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CHAP. V.

State of Parties at the Beginning of the Year. The Prince Regent's Letter to

the Duke of York. Lord Borringdon's Motion for an Address to the Prince to form a more extended Administration. The Ministers retain their places. Assassination of Mr Perceval ; his Character.

The character and views of the dif- intricate, is not embarrassed by unne. ferent parties who possess or aspire to cessary complications; it is composed the direction of public affairs, acquire of many powers, each acting as a check an importance in a free country, which on the other; and, above all, the

peoexcites the astonishment and ridicule of ple are accustomed to exercise a great those who live under a different form controul over the proceedings of goof government. It is not difficult to vernment. Nothing, therefore, of any assign the cause of this marked distinc- consequence is done here, no impor. tion. The proceedings of an arbitrary tant step, either in foreign or domestic government have but little interest to policy, is resolved on, without ample an enlightened mind—for as the will and eager discussion ; and no real of the sovereign, which forms the only change can be accomplished for which law, is seldom guided by principles some plausible reason is not offered. It which can become the ground work of is true, indeed, that such a govern. reasoning, the domestic revolutions to ment, although liable to continual which such governments are exposed, fluctuations, changes its principles but constitute a barren and uninteresting little in the course of time ; and that, subject of history. Extreme simpli- although minor alterations are of frecity and endless variety alike exclude quent occurrence, and the public mind conjecture and speculation ; the pow- is continually agitated with political ers of the understanding find their pro- discussion, yet all the changes which per employment in the extensive re- can be ultimately effected by any par. gions which lie between, in which the ty, how powerful soever, are confined mind is neither stupified by a tedious within narrow limits. Yet the characuniformity, nor bewildered by a suc- ter and views of public men rise in imcession of changes which defy all the portance in exact proportion to the laws of arrangement and combination. real security of the constitution against All free governments, and, in a peculiar their influence and designs: the po

. and eminent degree, the government pular interest in their proceedings is of this country, exhibit this happy mo. commensurate to the stability of the deration so propitious to study and re

institutions of which it is the surest flection. The constitution, although guarantee; so that there is no branch of the history of a free country which century. The pride and arrogance

of so naturally and universally engages some, the weakness and obstinacy of attention as those great contests for others, may have deserved censure ; power and pre-eminence; which igno- but there is not the slightest reason to rance and malice alone are wont to believe that any considerable man bebrand as the mere struggles of faction. longing to either of the great leading

It has been supposed by some per parties, has, for many years past, been sons, that the leading public men in a tempted by the pitiful emoluments of free state are necessarily and inevita- office, or by any consideration merely bly guided by selfish considerations selfish, to sacrifíce his integrity or inthat they are disposed to view the po. dependence. Men who, as individulitics, whether domestic or foreign, of als, would be wicked enough to make their country, chiefly as they may af. such a sacrifice, could never in a pubfect the interest of the factions which lic capacity be expected to sustain the are struggling for power, and that the honour of the nation : yet it is a fact, semblance, rather than the reality, of which few will venture to dispute, that patriotism is all that can be expected how great soever the errors in policy from them. Were their power greater, which may have been imputable to or their independence of public opi- ministers, the national honour and nion more complete, it has been ima- good-faith have hitherto been presergined that they would more easily dis- ved without tarnish or reproach. This encumber themselves of the selfish is a proof, at least, of honourable maxims by which their conduct is en- views in those who have been entrustslaved, and that, although with occa- ed with the conduct of affairsof sional frowardness and tyranny, yet principles which would in vain be with greater boldness and vigour, they sought for among the degraded vicwould seek the real interest of the tims of a base and sordid ambition. country. This, however, seems to be a A great change is supposed to have mistake ; for, besides that the blessings taken place in the state of parties since of freedom have a tendency to inspire the death of Pitt and Fox, who had public men with greater nobleness and so far elevated themselves by their tagenerosity of mind, the check which, lents above their contemporaries. No in a free country, is exercised through person, it is said, now follows either the medium of the press, and by the party with that implicit submission vigilance of the people, on the conduct which he was wont to pay to the teof their leaders, must be infinitely more nets of the one or other of these great powerful in insuring the high and ho. leaders ; but this opinion also seems nourable fulfilment of duty, than the to be founded on a very obvious mispossession of the most absolute power take. The mere admiration of talents of which history has left any record. is not sufficient to insure political atNotwithstanding the calumnies which tachment; it goes a great way indeed have been so industriously circulated towards preserving personal regard and by persons who wish to bring not only veneration for the possessor, but in a the government, but all public men matter so serious as the choice of a into contempt, it may be affirmed, system of political opinions, it will not that in no age or country has there maintain that united and vigorous coever been a race of statesmen of more operation which is necessary to the eminent qualifications, and more un- power and influence of a party. No impeachable integrity, than has flou- man ever stood higher in the public rished in Great Britain for the last estimation for talents and virtue than the late Mr Burke; yet he could orders. It has thus happened, that, hardly be said at any period of his life besides the ministerial and opposition to have commanded a party, or to have parties, another tribe of politicians, of insured for his opinions implicit respect a singular and anomalous character, or active co-operation. Political at- has made its appearance ; and as the tachments in honourable minds arise two great parties in all their struggles out of a candid and rational preference sought the approbation of the higher for a system of opinions, by which it and more intelligent orders, this new is supposed that the public safety and faction seized on the mob as the prohonour can be best maintained ; unin

