Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of Commons, to purchase an honour, the principle of general representation, however flattering, by so hazardous à would therefore be no restoration of sacrifice to the ignorance, prejudice, ancient rights, but a new and dangerand passion, of the people. He felt ous experiment, demanded by no urthat the House of Commons is, upon gent necessity, enforced by no solid, the whole, a full representation of all argument, and totally unsupported, classes of the people : not indeed an even by that meanest of all recommenequal representation of all places, but, dations, the recommendation of preceundoubtedly an equal representation dent. With such opinions, it cannot of all interests, whether of talents, of be matter of surprise that Mr Windland, of money, of merchandize, of ham refused to accept a delegation manufactures, or of personal industry. from the noisy citizens of Palace-yard He knew that the representatives of and Covent-garden. the people were governed by the peo. The death of Lord Rockingham, ple's voice, not indeed obeying it on and the succession of Lord Shelburne each particular occasion, because, if the to the head of the treasury, shortly depeople must direct the votes on every termined Mr Fox and Mr Burke to republic measure in detail, representa. sign their offices; and the friends of Mr tives are useless interlopers ; but pay. Windham therefore continued in oping, on the whole, a fair deference to position until, by the coalition of Me the sense of the people. But he dis. Fox and Lord North, the Shelburne tinguished the people from the mob. administration was dragged from the He doubtless understood the word helm, and the opposition, under the people, in its real sense, as signifying, nominal supremacy of the Duke of not the alehouse boors and unwashed Portland, arrived at the direction of artificers of country or town, but the affairs. On Lord Northington's apgreat mass of rational, well.educated, pointment to the lieutenancy of Ire. and well-informed persons, who em- land, Mr Windham accepted the of. ploy their understandings fairly in sub- - fice of chief secretary. I am only jects of public concern. Theirs and afraid," said he to his friend Dr Johna theirs only are the opinions, which à son, “ that I shall not be able to premember of parliament is called on to vail upon myself to do all the services respect in the guidance of his political which will be expected of me in my course. Nor could Mr Windham per- new post.” « Nay, sir,” answered ceive that the British constitution, in the doctor humourously, “ do not be point of fact, ever was what modern afraid ; you will make a very pretty theorists, in the plenitude of their ig- : rascal in time." But (whether from norance on historical points, have had this repugnance to discreditable servithe confidence to describe it: he knew ces, or from some other cause not disa that even in the earliest periods of our tinctly known,) Mr Windham thought annals there never was, in reality, or in proper to resign his office in August design, a general representation of the 1782, having held it about four months. people; that, for hundreds of years, the Mr Hardy, in his Life of Lord Charparliaments, so far from being the peo. lemont, has the following interesting ple's guardians, were the mere stewards anecdote of Mr Windham's popular of the crown ; that boroughs, in all behaviour, during the short period of their present rottenness, were familiar his ministry under the lord lieutenant: to our ancestors, even from the days " A few days previous to his leaving of the commonwealth ; and that to Ireland, a gentleman waited on him, reorganize she House of Commons, on with a strong letter of recommendation from Mr Burke, requesting Mr Wind- tifying the dock-yards of Portsmouth, ham would embrace an opportunity of and Plymouth. To fortifications in presenting him with some little pre- general he had the strongest objections, ferment, that might fall in the gift on account not only of their enormous, of government. Mr Windham assured expence, but of their ultimate insecu. the gentleman he should be happy to rity. The only defence of this dea present a person, so strongly recom- scription which he approved was the mended by Mr Burke, with a much Martello Tower, a structure of com. greater piece of preferment than that paratively small expence, and incapa. requested; but that it was his fixed ble of producing any great advantage determination, should he remain in the to an enemy, even in the event of its secretaryship, of which he had some capture. doubts, to give every place in his On the impeachment of Mr Hase power to Irishmen; as he had long tings, Mr Windham supported the been persuaded that the natives had charges with much ability. Of his the best right to the bread of their opinions on this subject we shall ata own land.”

tempt no detail, because the question In this year he took his master's de- was personal and temporary. Nor gree at Oxford.

shall we dwell on the assistance which The India Bill of Mr Fox, at the he rendered to his party, towards the close of 1783, after long and obstinate close of the year 1788, in their vigora debates, occasioned the downfall of ous vindication of the right of the that statesman and his party ; and Mr. heir apparent to exercise the regency, Pitt, who now presided at the treasury, during the continuance of an indisposi-, thought it expedient, in the following tion which affected the capacity of March, to dissolve the House of Com- the sovereign. The restoration of his mons. Mr Windham, at the general majesty's health superseded the neces. election, presented himself, a second sity of any legislative provision at that time, as a candidate for the city of period. Norwich, and, after a close contest That dread of foreign philosophy with the Honourable Henry Hobart, and foreign corruption, which was al. was returned to parliament.

