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Gentlemen complain of the allies, and say, they have partitioned such a country, and transferred such a country, and seized on such a country. What! will they quarrel with their ally, who has possessed himself of a part of Saxony, and shake hands with Bonaparte, who proposes to take possession of England ? If a prince takes Venice, we are indignant; but if he seizes on a great part of Europe, and stands covered with the blood of millions, and the spoils of half mankind, our indignation ceases; vice becomes gigantic, conquers the understanding, and mankind begin by wonder, and conclude by worship. The character of Bonaparte is admirably calculated for this effect: he invests himself with much theatrical grandeur; he is a great actor in the tragedy of his own government; the fire of his genius precipitates on universal empire, certain to destroy his neighbors or himself; better formed to acquire empire than to keep it, he is a hero and a calamity, formed to punish France and to perplex Europe.
The authority of Mr. Fox has been alluded to - a great authority, and a great man; his name excites tenderness and wonder. To do justice to that immortal person, you must not limit your view to this country: his genius was not confined to England; it acted three hundred miles off, in breaking the chains of Ireland; it was seen three thousand miles off, in communicating freedorn to the Americans; it was visible, I know not how far off, in ameliorating the condition of the Indian; it was discernible on the coast of Africa, in accomplishing the abolition of the slave-trade. You are to measure the magnitude of his mind by parallels of latitude. His heart was as soft as that of a woman, his intellect was adamant; his weaknesses were virtues — they protected him against the hard habit of a politician, and assisted nature to make him amiable and interesting. The question discussed by Mr. Fox in 1792 was, whether you would treat with a revolutionary government; the present is, whether you will confirm a military and a hostile one. You will observe, that when Mr. Fox was ready to treat, the French, it was understood, were to evacuate the Low Countries. If you confirm the present government, you must expect to lose them. Mr. Fox objected to the idea of driving France upon her resources, lest you should make her a military government. The question now is, whether you will make that military government perpetual. I therefoie do not think the theory of Mr. Fox can be quoted against us; and the practice of Mr. Fox tends to establish our proposition, for he treated with Bonaparte, and failed. Mr. Fox was tenacious of England, and would never yield an iota of her superiority; but the failure of the attempt to treat was to be found, not in Mr. Fox, but in Bonaparte.
Richard BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 1751-1816. 358. FROM his Speech AGAINST WARREN HASTINGS IN THE
House of COMMONS, Feb. 7, 1787. I recollect to have heard it advanced by some of those admirers of Mr. Hastings, who were not so implicit as to give unqualified applause to his crimes, that they found an apology for the atrocity of them, in the greatness of his mind. To estimate the solidity of such a defence, it would be sufficient merely to consider in what consisted this prepossessing distinction, this captivating characteristic of greatness of mind. Is it not solely to be traced in great actions directed to great ends? In them, and them alone, we are to search for true estimable magnanimity. To them only can we justly affix the splendid title and honors of real greatness. There is indeed another species of greatness, which displays itself in boldly conceiving a bad measure, and undauntedly pursuing it to its accomplishment. But had Mr. Hastings the merit of exhibiting either of these descriptions of greatness? - even of the latter? I see nothing great - nothing magnanimous — nothing open — nothing direct in his measures, or in his mind; — on the contrary, he has too often pursued the worst objects by the worst means. His course was an eternal deviation from rectitude. He either tyrannized or deceived; and was by turns a Dionysius and a Scapin. As well might the writhing obliquity of the serpent be compared to the swift directness of the arrow, as the duplicity of Mr. Hastings' ambition to the simple steadiness of genuine magnanimity. In his mind all was shuffling, ambiguous, dark, insidious, and little : nothing simple, nothing unmixed: all affected plainness, and actual dissimulation; a heterogeneous mass of contradictory qualities; with nothing great but his crimes; and even those contrasted by the littleness of his motives, which at once denoted both his baseness and his meanness, and marked him for a traitor and a trickster. Nay, in his style and writing, there was the same mixture of vicious contrarieties;
- the most grovelling ideas were conveyed in the most inflated language; giving mock consequence to low cavils, and uttering quibbles in heroics; so that his compositions disgusted the mind's taste, as much as his actions excited the soul's abhorrence. Indeed this mixture of character seemed, by some unaccountable, but inherent quality, to be appropriated, though in inferior degrees, to everything that concerned his employers. I remember to have heard an honorable and learned gentleman (Mr. Dundas) remark, that there was something in the first frame and constitution of the company, which extended the sordid principles of their origin over all their successive operations; connecting with their civil policy, and even with their bola est achievements, the meanness of a pedler, and the profligacy of pirates. Alike in the political and the military line could be observed auctioneering ambassadors and trading generals; and thus we saw a
revolution brought about by affidavits ; an army employed in executing an arrest; a town besieged on a note of hand; a prince dethroned for the balance of an account. Thus it was they exhibited a government, which united the mock majesty of a bloody sceptre and the little traffic of a merchant's counting-house, wielding a truncheon with one hand, and picking a pocket with the other.