some account,

per objects of its influence and authoAuenced by personal regard or affecerity. At the beginning of the present tion, they are founded on views far year, there were in this way three parmore generous and elevated. As a ties contending for influence, of which proof of this, we may refer to the ca- it may be proper in this place to give reer of those eminent men who have lately brought the public affairs to so The ministerial party, of which glorious an issue. They became the the late Mr Perceval was at this time leaders of that party of which Mr Pitt the leader, numbered among its supwas at one time the head ; and they porters many very able men. Its chiefs have been uniformly supported with unanimously concurred in a profound no less zeal and union both in and out reverence for the principles and opi. of parliament, than that illustrious nions of Mr Pitt, in whose school statesman himself. There have been they were bred, and to whose memomore numerous defections indeed from ry they looked with feelings of venethe whig, or opposition party; and it ration. It can scarcely be necessary is not difficult to give a satisfactory to give any account of the political explanation of this circumstance, with. principles of this great man ; they are out supposing that the genuine fol. known to all Europe, and exercised lowers of that party are defective in a on its destinies for the last thirty years sincere and steady attachment to its a greater influence than those of any principles, It is natural for political other statesman. The leading maxime adventurers, in the first instance, to of his followers were persevering reengage on the side of opposition ; sistance to the dangerous ambition of they have there a better field for the France-a wise jealousy of the princidisplay of those qualities on which ples which have been drawn forth in they value themselves,-a zealous, the course of her revolution, and a though narrow, hostility to existing firm determination in all circumstances institutions, and a clamorous impa. to sustain the high rank of Great Britience of all control. But, as such tain in the scale of European powers. persons are not in general very steady The principles of their foreign policy, to their principles, and as they are therefore, were vigorous as they were easily seduced by the popular applause, simple ; and with regard to domestic which their arts seldom fail to obtain, affairs, the constant tenor of their conthey quickly separate themselves from duct proved that although they were those with whom they were at first favourable to moderate and practical accustomed to act, and by an affecta. improvement, they entertained a salution of greater purity and warmer zeal tary dread of intemperate innovation. for the public service than either of They considered the mechanism of the great parties possess, they strive such a government as that of England to acquire the confidence of the lower to be a great deal - too fine to be touched with impunity by the rash maintained her honour and integrity, hand of reform ; and they perceived, but were enabled, in the issue, to add in the cireumstances of modern times, prodigiously to her ancient stock of and in the change which had taken glory. place in the habits and intelligence of It has been remarked by philosothe people of Europe, the symptoms phers, that the distinctions which exist of a dangerous empiricism, which it among practical politicians, are rather was the great object of their policy to nominal than real, and that with very counteract and repress. They might be slight sacrifices on each side, intellicalled timid in comparison with some gent men might easily be brought to of their opponents, but they were ti- a good understanding, they would mid only as they were sagacious ; and be called upon to give up, not princi. the energy which they displayed in re- ples, but expressions ; and while they sisting the violence by which every would thus exhibit more philosophical thing sacred in the country was at one precision in defining their views, they time attacked, first saved England would contribute much to tranquillize from revolution, and, in the issue, rai. Society, which is so often convulsed sed her to the highest pitch of great. by their controversies. The principle

ness.

