Abbildungen der Seite

tors is to think too much of them- ing, when it became warmed by exerselves, and too little of their subject. tion, swept along with a vehemence unThey exhibit themselves, like horse. equalled and almost inimitable. It was vaulters, in a thousand attitudes, ma that sort of feeling which has been not naging and turning their subject in unaptly defined, a quick reasoning; and numberless ways, jumping along, and though this quickness was now and then across, and over, and under it, but slurred into a hurry, which betrayed never getting astride into the saddle. him too far for the concurrence of more Mr Fox was always too much in ear- moderate tempers, his wildness had an nest to indulge in such antics. He air of grandeur and noble honesty, that laboured to concenter his light, not redeemed his accidental indiscretions, upon himself, but upon his arguments; and seemed almost to sanctify his very and it was reflected back upon himself faults. with a tenfold lustre. It will there. Of the two talents, which we have fore be readily conceived that he pointed out as the favourite weapons lengthened no discourse for the vanity of a modern debater, namely, the art of engrossing attention ; that he in- of establishing certain simple and funtroduced no pleonastic synonime for damental axioms as a basis of discusthe reputation of Auency; that he sion, and the faculty of disconcerting spun no interstice in his argument, to the opposite partisans, the former is interpolate a metaphor or a joke. He obviously the higher and more respectseemed to say what he said simply able power. Mr Fox's method of esbecause he thought it, and to think it, tablishing his axioms was severely anasimply because it was true. To this lytical. After a long and intricate air of earnest sincerity, an air not debate, after the doublings and recounterfeited for the sake of deeper doublings of adversaries, incomparably deception, but natural, genuine, and skilful in bafiling and entangling their privately as well as publicly habitual pursuers, he was ever able to retread to him, he was indebted for much of the mighty maze by a master-clue the powerful effect which his oratory of his own, and to place his cause produced uponthe House of Commons. before his judges, in its plain and In an assembly where so much talking original simplicity. He was fond of must necessarily be endured, it natu- reducing all things to first principles : rally happens that talking for talking's He despised the presumption of fools, sake, hollow, showy affectation, is de- and abhorred the sophistry of knaves; cidedly discouraged. Men of very in- and he attacked with acrimony whatferior ability, who say what they think, ever had the appearance either of clumsy are more readily tolerated than the conceit, or of colourable contrivance. cleverest of those intellectual posture. A favourite argument he seldom laid masters who are for ever thinking what by, till he had turned it in all directhey shall say ; for the house disdains tions, and ventilated it on every side. to be used for practice, for profit, or The necessary consequence was, that his for vanity. When Mr Fox, therefore, speeches abounded with repetitions of was found to unite both the sincerity the same sentiment in different forms. of the one class of speakers, and the But he justified this practice upon sysability of the other, he rose rapidly tem: for he said that he had observed into the favour and confidence of his many men remaining unconvinced by hearers ; and the mind was the more an argument in one shape, and yet easily led away, because the heart was converted by the same argument in so powerfully prepossessed. His feel another; and, as his object was to ef. fect conviction rather than to acquire bation? Is peace a rash system? Is it applause, he willingly waved the re- dangerous for nations to live in amity putation of elegance for the conscious. with each other? Is your vigilance, ness of utility.

your policy, your common power of Such were his methods of strength- observation, to be extinguished by ening his own positions. In the se. putting an end to the horrors of war? condary object, of disconcerting the Cannot this state of probation be as plans of his antagonists, his favourite well undergone without adding to the resource was the 66 reductio ad absur- catalogue of human sufferings ? « But dum.There was scarcely any spe- we must pause !" What! must the cies of argument which he could not bowels of Great Britain be torn outweaken, either by making it appear her best blood be spilt-her treasure

to involve an inconsistency in itself, or wasted that you may make an expe· by drawing out its consequences till riment? Put yourselves, oh that you

they seemed to terminate in an absurd would put yourselves, in the field of ity. Those who understand the power battle, and learn to judge of the sort of strong ridicule in a popular assem- of horrors that you excite! In former bly, will easily conceive how formida. wars, a man might, at least, have some ble this talent must have rendered Mr feeling, some interest, that served to Fox to talkers who were in the habit balance in his mind the impressions of relying, rather on the “ pomp and which a scene of carnage and of death circumstance" of their speeches, than must inflict. If a man had been preon any solid basis of close reason. And sent at the battle of Blenheim, for inhis ridicule was the more tremendous, stance, and had enquired the motive of because it was seldom a jocular dis- the battle, there was not a soldier enplay, of which the effect might have gaged who could not have satisfied his evaporated in a laugh :-it was an curiosity, and even, perhaps, allayed irony deep, caustic, and destructive: his feelings:--they were fighting to it seemed to be generated not by levi. repress the uncontrouled ambition of ty, but by cordial indignation; it ex- the Grand Monarque. But if a man cited against the adversary's argument, were present now at a field of slaugh. not so much of fanciful merriment, as ter, and were to enquire for what they of moral contempt.