ways remarkable in the constitution His first speech in the House of of Mr Windham, now began to mani. Commons was on the Westminster fest itself in his parliamentary speeches. scrutiny ; but no satisfactory report There are some animals, of nerves so has been preserved, either of this essay, exquisitely fine, that, even under a or of his second display, which was in sunny sky, they can feel that alteration opposition to Mr Pitt's shop-tax. It in the temperature of the atmosphere, was his principle to resist all partial which prepares and announces the taxation : He was of opinion that the coming of storms. Mr Windham weight of every tax should be distri. seems to have had a political sensibi. buted at once among the whole com- lity of this kind ; for, while the clouds munity.

of the French revolution were still far That department of public affairs, distant and high in the air, he had be on which the mind of Mr Windham gun to forebode and shrink from the appeared to be most ardently and conyet invisible mischief. Mr Flood, in stantly employed, was the military de. the beginning of March 1790, had fence of the country. In 1786, he was made a motion, having for its object among the successful opposers of a a reform in parliament. This motion plan, suggested by ministers, for for. Mr Windham earnestly opposed, in

tion."

strict consistence with the opinions de with the contemptuous designation of clared in his earlier life. He made use Alarmists. of many powerful reasons, which were The shocking atrocities of that acknowledged by Mr Pitt to contain bloody period, enrolled among the “ much ingenuity, and in some respects Alarmists, not only the friends of the as much wisdom and argument as he government, but many also who had had ever heard within the walls of that been champions of the popular cause. house.” But, above all things, Mr Among these, were the Duke of PortWindham deprecated the influence of land, the Earls Fitzwilliam and Spenthose 6 swarms of strange, impracti- cer, Mr Burke, and Mr Windham. cable notions, which had lately been A proclamation having been issued by wafted over to us from the continent government, in May 1792, against seto prey like locusts on the finest flowers ditious assemblies, a meeting was call. of our soil, and to destroy the boasted ed in Norfolk, for the purpose of exbeauty and verdure of our constitu- pressing a concurrence in the principle

and mode of the prohibition. On this Mr Windham, at the general elec- occasion, Mr Windham came forward tion in the summer of 1790, was again in the most explicit manner, to avow chosen for Norwich. He strenuously his approbation of the course which reprobated the conduct of ministers, ministers had adopted, assigning, as the in the disputes about Oczakow and ground of his support to the proclamaNootka Sound: and in such times as tion, these three reasons : « The miş. the present it is worth while to notice, chievous and general dissemination of that; about the beginning of the year writings tending to disgust the people 1791, he gave his most cordial support with their government:—the existence to Mr Mitford's bill for the relief of of clubs, where delusive remedies were catholics.

projected for imaginary ills :-and the · The period now approached, which correspondence of those societies with was to separate Mr Windham from others of the most dangerous characmost of the friends of his youth, and ter in Paris.” give a new colour and complexion to The doctrines of Mr Windham were his life. The French revolution had painfully illustrated, in the massacre of excited so universal a ferment in the the French royal family, and in the country, that party had almost every concomitant putrages, by which this where degenerated into faction, and country was involved in the war of none but the rashly violent, either ' 1793. To that war, and to every efin favour of popular misrule on the fort of ministers for the suppression one hand, or in support of degrading of seditious practices at home, he gave oppression on the other, were deemed his cordial and active support, in conby the world at large to be useful, or cert with the friends, whom we have even tolerable members of society, before mentioned as seceders from the Party spirit delights in a nick.name; old body of opposition. Accordingly, and each side had its cant appellation, in the spring of 1794, Mr Pitt made by which to mark the adversary. The overtures to them, to coalesce with friends of the revolution were indiscrithe existing administration, which minately stigmatized with the title of 'were finally accepted, though not withJacobins ; and the supporters of the out much hesitation on the part of Mr existing order of things, who dreaded Windham. It was his opinion, that the inroad of French arms, and still more effectual service might be rendermore of French arts, were ridiculed ed to government, by supporters out of office, than by persons avowedly all the virtues, which a statesman can belonging to the public councils ; possess, there is none which we value with this further advantage, that, by so little, as what is commonly called preserving their separate agency, they consistency. To persevere, under all would still be at liberty ta declare circumstances, and at all hazards, in themselves against any particular mea- one course, because it is the course sure, which they might chance to dis- which was first selected, constitutes, approve. To these sentiments the in the usual acceptation of the term, a Duke of Portland seems likewise to consistent statesman. To us, such have inclined. But Mr Burke was of conduct appears to savour of obstinaa different way of thinking; he con- cy, rather than of probity. If we inceived, that the usefulness of his habited a world, where fortune was friends to their country would great- unchangeable, we might conceive that ly depend upon their power over the mind ought to be unchangeable also ; measures of administration. His ad. that policy once discovered, would convice at length prevailed : and Mr tinue to be policy for ever; that expeWindham accepted the post of secre- rience could add no instruction, and tary at war, to which, in consideration time bring no improvement. But, live' of his great merits, the honour of a ing, as we do, in the midst of a scene proseat in the cabinet was now for the verbially mutable,--in an age, when, first time annexed.

