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to be maintained with the people, which a too complaisant toleration of the errors of royalty might—and, as it happened, did compromise; while, on the other side, there were the obligations of filial duty, which, as in this instance of the India Bill, made desertion decorous, at a time when co-operation would have been most friendly and desirable. There was also the perpetual consciousness of being destined to a higher station, in which, while duty would perhaps demand an independence of all party whatever, convenience would certainly dictate a release from the restraints of Whiggism.
It was most fortunate for Mr. Sheridan, on the rout of his party that ensued, to find himself safe in his seat for Stafford once more, and the following document, connected with his election, is sufficiently curious, in more respects than one, to be laid before the reader:
R. B. Sheridan, Esq. Expenses at the Borough of Stafford for Election, Anno 1784.
248 Burgesses, paid £ 5 5 0 each..............................
..₤1,302 0 0
57 6 6
feelings of the public assuredly will condemn them, at some time or other, as in the present instance, to desert their own public acts, to fail in their private professions, and to leave their friends at the very moment, in which service and support are the most imperiously required.
"Princes are always suspected proselytes to the popular side. Conscious of this suspicion, they strive to do it away by exaggerated professions, and by bringing to the party which they espouse more violent opinions and more unmeasured language than any which they find. These mighty promises they soon find it unreasonable, impossible, inconvenient to fulfil. Their dereliction of their principles becomes manifest and indefensible, in proportion to the vehemence with which they have pledged themselves always to maintain them; and the contempt and indignation which accompanies their retreat is equivalent to the expectations excited by the boldness and determination of their advance."
Total expense of six years' parliament, exclusive of expense incurred during the time of election, and your own annual expenses.......... •₤2,165 5 0
The followers of the Coalition had been defeated in almost all directions, and it was computed that no less than 160 of them had been left upon the field,-with no other consolation than what their own wit afforded them, in the title which they bestowed upon themselves of "Fox's Martyrs."
This reduction in the ranks of his enemies, at the very commencement of his career, left an open space for the youthful minister, which was most favourable to the free display of his energies. He had, indeed, been indebted, throughout the whole struggle, full as much to a lucky concurrence of circumstances as to his talents and name for the supremacy to which he so rapidly rose. All the other eminent persons of the day had either deeply entangled themselves in party ties, or taken the gloss off their reputations by some unsuccessful or unpopular measures; and as he was the only man independent enough of the House of Commons to be employed by the King as a weapon against it, so was he the only one sufficiently untried in public life, to be able to draw unlimitedly on the confidence of the people, and array them, as he did, in all the enthusiasm of ignorance, on his side. With out these two advantages, which he owed to his youth and inexperience, even loftier talents than his would have fallen far short of his triumph.
The financial affairs of the country, which the war had considerably deranged, and which none of the ministries that en
sued felt sure enough of themselves to attend to, were, of course, among the first and most anxious objects of his administration; and the wisdom of the measures which he brought forward for their amelioration was not only candidly acknowledged by his opponents at the time, but forms at present the least disputable ground, upon which his claim to reputation as a finance-minister rests. Having found, on his accession to power, an annual deficiency of several millions in the revenue, he, in the course of two years, raised the income of the country so high as to afford a surplus for the establishment of his Sinking Fund. Nor did his merit lie only in the mere increase of income, but in the generally sound principles of the taxation by which he accomplished it, in the improvements introduced into the collection of the revenue, and the reform effected in the offices connected with it, by the simplification of the mode of keeping public accounts.
Though Mr. Sheridan delivered his opinion upon many of the taxes proposed, his objections were rather to the details than the general object of the measures; and it may be reckoned, indeed, a part of the good fortune of the minister, that the financial department of Opposition at this time was not assumed by any more adventurous calculator, who might have perplexed him, at least, by ingenious cavils, however he might have failed to defeat him by argument. As it was, he had the field almost entirely to himself; for Sheridan, though acute, was not industrious enough to be formidable, and Mr. Fox, from a struggle, perhaps, between candour and party-feeling, absented himself almost entirely from the discussion of the new taxes.*
The only questions, in which the angry spirit of the late conflict still survived, were the Westminster Scrutiny and Mr. Pitt's East India Bill. The conduct of the minister in the former transaction showed that his victory had not.
