The song introduced in this play, "I have a silent sorrow here," was avowedly written by Sheridan, as the music of it was by the Duchess of Devonshire—two such names, so brilliant in their respective spheres, as the Muses of Song and Verse have seldom had the luck to bring together. The originality of these lines has been disputed; and that expedient of borrowing which their author ought to have been independent of in every way, is supposed to have been resorted to by his indolence on this occasion. Some verses by Tickell are mentioned as having supplied one of the best stanzas; but I am inclined to think, from the following circumstances, that this theft of Sheridan was of that venial and domestic kind—from himself. A writer, who brings forward the accusation in the Gentleman's Magazine, (vol. lxxi. p. 904,) thus states his grounds:—
"In a song which I purchased at Bland's music-shop in Holborn in the year 1794, intitled, 'Think not, my love' and professing to be set to music by Thomas Wright. (I conjecture, Organist of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and composer of the pretty Opera called Rusticity.) are the following words:—
"The song to which the writer alludes, "Think not, my love," was given to me, as a genuine production of Mr. Sheridan, by a gentleman nearly connected with his family; and I have little doubt of its being one of those early love-strains which, in his tempo de' dolci sospiri, he addressed to Miss Linley. As, therefore, it was but "a feather of his own" that the eagle made free with, he may be forgiven. The following is the whole of the song:—
"This treasured grief, this loved despair, My lot forever be; But, dearest, may the pangs I bear Be never known to thee!'
"Now, without insisting that the opening thought in Mr. Sheridan's famous song has been borrowed from that of 'Think not, my love,' the second verse is manifestly such a theft of the lines I have quoted as entirely overturns Mr. Sheridan's claim to originality in the matter, unless 'Think not, my love,' has been written by him, and he can be proved to have only stolen from himself."
"Think not, my love, when secret grief Preys on my saddened heart, Think not I wish a mean relief. Or would from sorrow part.
"Dearly I prize the sighs sincere, That my true fondness prove. Nor would I wish to check the tear, That flows from hapless love!
"Alas! tho' doom'd to hope in vain The joys that love requite, Yet will I cherish all its pain, With sad, but dear delight.
"This treasured grief, this lov'd despair, My lot for ever be; But, dearest, may the pangs I bear Be never known to thee!"
Among the political events of this year, the rebellion of Ireland holds a memorable and fearful preeminence. The only redeeming stipulation which the Duke of Portland and his brother Alarmists had annexed to their ill-judged Coalition with Mr. Pitt was, that a system of conciliation and justice should, at last, be adopted towards Ireland. Had they but carried thus much wisdom into the ministerial ranks with them, their defection might have been pardoned for the good it achieved, and, in one respect at least, would have resembled the policy of those Missionaries, who join in the ceremonies of the Heathen for the purpose of winning him over to the truth. On the contrary, however, the usual consequence of such coalitions with Power ensued,—the good was absorbed in the evil principle, and, by the false hope which it created, but increased the mischief. Lord Fitzwilliam was not only deceived himself, but, still worse to a noble and benevolent nature like his, was made the instrument of deception and mockery to millions. His recall, in 1795, assisted by the measures of his successor, drove Ireland into the rebellion which raged during the present year, and of which the causes have been so little removed from that hour to this, that if the people have become too wise to look back to it, as an example, it is assuredly not because their rulers have much profited by it as a lesson.
I am aware that, on the subject of Ireland and her wrongs, I can ill trust myself with the task of expressing what I feel, or preserve that moderate, historical tone, which it has been my wish to maintain through the political opinions of this work. On every other point, my homage to the high character of England, and of her institutions, is prompt and cordial;—on this topic alone, my feelings towards her have been taught to wear "the badge of bitterness." As a citizen of the world, I would point to England as its brightest ornament,—but, as a disfranchised Irishman, I blush to belong to her. Instead, therefore, of hazarding any farther reflections of my own on the causes and character of the Rebellion of 1798, I shall content myself with giving an extract from a Speech which Mr. Sheridan delivered on the subject, in the June of that year:—
"What! when conciliation was held out to the people of Ireland, was there any discontent? When the government of Ireland was agreeable to the people, was there any discontent? After the prospect of that conciliation was taken away,—after Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled,—after the hopes which had been raised were blasted,—when the spirit of the people was beaten down, insulted, despised, I will ask any gentleman to point out a single act of conciliation which has emanated from the Government of Ireland? On the contrary; has not that country exhibited one continual scene of the most grievous oppression, of the most vexatious proceedings; arbitrary punishments inflicted; torture declared necessary by the highest authority in the sister-kingdom next to that of the legislature? And do gentlemen say that the indignant spirit which is roused by such exercise of government is unprovoked? Is this conciliation? Is this lenity? Has everything been done to avert the evils of rebellion? It is the fashion to say, and the Address holds the same language, that the rebellion which now rages in the sister-kingdom has been owing to the machinations of 'wicked men.' Agreeing to the amendment proposed, it was my first intention to move that these words should be omitted. But, Sir, the fact they assert is true. It is, indeed, to the measures of wicked men that the deplorable state of Ireland is to be imputed. It is to those wicked Ministers who have broken the promises they held out, who betrayed the party they seduced into their views, to be the instruments of the foulest treachery that ever was practised against any people. It is to those wicked Ministers who have given up that devoted country to plunder,—resigned it a prey to this faction, by which it has so long been trampled upon, and abandoned it to every species of insult and oppression by which a country was ever overwhelmed, or the spirit of a people insulted, that we owe the miseries into which Ireland is plunged, and the dangers by which England is threatened. These evils are the doings of wicked Ministers, and applied to them, the language of the Address records a fatal and melancholy truth."