by the vast diffusion of the means of His constituents at Norwich were knowledge, opinions are propagated many of them greatly incensed at his and reared in a single summer, which acceptance of office; and when he of old would have required the growth went down to be re-elected, he found of ages,-in a country where the vehimself opposed by a party, in favour hicle of the state is liable at every inof the late Mr Mingay, a gentleman stant to be swayed more or less from of rank and reputation at the bar. Mr its direct road by pertinacious prejudi. Windham succeeded by a large majori. ces on the one hand, and ignorant rashty; but was roughly received by the ness on the other,—how can we justify mob, with whom the war was extreme the presumptuous confidence, that the ly unpopular. When he was chaired speculations of youth will be for ever in the evening, one of the rabble had adequate to the emergencies of age, or the audacity to hurl a stone against warrant the idle expectation, that the him ; but, with his usual agility, he sea and the storm will hush themavoided the blow, and, springing from selves at the dignity of our command! his chair into the crowd, seized the of. In governing ourselves indeed, we have render, whom he delivered into the cus. certain rules to guide us, rules immu. tody of an officer.

table as their divine Author : but, in Various and angry have been the civil government, the government of opinions, to which the political con. our fellow creatures, we are left to the duct of Mr Windham, on this occa unaided light of our own feeble undersion, has given birth. The first ques. standings; we have no laws, but those tion arises, as to the propriety of his which human experience has provided. relinquishing the party to whom he In a science so imperfect, this experi. had belonged ; and the second, as to ence is daily making new discoveries ; the fitness of his accepting a situation and it is worse than folly to say, that, in the government.

because the lesson, which she has alFor ourselves, we confess that, of ready taught us is, as far as it goes, ka

salutary and so wise, therefore we will not one of those overbearing politi. reject all the instruction, which the cians, who, because they cannot do all, same mistress may bestow upon us in will do nothing. He felt, that, agreefuture.

ing, as he did, in the main policy of Thus much for the vulgar prejudice the ministers, he might, by associating about consistency. Holding these himself in their councils, interpose a doctrines, we shall not be expected to check upon those measures which he side with those, who condemn the in- should disapprove, in a more effectual consistency of Mr Windham, even if manner than would have been possible that inconsistency be proved. For we for him, unconnected with the cabinet, contend, that, if ever there was an He was alarmingly convinced, that the event, which could confound the wis state was diseased, and needed a more dom of man, and give the lie to all the than ordinary combination of caution theories of political philosophy, it was and skill, “ to purge her to her sound that awful visitation, which came upon and pristine health;" and, under cir. France and the civilized world, at the cumstances so urgent, he would justly conclusion of the eighteenth century. have considered himself criminal, if, But we are prepared to go still farther; continuing to concur with government and though we think, that under such in the main points, he had withheld circumstances, inconsistency would not his assistance from the country upon have been disgraceful, we hesitate not the pretext of trivial disagreements. to state it as our conviction, that Mr These appear to be the opinions, to Windham was guilty of none. He had which he was brought by the reasonset out in life with a disclaimer of the ings of his friend Mr Burke, and which principles of revolution, whether under now induced him to coalesce with Mr that specific name, or under the more Pitt, and defend the party he had be. insinuating title of reform. He had fore opposed. resisted from the beginning, all at The Duke of York had been for tempts to accomplish small benefits by some time at the head of the Engviolent remedies. He had professed lish forces in Flanders, when it was and proved, that he was willing to be deemed adviseable, in the cabinet, to the friend, but not the servant of the make some new arrangements, which people. He was anxious to protect would involve the recall of his royal them from tyranny, but he never meant highness. The reasons for these arthat they should rise to be tyrants rangements were of such a nature, themselves.

that they seemed to require a fullercom, If, then, he is not to be reproached munication, than could conveniently for having, on the explosion of the be made through the ordinary medium French revolution, taken an active and of a dispatch; and it was therefore decided part in the maintenance of so- agreed, that Mr Windham, in his offi. cial order, and the charities of the hu- cial capacity, should himself proceed man heart, and the religion of a graci. to the continent, and make a confi. ous God, shall we condemn him for dential explanation to the duke. This adopting the most direct measures for mission he is said to have executed giving efficiency to his principles, by with great address, and with all the accepting a place in the government of high-bred delicacy for which he was so his country? That he might not be eminently distinguished. The follow. able to effect all the good he wished, ing extract from a letter to his sisterhe undoubtedly foresaw. But he was in-law, Mrs Lukin, gives a natural

« ZurückWeiter »