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train that sends the rapid shuttle through the loom,-and, when they leave their country, they not only beggar these dependents, but the tribes that lived by clothing them.
“An extravagant passion for luxuries hath been in all nations a symptom of an approaching dissolution. However in commercial states, while it predominates only among the higher ranks, it brings with it the conciliating advantage of being greatly beneficial to trade and manufactures. But, how singularly unfortunate is that kingdom, where the luxurious passions of the great beggar those who should be supported by them, -a kingdom, whose wealthy members keep equal pace with their numbers in the dissipated and fantastical pursuits of life, without suffering the lower class to glean even the dregs of their vices! While this is the case with Ireland, the prosperity of her trade must be all forced and unnatural; and if, in the absence of its wealthy and estated members, the state already feels all the disadvantages of a Union, it cannot do better than endeavour at a free trade by effecting it in reality.”
Having demonstrated, at some length, the general evil of absenteeism, he thus proceeds to enquire into the most eligible remedy for
“The evil complained of is simply the absence of the proprietors of a certain portion of the landed property. This is an evil unprovided against by the legislature ;-therefore, we are not to consider whether it might not with propriety have been guarded against, but whether a remedy or alleviation of it can now be attempted consistently with the spirit of the Constitution. On examining all the most obvious methods of attempting this, I believe there will appear but two practicable. The First will be by enacting a law for the frequent summoning the proprietors of landed property to appear de facto at stated times. The Second will be the voting a supply to be raised from the estates of such as do never reside in the kingdom
" The First, it is obvious, would be an obligation of no use, without a penalty was affixed to the breach of it, amounting to the actual forfeiture of the estate of the recusant. This, we are informed, was once the case in Ireland. But at present, whatever advantage the kingdom might reap by it, it could not possibly be reconciled to the genius of the Constitution: and, if the fine were trifling, it would prove the same as the second method, with the disadvantage of appearing to treat as an act of delinquency what in no way infringes the municipal law of the kingdom.
“ In the Second method the legislature is , in no respect, to be supposed to regard the person of the Absentee. It prescribes no place of residence to him, nor attempts to summon or detain him. The light it takes up the point in is this that the welfare of the whole is injured by the produce of a certain portion of the soil being sent out of the kingdom
It will be said that the produce of the soil is not exported by being carried to our own markets : but if the value received in exchange for it, whatever it be, whether money or commodities, be exported, it is exactly the same in its ultimate effects as if the grain, flocks, etc. were literally sent to England. In this light, then,
if the state is found to suffer by such an exportation, its deducting a smalk
part from the produce is simply a reimbursing the public, and putting the loss of the public ( to whose welfare the interest of individuals is always to be subservient ) upon those very members who occasioned that loss.
“ This is only to be effected by a tax.”
Though to a political economist of the present day much of what is so loosely expressed in these extracts will appear but the crudities of a tyro in the science, yet, at the time when they were written, -when both Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke could expatiate on the state of Ireland, without a single attempt to develope or enforce those simple, but wise principles of commercial policy, every one of which had been violated in the restrictions on her industry, --it was no small, merit in Mr. Sheridan to have advanced even thus far in a branch of knowledge so rare and so important.
In addition to his own early taste for politics, the intimacies which he had now formed with some of the most eminent public men of the day must have considerably tended to turn his ambition in that direction. At what time he first became acquainted with Mr. Fox I have no means of ascertaining exactly. Among the letters addressed to him by that statesman, there is one which , from the formality of its style , must have been written at the very commencement of their acquaintance-but, upluckily, it is not dated. Lord John Townshend, who first had the happiness of bringing two such men together, had given the following interesting account of their meeting, and of the impressions which they left upon the minds of each other. His Lordship, however, has not specified the period of this introduction :
“ I made the first dinner-party at which they met, having told Fox that all the notions he might have conceived of Sheridan's talents and genius from the comedy of The Rivals, etc. would fall infinitely short of the admiration of his astonishing powers, which I was sure he would entertain at the first interview. The first interview between them (there very
few present, only Tickell and myself, and one or two more, ) I shall never forget. Fox told me, after breaking up from dinner, that he had always thought Hare, after my uncle, Charles Townshend, the wittiest man he ever met with, but that Sheridan surpassed them both infinitely; and Sheridan told me next day that he was quite lost in admiration of Fox, and that it was a puzzle to him to say what he admired most, his commanding superiority of talent and universal knowledge, or his playful fancy, artless manners, and benevolence of heart, which showed itself in every word he uttered.”
