Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of mankind. I am free to confess I have a stronger passion than the love of wealthấto reinstate India in its former glory would give me more pride and satisfaction than I should be able to derive from ten times the fortune of Mr. Hastings. It is, in fact, a bad calculation in the accounts of the world to sacrifice reputation for

any increase of furtune. Such,' continues he, r is the opinion of one on this subject who has had it twenty times in his power to make a large fortune; and yet never has had it in his thoughts.' For the usual modes that are practised in India to obtain wealth, he entertained the most sovereign contempt. • Notwithstanding the indignation I feel, I am really,' says be, 'sometimes diverted with some of these woodcocks, who thrust their bills into the ground, shut their eyes, and then think nobody sees them.' P. 371.

After such remarks as the preceding, it is not extraordinary that the whole of the peculators were his most determined enemies; neither is it surprising that he found only few friends among those persons in this country who do not blush to profit by the sale of India appointments, which should be the rewards of merit. It is right that the public should be acquainted with the origin and nature of some of their charges against his lordship.

“ It is but too common a practice abroad to condemn what are called king's stores upon very slight grounds; the disposal of them, and particularly the purchase of others to supply their place, putting money into the pockets of the persons concerned in such transactions. A quantity of beef of this deseription was condemned to be sold at Madras, at a time too when they were threatened with a famine. Lord Macartney attended the sale in person, bought a considerable quantity of it, had it served on his own table, invited the parties who were principally concerned in the business, and made them acknowledge the beef to be excellent. This was considered as inspecting matters too narrowly, and unsuitable to the dignity of a governor of Madras.' The public however would not be the sufferers if we had a few more such governors as Lord Macartney; and although their conduct, like his, would be sure of exciting the enmity of all those whose private views were disappointed or counteracted by such minute attention to the public interests, yet they would be sure to merit and obtain the applause of all those whose applauşe is worth having." P. 377.

The character and conduct of Lord Macartney indeed are most exemplary. " He appears," says Mr. Barrow, " to have observed in every situation of life the most steady and loyal attachment to his sovereign. Whether in place or out of place, whether favoured with the smiles of the court, or apparently neglected, his sentiments in this respect were invariably the same. On all occasions

[ocr errors]

he boldly stood forward in support of the king's prerogative." He would not place "a fruitless crown” and « barren sceptre" in the gripe of the sovereign of Great Britain. How different is this conduct from that of those statesmen who lately thought to make him violate his conscience, and because they failed with “ shameless perfidy, proclaimed the matter!" Yet his lordship was neither a weak nor a venal courtier; on the contrary, so striking were his talents and integrity, that no monarch, much less a minister, would have ventured to make any base proposal to him.

Throughout a long and active life, and with a very extensive and intimate acquaintance among the leading characters of various - administrations and oppositions, he had the resolution to keep himself totally unconnected with party in politics, the spirit of which, however gentle and good tempered the individuals who compose it might be, is always productive of violence and ill-humour, which were so contrary to his disposition. This party spirit he considered as tending only to impede the public service, by embarrassing government, to create dissensions among intimate friends, and to unite the bitterest enemies and the most jarring dispositions. But a respectable opposition in parliament he conceived to be among the most efficient and salutary checks on any abuse of power in those who are entrusted with the administration of the government.

" As a minister at a foreign court his qualifications were of the first rank. By his extensive knowledge of men and things, by address and management, he could make himself master of intrigues and projects while yet hatching, and exhibit them to his court in all their various bearings. It was the opinion of many of his friends, that the minister could not have employed the talents of Lord Macartney to a better purpose in the service of his country, than as a negociator at the different courts of Europe, few men being perhaps so well qualified in every respect for such situations as he was.”

