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slender charity, to understand a character like that of the elder Pitt: as well might the ant attempt to judge of the symmetry of the elephant. Still less, however, was it likely, à priori, that if Walpole had, by possibility, understood such a man, he would have praised him. The stern and haughty virtue of Chatham, his austere patriotism, and that lofty decision of character, so regardless of all the forms of etiquette, and so hostile to every thing like political intrigue, were ill calculated to conciliate praise from the meddling, polished, timid, lady-like Walpole. Moreover, when it is considered that the power of the historian's own father was incessantly attacked, and at length overturned, by a parliamentary phalanx of which Mr. Pitt was a most conspicuous member, we shall be able to understand why the memory of that statesman is persecuted by a writer, who seems never to have forgiven an insult upon himself or his family.
If, therefore, the character of Lord Chatham had been attacked by no one more deserving of credit than Horace Walpole, we should have felt it quite unnecessary to say one single word in his vindication But it must be acknowledged, that the charges which have been brought against him, rest upon authority much higher and stronger. They are adopted by Lord Waldegrave,-a man, whose writings, brief as they are, seem to account most satisfactorily for the respect with which he was treated by all his contemporaries. Of plain but strong sense, of calm and clear judgment, of considerable penetration, and a candour the most remarkable, we cannot but feel that the censures of such a man are not to be passed over lightly. We believe, however, that his opinion of Lord Chatham was unjust; and we shall trouble our readers with some of the reasons which induce us to think so.
In order to do this, it will be necessary to advert to some of the leading facts of Mr. Pitt's history. He entered parliament in the year 1735, a period at which the power of Sir Robert Walpole was at its highest. At that period, however, the Opposition, which had been long agitated by conflicting interests, and occupied in the pursuit of the most inconsistent views, began to form themselves into that compact and resolute body, which finally accomplished the minister's overthrow. Losing sight for a time of all differences among themselves, they directed their united energies against the power of Walpole; the most rancorous Jacobites, and the sternest of the Whigs—the narrowest bigots in politics, and the inost romantic freethinkers—those who ascribed to the crown all power, and those who grudged it any-united against the minister, and vowed his destruction. Their joint efforts were at length successful; and that “greatest, wisest, meanest” of statesmen, was driven from the power, which, by dint of consummate ability and much corruption, he had held for upwards of five-and-twenty years.
And when the minister fell, what became of his opponents ? Why, their fall was, if possible, still greater. Within one short
month, Pulteney, their leader, from being the idol of the nation, became one of the most insignificant men in the country. Instead of union and confidence among those who had lately acted in so much harmony, nothing was to be seen but dissention and distrust. Mutual and incessant recriminations were heard on all sides; broken promises, forgotten pledges, deserted principles, formed the burden of every man's complaint. The discordant ingredients of which the late opposition had been compounded, became once more individualized; the black spirits and white, red spirits and grey, resumed their own colours, and fell asunder from the union in which they had been so long blended. By and bye, however, in the universal scramble for places, all party distinctions, founded upon principle, were again lost sight of; not that parties, both numerous and bitter, no longer divided the state, but they were formed not so much from any similarity of principle, or any unity of purpose, as from accident and passion. Indeed, it would be difficult to name a period, at which all parties seem to have been actuated by motives so little, to have engaged in intrigues so mean, to have been divided by distinctions so petty, narrow, and personal, and so totally independent of every thing like principle or patriotism. Up to the year 1756, with little intermission, this political ferment appears to have continued; for though the Pelham administration lasted eight years, and seems to have been as strong, so far as the obtaining of majorities in parliament goes, as any administration that ever existed in England, yet it was discordant in itself, and appears to have owed much of its security to the more bitter dissentions which divided the opposition.
Such, then, having been the state of the political world at the time when Horace Walpole and Lord Waldegrave made their respective observations, we think it not unfair to suppose, that they may have been mistaken in their estimate of Mr. Pitt's conduct. Would it be candid to attach great importance to censures made in times of universal suspicion; proceeding, no doubt, upon partial knowledge and prejudiced observation; coming too from men, to each of whom Mr. Pitt must have been an object of personal and political dislike?* In such times of rapid change and universal confusion, a man might be branded with a charge of apostacy, not because he had left his friends, but because they had left him. “He that is giddy, thinks the world turns round.”
We do not, however, intend to say, that some traces of inconsistency may not be discovered in Mr. Pitt's conduct, even by the most unprejudiced observer. But we think they may be accounted for, without any imputation whatever upon his good faith and patriotism. Some of them, we doubt not, are attributable to his having acted, during the earlier years of his public life, under the banners of a party. To that party he originally attached himself from the most conscientious and honourable motives, and, as it
* He was a determined opponent of the administration, both of Sir R. Walpole and of Lord Waldegrave.
speedily appeared, in direct opposition to his own personal intere est; for the minister, resenting his hostility, stripped him of his commission in the army. It is impossible, therefore, to doubt that he began his public career in sincerity and disinterestedness; for no one can believe, that talents like Mr. Pitt’s, if they were ever marketable, would not have been immediately bought up by the minister, who happened, at the very time when they were first developed, to be in peculiar want of efficient assistance. But it cannot be denied, that there was something of vacillation in the conduct of that party with which Mr. Pitt originally connected himself. Before, however, we can agree to blame him for participating in their inconsistency, we ought to consider, with attention and candour, the situation of every person who honestly annexes himself to any political party. What is the nature of the compact into which men enter, when they agree to act together in politics? It is, that, holding certain elementary and fundamental principles in common, they shall earnestly endeavour to give effect to those principles, by co-operating with each other; that, for this great and leading purpose, each individual shall be prepared to surrender to the majority, his own views on matters of inferior importance, for the sake of preserving that harmony, without which, in assemblies like a British parliament, it is impossible to secure to any principles even a chance of ascendancy; and that, for the further advancement of this purpose, certain discretionary powers should be given to those, whom general consent designates as the leaders of the party. Without entering for a moment upon the debateable ground of Reform, or no Reform, (with which we have, professedly, in this publication, nothing at all to do) there can be little doubt, that, in an English House of Commons, as it is now constituted, and as it was constituted in the days of Mr. Pitt, no important results can attend any efforts but those of a party. The administration of the day-be it Whig or be it Tory--is sure to have a very formidable body of parliamentary supporters, whose exertions are rendered both zealous and consistent by the operation of very obvious motives; and it would be manifestly impossible for an opposition to give effect to the great principles which they hold in common, by any thing but a corresponding unanimity and earnestness on their part. Very nice questions, no doubt, arise now and then, as to the extent to which this allegiance to party is to be considered as binding; and a man may sometimes be called upon to inquire, under circumstances which render the inquiry very difficult, whether the general good consequence of adhering to his party, will or will not counterbalance the particular evil consequence of surrendering his individual conviction. Upon such questions the most dissonant opinions may be held by the most patriotic and conscientious men; and we do believe that this diversity of opinion, is one (if not the principal) cause of that suspicion under which every public man in this country is nearly sure, at some period of his life, to labour. We are convinced that this was the great cause of all those attacks, which, in the early part of Mr. Pitt's life, were made upon the consistency of his public character. He had attached himself to the party headed by Lord Cobham; that party adopted some unpopular measures, in which Mr. Pitt joined:-might he not have joined in them, because he thought they involved no sacrifice of important principle, and because he was unwilling to weaken the bonds of an union, which he deemed a patriotic and honourable one? Again, that party adopted some popular measures, in which Mr. Pitt differed from them: might he not have differed, because he conscientiously believed that patriotism and truth demanded a public dissent? In short, might he not, in both cases, be acting an honourable, and even a consistent part?
And the true way of deciding this question is, by examining the context of his whole public life. When a statesman, or a private individual, adopts a measure which admits of two constructions,—a measure which, regarded in one point of view, may be considered as indicating an honourable motive, and, seen in another, may be evidence of a bad one,--we determine our opinion from the analogy furnished by the rest of his conduct. To a test like this, we cheerfully submit the few doubtful acts of Lord Chatham; and we feel convinced, that no candid man will interpret them against him, so long as we can refer to the remainder of his history. If it should be found, as we believe it will, by any one who examines the public life of this great statesman with ordinary attention and candour, that he sought, on all occasions, the honour of his country and her true interests; that with this noble purpose, he braved all opposition and resisted all allurements; that neither the bleak winds of unpopularity, nor the sun of royal favour, could make him throw aside that mantle of integrity with which he had invested himself; that, in times of almost universal corruption, he held on in the paths of consistency and honour, “faithful found among
the faithless;" and that his life, though, during its progress, he had been often misunderstood and misrepresented, closed at last amidst the loud and zealous praises of every public man in the country ;-if, we say, these things should be found to be true, then we apprehend that a clue is found, which will guide us among all the seeming difficulties and anomalies that may perplex our observations.
Most of our readers, no doubt, remember Lord Oldborough, in Miss Edgeworth's Patronage. We have heard it surmised that the author had Lord Chatham in her eye when that character was sketched. No doubt there are many points of resemblance between the real and the fictitious statesman. There are, however, several important points of difference; and we recollect one sentiment put by Miss Edgeworth into the mouth of Lord Oldborough, which Lord Chatham, had he consulted his own quiet, would have done well to adopt. Never,” says the statesman in the novel, “never acknowledge an error-it is enough if you repair it.” Unluckily for himself, Mr. Pitt was deficient in this species of prudence; for he sometimes laid himself open to the charge of inconsistency, and even of weakness, by the candour with which he acknowledged any political error of which he might have been guilty. To such a man as Horace Walpole, a candour so incomprehensible must have appeared to be the grossest folly, or even something worse; and accordingly we find, that he speaks of it in the following terms.
“Pitt was undoubtedly one of the greatest masters of ornamental eloquence. His language was amazingly fine and flowing; his voice admirable; his action most expressive; his figure genteel and commanding: Bitter satire was his forte; when he attempted ridicule, which was very seldom, he succeeded happily; when he attempted to reason, poorly. But where he chiefly shone was in exposing his own conduct; having waded through the most notorious apostacy in politics, he treated it with an impudent confidence, that made all reflections upon him poor and spiritless, when worded by any other man.”—Memoires, i. 79.
We introduce this passage for two reasons: first, that we may appeal to our readers whether such a degree of frankness in Lord Chatham was not likely to expose him to misrepresentations, similar to that of which Horace Walpole has been guilty; and secondly, that we may ask whether it does not call for the praises, rather than the censures, of every unprejudiced man?
We think, that the considerations already urged are calculated to make us view with some distrust any censures which may have been thrown upon Lord Chatham by his political contemporaries. It will be observed, that we are compelled to confine ourselves solely to general observations; since the limits of a single article are obviously too narrow to permit any detailed or minute examination of a public life, so busy and so long. General observations, we are aware, can hardly ever produce conviction; but they may lead to it. They may furnish us with a rule by which our judgments should be guided in the examination of
question; they may guard us against error; they may indicate, though faintly, the path of candour and of reason, and may thus bring us, at last, to a rational and satisfactory result. When a reader enters upon such a work as that of Lord Waldegrave, he is in imminent danger of adopting most of the opinions of a writer so obviously sensible and candid; he is likely to repose with peculiar confidence upon every account, which an author, so qualified, may give of those, of whom he must have seen, and heard, and known a great deal. Surely it cannot be superfluous to inform such a reader, that Lord Waldegrave, rational and candid as he was, nevertheless wrote in times of universal distrust; that he was himself a fallen minister; that many of those whose characters 'he has sketched (Lord Chatham among the rest) were violently opposed to his administration; and that with Lord Chatham he never seems to have had such a degree of intimate acquaintance, as could unfold to him that statesman's real character.
If it were necessary to assign any other reasons for examining with caution those sketches of Mr. Pitt, which have been left us