359. FROM HIS SPEECH AGAINST WARREN HASTINGS IN
WESTMINSTER HALL, June 3, 1788. The council, in recommending attention to the public in preference to the private letters, had remarked, in particular, that one letter should not be taken as evidence, because it was manifestly and abstractedly private, as it contained in one part the anxieties of Mr. Middleton for the illness of his son. This was a singular argument indeed; and the circumstance, in my mind, merited strict observation, though not in the view in which it was placed by the counsel. It went to show that some at least of those concerned in these transactions, felt the force of those ties, which their efforts were directed to tear asunder; that those who could ridicule the respective attachment of a mother and a son; who would prohibit the reverence of the son to the mother who had given him life; who could deny to maternal debility the protection which filial tenderness should afford; yet sensible of the straining of those chords by which they were connected. There was something connected with this transaction so wretchedly horrible, and so vilely loathsome, as to excite the most contemptible disgust. If it were not a part of my duty, it would be superfluous to speak of the sacredness of the ties which those aliens to feeling, those apostles to humanity, had thus divided. In such an assembly as that which I have the honor of addressing, there is not an eye but must dart reproof at this conduct; not a heart but must anticipate its condemnation. FILIAL Piery! It is the primal bond of society - it is that instinctive principle, which, panting for its proper good, soothes, unbidden, each sense and sensibility of man! it now quivers on every lip!-- it now beams from every eye! — it is an emanation of that gratitude, which, softening under the sense of recollected good, is eager to own the vast countless debt it ne'er, alas! can pay, for so many long years of unceasing solicitude, honorable self-denials, life-preserving cares! – it is that part of our practice where duty drops its awe; where reverence refines into love! - it asks no aid of memory!- it needs not the deductions of reason ! — preexisting, paramount over all, whether law or human rule, few arguments can increase, and none can diminish it! - it is the sacrament of our nature ! not only the duty, but the indulgence of man
it is his first great privilege - it is amongst his last most endearing delights ! – it causes the bosom to glow with reverberated love! - it requites the visitations of nature, and returns the blessings that have been received !- it fires emotion into vital principle - it renders habituated instinct into a master-passion — sways all the sweetest energies of man – hangs over each vicissitude of all that must pass away — aids the melancholy virtues in their last sad tasks of life to cheer the languors of decrepitude and age - explores the thoughtelucidates the aching eye — and breathes sweet consolation even in the awful moment of dissolution?
John Philpot CURRAN. 1750-1817.
HAMILTON ROWAN. This paper, gentlemen, insists upon the necessity of emancipating the Catholics of Ireland, and that is charged as part of the libel. If they had waited another year, if they had kept this prosecution impending for another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public information was eating away the ground of the prosecution. Since the commencement of the prosecution, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction of the legislature. In that interval our Catholic brethren have obtained that admission, which it seems it was a libel to propose; in what way to acccunt for this I am really at a loss. Have any alarms been occasioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? has the bigoted malignity of any individuals been crushed? or has the stability of the government, or that of the country, been weakened? or is one million of subjects stronger than four millions? Do you think that the benefit they received should be poisoned by the sting of vengeance? If you think so, you must say to them, “ You have demanded emancipation, and you have got it; but we abhor your persons, we are outraged at your success, and we will stigmatize by'a criminal prosecution the adviser of that relief which you have obtained from the voice of your country.” I ask you, do you think, as honest men, anxious for the public tranquillity, conscious that there are wounds not yet completely cicatrized, that you ought to speak this language at this time, to men who are too much disposed to think that in this very emancipation they have been saved from their own Parliament by the humanity of their sovereign? Or do you wish to prepare them for the revocation of these improvident concessions? Do you think it wise or humane at this moment to insult them, by sticking up in a pillory the man who dared to stand forth as their advocate? I put it to your oaths; do you think that a blessing of that kind, that a victory obtained by justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it by an ignominious sentence upon men bold and honest enough to propose this measure? to propose the redeeming of religion from the abuses of the church, the reclaiming of three inillions of men from bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it; giving, I say, in the so
much censured words of this paper, giving "UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION!” I speak in the spirit of the British law, which makes liberty commensurate with and inseparable from British soil; which proclaims even to the stranger and sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion, incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down; no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around him; and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disinthralled, by the irresistible genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.
ROBERT HALL.' 1764-1831.
361. THE WAR WITH NAPOLEON. In other wars we have been a divided people: the effect of our external operations has been in some measure weakened by intestine dissension. When peace has returned, the breach has widened, while parties have been formed on the merits of particular men, or of particular measures. These have all disappeared: we have buried our mutual animosities in a regard to the common safety. The sentiment of self-preservation, the first law which nature has impressed, has absorbed every other feeling; and the fire of liberty has melted down the discordant sentiments and minds of the British empire into one mass, and propelled them in one direction. Partial interests and feelings are suspended, the spirits of the body are collected at the heart, and we are awaiting with anxiety, but without dismay, the discharge of that mighty tempest which hangs upon the skirts of the horizon, and to which the eyes of Europe and of the world are turned in silent and awful expectation. While we feel solicitude, let us not betray dejection, nor be alarmed at the past successes of our enemy, which are more dangerous to himself than to us, since they have raised him from obscurity to an elevation which has made him giddy, and tempted him to suppose everything within his power. The intoxication of his success is the omen of his fall. What though he has carried the flames of war throughout Europe, and gathered as a nest the riches of the nations, while none peeped, nor muttered, nor moved the wing; he has yet to try his fortune in another field; he has yet to contend on a soil filled with the monuments of freedom, enriched with
1 Robert Hall was a Baptist minister, first at Cambridge, and afterwards at Bristol, and may be reckoned among the greatest orators of our country.