Abbildungen der Seite

striking lesson, the awful moral that was' to be gathered from the outrages of the people? What? but a superior abhorrence of that accursed system of despotic government, which had so deformed and corrupted human nature, as to make its subjects capable of such acts ; a government that sets at nought the property, the liberty, the lives of the subjects ;, a government that deals in extortions, dungeons and tortures ; sets an example of depravity to the slaves it rules over; and if a day of power comes to the wretched populace, it is not to be wondered at, however it is to be regretted, that they act without those feelings of justice and humanity, which the principles and the practice of their governors have stripped them of. At the same time, if there were any persons, who for the purposes of their own private and personal ambition, had instigated those outrages, they, whatever their rank, birth, or fortune, deserved the execration of mankind. Justice, however, required, that no credit should be given, to mere rumors, on such a subject.

“ But whatever these outrages were, or whoever caused them, was the national assembly in any respect respon. sible? The national assembly, who, in all cases, had interfered with zeal and alacrity for the maintenance of order and just subordination, What action of theirs authorized the appellation of a bloody, ferocious and tyrannical democracy? Language like this had been but too prevalent in some of the ministerial prints, and he had always seen it with regret ; for to traduce the national assembly, was, in his mind to libel the whole French nation: whatever was great or good in France must be looked for there or no where."

Mr. SHERIDAN next attacked Mr. Burke's declaration, « that the French might have received a good constitution from their monarch. What! was it preparing for them in the camp of marshal BROGLIO? or were they to search for it in the ruins of the Bastille ? He avowed a most eager and sanguine hope that the despotism of France should never be restored. He avowed this, not only as a friend to the general rights of mankind, but as a politician, speaking only for the advantage of his country. He was convinced, that it was for the interest of Great Britain, that the despotism of France should be destroyed. Whoever looked into our history, would come at once to the opinion, that the greater part of the expence of blood and treasure of this nation had been owing to the circumstance of France being a despotic government, and being a despotic government, being what all despotisms ever had been, a government of unprincipled ambition, and without faith or justice in its dealings with other nations. Let France amend her constitution, she may become more powerful in her permanent resources, but she certainly will be a juster, worthier, and more peaceable nation, and more likely to act toward us, as we do now towards her. The French were naturally a brave and generous people; their vice had been in their governa ment. In hoping, however, that that government might be radically amended, he could not be thought to approve of wanton persecutiou of the nobility, or any insult to Royalty; it was consistent with the spirit of the most perfect constitution, that the monarch should retain all the powers, dignities, and prerogatives becoming the first magistrate of so great a country.

« Mr. SHERIDAN went into other parts of the discussion respecting the French Revolution, and paid high compliments to the Marquis DE LA FAYETTE, Monsieur BAILY, and others of the French patriots; and concluded with expressing his regret that so many friends of the minister had held sentiments apparently contrary, and

T 4



above all, that his right honorable friend should have sufa fered his humanity, however justly appealed to, to have biassed his judgment on so great a question.

“ Mr. SHERIDAN, before he had done, could not help strongly marking a farther difference with Mr. Burke with respect to our own Revolution of 1688. He had never been accustomed to consider that transaction as merely the removal of one man, and the substitution of another, but as the glorious æra that gave real and efficient freedom to this country, and established, on a permanent basis, those sacred principles of government, and reverence for the rights of men, which he, for one,

could not value here, without wishing to see them diffused throughout the world."

Mr. Burke answered, that he most sincerely lamented over the inevitable necessity of now publicly declaring that henceforth, his honorable friend and he were separated in politics ; yet even in the



separation, he expected that his honorable friend, for so he had been in the habit of calling him, would have treated him with some degree of kindness; or at least, if he had not, for the sake of a long and amicable connection, heard him with some partiality, have done him the justice of representing his arguments fairly. On the contrary, he had, as cruelly as unexpectedly, misrepresented the na: ture of his remarks. The honorable gentleman had thought proper to charge him with being the advocate of despotism, though in the beginning of his former speech he had expressly reprobated every measure which carried with it even the slightest appearance of despotism. All who knew him could not avoid, without the most unmerited violation of natural justice, acknowledging that he was the professed enemy of despotism, in every shape, whether, as he had before observed, it appeared as the

splendid splendid tyranny of Louis the Fourteenth, or the outrageous democracy of the present government of France, which levelled all distinctions in society. The honourable gentleman had also charged him with having libelled the national assembly, and stigmatised them as a bloody, cruel, and ferocious democracy. He appealed to the House, whether he had uttered one single syllable concerning the national assembly, which could warrant such a construction as the honorable gentleman had put upon his words. He felt himself warranted in positively repelling the imputation ; because the whole tenor of his life, he hoped, at least, had proved that he was a sincere and firm friend to freedom ; and, under that description, he was concerned to find that there were persons in this country, who entertained theories of government, not thoroughly consistent with the safety of the state, and were, perhaps, ready to transfer a part, at least, of that anarchy which prevailed in France, to this kingdom, for the purpose of effectuating their own designs. Yet, if the honorable gentleman considered him as guilty, why did he not attack him as the foe of his country? As to the charge of abusing the national assembly, it might seem almost sufficient to answer, “ What is the national assembly to us?” But, he declared he did not libel the national assembly of France, whom he considered very little in the discussion of these matters; that he thought all the substantial power resided in the republic of Paris, whose authority guided, or whose example was followed by all the republics of France.

lics of France. The republic of Paris had an army under their orders, and not under those of the national assembly. The honorable gentleman had asked from whence the people of France were to expect a better constitution? whether from Marshal BROGLIO at the bead of his army; or were they to look for it amidst the

dungeons dungeons of the Baflille ? Was that a fair and candid mode of treating his argument ? Or was it what we ought to have expected in the moment of departed friends ship? On the contrary, was it not evident that the honorable gentleman had made a sacrifice of his friend, ship, for the sake of catching some momentary popu. larity? If the fact were such, however, even greatly as he should continue to admire the honorable gentleman's talents, he must tell him that his argument was chiefly an argument ad invidiam, and that all the applause for which he could hope from clubs, was scarcely worth the sacrifice he had chosen to make for so insignificant an acqui. sition,"

A bill introduced by Mr. Piti the year after for the better government of Canada, gave rise to another debate between Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, which completely dissolved their political connection. When the chairman put the question, so that the clauses of the bill be read paragraph by paragraph," Mr. Burke said « he should speak to the general principle. The House was going to do an high and important act; to appoint a legislature for a distant people, and to affirm a legal authority in it. self, to exercise this high power. The first consideration then was, the competency or incompetency of the House

, to do such an act; for if it was not competent, the beneficence of the intention, or the goodness of the constitution they were about to give, would avail nothing. A body of rights, commonly called the rights of man, im. . ported from a neighbouring country, was lately set up by some persons in this, as paramount to all other rights, This new code was, “ That all men are by nature free, equal in respect of rights, and continue so in society." If this code were admitted, then the power of the House could extend no farther than to call together all the in8


[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »