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whose good opinion he had been accustomed to regard ; and what then are we to think of the account that is given of this celebrated statesman in the decline and fall of his power and of his life; or rather, what instruction can we hence derive for ourselves ?
If, indeed, as appears to have been the case, his residence seemed to him a solitude; if, indeed, he had little taste for literary occupations, and expressed himself to this effect to a brother statesman, who was reading in his library ; if he wished for a resource that would have alleviated, as he said, many tedious hours of his retirement; if, indeed, it was found (as we are told by Mr. Coxe) that to him who had directed the helm of government in England, all speculative opinions appeared dull; if to him who had drawn all his knowledge from practice, all theory appeared trifling; if to him who had long been the dispenser of wealth and honours, a wide difference appeared between the expressions of those who approached him from motives of personal kindness, and the homage which had formerly been paid him by those who had courted him from motives of self-interest; if this difference mortified and stung him; if every thing, as it is said, seemed uninteresting to a man who, from the twenty-third year of his age, had been uniformly engaged in scenes of political exertion; if such be indeed the portrait of this fallen statesman, as presented by his biographer, well may it become those of you who hear me; those who are gifted with faculties according to the ordinary measure, and those of you who are intrusted with the yet bigher privileges of superior talents, alike to consider how inestimable are those habits of literary occupation, and of rational curiosity, which are not only competent under every change of fortune to administer, even to men of common minds, the blessings of dignified activity and contented cheerfulness, but when they are found united to the possession of great natural endowments, can accompany men in their fall, from the highest offices of the state to the obscurest depths of their retirement, and transfer a man like Bacon, though ruined and disgraced, from the cabinet of a prince to that high eminence and vantage-ground of philosophy and truth, where kings from their humbler thrones might gaze upon him with reverence,
I must even venture to urge reflections of this nature still further; and without meaning for a moment to intrude upon the more sacred privacies of the character of Sir Robert Walpole, I cannot but take occasion from the facts, as they appear, to request you to consider how constantly exposed to concussions and to overthrow, will assuredly be the happiness of every man, who directs his thoughts too exclusively to the objects of anibition ; who, amid the business of mankind, may have habituated himself too much to disregard that still more important concern which yet awaits him, and amid the interests and anxieties of those who crowd around him for bis patronage, has suffered himself to be hurried away and occupied till he becomes but too insensible of that yet more important connexion which he is permitted to hold, not only with his fellow-creatures in this world, but with the Creator of the Universe himself; and which, when those crowds retire and his power is no more; when the more noisy and impetuous calls of duty are hushed; when the claims of mankind seem to part away from him on every side, will open at once to him an object of never ceasing, and even far superior anxiety and care, and leave him to the more exclusive and undisturbed enjoyment of that silent piety which should never have been banished from the meditations of his heart, and which, whether in health or in sickness, in his elevation or in his fall, will best explain to him the merits of his active life, and the meaning of his earthly grandeur.
“Sir Robert WalPOLE, prime minister of Great Britain, is a man of ability, not of genius; good-natured, not virtuous; constant, not magnanimous; moderate in the exercise of power, not equitable in the engrossing of it. His virtues in some instances are free from the alloy of those vices which usually accompany such virtues ; he is a generous friend, without being a bitter enemy; his vices in other instances are not compensated by those virtues which are nearly allied to them; his want of enterprise is not attended with frugality. The private character of the man is better than the public; bis virtues more than his vices; his fortune greater than his fame. With many good qualities, he has incurred the public batred ; with good capacity, be has not escaped ridicule. He would have been esteemed worthy of his high station had he never possessed it; and is better qualified for the second than for the first place in any government. His ministry has been more advantageous to his family than to the public; better for his age than for posterity; and more pernicious by bad precedents than by real grievances. During his time trade has flourished, liberty declined, and learning gone to ruin. As I am a man, I love him; as I am a scholar, I hate him; as I am a Briton, I wish his fall; and were I a member of either house, I would give my vote for removing him from St. James's; but should be glad to see him retire to Houghton Hall, to pass the remainder of his days in ease and pleasure.”
The above character of Sir Robert appears in one of the early, and now scarce editions of Hume's Essays.
A character much more masterly and just is given by Mr. Burke in his
“ Seen him I have, but in his happier hour
I uave mentioned the speeches from the throne; and will give a specimen of them. In the speeches of George I. are found the following expressions :“ As none can recommend themselves more effectually to my favour and countenance than by a sincere zeal for the just rights of the crown and the liberties of the people, I am determined to encourage all those who act
agreeably to the constitution of these my kingdoms, and consequently to the principles on which my government is founded.
