Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

6

[ocr errors]

Brisson? What is his book? We never heard of the gentleman: a great want of erudition, doubtless, but a sober fact; perhaps some of our readers are in the same predicament. And who, or what, may be Veget. i. ii.?(another of Becker's references): can it be Vegetius, who wrote on military affairs in the time of Valentinian the Younger? or the other Vegetius, who wrote on the same subject in the middle ages? Perhaps so; but the reference is in the highest degree vague; so also is the following: and often thus in the Dig. and in Apul.' Probably Ulpian's Digest,' and 'Apuleius' Metamorphoses' are meant; but how is the general reader to know this? and what information is conveyed in the following: ' and Philænis says (vii., 67.6)? Who is Philanis? can it be that Becker here refers to the Philænis sometimes mentioned in Martial's epigrams? If so, Martial should have been referred to. We call the translator's attention to this point, because, as he leads us to expect a version of Becker's Charicles,' he may be induced to remedy the fault in his translation of that work. We trust also that he will not follow the plan adopted in Gallus,' of only giving references to certain passages quoted by Becker from the Greek and Latin authors. Space is certainly gained by this; but not utility. It is quite a mistake to suppose that people ever verify references, except for especial purposes: the trouble of rising from your seat, searching for the work, and then searching for the passage referred to, will only be taken on some special occasion; whereas, if the passage be quoted, it will be read. Moreover all persons do not possess the work referred to: even in the libraries of scholars curious deficiencies occur: e. g., Charles Nodier had not a copy of Virgil! Among those who actually possess the works some have them not at hand; there is such a thing as lending books: an expensive luxury! On all these accounts we are for having passages of any reasonable length quoted, instead of simply being referred to. And these passages in the Charicles' should be translated. Göthe very properly remonstrated with scholars for their having given up the ancient and excellent practice of never quoting Greek without a translation, either into the vernacular or into Latin. Every body, as he says, may be supposed to know Latin, but few comparatively know Greek. It would slightly increase the translator's trouble, if he took Göthe's advice, in his version of Charicles;' but it would incalculably increase the value of the book, and extend its circulation amongst a large class who would otherwise be debarred from it. VERBUM SAT.

[ocr errors]

ART. XII-1. L'Inde sous la Domination Anglaise. Par Baron BARCHON DE PENHOUEN. Paris. 1844.

2. Speech of Captain William Eastwick, on the case of the Amirs of Sinde, at a Special Court, held at the India House, Friday, 26th Jan., 1844. London: James Ridgway. 1844.

3. Speech of J. Sullivan, Esq., on the case of the Amirs of Sinde, 26th Jan., 1844.

4. Papers respecting Gwalior. 1844.

5. Further Papers respecting Gwalior. 1844.

6. Additional Correspondence relative to Sinde. 1844. 7. Courrier Français, 3rd Sept., 1842.

IN considering Lord Ellenborough's government of India we shall have principally to deal, not with that nobleman himself, but with those who placed him in a situation of so great trust and responsibility. His lordship has already reverted to his former state of comparative insignificance. He is no longer surrounded by the splendours of an Indian Durbar. He has no longer the chiefs and princes of a great empire at his levée. He has ceased to rival in power the greatest monarchs of the East, and to be able by a mere effort of his will to disturb or tranquillise all Asia. He has shrunk to the dimensions of an ordinary partisan, decorated with stars and ribands, but without the slightest political influence in the state. Except for the mischief, therefore, of which he has been the author, we should have ceased altogether to think of him. Whatever lucrative post or sinecure Sir Robert Peel might have bestowed upon him to soothe his regrets, and break his fall from the highest position an Englishman can occupy to the humble level of ministerial dependence, we should have been little concerned about his fortunes, and have endeavoured to discover topics more worthy of the public and ourselves. But some men, as one of the first masters of wisdom has observed, have greatness thrust upon them, and of this number is Lord Ellenborough. In himself he is mediocrity personified. Capable of much industry, and possessing some little showy powers of eloquence, he might, perhaps, like a celebrated imbecile of other times, have been thought worthy of exercising supreme power had it never been entrusted to him.

If there be any one quality which distinguishes a great statesman from the rest of the world, it is that power of intuition by which he reads the characters of those who press around him for employment. More depends on the proper distribution of men than on any thing else which a minister can be called upon to perform. The government of a country for the time being may be regarded as a combination of intellect, all-sufficient to meet

every want of the state, and able, by a species of instinct synonymous with the most exalted wisdom, to station each integral part of which it consists in the post it is best fitted to occupy. This may be regarded as the beau ideal of administrative government. But if he who stands at the apex of this intellectual body detaches from the mass for any particular service that which is unequal to its performance, it is obvious that nothing but confusion can ensue, with perplexities and disgrace to himself.