If they were 'mistrustful of on which this observation is founded the sweeping conclusions which were has been singularly exemplified in drawn by weak and ardent minds, from English history. The ancient disabstract and metaphysical principles, tinctions which divided the different their caution was inspired by the dic. parties of English politicians, have no tates of genuine philosophy; and if longer a meaning,-those who are now they were exposed to the reproach of described as Whigs and Tories, no timidity, they could provoke it from longer profess the sentiments by which those misguided spirits alone who their respective parties were formerly might have cast the same imputation distinguished. The leading princi. on the greatest philosopers of modern ples of those great men, by whom the times,-- men, who, rejecting idle and revolution of 1688 was accomplished, vain theories, have, on the basis of ex- and of their immediate successors, periment, established the beautiful su- whose measures cast such a lustre perstructure of true science. They around the cuntry, are precisely those were no less sensible than their ene. on which the ministers of the present mies to the difficulties under which the day have invariably acted,-a firm recountry laboured, and the dangers to sistance to the ambition of France, and which it was exposed; but they consi- a jealousy of the tenets of the Roman dered these dangers as the result of ac- Catholics. Their opponents, 'who cidents which could not be controlled, still claim for themselves the appellaand of a state of the world which no- tion of Whigs, have not only aban. thing but the full display of all the doned the great and salutary princienergies of England could correct or ples formerly entertained on these reform. Hence, regardless of difficul. points, but have avowed, as the lead. ties, they persevered with manly firm- ing maxims of their creed, opinions of ness in a contest, from which Great an opposite nature. They demand Britain could not have retired without unqualified concession to the catholics dishonour ; hence they sustained that of Ireland, and have in a thousand inhigh tone which she has always been stances called on the country to make accustomed to hold among the nations peace with France, in circumstances of the world ; and hence they not only which the whigs of the reigns of King William and Queen Anne would have and talents were well known to the considered as imperiously demanding country.--The unfortunate differences the vigorous prosecution of war. He which occurred betwixt Lord Castlewho should turn to the political wri- reagh and Mr Canning, had deprived țings of Addison, and the other great the government of the assistance of whig authors of his age, would sup- these eminent men: but in their place pose that he is reading an elegant the Marquis Wellesley, a statesman of exposition of the creed of the present great and undoubted talents, was for ministers, and a satire on the tenets of a time substituted.-Whether the actheir opponents. Surely the distinc- cession of strength which the minitions by which public men are divided sters thus acquired, was a full com must be altogether nominal and insig- pensation for the loss sustained by the nificant, or the whigs and tories of the resignations of Lord Castlereagh and present day must have committed an

Mr Canning, is more than questionoutrage on the lauguage, in assuming able. Great indeed must the talents the appellations by which they are dis- of that man have been, who could tinguished.

compensate the loss of the various and The laudable activity with which distinguished qualifications of the emithe present ministers conducted their nent statesmen who had unfortunately measures of foreign policy, and the retired from office.-Acting, howcontrast, in this respect, which their ever, on the same principles which had conduct presented to that of their pre- guided the conduct of Mr Pitt when decessors, formed a striking feature in out of power, Lord Castlereagh and their public character. And as it has Mr Canning, on leaving the ministry, been generally acknowledged, that never thought of joining the ranks of emergencies arose, in which it was not opposition; but, sincere and ardent in possible for Great Britain to exert her. the cause of their country, they Aung self too much,-in which her honour away every selfish consideration, and and interest alike demanded that every proved to the world, that a change in nerve should be strained ; as it is not their own personal condition could denied that the line of conduct pur- make no alteration in their principles. „sued by ministers was that wħich The Marquis Wellesley was about sustained the character of England as this time a very great favourite with the bulwark of liberty, and the rally- the public; and is thought by some ing point for the independence of to have obtained credit for a larger Europe; as it will no longer be dis. portion of talent than he actually posputed that they have acquired ho- sessed. As a war minister, and in nour by the steady support of the planning and conducting military ope- . noble struggle maintained in the pe- rations, he was believed to be not only ninsula, and that they persevered in superior to all his contemporaries, but supporting this cause under difficulties to stand absolutely alone. In deterand discouragements of all kinds ; it is mining the mode and the places in not easy to perceive with what justice which the war might be most suctheir activity can be described as fever. cessfully carried on, in suiting the ish, or their efforts, which led to such

magnitude of an expedition to its ob glorious consequences, can be under- ject, and in appointing the persons valued.

best qualified to command, Lord Wel. Mr Perceval was at the head of the lesley was said to have no rival in administration, which was composed any living statesman. He was sup. of many members, whose experience posed to be the only master of this

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