H́nh ảnh trang

Characteristical Sketches.

Lord North.


Or all the paffions that actuate the human mind, the love of power, especially after its fweets have been experienced, is perhaps the most difficult to fubdue. ex minifter, an antiquated beauty, and an orator who has fallen into neglect, are perfons whom the world take pleasure to mortify, without adverting to the pitiable fituation in which thefe perfons are placed. This is perhaps the greatest mark of barbarity that exifts in the manners of the prefent age. It is the highest eulogy of urbanity and civilization, that it tends to mitigate the evils of life, to pluck the thorn from the wound of the afflicted, and to foothe the mind, while under the preffure of misfortune: But in the cafes here fpecified, mankind seem to depart from a rule that ought to be universal, and are emulous in preffing forward, to add the wantonefs of infult to the load of diftrefs, which, of itself, fits very heavy on the depreffed mind.

Few inftances can exemplify the above remarks more fully than the fate of Lord North. This nobleman long occupied the place of first minifter in this kingdom; and during the time he held it, he had as unlimited power, and met with as unbounded applause, and obtained an adulation as fervile from his adherents, as any other minister ever experienced. He was, at last, like others, forced to relinquish the helm, and, like others too, has been fince obliged to experience the most degrading infults. Thefe infults, however, are not more degrading to him than the adulation he formerly received. They both equally tend to leffen the perfon who offers them, rather than him to whom they are offered.

Swavity of manner, and gentleness of disposition were the most striking features in the character of this nobleman. Before he entered into office, a fort of anarchy had prevailed in the government of Britain, that became highly diftreffing to the well-difpofed part of the community; and the public were well pleafed to fee, that by a steadiness of conduct, without any acts of unbecoming severity, a stop was put, by him, to those turbulent proceedings, which, if not effectually checked, did threaten the well-being of the state. This faon conferred upon him a degree of popularity, which till then he had not poffeffed, and which laid the foundation of that power he long exercised, with the entire good-will of the nation at large; a power greatly augmented by the mild manner in which he exercised it,-and that native good humour, with which he repelled those rude attacks to which he was fo often expofed.

Indolence, however, and its native concomitant, a reluctance to disoblige those whofe oppofition feemed likely to produce trouble to him, formed the bafis of his character. Thefe laid the foundation of thofe errors in administration, which, at length, effectually overturned his power. From certain fundamental errors that had taken place under former ministers, refpecting colonial government, Lord North found himfelf placed in fuch critical circumftances with regard to this particular, that though it became neceffary to act, the most intelligent men on all fides, at the time, confeffed it was a difficult matter to choose how to act with propriety. Instead of temporifing, as others had done, and endeavouring to leave matters in the same state of indecifive uncertainty he had found them, Lord North, in an evil hour for himfelf, and as it is confidently afferted, much against his own wishes, was impelled, by the influence of a higher power, to adopt a line of conduct that required talents. and difpofitions of mind in a minifter very different from those that fell to his fhare. From that moment, VOL. III. C c

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

his administration was marked with errors of the most confpicuous fort.

To carry on the operations of war with propriety, depends perhaps as much upon the particular temper of the minifter, and the mode in which the energies of his mind operate, as on the reasoning faculties he poffeffes, and the power of judging as to what ought to be done. The talents of Lord North, in as far as refpects the reasoning faculty, will perhaps admit of a fair comparison with thofe of any other minifter in Britain, without fuffering by the parallel.--But, as a war minifter, the timidity of temper proceeding from his averfion to buille and conteft, threw him into embarrassments, that perhaps the meanest of his opponents never could have experienced. Feeling then, as he must have done, this natural defect, nothing could have been more injudicious in him than his agreeing to continue in office, when he found he must be placed in a fituation fo little congenial to his own natural propenfities of temper and difpofition: Nor can any other apology be offered for him, but that native love of fway, which the human heart can never refolve to abandon but with reluctance. And where, it may be afked, is the man, who, poffeffed of the cordial good-will of his fovereign, and the general favour of a great and free people, would deliberately refolve to refign the power and cmoluments of office, merely because he might conjecture that his own difpofitions were not fuited to the nature of the bufinefs in which he is about to engage, especially when he is fenfible too of no deficiency, in regard to the faculty of judging with propriety?- -Where is the man who can form, without trial, a just estimate of his own powers? and where is the man who can refift the flattering invitations of a great prince, 1upported by the applause of a mighty people? This exertion prefuppofes a daring inflexibility of temper, very different from that which nature bestowed upon Lord North.

He yielded to the flattering feduction, and was un


What is paft, cannot be recalled: but it is not incurious to contemplate in imagination, the difference between the prefent fituation of Lord North, and that in which he would now have been placed, had he chofen to leave to another the conduct of the operations of war, when he found that war was unavoidable.-He would have been called upon by the unanimous voice of the nation, to resume the reins of government in peace, and would have been now idolized by a whole people, as their guardian angel, instead of being buffeted, abus. ed, and maltreated, as he now is, by every puny fcribbler, who thinks he difplays his own prowefs, by fpurning at the man to whom he formerly looked up with adoration and refpect. The lion being no longer the king of the foreft, the afs dares ftrike him in fafety.

As an orator, Lord North, while in power, had no equal in the House of Commons: Nor did this proceed entirely from the fuperior respect with which men liftened to the words of the man who had the power of difpofing of emoluments; a circumftance which adds infinite force to arguments on all occafions. While his mind was at eafe, he was enabled to exert all his faculties in their fulleft force; and there is to be found in his fpeeches at that time, more real attic wit, feafoned with good humour, and conclufive reafoning, than is perhaps to be found any where elfe in the records of parliament. Since his difmiflion from office, however, the falling off, in these refpects, has been great and ftriking.-On fome occafions, his reafoning, fince then, has been indeed clear and conclufive; but the wit, the good humour, the elegance, which gave to his fpeeches their former zeft, are now looked for in vain; and no man, we are affured, can be more fenfible of this defect, than the noble Lord himself.

No part of Lord North's oratorial powers could ever be afcribed to the manner in which these orations were

delivered. His tone of voice is heavy, drawling, and monotonous, fo as to form the greatest contraft we have. ever perceived to the matter they contain, which is in general, cheerful, elegant, and sportive. His figure, too, is heavy and inanimate: Nor does his manner improve, as he becomes more warm and animated in debate. Instead of strong and energetic tones, expreffive of paffion or of feeling, he only rifes, on these occafions, to a louder fort of howl, a kind of bellowing vociferation, that can tend of itself only to excite difguft.

Among the compliances which Lord North, while in office, was obliged to make to higher powers, that of abruptly difmiffing Mr. Fox from an office he held under government, was one of the most confpicuous, from its confequences to him. From this moment, that daring orator became the open and avowed opponent of the minifter, and many and violent were the philippics he uttered against him. Thefe, however, Lord North attributed to their right caufe, nor ever troubled himfelf about them, farther than to make at times a few lively remarks, to put the house into good humour. These two statesmen, however, though circumstances threw them into oppofite parties, it is poffible, as they now aver, never did differ very much from each other in refpect to important matters of ftate. Nor did they fcruple to unite, when circumftances rendered their po litical difunion no longer expedient for either party. This coalition, as it has been called, has given rife to a copious flood of popular abufe, and not perhaps with out caufe. Thefe ftatefmen fhould have known, that in a popular government like ours, men who wish to obtain fway, fhould be careful fo to conduct themselves as that their words and their actions should not be too obviously irreconcileable with each other, efpecially when not in place, and more particularly at the critical moment of their going out of office, when every word or action is conftrued in the worst fenfe. In this inftance, thefe gentlemen certainly finned against one of the clear,

« TrướcTiếp tục »