Sir, in consequence of this arrangement, having put so much the larger part of his enemies and opposers into power, 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 the contrary were sure to predominate. When he had executed his plan, he had not an inch of ground to stand upon. When he had accomplished his scheme of administration, he was no longer a minister.

When his face was hid but for a moment, his whole system was on a wide sea, without chart or compass. The gentlemen, his particular friends, who, with the names of various departments of ministry, were admitted to seem as if they acted a part under him, with a modesty that becomes all men, and 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 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, unoccupied, and 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.-Speech on American Taxation, 1774.

8. A Peroration.

My Lords, I have done; the part of the Commons is concluded. With a trembling solicitude we consign this product of our long, long labours, to your charge. Take it!—take it! It is a sacred trust. Never before was a cause of such magnitude submitted to any human tribunal.

My Lords, at this awful close, in the name of the Commons, and surrounded by them, I attest the retiring, I attest the advancing generations, between which, as a link in the great chain of eternal order, we stand.- We call this nation, we call the world to witness, that the Commons have shrunk from no labour; that we have been guilty of no prevarication; that we have made no compromise with crime; that we have not feared any odium whatsoever, in the long warfare which we have carried on with the crimes-with the vices-with the exorbitant wealth-with the enormous and overpowering influence of Eastern corruption. This war, my Lords, we have waged for twenty-two years, and the conflict has been fought at your Lordships' bar for the last seven years. My Lords, twenty-two years is a great space in the scale of the life of man; it is no inconsiderable space in the history of a great nation. A business which has so long occupied the councils and the tribunals of Great Britain, cannot possibly be huddled over in the course of vulgar, trite, and transitory events. Nothing but

some of those great revolutions, that break the traditionary chain of human memory, and alter the very face of nature itself, can possibly obscure it. My Lords, we are all elevated to a degree of importance by it; the meanest of us will, by means of it, more or less, become the concern of posterity; if we are yet to hope for such a thing in the present state of the world, as a recording, retrospective, civilised posterity; but this is in the hands of the great Disposer of events; it is not ours to settle how it shall be. My Lords, your House yet stands; it stands as a great edifice; but let me say, that it stands in the midst of ruins; in the midst of the ruins, that have been made by the greatest moral earthquake that ever convulsed and shattered this globe of ours. My Lords, it has pleased Providence to place us in such a state, that we appear every moment to be upon the verge of some great mutations. There is one thing, and one thing only, which defies all mutation; that which existed before the world, and will survive the fabric of the world itself; I mean justice; that justice, which, emanating from the Divinity, has a place in the breast of every one of us, given us for our guide with regard to ourselves, and with regard to others, and which will stand, after this globe is burned to ashes, our advocate or our accuser before the great Judge, when He comes to call upon us for the tenor of a well-spent life.

My Lords, the Commons will share in every fate with your Lordships; there is nothing sinister which can happen to you, in which we shall not be involved; and if it should so happen that we shall be subjected to some of those frightful changes, which we have seen; if it should happen that your Lordships, stripped of all the decorous distinctions. of human society, should, by hands at once base and cruel,

be led to those scaffolds and machines of murder, upon which great kings and glorious queens have shed their blood, amidst the prelates, amidst the nobles, amidst the magistrates, who supported their thrones, may you in those moments feel that consolation which I am persuaded they felt in the critical moments of their dreadful agony!...

My Lords, if you must fall, may you so fall! but if you stand, and stand I trust you will, together with the fortune of this ancient monarchy-together with the ancient laws and liberties of this great and illustrious kingdom, may you stand as unimpeached in honour as in power; may you stand, not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, as a security for virtue; may you stand long, and long stand the terror of tyrants; may you stand the refuge of afflicted nations; may you stand a sacred temple, for the perpetual residence of an inviolable Justice.-Speech in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, 1794.




WILLIAM COWPER was born in 1731. The death of his mother when he was only six years old deprived him of the care which was needed for the well-being of a delicate and sensitive child; his recollections of this early sorrow are commemorated in one of the most beautiful of his minor poems. He was sent after her death to a private school at Market Street, whence he was removed at the end of two years because of an affection of his sight. At ten years of age he was sent to Westminster, where he continued until he was eighteen. Though he excelled in some youthful sports, and was therefore likely to have been popular with his companions, he appears to have suffered much both at Market Street and at Westminster from the tyranny of his school-fellows, and ever after retained the strongest aversion to any but home education. On leaving Westminster he was articled for three years to a solicitor-his fellow pupil in the office being the future Lord Thurloe. In 1754 he was called to the bar, and resided in the Temple for eleven years. During those years Cowper mixed in the literary society of the day, and had considerable success both as a wit and as the author of various fugitive pieces. Several lucrative offices were obtained for him by the interest of friends, but each one of these in succession was found to require some public appearance, for which his nervous temperament disqualified him. In his last attempt to face an ordeal of the kind he broke down, became insane, and was placed in confinement for eighteen months. He now withdrew from London, and settled at Huntingdon, where he became the friend and soon the inmate of the

« VorigeDoorgaan »