Let Sir Robert Peel be tried by this test. Consider the men whom he has selected to represent him in various parts of the world-what do we find? Mediocrity, under the name of Lord de Grey or Lord Heytesbury, in Ireland; mediocrity, under the name of Ashburton, capitulating and ceding provinces to the United States in America; and worse than mediocrity in India, under the name of Ellenborough, relinquishing conquered kingdoms, meditating the abandonment of British prisoners to hopeless captivity, exposing the time-honoured name of England to disgrace and infamy, alternately flattering and insulting our Indian subjects, and wantonly alienating from himself the affections of those without whose co-operation he could not possibly perform his own. duty.

ap

It may, perhaps, be said, that, in judging favourably of Lord Ellenborough's capacity, ministers erred in company with a majority of the nation. No doubt they did. But what then? The error of the majority was pardonable, being founded partly on his lordship's specious powers of eloquence, partly on his industrious plication to the affairs of India, but chiefly on the confidence which the Tory ministers themselves had at various times ostentatiously put in him. The same excuse is not to be made for statesmen. Sir Robert Peel pronounced his own condemnation at the parting dinner given to Lord Ellenborough by the Court of Directors. He said he had co-operated with his noble friend during a period of fifteen years, had lived with him on terms of the closest intimacy, had enjoyed opportunities of studying him in the hours of business and in the hours of relaxation, in parliament, in the cabinet, and in society; and with all these advantages, all these facilities for getting at the character, idiocyncrasies, and capacity, of the man, had come deliberately to the conclusion, that he was the individual best fitted to be entrusted with the government of India, at a period of difficulty, that Great Britain could supply. Precisely the same language held the Duke of Wellington. It will not be pretended by the partisans of the administration that these were mere compliments, uttered in the fervour of a convivial moment, but not intended to be understood literally. We might accept this interpretation of the extravagant

Opinions of the Cabinet.

481

eulogies then pronounced on Lord Ellenborough, both by his grace and the minister, unless for one circumstance: Lord Ellenborough was not proceeding to India as a mere traveller for his pleasure, or in search of knowledge; he was about to undertake the government of the greatest and most valuable dependency ever possessed by an empire; was about to be entrusted with the happiness of one hundred and seventy millions of men nay, was about to occupy a position in which it would be within his competence, by a mere effort of his will, to convulse or tranquillise the largest and most populous quarter of the globe. Knowing this, and aware, moreover, that the responsibility of his election rested chiefly with them, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel would of course be careful to utter, unless they were prepared to stand by them, no praises which must necessarily be understood as predictions. For, if they affirmed Lord Ellenborough to be wise, moderate, and prudent, they foretold that his government of India would also deserve to be so characterised. With all these facts present to their minds, persuaded that the public generally would take them at their word, and having enjoyed ample leisure for consideration, the two most remarkable men of the Tory party, the men who enjoy among them greatest credit for statesmanship, and above all, for calm prudence and moderation, came forward on the occasion referred to, and delivered in the hearing of the persons most deeply concerned, a glowing and enthusiastic panegyric on the governor-general whom they themselves had appointed. It follows clearly that the two Tory leaders were for once sincere, and meant literally what they said. They staked their character for sagacity in the nicest and most hazardous operation of statesmanship, and tacitly entered into a sort of compact with their hearers, that if the subject of their eulogy proved any thing but what they declared him to be, they would be ready to forfeit their reputation for judgment, and acknowledge themselves to be unfit for the post which, by the favour of their sovereign, they occupied.

We are far from pretending that it is an easy task for one politician accurately to read another. Nothing is more difficult, especially when the individual to be deciphered has a deep interest in concealing his real character, and calls into play all his art and ingenuity for the purpose of screening his weak points from observation. But had the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel been worthy of the reputation they enjoy and the great offices they fill, they would not have allowed themselves to be defeated by the tactics of their subordinate, however skilful. They would have comprehended him in spite of himself. The very efforts he made to defeat their scrutiny, to invest the limits

of his intellectual powers with obscurity, to cover his defects and imperfections, to conceal the turbid well-springs of his passions, would have roused their suspicions, and invited and constrained them to take a more accurate survey of his aptitude for the cares of empire. With regard to Lord Ellenborough himself, we can readily believe that he thought his own abilities equal to any thing. Up to that moment, he had always played the part of a subordinate, had acted under authority, and been accustomed to refer the responsibility even of his own decisions to others. Self-examination had not entered into the circle of his studies. He had never questioned himself as to how he would act, or what he would do, supposing the helm of a great empire to be placed suddenly in his hands. Intoxicated by a puerile vanity, he flattered himself that he should be able, by mere impulse, by the unerring instincts of genius, to achieve any thing which fortune might require him to perform. He had hitherto been guilty of no overwhelming blunders; but, on the contrary, had acted in various situations with tolerable prudence. As president of the Board of Control, he had familiarised himself with the theory of our Indian system of government, and had written reports and made speeches, and probably suggested measures not altogether without their merit. Added to all this, he had enjoyed what he pretended to esteem, the inestimable advantage of learning confidentially the views of the Duke of Wellington on Indian affairs. It is by no means surprising, therefore, that such a person so circumstanced should, even before he had enjoyed the benefit of a single day's experience, look upon himself as a sort of oracle removed far beyond the sphere of human error. That at any rate, he entertained this opinion is quite certain.

When the fact of his appointment became known in political circles, a statesman, deeply versed in the mysteries of Indian politics, familiar with the character of the natives, master of all our external Asiatic relations, wrote to the new governor-general, politely offering to communicate to him any facts or information with which his extensive personal experience had supplied him. It might have been presumed, taking all circumstances into consideration, that Lord Ellenborough would gladly have availed himself of this offer. But mark the effects of adulation! He had no doubt been told frequently, by the Duke of Wellington among others, that he understood the interests of India better

than any man in the country, and upon this assurance he con

sidered it safe to act. To the liberal statesman whose note we have alluded to, he returned for answer, that he felt much obliged by his offer, but would not trouble him for advice or sug

« AnteriorContinuar »