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these njaxims, flowing from an opinion not the most indulgent to our unhappy species, and surely a little too general, led him into measures that were greatly mischievous to himself: and for that reason, among others, perhaps fatal to his country; measures, the effects of which, I anı afraid, are for ever incurable, He made an administration, so checkered and speckled; he put together a piece of joinery, so crossly indented and whimsically dovetailed; a cabinet so variously inlaid ; snch a piece of diversified mosaic, such a tesselated pavement without cement, here a bit of black stove and there a bit of white; patriots and courtiers, king's friends and republicans; whigs and tories; treacherous friends and open enemies; that it was indeed a very curious show; but utterly unsafe to touch, and unsure to stand on.
In consequence of this arrangement, the confusion was such that his own principles could not possibly have any effect or influence in the conduct of affairs. If ever he fell into a fit of the gout, or if any other cause withdrew him from public cares, principles directly contrary were sure to predominate. When he had executed his plan, he had not an inch of ground to stand on; when he had accomplished his scheme of administration, he was no longer a minister. When his face was hid for a moment, his whole system was on a wide sea, without chart or compass. The gentlemen, his particular friends, with a confidence in him which was justified even in its extravagance by his superior abilities, had never in any instance presumed upon any opinion of their own. Deprived of his guiding influence, they were whirled about, the sport of every gust, and easily driven into any port; and as those who joined with them in manning the vessel of the state were the most directly opposite to his opinions, measures, and character, and far the most artful and most powerful of the set, they easily prevailed so as to seize upon the vacant derelict minds of his friends, and instantly they turned the vessel wholly out of the course of his policy. As if it were to insult as well as to betray him, even long before the close of the first session of his administration, when every thing was publicly transacted and with great parade, in his. name, they made an act declaring it highly just and expedient to raise a revenue in America. For even then, sir, even before this splendid orb was entirely set, and while the western horizon was in a blaze with his descending glory, on the opposite quarter of the heavens arose another luminary, and for his hour, became lord of the ascendant.
This light too is passed and set for ever. You understand, to be sure, that I speak of Charles Townshend, officially the re-producer of this fatal scheme; whom I cannot even now remember without some degree of sensibility. In truth, he was the delight and ornament of this house, and the charm of every private society which lie honoured with bis presence. Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any country, a man of a more pointed and finished wit; and (where his passions were not concerned) of a more refined, exquisite, and penetrating judgment. If he had not so great a stock as some have liad who flourished formerly, of knowledge long treasured up, he knew better by far than any man I ever was acquainted with, how to bring together within a short time, all that was necessary to establish, to illustrate, and to decorate that side of the question he supported. He stated his matter skilfully and powerfully. He particularly excelled in a most luminious explanation and display of his subject. His style of argument was neither trite and vulgar, nor subtle and abstruse. He hit the house just between wind and water. And not being troubled with too anxious a zeal for any matter in question, he was never more tedious or more earnest than the pre-conceived opinions and present temper of his hearers required: to whom he was always in perfect unison. He conformed exactly to the temper of the house; and he seemed to guide, because he was always sure to follow it.
I beg pardon, sir, if, when I speak of this and of other great men, I appear to digress in saying something of their characters. In this eventful history of the revolutions of America, the characters of such men are of much importance. Great men are the guide-posts and land-marks in the state. The credit of such men at court, or in the nation, is the sole cause of all the public measures. It would be an invidious thing (most foreign, I trust, to what you think my disposition) to remark the errours into which the authority of great names has brought the nation, without doing justice at the same time to the great qualities whence that authority arose. The subject is jnstructive to those who wish to form themselves on whatever of excellence has gone before them. There are many young members in the house, whe Rever saw that prodigy, Charles Townshend; nor of course know what a ferment he was able to ex. cite in every thing by the violent ebullition of his mixed virtues and failings. For failings he had undoubtedly-many of us remember them-we are this day considering the effects of them. But he had no failings which were not owing to a noble cause; to an ardent, generous, perhaps an immoderate passion for fame; a passion, which is the instinct of all great souls. He worshipped that goddess wheresoever she appeared; but he paid his particular devotions to her in her favourite habitation, in her chosen temple, the house of commons. Besides the characters of the individuals who compose our body, it is impossible, Mr. Speaker, not to observe, that this house has a collective character of its own. That character, too, however imperfect, is not unamiable. Like all great public collections of men, you possess a marked love of virtue, and an abhorrence of vice. But among vices, there is none which the house abhors in the same degree with obstinacy. Obstinacy, sir, is certainly a great vice; and in the changeful state of political affairs it is frequently the cause of great mischief. It happens, however, very unfortunately, that almost the whole line of the great and masculine virtues, constancy, gravity, magnanimity, fortitude, fidelity, and firmness; are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which you have so just an abhorrence; and in their excess, all these virtues very easily fall into it. He who paid such a particular attention to all your feelings, certainly took care not to shock them by that vice which is most disgustful to you.
That fear of displeasing those who ought most to be pleased, betrayed him sometimes into the other extreme. He had voted, and, in the year 1765, had þeen an advocate for the stamp-act. Things and the dispositions of men's minds were changed. In short, the stamp-act began to be no favourite with this house. Accordingly, he voted for the repeal. The very next session, as the fashion of this world passeth away, the repeal began to be in as bad repute as the stamp-act had been the session before. To conform to the temper which began to prevail, and to prevail mostly amongst those most in power, he declared very early in the winter that a revenue must be had out of America. Here this extraordinary man, then chancellor of the exchequer, found himself in great straits. To please universally was the object of his life; but to tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men. However, he attempted it. To render the tax palatable to the partizans of American revenue, he made a preamble, stating the necessity of such a revenue. To close with the American distinction, this revenue was external, or port-duty; but again to soften it to the other party, it was a duty of supply, &c. This fine-spun scheme had the usual fate of all exquisite policy. But the original plan, and the mode of executing that plan, both arose singly and solely from à love of our applause. He was truly the child of the house. He never thought, did, or said any thing but with a view to you. He every day adapted himself to your disposition; and adjusted himself before it, as at a looking-glass.