With Burke Mr. Sheridan became acquainted at the celebrated Tark's Head Club,—and, if any incentive was wanting to his new passion for political distinction, the station to which he saw his eloquent fellow-countryman exalted, with no greater claims from birth
or connection than his own, could not have failed to furnish it. His intimacy with Mr. Windham began , as we have seen, very early at Bath, and the following letter, addressed to him by that gentleman from Norfolk , in the year 1778, is a curious record not only of the first political movements of a person so celebrated as Mr. Windham, but of the interest with which Sheridan then entered into the public measures of the day :-
" Jan. 5, 1778. I fear my letter will greatly disappoint your hopes '. I have no account to send you of my answering Lord Townshend-of hard-fought contests--spirited resolves—ballads, mobs, cockades, and Lord North burnt in effigy. We have had a bloodless campaign, but not from backwardness in our troops, but for the most creditable reason that can bewant of resolution in the enemy to encounter us. When I got down here early this morning, expecting to find a room prepared, a chair set for the president, and nothing wanting but that the orators should begin, I was surprised to learn that no advertisement had appeared on the other part; but that Lord T. having dined at a meeting, where the proposal was received very coldly, had taken fright, and for the time at least had dropped the proposal. It had appeared, therefore, to those whom I applied to ( and I think very rightly ), that till an advertisement was inserted by them, or was known for certain to be intended, it would not be proper
for any thing to be done by us. In this state, therefore, it rests. The advertisement which we agreed upon is left at the printer's, ready to be inserted upon the appearance of one from them. We lie upon our arms, and shall begin to act upon any motion of the enemy. I am very sorry that things have taken this turn, as I came down in full confidence of being able to accomplish something distinguished. I had drawn up, as I came along, a tolerably good paper, to be distributed to-morrow in the streets, and settled pretty well in my head the terms of a protest- besides · some pretty smart pieces of oratory, delivered upon Newmarket Heath. I never felt so much disposition to exert myself before-I hope from having before so fair a prospect of doing it with success. When the coach comes in, I hope I shall receive a packet from you, which shall not be lost, though it may not be used immediately.
“I must leave off writing, for I have got some other letters to send by to-night's post. Writing in this ink is like speaking with respect to the utter annihilation of what is past ;-by the time it gets to you, perhaps, it may have become legible, but I have no chance of reading over my letter myself. “ I shall not suffer this occasion to pass over entirely without benefit.
“ Believe me yours most truly,
" W. WINDHAM." · Mr. Windham had gone down to Norfolk, in consequence of a proposed meeting in that county, under the auspices of Lord Townshend, for the purpose of raising a subscription in aid of government, to he applied towards carrying on the war with the American colonies. In about three weeks after the date of this letter, the meeting was held, and Mr. Windham, in a spirited answer to Lord Townshen:), made the first essay of his eloquence in public.
"Tell Mrs Sheridan that I hope she will have a closet ready, where I may remain till the heat of the pursuit is over. My friends in France have promised to have a vessel ready upon the coast. “ Richard Brinsley Sheridan , Esq.
