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"What! when conciliation was held out to the people of Ireland, was there any discontent? When the government of Ireland was agreeable to the people, was there any discontent? After the prospect of that conciliation was taken away,-after Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled,-after the hopes which had been raised were blasted,-when the spirit of the people was beaten down, insulted, despised, I will ask any gentleman to point out a single act of conciliation which has emanated from the Govern ment of Ireland? On the contrary, has not that country exhibited one continual scene of the most grievous oppression, of the most vexatious proceedings; arbitrary punishments inflicted; torture declared necessary by the highest authority in the sister-kingdom next to that of the legislature? And do gentlemen say that the indignant spirit which is roused by such exercise of government is unprovoked? Is this conciliation? Is this lenity? Has every thing been done to avert the evils of rebellion? It is the fashion to say, and the Address holds the same language, that the rebellion which now rages in the sister-kingdom has been owing to the machinations of wicked men.' Agreeing to the amendment proposed, it was my first intention to move that these words should be omitted. But, Sir, the fact they assert is true. It is, indeed, to the measures of wicked men that the deplorable state of Ireland is to be imputed. It is to those wicked Ministers who have broken the promises they held out, who betrayed the party they seduced into their views, to be the instruments of the foulest treachery that ever was practised against any people. It is to those wicked Ministers who have given up that devoted country to plunder,-resigned it a prey to this faction, by which it has so long been trampled upon, and abandoned it to every species of insult and oppression by which a country was ever overwhelmed, or the spirit of a people insulted, that we owe the miseries into which Ireland is plunged, and the dangers by which Eng. land is threatened. These evils are the doings of wicked Ministers, and applied to them, the language of the Address records a fatal and melancholy truth."
The popularity which the conduct of Mr. Sheridan, on the occasion of the Mutiny, had acquired for him,-every where, but among his own immediate party,-seems to have produced a sort of thaw in the rigour of his opposition to Government; and the language which he now began to hold, with respect to the power and principles of France, was such as procured for him, more than once in the course of the present Session, the unaccustomed tribute of compliments from the Treasury-bench. Without, in the least degree, questioning his sincerity in this change of tone, it may be remarked, that the most watchful observer of the tide of public opinion could not have taken it at the turn more seasonably
or skilfully. There was, indeed, just at this time a sensible. change in the feeling of the country. The dangers to which it had been reduced were great, but the crisis seemed over. The new wings lent to Credit by the paper-currency,-the return of the navy to discipline and victory,-the disenchantment that had taken place with respect to French principles, and the growing persuasion, since strengthened into conviction, that the world has never committed a more gross mistake than in looking to the French as teachers of liberty, the insulting reception of the late pacific overtures at Lisle, and that never-failing appeal to the pride and spirit of Englishmen, which a threat of invading their sacred shore brings with it,-all these causes concurred, at this moment, to rally the people of England round the Government, and enabled the Minister to extract from the very mischiefs which himself had created the spirit of all others most competent to bear and surmount them. Such is the elasticity of a free country, however, for the moment, misgoverned, and the only glory due to the Minister under whom such a people, in spite of misgovernment, flourishes, is that of having proved, by the experiment, how difficult it is to ruin them.
While Mr. Sheridan took these popular opportunities of occasionally appearing before the public, Mr. Fox persevered, with but little interruption, in his plan of secession from Parliament altogether. From the beginning of the Session of this year, when, at the instance of his constituents, he appeared in his place to oppose the Assessed Taxes Bill, till the month of February, 1800, he raised his voice in the House but upon two questions,-each "dignus vindice," the Abolition of the Slave-Trade, and a Change of System in Ireland. He had thrown into his opposition too much real feeling and earnestness to be able, like Sheridan, to soften it down, or shape it to the passing temper of the times. In the harbour of private life alone could that swell subside; and, however the country missed his warning eloquence, there is little doubt that his own mind and heart were gainers by a retirement, in which he
had leisure to "prune the ruffled wings" of his benevolent spirit, to exchange the ambition of being great for that of being useful, and to listen, in the stillness of retreat, to the lessons of a mild wisdom, of which, had his life been prolonged, his country would have felt the full influence.