were fighting" Fighting !” would The following passage will serve to be the answer ; " they are not fightshew by how slender an inadvertence ing, they are pausing." Why is that he could profit, when it was his object man expiring? Why is that other to throw his opponents into disorder. writhing with agony? What means Mr Pitt had said that it was advisable this implacable fury? The answer for us to pause, and wait for some must be, “ You are quite wrong, sir earnest of good-faith from Buona. You deceive yourself-They are not parte, before we should consent to fighting-Do not disturb them they trust ourselves unconditionally to his are merely pausing--this man is not mercy, by concluding a pacification expiring with agony--that man is not with France. In answer to this coun- dead-he is only pausing : Lord help sel, Mr Fox exclaimed,

you, sir, they are not angry with one 66 So that we are called upon to go another-they have now no cause of on merely as a speculation -We must quarrel--but their country thinks that keep Buonaparte for some time longer there should be a pause. All that you at war, as a state of probation ! Gra- see, sir, is nothing like fighting there cious God! sir, is war a state of pro. is no harm, nor cruelty, nor bloodshed

in it whatever :-it is nothing more particular pointsentrusted to his guardithan a political pause :—it is merely anship. Unforeseen contingencies may to try an experiment—to see whether indeed derange the plan; but the greatBuonaparte will not behave himself er probability there may be of such an better than heretofore-and, in the inconvenience, the greater is the necesmean time, we have agreed to a pause sity that each of the generals shall in pure friendship.” And is this the know precisely the object of his comway, sir, that you are to shew your mander-in-chief, in order that, if he be selves the advocates of order ? You driven from the ground which it is the take up a system calculated to uncivi- most desirable to secure, he may oclize the world to destroy order to cupy that which shall afford the next trample on religion—to stifle, in the best chance of accomplishing the main heart, not merely the generosity of ends, and keeping the trains of argunoble sentiment, but the affections of ment distinct and compact. When social nature ; and in the prosecution they have performed the services allotof this system, you spread terror and ted to them, the leader should finish devastation all around you."-Speech the chain of operations, by a general on the Refusal of Ministers to treat summing up: presenting a clear statewith France, February 4th, 1800, ment of the case on the part of mini

The genius of Mr Fox, and that of sters, bringing back the debate where Mr Pitt, were of characters widely it has wandered from the preconcerted distinct.

course, reconciling those difficulties or Our readers are probably aware, inconsistencies with which accident or that, in each of the two legislative as- misfortune may have embarrassed him, semblies, there is usually a member of and deducing and arranging the results the cabinet, selected for his oratorical intended to be established, in such a abilities, who, in the parliamentary manner, as to leave upon the minds of phrase, is denominated, as the leader of the house a clear and entire impression the house." On his competency to of the end contended for, of the chief the duties of his situation, the interests reasons relied on by government, and of his whole party will always materi. of the order, connection, and import. ally depend. For he has several sub- ance which those reasons may bear ordinate chiefs acting under his com. with relation to one another. mand, as generals of divisions : and · For leader of the House of Com. their utility is of course augmented or mons, in this view of the character, diminished, by the greater or less de- Mr Pitt was most eminently qualifigree of skill with which he chalks ed. The ministerial speakers, under out the plan of the battle. It should his direction, exhibited a degree of be his care, privately to furnish them, skill and discipline, of readiness and before the debate begins, with a com. aptitude for their several tasks, which plete view of the ground on which the has seldom, if ever, been equalled. ministry mean to rely, in order that of his own eloquence it is difficult no straggler, by unwarily cutting to offer a decided and discriminating across the main design, may rashly character. It would require talents commit his colleagues, or lay open the congenial to his own to do justice to weak points of their position. Thus the unrivalled oratory of this great instructed, they go into the field, each statesman. The pen of Burke and of with an accurate knowledge of the Grattan was employed to describe the particular service expected from him, eloquence of the father; the eloquence and each especially vigilant upon the of the son furnishes a theme equal. Jy noble. We can only speak of the if Cicero had been blessed with such occasions on which it was called forth, a son as heaven gave to Chatham, the collisions by which it was elicited Grecian must have yielded the palm and improved, the effects of which it to Roman eloquence. The second was productive, and some of the more William Pitt had been taught the true prominent features by which it was principles of the British constitution, distinguished.