The popularity which the conduct of Mr. Sheridan, on the occasion of the Mutiny, had acquired for him,—everywhere but among his own immediate party,—seems to have produced a sort of thaw in the rigor of his opposition to Government; and the language which he now began to hold, with respect to the power and principles of France, was such as procured for him, more than once in the course of the present Session, the unaccustomed tribute of compliments from the Treasury-bench. Without, in the least degree, questioning his sincerity in this change of tone, it may be remarked, that the most watchful observer of the tide of public opinion could not have taken it at the turn more seasonably or skilfully. There was, indeed, just at this time a sensible change in the feeling of the country. The dangers to which it had been reduced were great, but the crisis seemed over. The new wings lent to Credit by the paper-currency, —the return of the navy to discipline and victory,—the disenchantment that had taken place with respect to French principles, and the growing persuasion, since strengthened into conviction, that the world has never committed a more gross mistake than in looking to the French as teachers of liberty,—the insulting reception of the late pacific overtures at Lisle, and that never-failing appeal to the pride and spirit of Englishmen, which a threat of invading their sacred shore brings with it,—all these causes concurred, at this moment, to rally the people of England round the Government, and enabled the Minister to extract from the very mischiefs which himself had created the spirit of all others most competent to bear and surmount them. Such is the elasticity of a free country, however, for the moment, misgoverned,—and the only glory due to the Minister under whom such a people, in spite of misgovernment, flourishes, is that of having proved, by the experiment, how difficult it is to ruin them.
While Mr. Sheridan took these popular opportunities of occasionally appearing before the public, Mr. Fox persevered, with but little interruption, in his plan of secession from Parliament altogether. From the beginning of the Session of this year, when, at the instance of his constituents, he appeared in his place to oppose the Assessed Taxes Bill, till the month of February, 1800, he raised his voice in the House but upon two questions,—each "dignus vindice,"—the Abolition of the Slave-Trade, and a Change of System in Ireland. He had thrown into his opposition too much real feeling and earnestness to be able, like Sheridan, to soften it down, or shape it to the passing temper of the times. In the harbor of private life alone could that swell subside; and, however the country missed his warning eloquence, there is little doubt that his own mind and heart were gainers by a retirement, in which he had leisure to "prune the ruffled wings" of his benevolent spirit,—to exchange the ambition of being great for that of being useful, and to listen, in the stillness of retreat, to the lessons of a mild wisdom, of which, had his life been prolonged, his country would have felt the full influence.
From one of Sheridan's speeches at this time we find that the change which had lately taken place in his public conduct had given rise to some unworthy imputations upon his motives. There are few things less politic in an eminent public man than a too great readiness to answer accusations against his character. For, as he is, in general, more extensively read or heard than his accusers, the first intimation, in most cases, that the public receives of any charge against him will be from his own answer to it. Neither does the evil rest here;—for the calumny remains embalmed in the defence, long after its own ephemeral life is gone. To this unlucky sort of sensitiveness Mr. Sheridan was but too much disposed to give way, and accordingly has been himself the chronicler of many charges against him, of which we should have been otherwise wholly ignorant. Of this nature were the imputations founded on his alleged misunderstanding with the Duke of Portland, in 1789, to which I have already made some allusion, and of which we should have known nothing but for his own notice of it. His vindication of himself, in 1795, from the suspicion of being actuated by self-interest, in his connection with the Prince, or of having received from him, (to use his own expressions,) "so much as the present of a horse or a picture," is another instance of the same kind, where he has given substance and perpetuity to rumor, and marked out the track of an obscure calumny, which would otherwise have been forgotten. At the period immediately under our consideration he has equally enabled us to collect, from his gratuitous defence of himself, that the line lately taken by him in Parliament, on the great questions of the Mutiny and Invasion, had given rise to suspicions of his political steadiness, and to rumors of his approaching separation from Mr. Fox.
"I am sorry," he said, on one occasion, "that it is hardly possible for any man to speak in this House, and to obtain credit for speaking from a principle of public spirit; that no man can oppose a Minister without being accused of faction, and none, who usually opposed, can support a Minister, or lend him assistance in anything, without being accused of doing so from interested motives. I am not such a coxcomb as to say, that it is of much importance what part I may take; or that it is essential that I should divide a little popularity, or some emolument, with the ministers of the Crown; nor am I so vain as to imagine, that my services might be solicited. Certainly they have not. That might have arisen from want of importance in myself, or from others, whom I have been in the general habit of opposing, conceiving that I was not likely either to give up my general sentiments, or my personal attachments. However that may be, certain it is, they never have made any attempt to apply to me for my assistance."
In reviewing his parliamentary exertions during this year, it would be injustice to pass over his speech on the Assessed Taxes Bill, in which, among other fine passages, the following vehement burst of eloquence occurs:
"But we have gained, forsooth, several ships by the victory of the First of June,—by the capture of Toulon,—by the acquisition of those charnel-houses in the West Indies, in which 50,000 men have been lost to this country. Consider the price which has been paid for these successes. For these boasted successes, I will say, give me back the blood of Englishmen which has been shed in this fatal Contest.—give me back the 250 millions of debt which it has occasioned.—give me back the honor of the country which has been tarnished,—give me back the credit of the country, which has been destroyed,—give me back the solidity of the Bank of England, which has been overthrown; the attachment of the people to their ancient Constitution, which has been shaken by acts of oppression and tyrannical laws,—give me back the kingdom of Ireland, the connection of which is endangered by a cruel and outrageous system of military coercion,—give me back that pledge of eternal war, which must be attended with inevitable ruin !"
The great success which had attended The Stranger, and the still increasing taste for the German Drama, induced Mr. Sheridan, in the present year, to embark his fame even still more responsibly in a venture to the same romantic shores. The play of Pizarro was brought out on the 24th of May, 1799. The heroic interest of the plot, the splendor of the pageantry, and some skilful appeals to public feeling in the dialogue, obtained for it at once a popularity which has seldom been equalled. As far, indeed, as multiplied representations and editions are a proof of success, the legitimate issue of his Muse might well have been jealous of the fame and fortune of their spurious German relative. When the author of the Critic made Puff say, "Now for my magnificence,—my noise and my procession!" he little anticipated the illustration which, in twenty years afterwards, his own example would afford to that ridicule. Not that in pageantry, when tastefully and subordinately introduced, there is any thing to which criticism can fairly object:—it is the dialogue of this play that is unworthy of its author, and ought never, from either motives of profit or the vanity of success, to have been coupled with his name. The style in which it is written belongs neither to verse nor prose, but is a sort of amphibious native of both,—neither gliding gracefully through the former element, nor walking steadily on the other. In order to give pomp to the language, inversion is substituted for metre; and one of the worst faults of poetry, a superfluity of epithet, is adopted, without that harmony which alone makes it venial or tolerable.
It is some relief however, to discover, from the manuscripts in my possession, that Mr. Sheridan's responsibility for the defects of Pizarro is not very much greater than his claim to a share in its merits. In the plot, and the arrangement of the scenes, it is well known, there is but little alteration from the German original. The omission of the comic scene of Diego, which Kotzebue himself intended to omit,—the judicious suppression of Elvira's love for Alonzo,—the introduction, so striking in representation, of Rolla's passage across the bridge, and the re-appearance of Elvira in the habit of a nun, form, I believe, the only important points in which the play of Mr. Sheridan deviates from the structure of the original drama. With respect to the dialogue, his share in its composition is reducible to a compass not much more considerable. A few speeches, and a few short scenes, re-written, constitute almost the whole of the contribution he has furnished to it. The manuscript- translation, or rather imitation, of the "Spaniards in Pern," which he used as the ground-work of Pizarro, has been preserved among his papers:—and, so convenient was it to his indolence to take the style as he found it, that, except, as I have said, in a few speeches and scenes, which might be easily enumerated, he adopted, with scarcely any alteration, the exact words of the translator, whose taste, therefore, (whoever he may have been,) is answerable for the spirit and style of three-fourths of the dialogue. Even that scene where Cora describes the "white buds" and "crimson blossoms" of her infant's teeth, which I have often heard cited as a specimen of Sheridan's false ornament, is indebted to this unknown paraphrast for the whole of its embroidery.
But though he is found to be innocent of much of the contraband matter, with which his co-partner in this work had already vitiated it, his own contributions to the dialogue are not of a much higher or purer order. He seems to have written down, to the model before him, and to have been inspired by nothing but an emulation of its faults. His style, accordingly, is kept hovering in the same sort of limbo, between blank verse and prose,—while his thoughts and images, however shining and effective on the stage, are like the diamonds of theatrical royalty, and will not bear inspection off it. The scene between Alonzo and Pizarro, in the third act, is one of those almost entirely rewritten by Sheridan; and the following medley group of personifications affords a specimen of the style to which his taste could descend:—
"Then would I point out to him where now, in clustered villages, they live like brethren, social and confiding, while through the burning day Content sits basking on the cheek of Toil, till laughing Pastime leads them to the hour of rest."
The celebrated harangue of Rolla to the Peruvians, into which Kemble used to infuse such heroic dignity, is an amplification of the following sentences of the original, as I find them given in Lewis's manuscript translation of the play:—
"Rolla. You Spaniards fight for gold; we for our country.
"Alonzo. They follow an adventurer to the field; we a monarch whom we love.
"Atalib. And a god whom we adore!"
This speech, to whose popular sentiments the play owed much of its success, was chiefly made up by Sheridan of loans from his own oratory. The image of the Vulture and the Lamb was taken, as I have already remarked, from a passage in his speech on the trial of Hastings;—and he had, on the subject of Invasion, in the preceding year, (1798,) delivered more than once the substance of those patriotic sentiments, which were now so spirit-stirring in the mouth of Rolla. For instance, on the King's Message relative to preparation for Invasion:—
"The Directory may instruct their guards to make the fairest professions of how their army is to act; but of these professions surely not one can be believed. The victorious Buonaparte may say that he comes like a minister of grace, with no other purpose than to give peace to the cottager, to restore citizens to their rights, to establish real freedom, and a liberal and humane government. But can there be an Englishman so stupid, so besotted, so befooled, as to give a moment's credit to such ridiculous professions? ... What, then, is their object? They come for what they really want: they come for ships, for commerce, for credit, and for capital. Yes; they come for the sinews, the bones—for the marrow and the very heart's blood of Great Britain. But let us examine what we are to purchase at this price. Liberty, it appears, is now their staple commodity: but attend, I say, and examine how little of real liberty they themselves enjoy, who are so forward and prodigal in bestowing it on others."