P. 381. A staunch admirer of the British constitution, he was an enemy to despotism under whatever shape it might be exercised. Nothing could more strongly convey his sentiments on this subject than his remarks on the situation of the Wirtemberg troops in the service of the Dutch at Batavia. His most serene Highness of Wirtemberg,' remarked Lord Macartney, is a perfect crimp* to the Dutch East India Company, 'to whom he hires out, at a stipulated rate, the youth, health, and strength of his children and his subjects, who are torn from their dearest and tenderest connections, and banished without redemption from their native soil. Instead of being employed at home like men, and as soldiers only should be, to defend their country, to redress its

* This prince just now performs the same honourable oflice to Buonaparte as he formerly did to the Dutch.-Rey.

wrongs, and vindicate its honor, they are vended without compunction by their natural protector to a set of foreign merchants, who export them to be broiled alive on the sands of Columbo or to rot by inches in the hospitals of Java.'

“The regret of leaving Europe, the necessary duty of their profession, and the enmity of the elements, all conspire here to wear out the soldier and to hasten his dissolution. Ambition is dead, reliet' is hopeless. He is undermined by decay, he drops gradually into the grave, and dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos,' wbilst the survivors are told, with a mockery superadded to their misery, that he died nobly at his post in the exercise of an heroic vocation, not in the still shade of civil life, but in the career of glory on the field of honour. It is truly wonderful to what a pitch of seriseless vanity the military bubble bas blown up the human mind, and, at the same time, debased it to the most brutish subjection. "That one man should presume in the pride of his heart to arrogate the right of saying to his fellow creature

's 'Tis inine to order and 'tis thine to die!" is equally repugnant to common sense and to common humanity; and yet it is a right, that, however disguised, is usurped and assumed by all the sovereignties of Europe, whether monarchical, aristocratical, or democratical, for it makes no difference under what title or denomination despotic power is exercised. If the youth, to whom the mandate, de part le roy or de part le peuple is addressed, be not rich enough to bribe the sovereign for an exemption, he has no remedy, but must enlist with the recruiting officer. And this practice has been long looked on, not only with. indifference, but has been quietly acquiesced in as an indisputable prerogative. Even in England it is justified by the authority of some of our most * celebrated writers; for their premises, when fairly examined, warrant this conclusion, that children, relations, and subjects, every connexion natural, moral, and political, may be sacrificed by power on the altar of avarice, to enable a little Suabian despot to give a masquerade at Stutgard, or to pass the Carnival at Venice. If protection and obedience be reciprocal, as those very writers tell us, surely reluctance to slavery and opposition to oppression are equally rational and just; and were an insurrection to happen at the next registry of his Serene Highness's able-bodied subjects, or his next levy for equinoxial service, it is probable he would find but few advocates to plead his cause, or protect his person. On such an occasion resistance would be a virtue, and rebellion to such tyranny prove loyalty to mankind. It is impossible to think of this scandalous conduct of the little German princes, without a mixture of horror and contempt. Such avarice and apathy must find an enemy ip every breast of feeling and generosity. To renounce, as these men do, all parental care of the people, committed by Providence to their charge, want only to tear in pieces the ties by which they were bound to them, and to de ver them over without mercy to

"'* Foster, Blackstone, &c. &c.

[graphic]

а.

the tormenters, is such a strain of ingratitude and depravity as çannot long continue unresisted or remain unpunished. The miserable negro on the coast of Guinea, who exchanges his child for a striped bandkerchief or a bottle of brandy, is not a greater barbarian." P. 386.

The following is the sketch given by Mr. Barrow of his lordship’s literary character; but we are obliged by their length to omit the Latin inscription and verses written and " placed over the gateway of the castle of Lissanoure, on his paternal estate," in 1800. The Latin lines contain brief sketch of his lordship's diversified life.

