives in his periods, and the safe and catholic pacity to profit by it, till at last they acquiesced generality of the truisms to which he publicly in the modest conviction,“ that all they knew
Poor Peel!" said a great was nothing could be known." When, on moral humorist once, “.who so often acts the I the other hand, he had a difficult and com