the grand interests of the nation as If ever an occasion occurred the connected with the policy of Europe, best fitted to call forth the highest and the permanent objects which it is talents into the most vigorous exercise, the duty of the British statesman to it was the dark and troubled scene in pursue. He was intimately acquaintwhich it was his lot to live and to act. ed with the history and the state of The enterprises of Philip, and the parties, understood the course they criminal ambition of Catiline and Mark were likely to steer on the occurrence Antony, did not furnish a nobler scope of great events, and was taught to for the eloquence of the two great make his choice of his ground and orators of antiquity, than the frenzy coadjutors. He was prepared to disand anarchy of revolutionary France cern, as it were intuitively, what was yielded to the modern advocate of due to the character, the interests, and freedom, and humanity. We surely glory of Britain ; his time, his talents, do no injustice to Eschines and Hor. his whole soul, were devoted to the tensius when we say that they were in- service of his country, and his eloferior to the illustrious opponents of quence was employed in unfolding and Pitt, viz. Fox, Sheridan, and Burke: recommending the measures which he and, making due allowance for the cha. thought most likely to promote its racter of the assemblies addressed, the safety or aggrandisement. The power severity of modern taste, and the com- of making vigorous efforts of instantaparative insensibility of the inhabitants neous invention, calling up long trains of a higher latitude, the eloquence of of connected thought, and clothing Mr Pitt, in respect of the effects which them in the happiest language, con it produced, need not shrink from a stitutes that species of eloquence which, comparison with that of any other from its ease, freedom, and interest, is statesman, whether ancient or modern. best fitted for influencing the minds of · From one of the most illustrious in- men, and directing the course of dividuals which this land of freedom events. By singular copiousness and has produced, Mr Pitt inherited, as his felicity of thought and language, by birthright, a lofty boldness of spirit, an intuitive perception of the weak a high-toned, disinterested mind, inex. and vulnerable parts of his antagonist's tinguishable love of glory, an intellect speech, by matchless skill and power uncommonly acute and powerful, andall in answering objections, unravelling those aptitudes with which nature casts, what had been purposely perplexed, in her happiest mould, the consummate exposing sophistry by strength of arorator. Thus originally gifted, he gument, crushing petulance by the enjoyed all the advantages of the ear- edge and potency of sarcasm, placing liest and most successful instruction, the opinions which he wished to enthe encouraging voice, the anxious force in the most imposing light, Mr superintendance, the paternal care and Pitt ruled in debate, and stood unrivalguidance of the first of orators and led in reply. But he possessed higher statesmen : and from the success of powers ; patient, profound thinking, the experiment, we cannot doubt that various extensive political and moral

knowledge, prompt and vigorous in- habits Mr Pitt was indebted for a covention, a lively imagination, and a piousness, magnificence, and force of kindling glowing mind, all under the diction, which struck the hearer with guidance of a soundness of judgment astonishment. The eloquence of Mr and clearness of intellect, which ac- Fox, particularly at the outset, was inknowledged no superior. Chaste in jured by an obvious want of fluency; the use of ornament, careful in avoid- and, as he warmed, its effects were obing digression, skilful in arrangement, structed by a precipitancy arising from grave, vehement; the distinctness of a superabundance of ideas, that seemed his articulation, the fulness of his tones, to crowd into his mind, and to struggle the lofty dignity of his carriage, the togetherfor utterance; while the majesmajesty of his action, the boldness of tic march of his great rival's eloquence, his spirit, his force in attack, the seve- indicating boundless extent of thought rity of invective, which, while it seem- and unlimited command of expression, ed to cost him nothing, cut down his filled and captivated the mind, often triantagonist, his grandeur in amplifica: umphing over the strongest prejudices tion— all gave to his eloquence a and the most firmly-rooted opinions. power and a fascination of which it Nospecimen from the recorded speeches is difficult to form an adequate concep. of Mr Pitt, however, can convey an ade tion. It was a stream of impassioned quate conception of the effect which argument, which flowed with all the they produced, when, in the fervour of majesty of a mighty river, filling the debate, and amidst the applauses of a mind with boundless admiration, and listening senate, he himself poured conveying the impression of over- them forth. We might as well hope whelming force.

(to use the language of an Indian To original constitution and early chief to the person who was interprete

† Some striking anecdotes of the power of Mr Pitt's eloquence are in general circulation. In the gallery of the House of Commons, two gentlemen entered into conversation on a question that was to be discussed. One of them was a stranger in London, the other was intimately acquainted with the characters and talents of the speakers, and the mode in which parliamentary business is conducted. The latter held an opinion the opposite to that which Mr Pitt was expected to maintain, and seemed to be completely fortified against conviction. From the moment Mr Pitt opened his mouth, this man's attention was arrested; as the speech proceeded his attention increased, and he kept leaning farther and farther forward over the front of the gallery, until at length, completely overcome by the eloquence of the minister, he threw himself back on his seat, and, lifting up his hands and his eyes, in a transport of admiration, he exclaimed Good God! what a man!”

Three gentlemen, eminent for learning and talents, and not unknown to the world by their literary productions, were sitting in the gallery of the House of Commons till three or four in the morning, in expectation of a speech from Mr Pitt on the slave trade. Two of these gentlemen were his determined opponents in political principles, and accused him of insincerity in his professions in favour of the great cause. One of the two was particularly sceptical on this point. Both had fallen asleep before Mr Pitt rose. The gentleman who remained awake, when the splendour of the minister's eloquence began to burst forth, awakened the sleeper that lay nearest to him. After listening for some time he awakened the more decided sceptic. “Rise up, and listen to the most magnificent declamation you ever heard in your life.” The sceptic roused himself with a growl of surly incredulity, but, after he did so, and after standing for some minutes in the attitude of profound attention, he exclaimed, with a look and gesture expressive of the deepest emotion, “ By God! the rascal is sincere."

« ZurückWeiter »