"He had absented himself," he said, "upon principle; that, though he might not be able to approve of the measures which had been adopted, he did not at the same time think himself authorised to condemn them, or to give them opposition, unless he had been ready to suggest others less distressing to the subject."-Speech on Navy Bills, &c. &c.
brought with it those generous feelings towards the vanquished, which, in the higher order of minds, follows as naturally as the calm after a tempest. There must, indeed, have been something peculiarly harsh and unjust in the proceedings against his great rival on this occasion, which could induce so many of the friends of the minister-then in the fulness of his popularity and power-to leave him in a minority and vote against the continuance of the Scrutiny. To this persecution, however, we are indebted for a speech of Mr. Fox, which is (as he, himself, in his opening, pronounced it would be) one of his best and noblest; and which is reported, too, with such evident fidelity, as well as spirit, that we seem to hear, while we read, the "Demosthenem ipsum" uttering it.
Sheridan had, it appears, written a letter, about this time, to his brother Charles, in which, after expressing the feelings of himself and his brother Whigs, at the late unconstitutional victory over their party, he added, "But you are all so void of principle, in Ireland, that you cannot enter into our situa tion." Charles Sheridan, who, in the late changes, had not thought it necessary to pay his principles the compliment of sacrificing his place to them, considered himself, of course, as included in this stigma; and the defence of time-serving politics which he has set up in his answer, if not so eloquent as that of the great Roman master of this art in his letter to Lentulus, is, at least, as self-conscious and laboured, and betrays altogether a feeling but too worthy of the political meridian from which it issued.
"MY DEAR DICK,
Dublin Castle, 10th March, 1784. "I am much obliged to you for the letter you sent me by Orde; I began to think you had forgot I was in existence, but I forgive your past silence on account of your recent kind attention. The new Irish administration have come with the olive branch in their hand, and very wisely, I think; the system, the circumstances, and the manners of the two countries are so totally different, that I can assure you nothing could be so absurd as any attempt to extend the party'
distinctions which prevail on your side of the water, to this. Nothing, I will venture to assert, can possibly preserve the connection between England and Ireland, but a permanent government here, acting upon fixed principles, and pursuing systematic measures. For this reason a change of Chief Governor, ought to be nothing more than a simple transfer of government, and by no means to make any change in that political system respecting this country which England must adopt, let who will be the minister and whichever party may acquire the ascendancy, if she means to preserve Ireland as a part of the British empire.
"You will say that this is a very good plan for people in place, as it tends to secure them against all contingencies, but this, I give you my word, is not my reason for thinking as I do. I must, in the first place, acquaint you that there never can be hereafter in this country any such thing as party connections founded upon political principles; we have obtained all the great objects for which Ireland had contended for many years, and there does not now remain one national object of sufficient importance to unite men in the same pursuit. Nothing but such objects ever did unite men in this kingdom, and that not from principle, but because the spirit of the people was so far roused with respect to points in which the pride, the interest, the commerce, and the prosperity of the nation at large was so materially concerned, that the House of Commons, if they had not the virtue to forward, at least wanted the courage to oppose, the general and determined wish of the whole kingdom; they therefore made a virtue of necessity, joined the standard of a very small popular party; both Ins and Outs voted equally against government, the latter of course, and the former because each individual thought himself safe in the number who followed his example.
"This is the only instance, I believe, in the history of Irish politics, where a party ever appeared to act upon public principle, and as the cause of this singular instance has been removed by the attainment of the only objects which could have united men in one pursuit, it is not probable that we shall in future furnish any other example that will do honour