" Few men were more conversant in polite literature than Lord Macartney, and his acquaintance was sought by the first literary characters of his time. With Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, David Hume, and all those who used to meet at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, he was particularly intimate. He was one of the original members of Doctor Johnson's Literary Club, which he continued to frequent with great pleasure in the latter years of his life, whenever his health would permit him, and he was a member of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies of London. He was fond of social conversation, but reading was to him a never failing source of delight: a book was not merely a luxury; it was an article of the first necessity. It was rare to find him, when alone, without a book of a pen in his hand. He was considered, when a young man, as a sound classical scholar, and to possess a critical knowledge of the ancient poets and historians. It appears from the correspondence of several eminent characters, that he was himself no mean poet, and that he took great delight in courting the acquaintance of the Muses. In his letters to the late Mr. Charles Fox, when a student at Oxford, he strongly recommends history as the best polisher of the manners, and the best introduction to the knowledge of the human heart. Livy,' says he, is written in a style that must charm every one.

He is master of our passions, and catches the soul by surprise.' Look at that admirable passage

where Coriolanus going to embrace his mother, she stops him with, sine priusquam amplexum accipio, scium ad * hostem an ad filium venerim. Tacitus he thought less graceful in his style than Sallust, but more pungent, and he calls him the true anatomist of the human heart. The unadorned easy style of Xenophon he preferred to that of Cæsar: but of Homer and Virgil

, he always speaks in raptures; the latter indeed he could almost repeat by heart. From a letter of the late Charles Fox to him, dated Oxford, 13th February 1765, it would appear that in the early part of his life he had no taste for mathematics, and that he valued them lightly. His opinion however must have greatly changed in this respect, ou entering upon business, for no man could be more convinced than he was of the trancendent utility of what are usually called mixed mathematics as applicable to so many of the common and important concerns of life, and he was

No. 127. Vol. 32. Jan. 1809.

D

sufficiently acquainted with most of the modern sciences to make a conversation on their subject interesting both to himselt and to others. His memory was of the most retentive kind, and had stored up an abundant supply of anecdotes relating to persons and events, to times present and past; and the pleasing manner and genuine good humor, in which he could relate a story, seldom failed of communicating to it an additional interest. By some peculiar arrangement, or classification of objects in his mind, he contrived to recollect the date of an event as correctly as the more important circumstances connected with it. It was observed of him at Turin, that he was much better acquainted with the history and connexions of the Italian and French families he met with there than they were themselves; indeed so wonderful was his recollection on points of genealogy, that there was scarcely a person of any note mentioned by sacred or profane writers, whose history and connexions were not perfectly fresh in his memory. When he passed the Hague on his way to Petersburgh, Sir Joseph Yorke, then minister at that place from the court of London, invited all his brother ministers to meet Sir George Macartney at dinner. The conversation, as might be expected, turned on the affairs of Europe, and although some of the company were pretty well hackneyed in the diplomatic service, and Sir George but just entering upon his career of public life, yet it was observed that he was much better informed with regard to the respective courts of Europe, than any of the ministers were themselves who represented them.

" He had a peculiar facility in extracting information from those he conversed with, even where there might be an unwillingness to communicate it; but whatever knowledge he obtained in this way, he used to consider as problematical until corroborated or contradicted by other sources; thus the information he procured on subjects connected with his official situations was generally considered in the department of state to which it was transmitted as superseding all former information on the same points. P. 390.

“ The Cape of Good Hope was a situation in which a governor had it in his power to do a great deal of good or a great deal of mischief; butit afforded only a very limited field for the display of brilliant talents. But the place, in which the great powers of Lord Macartney's mind were called forth in all their energy, was India; and in the proceedings of his government there the statesman may find the finest lessons of wisdom and · virtue. The minutes on various subjects, which he found it necessary to lay before the select committee, are masterly performances; and the whole correspondence with the hostile and counteracting government of Bengal is characterised by a clearness, closeness, and cogency of argument, and by a firmness and moderation which distinguish it, in a very striking manner, from the loose, the puerile and fanciful reasoning, and the haughty, harsh, and acrimonious language of the letters from Bengal. Both are now consigned to the archives of the East-India Company, and both are doomed, iv all probability, to undergo, with many

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »