Imagens das páginas

was to receive the Address, when Adam returned from the Noble Lords, with their expressed disclaimer of the preferred Answer, altered as it was, His Royal Highness still persevered to eradicate every remaining word which he thought might yet appear exceptionable to them, and made further alterations, although the fair copy of the paper had been made out.

“ Thus the Answer, nearly reduced to the expression of the Prince's own suggestions, and without an opportunity of farther meeting the wishes of the Noble Lords, was delivered by His Royal Highness, and presented by the Deputation of the two Houses.

“I am ashamed to have been thus prolix and circumstantial, upon a matter which may appear to have admitted of much shorter explanation ; but when misconception has produced distrust among those, I hope, not willingly disposed to differ, and, who can have, I equally trust, but one common object in view in their different stations, I know no better way than by minuteness and accuracy of detail to remove whatever may have appeared doubtful in conduct, while unexplained, or inconsistent in principle not clearly re-asserted.

“ And now, my dear Lord, I have only shortly to express my own personal mortification, I will use no other word, that I should have been considered by any persons however high in rank, or justly entitled to high political pretensions, as one so little attached to His Royal Highness,' or so ignorant of the value of the Constitution of his country,' as to be held out to Him, whose fairly-earned esteem I regard as the first honour and the sole reward of my political life, in the character of an interested contriver of a double government, and, in some measure, as an apostate from all my

former principles,-which have taught me, as well as the Noble Lords, that the maintenance of constitutional responsi. bility in the ministers of the Crown is essential to any hope of success in the administration of the piblic interest.'

“ At the same time, I am most ready to admit that it could not be their intention so to characterise me ; but it is the direct inference which others must gather from the first paragraph I have quoted from their Representation, and an inference which, I understand, has already been raised in public opinion. A departure, my dear Lord, on my part, from upholding the principle declared by the Noble Lords, much more a presumptuous and certainly ineffectual attempt to inculcate a contrary doctrine on the mind of the Prince of Wales, would, I am confident, lose me every particle of his favour and confidence at once and for ever. But I am yet to learn what part of my past public life,-and I challenge observation on every part of my present proceedings,—has warranted the adoption of any such suspicion of me, or the expression of any such imputation against me. But I will dwell no longer on this point, as it relates only to my own feelings and character; which, however, I am the more bound to consider, as others, in my humble judgment, have so hastily disregarded both. At the same time, I do sincerely declare, that no personal disappointment in my own mind interferes with the respect and esteem I entertain for Lord Grenville, or in addition to those sentiments, the friendly regard I owe to Lord Grey. To Lord Grenville I have the honour to be but very little personally known. From Lord Grey, intimately acquainted as he was with every circumstance of my conduct and principles in the years 1788–9, I confess I should have expected a very tardy and reluctant interpretation of any circumstance to my disadvantage. What the nature of my endeavours were at that time, I have the written testimonies of Mr. Fox and the Duke of Portland. To you I know those testimonies are not necessary, and perhaps it has been my recollection of what passed in those times that may have led me too securely to conceive myself above the reach even of a suspicion that I could adopt different principles now. Such as they were they remain untouched and unaltered. I conclude with sincerely declaring, that to see the Prince meeting the reward which his own honourable nature, his kind and generous disposition, and his genuine devotion to the true objects of our free Constitution so well entitle him to, by

being surrounded and supported by an Administration affectionate to his person, and ambitious of gaining and meriting his entire esteem, (yet tenacious, above all things, of the constitutional principle, that exclusive confidence must attach to the responsibility of those whom he selects to be his public servants,) I would with heartfelt satisfaction rather be a looker on of such a Government, giving it such humble support as might be in my power, than be the possessor of any possible situation either of profit or ambi. tion, to be obtained by any indirectness, or by the slightest departure from the principles I have always professed, and which I have now felt myself in a manner called upon to re-assert.

“I have only to add, that my respect for the Prince, and my sense of the frankness he has shown towards me on this occasion, decide me, with all duty, to submit this letter to his perusal, before I place it in your hands; meaning it undoubtedly to be by you shown to those to whom your judgment may

deem it of any consequence to communicate it.

“I have the honour to be, &c. «* To Lord Holland.

(Signed) “ R. B. SHERIDAN. “Read and approved by the Prince, January 20, 1811.

“R. B. S.

Though this Statement, it must be recollected, exhibits but one side of the question, and is silent as to the part that Sheridan took after the delivery of the Remonstrance of the two noble Lords, yet, combined with preceding events and with the insight into motives which they afford, it may sufficiently enable the reader to form his own judgment, with respect to the conduct of the different persons concerned in the transaction. With the better and more ostensible motives of Sheridan, there was, no doubt, some mixture of, what the Platonists call, the material alluvion" of our nature. His political repugnance to the Coalesced Leaders would have been less strong but for the personal feelings that mingled with it; and his anxiety that the Prince should not be dictated to by others was at least

equalled by his vanity in showing that he could govern him himself. But, whatever were the precise views that impelled him to this trial of strength, the victory which he gained in it was far more extensive than he himself had either foreseen or wished. He had meant the party to feel his power,—not to sink under it. Though privately alienated from them, on personal as well as political grounds, he knew that, publicly he was too much identified with their ranks, ever to serve, with credit or consistency, in any other. He had, therefore, in the ardour of undermining, carried the ground from beneath his own feet. In helping to disband his party, he had cashiered himself; and there remained to him now, for the residue of his days, but that frailest of all sublunary treasures, a Prince's friendship.

With this conviction, (which, in spite of all the sanguineness of his disposition, could hardly have failed to force itself on his mind,) it was not, we should think, with very self-gratulatory feelings that he undertook the task, a few weeks after, of inditing, for the Regent, that memorable Letter to Mr. Perceval, which sealed the fate at once both of his party and himself, and whatever false signs of re-animation may afterwards have appeared, severed the last lifelock by which the “struggling spirit”* of this friendship between Royalty and Whiggism still held :

dextra crinem secat, omnis et una Dilapsus calor, atque in ventos vita recessit.

With respect to the chief Personage connected with these transactions, it is a proof of the tendency of knowledge, to produce a spirit of tolerance, that they who, judg. ing merely from the surface of events, have been most forward in reprobating his separation from the Whigs, as a rupture of political ties and an abandonment of private friendships, must, on becoming more thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstances that led to this crisis, learn to soften down considerably their angry feelings; and to see, indeed, in the whole history of the connection,—from its first formation, in the hey-day of youth and party, to its faint survival after the death of Mr. Fox,—but a natural and destined gradation towards the result at which it at last arrived, after as much fluctuation of political principle, on one side, as there was of indifference, perhaps, to all political principle on the other.

* Luctans anima.

Among the arrangements that had been made, in contemplation of a new Ministry, at this time, it was intended that Lord Moira should go, as Lord Lieutenant, to Ireland, and that Mr. Sheridan should accompany him, as Chief Secretary.







IT was not till the close of this year that the Reports of the Committee appointed under the Act for rebuilding the Theatre of Drury-Lane, were laid before the public. By these it appeared that Sheridan was to receive, for his moiety of the property, 24,0001. out of which sum the claims of the Linley family and others were to be satisfied ;—that a further sum of 40001. was to be paid to him for the property of the Fruit Offices and Reversion of Boxes and Shares ;-and that his son, Mr. Thomas Sheridan, was to receive, for his quarter of the Patent Property, 12,000l.

The gratitude that Sheridan felt to Mr. Whitbread at first, for the kindness with which he undertook this most arduous task, did not long remain unembittered when they entered into practical details. It would be difficult indeed to find two persons less likely to agree in a transaction of

« AnteriorContinuar »