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Life of Mr. Perceval.
of conflict; but the warm retort, or the biting sarcasm, was no sooner off the tongue, than the heart, as it were, came forward to heal and to soften, and there was more grace in the atonement than there was pain or mischief in the error. There was something most delightful to the feelings in this spectacle of the contest of the heart and of the passions, of the man, and of his virtue.
It is not, perhaps, too much to say, that his virtue helped him forward in his profession as much as his talents; it very shortly procured him attention and esteem, and the immediate fruit of such attention was, that his talents became known, and thereby duly appreciated. He was accordingly considered as one who must eventually become eminent. He was appointed counsel to the Admiralty at an early age, and in 1799 was honoured with a silk gown. It was about the same period that the university of Cambridge expressed their respect for him, by nominating bim one of their counsel. It is equally to the praise of the university, and to the distinction of the man it so honoured, that the best men are usually selected for these honorary offices; and it is not too much to say, that the very choice of the university, from the manner in which it has been usually exercised, is current as a stamp and seal of the value of the members so chosen.
Mr. Perceval married very early in life, and the exemplary manner in which he fulfilled all the domestic duties, is not the least pleasing part of his character. A great part of his youth was passsed at Carleton in Kent, and from the family of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Bart. in the same parish, he selected his lady. With her did he live more than twenty years, in that state of happiness which virtue and affection at all times
He has left a large family behind him, and has left them the rich inheritance of paternal virtue and the public love.
It would be unpardonable not to dwell upon the simplicity in which he lived in the midst of his numerous family.; many of those who shall read this are no doubt good husbands and affectionate fathers ; yet none of them, though they may be in private life, can pass a greater portion of their time with their family thai did this first minister of the first kingdom in the world. If any of his brother ministers made him an ordinary visit, they found him at a simple family meal, or, perhaps, writing in the midst of his children playing round him.
No one, indeed, dispatched the most important public business with more ease, more simplicity, and less ostentation. One of his young boys accompanied him to the House of Commons on the fatal day which proved his last; and his final meeting of his children was at a simple family dinner, taken in the midst of them, about half part two o'clock in the afternoon, on that ever-to-be lamented day.
Mr. Perceval was vot much given either to public amusements or fashionable visiting, and when he did frequent them, he was usually accompanied by the greater part of his childrena No man, indeed,
Life of Mr. Perceval.
passed so much of his time in this evdearing society. If, in any unexpected emergency in public business, there was a sudden call for him, no one had any difficulty in finding him ; every one knew where to seek him; it was not in the inidnight rout, the gaming-house, or in the revels of the tavern, but in the society of his own hearth and family.
Mr. Perceval entered into parliamentary life in consequence of the decease of his mother's brother. A vacancy was hereby created in the borough of Northampton ; Mr. Perceval was elected member, and thereby entered the House of Commons. He entered upon action almost as soon as he entered upon duty; he supported the measures of Mr. Pitt, and apparently adopted that system of policy upon which he ever afterwards acted. Mr. Pitt had two leading principles; the support of the establishment in church and state, and the maiutenance of the glory and interest and independeace of England amongst the continental powers. He resolutely set his face against that pernicious toleration, which, under the specious name of religious liberty, but being in fact nothing but religious indifference, assailed the very roots of our ecclesiastical establishment; insinuating 'such an establishment to be nothing but a usurpation on the religious rights of the people. Mr. Perceval adopted the zeal of Mr. Pitt in his resolute opposition to these specious innovatious. He considered the established church as part of the constitution of the country, and that it was no more a mere matter of course affair to make any change in such establishment, aud to depart from the ecclesiastical institutution of our ancestors, than it would be to alter the succession of the crown, and to convert a monarchial into a republican system.
Mr. Perceval had likewise another praise-worthy resemblance of Mr. Pitt. It was a feature of Mr. Pitt's character, that he never consulted popularity at the expence of the public good; and, what is still more extraordinary, it was a distinctiou in Mr. Pitt's fortune, that no one sought popularity less, yet no one had it more. Both of these propositions may likewise be asfirmed of Mr. Perceval. He never weakened the necessary authority of government by any unworthy compromise with popular clamour. He understood the interest of the nation, and he pursued it by its proper meaus. If popularity followed upon his measures, it was welcome; he hailed it as an additional means of assisting and supporting him. He thus frequently proposed and carried measures against a strong popular opposition. In a man of this mild character, and so totally averse from any spirit of hayghtiness and contempt, this could only be the result of a sense of duty. All his inclinations led him to peace and conciliation ; it was the stern voice of duty only which carried him into conflict and opposition.
It was another character in Mr. Perceyal's political life, that he carried into it his private virtues ; there was a stream of candour running through the whole of his conduct, not very uspal in political dealing: VOL. IV. NO. 20,
Life of Mr. Perceval.
It was observed on one occasion in the House of Commons, that there was indeed something of a trick—a contradiction of the appearance and reality, in a certain measure under debate. But it was argued, that its speciousness would operate a useful delusion. Mr. Perceval objected to this reasoning ; that in political dealing, and in private dealing, he hated any thing that had the air of a trick, and that truth and directness were the best means to every useful end. Upon another occasion Mr. Perceval seems to have acted peculiarly upon his own moral feelings; he stated, in Parliament, his full conviction that something ought to be done by the legislature to amend and alter the law, as it now stood, relative to adultery; and although a former motion to that effect had.. miscarried, he was well assured that the fate of the bill which had been proposed had given great concern to many serious and thinking persons who had turned their thoughts to the subject.
It is indeed to be lamented, that something should not be done to protect the happiness of private life. It seems incomprehensible to a man of ordinary reason, that a crime, which is so productive of injury, should be considered only as one of those breaches of morality 'which concern rather the pulpit than the legislature.
When Mr. Perceval entered parliament, he deemed himself to have entered upon a course of arduous duty, and such as required au intimate knowledge of every branch of the administration. Mr. Perceval, therefore, made it his study through all its detail; and, perhaps, no member (with the exception of the late Mr. Burke) ever sat in that House who had obtained that knowledge so early in life ; and having obtained that knowledge, he employed it more for the public good than for any personal purposes. He was particularly eloquent in supporto ing the Bill for correcting abuses in the Navy; and when he afterwards became the head of an adıninistration bimself, no one did more, though with little ostentation, to reform, purify, and methodise, the practice of the offices. This was an effort of as much delicacy, and even danger, as of virtue and duty.
It is unnecessary to mention, that the disease of the time is an excessive propensity to innovation. Under such circumstances, the implied acknowledgment of the existence of gross abuses, in the attempt to amend them, is a dangerous concession to the spirit of the day, and that hand must have more than common vigour, which, in the resolation of going so far, can stop itself, however impelled forwards, at the precise point. It is unhappily withiu the experience of the present day, that empires have been overtured by the effects even of the public spirit, and indulgent attempts of amelioratiou and change by their sovereigns and ministers. The origin of the French revolution was in the unseasonable retorms of Mr. Neckar, and in the precipitate goodness of Louis the Sixteenth. The Emperor Joseph lost the Netherlands in his attempts to divest their administration and constitution of the old esta
Life of Mr. Perceval.
blishments. It is therefore no small merit in the conduct of Mr. Pero ceval, that he preserved his footing even on this slippery soil; and that in removing what was rotten, and substituting wliat was sound, he did not bring the fabric about his ears. This was a merit no less of his vira tue than of his wisdom-inasmuch as, by such gradual and temperate, amendments, he fultilled every purpose of the public good, whiist, at the same time, he missed that popularity which a more ostentatious innovation would bave procured. It would be unseemly, perhaps, to say, in a discourse of this nature, how much he differed, in this respect, from many other public men, who, in order to obtain au accession to their own popular reputation, and to strengthen themselves by popular influence, have filled our statute books with many specious, many rugatory, and many mischievous acts. Mr. Perceval had too much candour in bis character, to give into any thing which he considered as a trick. It was one of his principles, as it was of the late Mr. Pitt, and of Lord Chatham, his father, that it was better to govern the people by their reason than by their errors; and that truth and honesty, and straight forwardness, were the best and safest policy.
Mr. Perceval first appeared in opposition, on the occasion of Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville becoming the ministers upon the death of Pitt. meddle not with the political questions, and different and contrary views of policy, which perhaps honestly divide the country; it is sufficient to the present subject to mention, that the conduct of Mr. Perceval in opposition was animated without asperity-earnest without ostentation and - attached to his own party, without an indiscriminate contention with his adversaries.
Upon the ministry of 1806 quitting office, which they did upon the special and personal repuguance of the King to some latitudinary concessions to the Catholics, Mr. Ferceval became Chancellor of the Li. chequer, and therein, I might say, the first minister in Europe; at a time when Europe had no hope but in the ability of the English cabinet, and at a time when a powerful party had sufficiently seated itself in government influence and connection, as to be enabled, by the opere ation of mere gratitude and decent returns for favours bestowed, tb are ray the influence of the crown against itself, and to oppose and impede ministry with weapons taken from its own aroury.
We may all remember the time when the kingdom feared that it lad passed into good-intentioned, but insufficient hands. The country, however, supported the man of the king's choice, and it was soon sten that his abilities were not unequal to the perils and difficulties of his station. He rose to the level of his duties and occasions. He called a view parliament-restored to the crown what belonged to it, and what, whatever may be its origin, or present shape, must so long continue to be recassary to it, as, in the private influence of fumilies and individuais, it 1:43 to oppose and to keep its balance against an equivalent counter-welt.
Life of Mr. Perceral.
Having thus briefly narrated his rise to that eminent station which he filled so beneficially for his country, it remains only to give a brief summary of his general character, as exhibited in public and private life, and therein to enumerate some of those virtues which rendered him the bright example of his times, and which, investing a private individual, as it were, with a national character, have caused him to be honoured, wept, and mourned, as if with a family feeling, by a nation.
Of his piety towards God, the spring of all other graces and virtnes, it may be truly said, that it was sincere with modesty, and fervent without irregularity. It was not that enthusiasm which is kindled only on occasions, and burns with an unsteady ardour: it was not a thing of passion, or mere feeling, but a prmciple actuating the whole mass of the inan, and diffusing a regular piety, and eutire devotion, throughout all his thoughts and actions.
Above all, his religion was principally exemplified in the due care and government of his whole life; in exercising himself continually to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men.
His conversation was affable and pleasant, easing the burthen of a full mind; and it was its rare perfection that it always disclosed the heart, and developed the man. He had a wonderful serenity of mind and evenness of temper, cousidering the great affairs in which he was engaged. He was hardly every merry, but always cheerful, and after a long and intimate acquaintance with him, he was upon all occasions and accidents perpetually the same.
He was a friend and contributor to all those charities which had for their object the improvement of the condition of men, and the alleviation of their calamities. He was particularly a friend to the education of the poor, and to all those societies and schemes for instruction, which, *by being brought under the controul of the church or the magistrate, did not inculcate any new fancies, dangerous either to our civil orlecclesiastical establishments. He knew that the rudiments of Christianity were the best preparation for the cival man; and that it was peculiarly "his duty, as a public officer, to carry discretion even in his charities, and prudence in his feelinys.
He assisted, likewise, in the propagation of Christianity, by a diffusiou of the holy Scriptures : and in the change which he recently made, or rather contemplated, in the charter of a great body, it was his in
tention to have opened the most fertile part of the globe, not merely to 'the trade, but to the religion and morality of Europe. He never adinitted, for a moment, the principle, that the interests of commerce were to be preferred to the interests of religion; and that a Pagan and barbarous people were not to be civilized and christianized, least they 'should become more difficult to be governed, and less lucrative to their inasters. ' Ile regarded religion and inorality as positive goods, which it becanie him to comun unicute; with prudence and reason indeed, but