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naturally tend towards that shore. Besides, where there are places as well as principles to be surrendered on one side, there must in return be so much more of principles given up on the other, as will constitute an equivalent to this double sacrifice. The centre of gravity will be sure to lie in that body, which contains within it the source of emoluments and honours, and the other will be forced to revolve implicitly round it.
The only occasion at this period on which Mr. Sheridan seems to have alluded to the Coalition, was during a speech of some length on the consideration of the Preliminary Articles of Peace. Finding himself obliged to advert to the subject, he chose rather to recriminate on the opposite party for the anomaly of their own alliances, than to vindicate that which his distinguished friend had just formed, and which, in his heart, as has been already stated, he wholly disapproved. The inconsistency of the Tory Lord Advocate (Dundas) in connecting himself with the patron of Equal Representation, Mr. Pitt, and his support of that full recognition of American independence, against which, under the banners of Lord North, he had so obstinately combated, afforded to Sheridan's powers of raillery an apportunity of display, of which, there is no doubt, he with his accustomed felicity availed himself. The reporter of the speech, however, has, as usual, contrived, with an art near akin to that of reducing diamonds to charcoal, to turn all the brilliancy of his wit into dull and opake verbiage.
It was during this same debate, that he produced that happy retort upon Mr. Pitt, which, for good-humoured point and seasonableness, has seldom, if ever, been equalled.
"Mr. Pitt (say the Parliamentary Reports) was pointedly severe on the gentlemen who had spoken against the Address, and particularly on Mr. Sheridan. "No man admired more than he did the abilities of that Right Honourable Gentleman, the elegant sallies of his thought, the gay effusions of his fancy, his dramatic turns and his epigrammatic point; and if they were reserved for the proper stage, they would, no doubt, receive what the Honourable Gentleman's abilities always did receive, the plaudits of the audience; and it would be his fortune "sui plausu gaudere theatri." But this was not the proper scene for the exhibition of those elegancies.”
Mr. Sheridan, in rising to explain, said that 'On the particular sort of personality which the Right Honourable Gentleman had thought proper to make use of, he need not make any comment. The propriety, the taste, the gentlemanly point of it, must have been obvious to the House. But, said Mr. Sheridan, let me assure the Right Honourable Gentleman, that I do now, and will at any time he chooses to repeat this sort of allusion, meet it with the most sincere good-humour. Nay, I will say more-flattered and encouraged by the Right Honourable Gentleman's panegyric on my talents, if ever I again engage in the compositions he alludes to, I may be tempted to an act of presumption-to attempt an improvement on one of Ben Jonson's best characters, the character of the Angry Boy in the Alchymist." "
Mr. Sheridan's connection with the stage, though one of the most permanent sources of his glory, was also a point, upon which, at the commencement of his political career, his pride was most easily awakened and alarmed. He, himself, used to tell of the frequent mortifications which he had suffered, when at school, from taunting allusions to his father's profession-being called by some of his school-fellows "the player-boy," &c. Mr. Pitt had therefore selected the most sensitive spot for his sarcasm; and the good temper as well as keenness, with which the thrust was returned, must have been felt even through all that pride of youth and talent, in which the new Chancellor of the Exchequer was then enveloped. There could hardly, indeed, have been a much greater service rendered to a person in the situation of Mr. Sheridan, than thus affording him an opportunity of silencing, once for all, a battery to which this weak point of his pride was exposed, and by which he might otherwise have been kept in continual alarm. This gentlemanlike retort, combined with the recollection of his duel, tended to place him for the future in perfect security against any indiscreet tamperings with his personal history.*
The following jeu d'esprit, written by Sheridan himself upon this occurrence, has been found among his manuscripts :
"We hear that, in consequence of a hint, lately given in the House of Commons, the Play of the Alchemist is certainly to be performed by a set
In the administration, that was now forced upon the court by the Coalition, Mr. Sheridan held the office of Secretary of the Treasury-the other Secretary being Mr. Richard Burke, the brother of the orator, His exertions in the House, while he held this office, were chiefly confined to financial subjects, for which he perhaps, at this time, acquired the taste, that tempted him afterwards, upon most occasions, to bring his arithmetic into the field against Mr. Pitt. His defence of the Receipt Tax,-which, like all other long-lived taxes, was born with difficulty,-appears, as far as we can judge of it from the Report, to have been highly amusing. Some country-gentleman having recommended a tax upon grave-stones as a substitute for it, Sheridan replied that
"Such a tax, indeed, was not easily evaded, and could not be deemed oppressive, as it would only be once paid; but so great was the spirit of clamour against any tax on receipts, that he should not wonder if it extended to them; and that it should be asserted, that persons having paid the last debt, the debt of nature,-government had resolved they should pay a receipt-tax, and have it stamped over their grave. Nay, with so extraordinary a degree of inveteracy were some Committees in the city, and elsewhere, actuated, that if a receipt-tax of the nature in question was en. acted, he should not be greatly surprised if it were soon after published, that such Committees had unanimously resolved that they would never be buried, in order to avoid paying the tax; but had determined to lie above ground, or have their ashes consigned to family-urns, in the manner of the ancients."
of Gentlemen for our diversion in a private apartment of Buckingham Honse.
"The Characters, thus described in the old editions of Ben Jonson, are to be represented in the following manner-the old practice of men's play. ing the female parts being adopted :
"SUBTLE (the Alchemist)
The Lord Ch-ll-r.
The L-d Adv-c-te.
Mr. W. P-tt.
He also took an active share in the discussions relative to the restoration of Powell and Bembridge to their offices by Mr. Burke:-a transaction which, without fixing any direct stigma upon that eminent man, subjected him, at least, to the unlucky suspicion of being less scrupulous in his notions of official purity, than became the party which he espoused or the principles of Reform that he inculcated.
Little as the Court was disposed, during the late reign, to retain Whigs in its service any longer than was absolutely necessary, it must be owned that neither did the latter, in general, take very courtier-like modes of continuing their connection with Royalty; but rather chose to meet the hostility of the Crown half-way, by some overt act of imprudence or courage, which at once brought the matter to an issue between them. Of this hardihood the India Bill of Mr. Fox was a remarkable example-and he was himself fully aware of the risk which he ran in proposing it. "He knew," he said, in his speech upon first bringing forward the question, "that the task he had that day set himself was extremely arduous and difficult; he knew that he had considerable risk in it; but when he took upon himself an office of responsi bility, he had made up his mind to the situation and the danger of it."
Without agreeing with those who impute to Mr. Fox the extravagant design of investing himself, by means of this Bill, with a sort of perpetual Whig Dictatorship, independent of the will of the Crown, it must nevertheless be allowed that, together with the interests of India, which were the main object of this decisive measure, the future interests and influence of his own party were in no small degree provided for; and that a foundation was laid by it for their attainment of a more steady footing in power than, from the indisposition of the Court towards them, they had yet been able to accomplish. Regarding-as he well might, after so long an experience of Tory misrule-a government upon Whig principles as essential to the true interests of England, and hopeless of seeing the experiment at all fairly tried, as long as the political existence of the servants of the Crown
was left dependent upon the caprice or treachery of their master, he would naturally welcome such an accession to the influence of the party, as might strengthen their claims to power when out of office, and render their possession of it, when in, more secure and useful. These objects the Bill in question would have, no doubt, effected. By turning the Pactolus of Indian patronage into the territories of Whiggism, it would have attracted new swarms of settlers to that region, the Court would have found itself outbid in the market, and, however the principles of the party might eventually have fared, the party itself would have been so far triumphant. It was indeed, probably, the despair of ever obtaining admission for Whiggism, in its unalloyed state, into the councils of the Sovereign, that reconciled Mr. Fox to the rash step of debasing it down to the Court standard by the Coalition-and, having once gained possession of power by these means, he saw, in the splendid provisions of the India Bill, a chance of being able to transmit it as an heir-loom to his party, which, though conscious of the hazard, he was determined to try. If his intention, therefore, was, as his enemies say, to establish a Dictatorship in his own person, it was, at the worst, such a Dictatorship as the Romans sometimes created, for the purpose of averting the plague and would have been directed merely against that pestilence of Toryism, under which the prosperity of England had, he thought, languished so long.
It was hardly, however, to be expected of Royalty,—even after the double humiliation which it had suffered, in being vanquished by rebels under one branch of the Coalition, and brow-beaten into acknowledging their independence by the other-that it would tamely submit to such an undisguised invasion of its sanctuary; particularly when the intruders had contrived their operations so ill, as to array the people in hostility against them, as well as the Throne. Never was there an outcry against a ministry so general and decisive. Dismissed insultingly by the King on one side, they had to encounter the indignation of the people on the other; and, though the House of Commons, with a fidelity to fallen min