The speech of Rolla in the prison-scene is also an interpolation of his own,—Kotzebue having, far more judiciously, (considering the unfitness of the moment for a tirade,) condensed the reflections of Rolla into the short exclamation, "Oh, sacred Nature! thou art still true to thyself," and then made him hurry into the prison to his friend.
Of the translation of this play by Lewis, which has been found among the papers, Mr. Sheridan does not appear to have made any use;—except in so far as it may have suggested to him the idea of writing a song for Cora, of which that gentleman had set him an example in a ballad, beginning
"Soft are thy slumbers, soft and sweet, Hush thee, hush thee, hush thee, boy."
The song of Mr. Lewis, however, is introduced, with somewhat less violence to probability, at the beginning of the Third Act, where the women are waiting for the tidings of the battle, and when the intrusion of a ballad from the heroine, though sufficiently unnatural, is not quite so monstrous as in the situation which Sheridan has chosen for it.
The following stanza formed a part of the song, as it was originally written:—
'Those eyes that beam'd this morn the light of youth, This morn I saw their gentle rays impart The day-spring sweet of hope, of love, of truth, The pure Aurora of my lover's heart. Yet wilt thou rise, oh Sun, and waste thy light, While my Alonzo's beams are quench'd in night.'
The only question upon which he spoke this year was the important measure of the Union, which he strenuously and at great length opposed. Like every other measure, professing to be for the benefit of Ireland, the Union has been left incomplete in the one essential point, without which there is no hope of peace or prosperity for that country. As long as religious disqualification is left to "lie like lees at the bottom of men's hearts," [Footnote: "It lay like lees at the bottom of men's hearts; and, if the vessel was but stirred, it would come up."—BACON, Henry VII.] in vain doth the voice of Parliament pronounce the word "Union" to the two Islands—a feeling, deep as the sea that breaks between them, answers back, sullenly, "Separation."
Through the remainder of Mr. Sheridan's political career it is my intention, for many reasons, to proceed with a more rapid step; and merely to give the particulars of his public conduct, together with such documents as I can bring to illustrate it, without entering into much discussion or comment on either.
Of his speeches in 1800,—during which year, on account, perhaps, of the absence of Mr. Fox from the House, he was particularly industrious,—I shall select a few brief specimens for the reader. On the question of the Grant to the Emperor of Germany, he said:—
"I do think, Sir, Jacobin principles never existed much in this country; and even admitting they had, I say they have been found so hostile to true liberty, that, in proportion as we love it, (and, whatever may be said, I must still consider liberty an inestimable blessing,) we must hate and detest these principles. But more,—I do not think they even exist in France. They have there died the best of deaths; a death I am more pleased to see than if it had been effected by foreign force,—they have stung themselves to death, and died by their own poison."
The following is a concise and just summary of the causes and effects of the French Revolutionary war:—
"France, in the beginning of the Revolution, had conceived many romantic notions; she was to put an end to war, and produce, by a pure form of government, a perfectibility of mind which before had never been realized. The Monarchs of Europe, seeing the prevalence of these new principles, trembled for their thrones. France, also, perceiving the hostility of Kings to her projects, supposed she could not be a Republic without the overthrow of thrones. Such has been the regular progress of cause and effect; but who was the first aggressor, with whom the jealousy first arose, need not now be a matter of discussion. Both the Republic and the Monarchs who opposed her acted on the same principles;—the latter said they must exterminate Jacobins, and the former that they must destroy monarchs. From this source have all the calamities of Europe flowed; and it is now a waste of time and argument to inquire further into the subject."
Adverting, in his Speech on the Negotiation with France, to the overtures that had been made for a Maritime Truce, he says, with that national feeling, which rendered him at this time so popular,—
"No consideration for our ally, no hope of advantage to be derived from joint negotiation, should have induced the English Government to think for a moment of interrupting the course of our naval triumphs. This measure, Sir, would have broken the heart of the navy, and would have damped all its future exertions. How would our gallant sailors have felt, when, chained to their decks like galley-slaves, they saw the enemy's vessels sailing under their bows in security, and proceeding, without a possibility of being molested, to revictual those places which had been so long blockaded by their astonishing skill, perseverance, and valor? We never stood more in need of their services, and their feelings at no time deserved to be more studiously consulted. The north of Europe presents to England a most awful and threatening aspect. Without giving an opinion as to the origin of these hostile dispositions, or pronouncing decidedly whether they are wholly ill-founded, I hesitate not to say, that if they have been excited because we have insisted upon enforcing the old established Maritime Law of Europe,—because we stood boldly forth in defence of indisputable privileges,—because we have refused to abandon the source of our prosperity, the pledge of our security, and the foundation of our naval greatness,—they ought to be disregarded or set at defiance. If we are threatened to be deprived of that which is the charter of our existence, which has procured us the commerce of the world, and been the means of spreading our glory over every land,—if the rights and honors of our flag are to be called in question, every risk should be run, and every danger braved. Then we should have a legitimate cause of war;—then the heart of every Briton would burn with indignation, and his hand be stretched forth in defence of his country. If our flag is to be insulted, let us nail it to the top-mast of the nation; there let it fly while we shed the last drop of our blood in protecting it, and let it be degraded only when the nation itself is overwhelmed."
He thus ridicules, in the same speech, the etiquette that had been observed in the selection of the ministers who were to confer with M. Otto:—
"This stiff-necked policy shows insincerity. I see Mr. Napean and Mr. Hammond also appointed to confer with M. Otto, because they are of the same rank. Is not this as absurd as if Lord Whitworth were to be sent to Petersburgh, and told that he was not to treat but with some gentleman of six feet high, and as handsome as himself? Sir, I repeat, that this is a stiff-necked policy, when the lives of thousands are at stake."
In the following year Mr. Pitt was succeeded, as Prime Minister, by Mr. Addington. The cause assigned for this unexpected change was the difference of opinion that existed between the King and Mr. Pitt, with respect to the further enfranchisement of the Catholics of Ireland. To this measure the Minister and some of his colleagues considered themselves to have been pledged by the Act of Union; but, on finding that they could not carry it, against the scruples of their Royal Master, resigned.
Though Mr. Pitt so far availed himself of this alleged motive of his abdication as to found on it rather an indecorous appeal to the Catholics, in which he courted popularity for himself at the expense of that of the King, it was suspected that he had other and less disinterested reasons for his conduct. Indeed, while he took merit to himself for thus resigning his supremacy, he well knew that he still commanded it with "a falconer's voice," and, whenever he pleased, "could lure the tassel-gentle back again." The facility with which he afterwards returned to power, without making any stipulation for the measure now held to be essential, proves either that the motive now assigned for his resignation was false, or that, having sacrificed power to principle in 1801, he took revenge by making principle, in its turn, give way to power in 1804.
During the early part of the new Administration, Mr. Sheridan appears to have rested on his arms,—having spoken so rarely and briefly throughout the Session as not to have furnished to the collector of his speeches a single specimen of oratory worth recording. It is not till the discussion of the Definitive Treaty, in May, 1802, that he is represented as having professed himself friendly to the existing Ministry:—"Certainly," he said, "I have in several respects given my testimony in favor of the present Ministry,—in nothing more than for making the best peace, perhaps, they could, after their predecessors had left them in such a deplorable situation." It was on this occasion, however, that, in ridiculing the understanding supposed to exist between the Ex-minister and his successor, he left such marks of his wit on the latter as all his subsequent friendship could not efface. Among other remarks, full of humor, he said,—
"I should like to support the present Minister on fair ground; but what is he? a sort of outside passenger,—or rather a man leading the horses round a corner, while reins, whip, and all, are in the hands of the coachman on the box! (looking at Mr. Pitt's elevated seat, three or four benches above that of the Treasury.) Why not have an union of the two Ministers, or, at least, some intelligible connection? When the Ex-minister quitted office, almost all the subordinate Ministers kept their places. How was it that the whole family did not move together? Had he only one covered waggon to carry friends and goods? or has he left directions behind him that they may know where to call? I remember a fable of Aristophanes's, which is translated from Greek into decent English. I mention this for the country gentlemen. It is of a man that sat so long on a seat, (about as long, perhaps, as the Ex-minister did on the Treasury-bench,) that he grew to it. When Hercules pulled him off, he left all the sitting part of the man behind him. The House can make the allusion." [Footnote: The following is another highly humorous passage from this speech:—"But let France have colonies! Oh, yes! let her have a good trade, that she may be afraid of war, says the Learned Member,—that's the way to make Buonaparte love peace. He has had, to be sure, a sort of military education. He has been abroad, and is rather rough company; but if you put him behind the counter a little, he will mend exceedingly. When I was reading the Treaty, I thought all the names of foreign places, viz. Poindicherry, Chandenenagore, Cochin, Martinico, &c, all cessions. Not they—they are all so many traps and holes to catch this silly fellow in, and make a merchant of him! I really think the best way upon this principle would be this:—let the merchants of London open a public subscription, and set him up at once. I hear a great deal respecting a certain statue about to be erected to the Right Honorable Gentleman, (Mr. Pitt,) now in my eye, at a great expense. Send all that money over to the First Consul, and give him, what you talk of so much, Capital, to begin trade with. I hope the Right Honorable Gentleman over the way will, like the First Consul, refuse a statue for the present, and postpone it as a work to posterity. There is no harm, however, in marking out the place. The Right Honorable Gentleman is musing, perhaps, on what square, or place, he will choose for its erection. I recommend the Bank of England. Now for the material. Not gold: no, no!—he has not left enough of it. I should, however, propose papier mache and old banknotes."]
We have here an instance, in addition to the many which I have remarked, of his adroitness, not only in laying claim to all waifs of wit, "ubi non apparebat dominus," but in stealing the wit himself, wherever he could find it. This happy application of the fable of Hercules and Theseus to the Ministry had been first made by Gilbert Wakefield, in a Letter to Mr. Fox, which the latter read to Sheridan a few days before the Debate; and the only remark that Sheridan made, on hearing it, was, "What an odd pedantic fancy!" But the wit knew well the value of the jewel that the pedant had raked up, and lost no time in turning it to account with all his accustomed skill. The Letter of Wakefield, in which the application of the fable occurs, has been omitted, I know not why, in his published Correspondence with Mr. Fox: but a Letter of Mr. Fox in the same collection, thus alludes to it:—"Your story of Theseus is excellent, as applicable to our present rulers; if you could point out to me where I could find it, I should be much obliged to you. The Scholiast on Aristophanes is too wide a description." Mr. Wakefield in answer, says,—"My Aristophanes, with the Scholia, is not here. If I am right in my recollection, the story probably occurs in the Scholia on the Frogs, and would soon be found by reference to the name of Theseus in Kuster's Index."