From one of Sheridan's speeches at this time we find that the change which had lately taken place in his public conduct had given rise to some unworthy imputations upon his motives. There are few things less politic in an eminent public man than a too great readiness to answer accusations against his character. For, as he is, in general, more extensively read or heard than his accusers, the first intimation, in most cases, that the public receives of any charge against him will be from his own answer to it. Neither does the evil rest here;-for the calumny remains embalmed in the defence, long after its own ephemeral life is gone. To this unlucky sort of sensitiveness Mr. Sheridan was but too much disposed to give way, and accordingly has been himself the chronicler of many charges against him, of which we should have been otherwise wholly ignorant. Of this nature were the imputations founded on his alleged misunderstanding with the Duke of Portland, in 1789, to which I have already made some allusion, and of which we should have known nothing but for his own notice of it. His vindication of himself, in 4795, from the suspicion of being actuated by self-interest, in his connection with the Prince, or of having received from him, (to use his own expressions,)" so much as the present of a horse or a picture," is another instance of the same kind, where he has given substance and perpetuity to rumour, and marked out the track of an obscure calumny, which would otherwise have been forgotten. At the period immediately under our consideration he has equally enabled us to collect, from his gratuitous defence of himself, that the line lately taken by him in Parliament, on the great questions of the Mutiny and Invasion, had given rise to suspicions of his political steadiness, and to rumours of his approaching separation from Mr. Fox.
"I am sorry," he said, on one occasion, "that it is hardly possible for any man to speak in this House, and to obtain credit for speaking from a principle of public spirit; that no man can oppose a Minister without being accused of faction, and none, who usually opposed, can support a Minister, or lend him assistance in any thing, without being accused of doing so from interested motives. I am not such a coxcomb as to say, that it is of much importance what part I may take; or that it is essential that I should divide a little popularity, or some emolument, with the ministers of the Crown; nor am I so vain as to imagine, that my services might be solicited. Certainly they have not. That might have arisen from want of importance in myself; or from others, whom I have been in the general habit of opposing, conceiving that I was not likely either to give up my general sentiments, or my personal attachments. However that may be, certain it is, they never have made any attempt to apply to me for my assistance."
In reviewing his parliamentary exertions during this year, it would be injustice to pass over his speech on the Assessed Taxes Bill, in which, among other fine passages, the following vehement burst of eloquence occurs:
"But we have gained, forsooth, several ships by the victory of the First of June,-by the capture of Toulon,-by the acquisition of those charnelhouses in the West Indies, in which 50,000 men have been lost to this country. Consider the price which has been paid for these successes. For these boasted successes, I will say, give me back the blood of Englishmen which has been shed in this fatal contest,—give me back the 250 millions of debt which it has occasioned,-give me back the honour of the country which has been tarnished,-give me back the credit of the country, which has been destroyed,-give me back the solidity of the Bank of England, which has been overthrown; the attachment of the people to their ancient Constitution, which has been shaken by acts of oppression and tyrannical laws, give me back the kingdom of Ireland, the connexion of which is endangered by a cruel and outrageous system of military coercion,—give me back that pledge of eternal war, which must be attended with inevitable ruin!"
The great success which had attended The Stranger, and the still increasing taste for the German Drama, induced Mr. Sheridan, in the present year, to embark his fame even still more responsibly in a venture to the same romantic shores. The play of Pizarro was brought out on the 24th of May, 1799. The heroic interest of the plot, the splendour of the pageantry, and some skilful appeals to public feeling in the dialogue, obtained for it at once a popu
larity which has seldom been equalled. As far, indeed, as multiplied representations and editions are a proof of success, the legitimate issue of his Muse might well have been jealous of the fame and fortune of their spurious German relative. When the author of the Critic made Puff say, "Now for my magnificence,-my noise and my procession!" he little anticipated the illustration which, in twenty years afterwards, his own example would afford to that ridicule. Not that in pageantry, when tastefully and subordinately introduced, there is any thing to which criticism can fairly object:-it is the dialogue of this play that is unworthy of its author, and ought never, from either motives. of profit or the vanity of success, to have been coupled with his name. The style in which it is written belongs neither to verse or prose, but is a sort of amphibious native of both,-neither gliding gracefully through the former element, nor walking steadily on the other. In order to give pomp to the language, inversion is substituted for metre; and one of the worst faults of poetry, a superfluity of epithet, is adopted, without that harmony which alone makes it venial or tolerable.
It is some relief, however, to discover, from the manuscripts in my possession, that Mr. Sheridan's responsibility for the defects of Pizarro is not very much greater than his claim to a share in its merits. In the plot, and the arrangement of the scenes, it is well known, there is but little alteration from the German original. The omission of the comic scene of Diego, which Kotzebue himself intended to omit, the judicious suppression of Elvira's love for Alonzo, the introduction, so striking in representation, of Rolla's passage across the bridge, and the re-appearance of Elvira in the habit of a nun, form, I believe, the only important points in which the play of Mr. Sheridan deviates from the structure of the original drama. With respect to the dialogue, his share in its composition is reducible to a compass not much more considerable. A few speeches, and a few short scenes, re-written, constitute almost the whole of the contribution he has furnished to it. The ma