Queen-Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields.” The first political service rendered by Mr. Sheridan to the party with whom he now closely connected himself, was the active share which he took in a periodical paper called The Englishman, set up by the Whigs for the purpose of seconding, out of parliament, the criminalion and invective of which they kept up such a brisk fire within. The intention, as announced by Sheridan in the first number!, was , like Swist in the Drapier's Letters, to accommodate the style of the publication to the comprehension of persons in “ that class of the community, who are commonly called the honest and industrious.” But this plan,—which not even Swift , independent as was his humour of the artifices of style, could adhere to,-was soon abandoned, and there is in most of Sheridan's own papers a finesse and ingenuity of allusion, which only the most cultivated part of his readers could fully enjoy. For instance, in exposing the inconsistency of Lord North, who had lately consented in a Committee of the whole House, to a motion which he had violently opposed in the House itself ,-thus, making (says Sheridan ) that respectable assembly disobey its own orders, and the members reject with contempt, under the form of a Chairman, the resolutions they had imposed on themselves under the authority of a Speaker;”-he proceeds in a strain of refined raillery, as little suited to the “honest and industrious ” class of the community, as Swift's references to Locke, Molyneux, and Sydney, were to the readers for whom he also professed to write :
“ The burlesque of any plan, I know, is rather a recommendation of it to Your Lordship; and the ridicule you might throw on this assembly, hy continuing to support this Athanasian distinction of powers in the unity of an apparently corporate body, might in the end compensate to you for the discredit you have incurred in the attempt.
A deliberative body of so uncommon a form, would probably be deemed a kind of STATE MONSTER by the ignorant and the vulgar. This might at first increase their awe for it, and so far counteract Your Lordship’s intentions. They would probably approach it with as much reverence as Steplano does the monster in the Tempest “What, one body and two voices-a most delicate monster!' However, they would soon grow
familiarised to it, and probably hold it in as little respect as they were wished to do. They would find it on many occasions, a very shallow monster,' and particularly , a most poor credulous monster, —while Your Lordship as keeper, would enjoy every advantage and profit that could be made of it.
| Published 13th of March, 1779.
You would have the benefit of the two voices, which would be the Monster's greal excellencies, and would be peculiarly serviceable to Your Lordship. With the forward voice’you would aptly promulgate those vigorous schemes and productive resources, in which Your Lordship’s fancy is so pregnant; while “the backward voice' might be kept solely for recantation. The Monster, to maintain its character, must appear no novice in the science of flattery or in the talents of servility,—and while it could never scruple to bear any burdens Your Lordship should please to lay on it, you would always, on the approach of a storm, find a shelter underits gabardine.”
The most celebrated of these papers was the attack upon Lord George Germaine, written also by Mr. Sheridan,-a composition which, for unaffected strength of style and earnestness of feeling , may claim a high rank among the models of political vituperation. To every generation its own contemporary press seems always more licentious than any that had preceded it; but it may be questioned, whether the boldness of modern libel has ever gone beyond the direct and undisguised personality, with which one cabinet minister was called a liar and another a coward , in this and other writings of the popular party at that period. The following is the concluding paragraph of this paper against Lord George Germaine, which is in the form of a Letter to the Freeholders of England :
“ It would be presuming too much on your attention, at present, to enter into an investigation of the measures and system of war which this minister has pursued,—these shall certainly be the subject of a future paper. At present I shall only observe that, however mortifying it may be to reflect on the ignominy and disasters which this inauspicious character has brought on his country, yet there are consoling circumstances to be drawn even from his ill success. The calamities which may be laid to his account are certainly great; but, had the case been otherwise, it
may fairly be questioned whether the example of a degraded and reprobated officer (preposterously elevated to one of the first stations of honour and confidence in the state) directing the military enterprizes of this country with unlooked-for prosperity, might not ultimately be the cause of more extensive evils than even those, great as they are, which we at present experience : whether from so fatal a precedent we might not be led to introduce characters under similar disqualifications into every department: -to appoint Atheists to the mitre, Jews to the exchequer,-to select a treasury-bench from the Justitia , to place Brown Dignam on the woolsack, and Sir Hugh Palliser at the head of the admiralty.”
The Englishman, as might be expected from the pursuits and habits of those concerned in it, was not very punctually conducted, and , after many apologies from the publisher for its not appearing at the stated times (Wednesdays), ceased altogether on the 2d of June. From an imperfect sketch of a new Number, found among Mr. Sheridan's manuscripts , it appears that there was an intention of reviving it a short time after--probably towards the autumn of