Another instance of this propensity in Sheridan, (which made him a sort of Catiline in wit, "covetous of another's wealth, and profuse of his own,") occurred during the preceding Session. As he was walking down to the House with Sir Philip Francis and another friend, on the day when the Address of Thanks on the Peace as moved, Sir Philip Francis pithily remarked, that "it was a Peace which every one would be glad of, but no one would be proud of." Sheridan, who was in a hurry to get to the House, did not appear to attend to the observation;—but, before he had been many minutes in his seat, he rose, and, in the course of a short speech, (evidently made for the purpose of passing his stolen coin as soon as possible,) said, "This, Sir, is a peace which every one will be glad of, but no one can be proud of." [Footnote: A similar theft was his observation, that "half the Debt of England had been incurred in pulling down the Bourbons, and the other half in setting them up"—which pointed remark he had heard, in conversation, from Sir Arthur Pigott.]
The following letter from Dr. Parr to Sheridan, this year, records an instance of delicate kindness which renders it well worthy of preservation:—
"I believe that you and my old pupil Tom feel a lively interest in my happiness, and, therefore, I am eager to inform you that, without any solicitation, and in the most handsome manner, Sir Francis Burdett has offered me the rectory of Graffham in Huntingdonshire; that the yearly value of it now amounts to 200l., and is capable of considerable improvement; that the preferment is tenable with my Northamptonshire rectory; that the situation is pleasant; and that, by making it my place of residence, I shall be nearer to my respectable scholar and friend, Edward Maltby, to the University of Cambridge, and to those Norfolk connections which I value most highly.
"I am not much skilled in ecclesiastical negotiations; and all my efforts to avail myself of the very obliging kindness conditionally intended for me by the Duke of Norfolk completely failed. But the noble friendship of Sir Francis Burdett has set everything right. I cannot refuse myself the great satisfaction of laying before you the concluding passage in Sir Francis's letter:—
"'I acknowledge that a great additional motive with me to the offer I now make Dr. Parr, is, that I believe I cannot do any thing more pleading to his friends, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Knight; and I desire you, Sir, to consider yourself as obliged to them only.'
"You will readily conceive, that I was highly gratified with this striking and important passage, and that I wish for an early opportunity of communicating with yourself, and Mr. Fox, and Mr. Knight.
"I beg my best compliments to Mrs. Sheridan and Tom; and I have the honor to be, Dear Sir, your very faithful well-wisher, and respectful, obedient servant,
"September 27, Buckden.
"Sir Francis sent his own servant to my house at Hilton with the letter; and my wife, on reading it, desired the servant to bring it to me at Buckden, near Huntingdon, where I yesterday received it."
It was about this time that the Primary Electors of the National Institute of France having proposed Haydn, the great composer, and Mr. Sheridan, as candidates for the class of Literature and the Fine Arts, the Institute, with a choice not altogether indefensible, elected Haydn. Some French epigrams on this occurrence, which appeared in the Courier, seem to have suggested to Sheridan the idea of writing a few English jeux-d'esprit on the same subject, which were intended for the newspapers, but I rather think never appeared. These verses show that he was not a little piqued by the decision of the Institute; and the manner in which he avails himself of his anonymous character to speak of his own claims to the distinction, is, it must be owned, less remarkable for modesty than for truth. But Vanity, thus in masquerade, may be allowed some little license. The following is a specimen:—
"The wise decision all admire; 'Twas just, beyond dispute— Sound taste! which, to Apollo's lyre Preferred—a German flute!"
Mr. Kemble, who had been for some time Manager of Drury-Lane Theatre, was, in the course of the year 1800-1, tempted, notwithstanding the knowledge which his situation must have given him of the embarrassed state of the concern, to enter into negotiation with Sheridan for the purchase of a share in the property. How much anxiety the latter felt to secure such an associate in the establishment appears strongly from the following paper, drawn up by him, to accompany the documents submitted to Kemble during the negotiation, and containing some particulars of the property of Drury-Lane, which will be found not uninteresting:—
"Outline of the Terms on which it is proposed that Mr. Kemble shall purchase a Quarter in the Property of Drury-Lane Theatre.
"I really think there cannot be a negotiation, in matter of purchase and sale, so evidently for the advantage of both parties, if brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
"I am decided that the management of the theatre cannot be respected, or successful, but in the hands of an actual proprietor; and still the better, if he is himself in the profession, and at the head of it. I am desirous, therefore, that Mr. Kemble should be a proprietor and manager.
"Mr. Kemble is the person, of all others, who must naturally be desirous of both situations. He is at the head of his profession, without a rival; he is attached to it, and desirous of elevating its character. He may be assured of proper respect, &c., while I have the theatre; but I do not think he could brook his situation were the property to pass into vulgar and illiberal hands,—an event which he knows contingencies might produce. Laying aside then all affectation of indifference, so common in making bargains, let us set out with acknowledging that it is mutually our interest to agree, if we can. At the same time, let it be avowed, that I must be considered as trying to get as good a price as I can, and Mr. Kemble to buy as cheap as he can. In parting with theatrical property, there is no standard, or measure, to direct the price: the whole question is, what are the probable profits, and what is such a proportion of them worth?
"I bought of Mr. Garrick at the rate of 70,000l. for the whole theatre. I bought of Mr. Lacey at the rate of 94,000l. ditto. I bought of Dr. Ford at the rate of 86,OOOl. ditto. In all these cases there was a perishable patent, and an expiring lease, each having to run, at the different periods of the purchases, from ten to twenty years only.