“ To gain the hearts and affections of my people shall always be my first and principal care. On their duty and loyalty I will entirely depend; they may as surely depend on my protection in the full enjoyment of their religion, liberty, and property.
“ You will make it your business to promote that perfect harmony and confidence between me and my people, which I most earnestly desire, and on which our mutual happiness entirely depends."
The dignified language in which George I. addressed his people in 1722, when in expectation of a rebellion, has been properly remarked by one of our historians.
“ Had I, since my accession to the throne, ever attempted any innovation on our established religion; had I in any one instance invaded the liberty and property of my subjects, I should less wonder at any endeavours to alienate the affections of my people, and draw them into measures that can end in nothing but their own destruction.
" But to hope to persuade a free people, in full enjoyment of all that is dear and valuable to them, to exchange freedom for slavery, the Protestant religion for Popery, and to sacrifice at once the price of so much blood and treasure as have been spent in defence of our present establishment, seems an infatuation not to be accounted for."
One of the most singular circumstances that occurred during the reign of George I. was the introduction of the Peerage Bill by the ministers of the erown. This project originated in motives not the most creditable either to the favourite Sunderland or the monarch—inordinate ambition in the one, and mean jealousy of his son and successor in the other; but it produced some noble passages in two of the king's speeches, which would have been indeed precious if they had obtained a place there on any better occasion.
“ I have always looked upon the glory of a sovereign and the liberty of a subject as inseparable, and think it is the peculiar happiness of a British king to reign over a free people. As the civil rights, therefore, and privileges of all my subjects, and especially of my two houses of parliament, do justly claim my most tender concern, if any provision designed to perpetuate these blessings to your posterity remains imperfect, I promise myself you will take the first opportunity,” &c. &c.
And again :
“ If the necessities of my government have sometimes engaged your duty and affection to trust me with powers of which you have always with good reason been jealous, the whole world must acknowledge they have been so used as to justify the confidence you have reposed in me.
And as I can truly affirm that no prince was ever more zealous to increase his own authority than I am to perpetuate the liberty of my people, I hope you will think of all proper methods to establish and transmit to your posterity the freedom of our happy constitution, and peculiarly to secure that part which is most liable to abuse."
This last extract is given by Coxe.
In the speeches of George II. expressions are always found on every proper occasion that intimate the desirableness of confidence and harmony between the people and the executive power, and that the interests of the two are inseparable. They should be looked at even on this account, if on no other.
“ I heartily wish,” said the king, in his first speech, “that this first solemn declaration of my mind in parliament could sufficiently express the sentiments of my heart, and give you a perfect and just sense of my fixed resolution by all possible means to merit the love and affection of my people, which I shall always look upon as the best support and security of my crown.
“ And as the religion, liberty, property, and a due execution of the laws, are the most valuable blessings of a free people, and the peculiar privileges of this nation, it shall be my constant care to preserve the constitution of this kingdom, as it is now happily established in church and state, inviolable in all its parts, and to secure to all my subjects the full enjoyment of their religious and civil rights."
The speech of the year 1734, preparatory to the dissolution of the parliament, has been noticed by Mr. Coxe. If it was intended to do away any impressions that might have been made on the public by the speeches and writings of the adversaries of the minister, representing him as having planned a regular system of oppression, it was certainly well fitted for its purpose, for no speech could be more worthy of an intelligent monarch and an upright minister, addressed to a free people.
“The prosperity and glory of my reign,” says his majesty, " depend upon the affections and happiness of my people, and the happiness of my people, upon my preserving to them all their legal rights and privileges, as established under the present settlement of the crown in the Protestant line. A due execution and strict observance of the laws, are the best and only security both to sovereign and subject; their interest is mutual and inseparable, and therefore their endeavours for the support of each other ought to be equal and reciprocal; any infringment or encroachment upon the rights of either, is a diminution of the strength of both, which, kept within due bounds and limits, make that just balance which is necessary for the honour and dignity of the crown, and for the protection and prosperity of the people. What depends on me shall, on my part, be religiously kept and observed, and I make no doubt of receiving the just returns of duty and gratitude from them. I must in a particular manner recommend it to you, and from your known affection, do expect, that you will use your best endeavours to heal the unhappy divisions of the nation, and to reconcile the minds of all, who truly and sincerely wish the safety and welfare of the kingdom.
“It would be the greatest satisfaction to me to ee a perfect harmony restored among them, that have one and the same principle at heart, thai there might be no distinction, but of such as mean the support of our present happy constitution in church and state, and such as wish to subvert both. This is the only distinction that ought to prevail in this country, where the interest of king and people is one and the same, and where they cannot subsist but by being so.
“ If religion, liberty, and property, were never at any time more fully