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Mr. Mayor, and Gentlemen,
this large and respectable meeting. The steps I may be obliged to take will want the sanction of a considerable authority; and in explaining any thing which may appear doubtful in
my public conduct, I must naturally desire a very full audience.
I have been backward to begin my canvass. The diffolution of the Parliament was uncertain ; and it did not become me, by an unfeasonable importunity, to appear diffident of the effect of my fix years endeavours to please you. I had served the city of Bristol honourably; and the city of Bristol had no reason to think, that the means of honourable service to the public, were become indifferent to me.
I found on my arrival here, that three gentlemen had been long in eager pursuit of an object which but two of us can obtain. I found, that they had all met with encouragement. A contested election in such a city as this, is no light thing. I paused on the brink of the precipice. These three gentlemen, by various
I shall never
merits, and on various titles, I made no doubt, were worthy of your favour. attempt to raise myself by depreciating the merits of my competitors. In the complexity and confusion of these cross pursuits, I wished to take the authentic public sense of my friends upon a business of so much delicacy. I wished to take your opinion along with me; that if I should give up the contest at the very beginning, my surrender of my post may not feem the effect of inconstancy, or timidity, or anger, or disgust, or indolence, or any other temper unbecoming a man who has engaged in the public service. If, on the contrary, I should undertake the election, and fail of success, I was full as anxious, that it should be manifest to the whole world, that the peace of the city had not been broken by my rashness, presumption, or fond conceit of my own merit.
I am not come, by a false and counterfeit shew of deference to your judgment, to seduce it in my favour. I ask it seriously and unaffectedly. If you wish that I should retire, I shall not consider that advice as a censure upon my conduct, or an alteration in
your sentiments; but as a rational submission to the circumstances of affairs. If, on the contrary, you should think it proper for me to proceed on my canvass, if you will risque the trouble on your part, I will risque it on mine. My pretensions are such as you cannot be ashamed of, whether they succeed or fail.
you call upon me, I shall solicit the favour of the city upon manly ground. I come before you with the plain confidence of an honeft servant in the equity of a candid and discerning master. I come to claim your approbation not to amuse you with vain apologies, or with professions still more vain and senseless. I have lived too long to be served by apologies, or to stand in need of them. The part I have acted has been in open day; and to hold out to a conduct, which stands in that clear and steady light for all its good and all its evil, to hold out to that conduct the paltry winking tapers of excuses and promises--I never will do it. They may obscure it with their smoke; but they never can illumine sunshine by fuch a flame as theirs.
I am fenfible that no endeavours have been left untried to injure me in your opinion. But the use of character is to be a shield against calumny. I could wish, undoubtedly (if idle wishes were not the most idle of all things) to make every part of my conduct agreeable to every one of my conftituents. But in so great a city, and so greatly divided as this, it is weak to expect it.
In such a discordancy of sentiments, it is better to look to the nature of things than to the humours of men. The very attempt towards pleasing every body, discovers a temper always flashy, and often false and insincere. Therefore, as I have proceeded strait onward in my conduct,
so I will proceed in my account of those parts of it which have been moft excepted to. But I must first beg leave just to hint to you, that we may suffer very great detriment by being open to every talker. It is not to be imagined, how much of fervice is loft from spirits full of activity and full of energy, who are pressing, who are rushing forward, to great and capital objects, when you oblige them to be continually looking back. Whilst they are defending one service, they defraud you of an hundred. Applaud us when we run; console us when we fall; cheer us when we recover ; but let us pass on-for God's sake, let us pass on.
Do you think, Gentlemen, that every public act in the six years since I stood in this place before you that all the arduous things which have been done in this eventful period, which has crowded into a few years fpace the revolutions of an age, can be opened to you on their fair grounds in half an hour's conversation ?
But it is no reason, because there is a bad mode of enquiry, that there should be no examination at all. Most certainly it is our duty to examine; it is our interest too. But it must be with difcretion ; with an attention to all the circumstances, and to all the motives ; like found judges, and not like cavilling pettyfoggers and quibbling pleaders, prying into flaws and hunting for exceptions. Look, Gentlemen, to the whole tenour of your member's conduct. Try