"All these purchases have undoubtedly answered well; but in the chance of a Third Theatre consisted the risk; and the want of size and accommodation must have produced it, had the theatres continued as they were. But the great and important feature in the present property, and which is never for a moment to be lost sight of, is, that the Monopoly is, morally speaking, established for ever, at least as well as the Monarchy, Constitution, Public Funds, &c.,—as appears by No. 1. being the copy of' The Final Arrangement' signed by the Lord Chamberlain, by authority of His Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Bedford, &c.; and the dormant patent of Covent-Garden, that former terror of Drury-Lane, is perpetually annexed to the latter. So that the value of Drury-Lane at present, and in the former sales, is out of all comparison,—independently of the new building, superior size, raised prices, &c., &c. But the incumbrances on the theatre, whose annual charge must be paid before there can be any surplus profit, are much greater than in Mr. Garrick's time, or on the old theatre afterwards. Undoubtedly they are, and very considerably greater; but what is the proportion of the receipts? Mr. Garrick realized and left a fortune, of 140,OOOl. (having lived, certainly, at no mean expense,) acquired in —— years, on an average annual receipt of 25,000l. (qu. this?) Our receipts cannot be stated at less than 60,000l. per ann.; and it is demonstrable that preventing the most palpable frauds and abuses, with even a tolerable system of exertion in the management, must bring it, at the least, to 75,000l.; and this estimate does not include the advantages to be derived from the new tavern, passages, Chinese hall, &c.,—an aid to the receipt, respecting the amount of which I am very sanguine. What then, is the probable profit, and what is a quarter of it worth? No. 3. is the amount of three seasons' receipts, the only ones on which an attempt at an average could be justifiable. No. 4. is the future estimate, on a system of exertion and good management. No. 5. the actual annual incumbrauces. No. 6. the nightly expenses. No. 7. the estimated profits. Calculating on which, I demand for a quarter of the property, * * * *, reserving to myself the existing private boxes, but no more to be created, and the fruit-offices and houses not part of the theatre.
"I assume that Mr. Kemble and I agree as to the price, annexing the following conditions to our agreement:—Mr. Kemble shall have his engagement as an actor for any rational time he pleases. Mr. Kemble shall be manager, with a clear salary of 500 guineas per annum, and * * per cent. on the clear profits. Mr. Sheridan engages to procure from Messrs. Hammersleys a loan to Mr. Kemble of ten thousand pounds, part of the purchase-money for four years, for which loan he is content to become collateral security, and also to leave his other securities, now in their hands, in mortgage for the same. And for the payment of the rest of the money, Mr. Sheridan is ready to give Mr. Kemble every facility his circumstances will admit of. It is not to be overlooked, that if a private box is also made over to Mr. Kemble, for the whole term of the theatre lease, its value cannot be stated at less than 3,500l. Indeed, it might at any time produce to Mr. Kemble, or his assigns, 300l per annum. Vide No. 8. This is a material deduction from the purchase-money to be paid.
"Supposing all this arrangement made, I conceive Mr. Kemble's income would stand thus:
L s. d. Salary as an actor, 1050 0 0 In lieu of benefit, 315 0 0 As manager, 525 0 0 Percentage on clear profit, 300 0 0 Dividend on quarter-share, [Footnote: "I put this on the very lowest speculation"] 2500 0 0 ___
L4690 0 0 ___
I need not say how soon this would clear the whole of the purchase. With regard to the title, &c. Mr. Crews and Mr. Pigott are to decide. As to debts, the share must be made over to Mr. Kemble free from a claim even; and for this purpose all demands shall be called in, by public advertisement, to be sent to Mr. Kemble's own solicitor. In short, Mr. Crews shall be satisfied that there does not exist an unsatisfied demand on the theatre, or a possibility of Mr. Kemble being involved in the risk of a shilling. Mr. Hammersley, or such person as Mr. Kemble and Mr. Sheridan shall agree on, to be Treasurer, and receive and account for the whole receipts, pay the charges, trusts, &c.; and, at the close of the season, the surplus profits to the proprietors. A clause in case of death, or sale, to give the refusal to each other."
The following letter from Sheridan to Kemble in answer, as it appears, to some complaint or remonstrance from the latter, in his capacity of Manager, is too curiously characteristic of the writer to be omitted:—
"If I had not a real good opinion of your principles and intentions upon all subjects, and a very bad opinion of your nerves and philosophy upon some, I should take very ill indeed, the letter I received from you this evening.
"That the management of the theatre is a situation capable of becoming troublesome is information which I do not want, and a discovery which I thought you had made long since.
"I should be sorry to write to you gravely on your offer, because I must consider it as a nervous flight, which it would be as unfriendly in me to notice seriously as it would be in you seriously to have made it.
"What I am most serious in is a determination that, while the theatre is indebted, and others, for it and for me, are so involved and pressed as they are, I will exert myself, and give every attention and judgment in my power to the establishment of its interests. In you I hoped, and do hope, to find an assistant, on principles of liberal and friendly confidence,—I mean confidence that should be above touchiness and reserve, and that should trust to me to estimate the value of that assistance.
"If there is any thing amiss in your mind, not arising from the troublesomeness of your situation, it is childish and unmanly not to disclose it to me. The frankness with which I have always dealt towards you entitles me to expect that you should have done so.
"But I have no reason to believe this to be the case; and, attributing your letter to a disorder which I know ought not to be indulged, I prescribe that you shall keep your appointment at the Piazza Coffee-house, to-morrow at five, and, taking four bottles of claret instead of three, to which in sound health you might stint yourself, forget that you ever wrote the letter, as I shall that I ever received it.
"R. B. SHERIDAN."
STATE OF PARTIES.—OFFER OF A PLACE TO MR. T. SHERIDAN.—RECEIVERSHIP OF THE DUCHY OF CORNWALL BESTOWED UPON MR. SHERIDAN.—RETURN OF MR. PITT TO POWER.—CATHOLIC QUESTION.—ADMINISTRATION OF LORD GRENVILLE AND MR. FOX.—DEATH OF MR. FOX.—REPRESENTATION OF WESTMINSTER.—DISMISSION OF THE MINISTRY.—THEATRICAL NEGOTIATION.—SPANISH QUESTION.—LETTER TO THE PRINCE.
During the short interval of peace into which the country was now lulled,—like a ship becalmed for a moment in the valley between two vast waves,—such a change took place in the relative positions and bearings of the parties that had been so long arrayed against each other, and such new boundaries and divisions of opinion were formed, as considerably altered the map of the political world. While Mr. Pitt lent his sanction to the new Administration, they, who had made common cause with him in resigning, violently opposed it; and, while the Ministers were thus thwarted by those who had hitherto always agreed with them, they were supported by those Whigs with whom they had before most vehemently differed. Among this latter class of their friends was, as I have already remarked, Mr. Sheridan,—who, convinced that the only chance of excluding Mr. Pitt from power lay in strengthening the hands of those who were in possession, not only gave them the aid of his own name and eloquence, but endeavored to impress the same views upon Mr. Fox, and exerted his influence also to procure the sanction of Carlton-House in their favor.
It cannot, indeed, he doubted that Sheridan, at this time, though still the friend of Mr. Fox, had ceased, in a great degree, to be his follower. Their views with respect to the renewal of the war were wholly different. While Sheridan joined in the popular feeling against France, and showed his knowledge of that great instrument, the Public Mind, by approaching it only with such themes as suited the martial mood to which it was tuned, the too confiding spirit of Fox breathed nothing but forbearance and peace;—and he who, in 1786, had proclaimed the "natural enmity" of England and France, as an argument against their commercial intercourse, now asked, with the softened tone which time and retirement had taught him, "whether France was for ever to be considered our rival?" [Footnote: Speech on the Address of Thanks in 1803.]
The following characteristic note, written by him previously to the debate on the Army Estimates, (December 8, 1802,) shows a consciousness that the hold which he had once had upon his friend was loosened:—
"I mean to be in town for Monday,—that is, for the Army. As for to-morrow, it is no matter;—I am for a largish fleet, though perhaps not quite so large as they mean. Pray, do not be absent Monday, and let me have a quarter of an hour's conversation before the business begins. Remember, I do not wish you to be inconsistent, at any rate. Pitt's opinion by Proxy is ridiculous beyond conception, and I hope you will show it in that light. I am very much against your abusing Bonaparte, because I am sure it is impolitic both for the country and ourselves. But, as you please;—only, for God's sake, Peace. [Footnote: These last words are an interesting illustration of the line in Mr. Rogers's Verses on this statesman:—"'Peace,' when he spoke, was ever on his tongue"]
"C. J. Fox."
It was about this period that the writer of these pages had, for the first time, the gratification of meeting Mr. Sheridan, at Donington-Park, the seat of the present Marquis of Hastings;—a circumstance which he recalls, not only with those lively impressions, that our first admiration of genius leaves behind, but with many other dreams of youth and hope, that still endear to him the mansion where that meeting took place, and among which gratitude to its noble owner is the only one, perhaps, that has not faded. Mr. Sheridan, I remember, was just then furnishing a new house, and talked of a plan he had of levying contributions on his friends for a library. A set of books from each would, he calculated, amply accomplish it, and already the intimation of his design had begun to "breathe a soul into the silent walls." [Footnote: Rogers.] The splendid and well-chosen library of Donington was, of course, not slow in furnishing its contingent; and little was it foreseen into what badges of penury these gifts of friendship would be converted at last.
As some acknowledgment of the services which Sheridan had rendered to the Ministry, (though professedly as a tribute to his public character in general,) Lord St. Vincent, about this time, made an offer to his son, Mr. Thomas Sheridan, of the place of Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Malta,—an office which, during a period of war, is supposed to be of considerable emolument. The first impulse of Sheridan, when consulted on the proposal, was, as I have heard, not unfavorable to his son's acceptance of it. But, on considering the new position which he had, himself, lately taken in politics, and the inference that might be drawn against the independence of his motives, if he submitted to an obligation which was but too liable to be interpreted, as less a return for past services than a lien upon him for future ones, he thought it safest for his character to sacrifice the advantage, and, desirable as was the provision for his son, obliged him to decline it.
The following passages of a letter to him from Mrs. Sheridan on this subject do the highest honor to her generosity, spirit, and good sense. They also confirm what has generally been understood, that the King, about this time, sent a most gracious message to Sheridan, expressive of the approbation with which he regarded his public conduct, and of the pleasure he should feel in conferring upon him some mark of his Royal favor:—
"I am more anxious than I can express about Tom's welfare. It is, indeed, unfortunate that you have been obliged to refuse these things for him, but surely there could not be two opinions; yet why will you neglect to observe those attentions that honor does not compel you to refuse? Don't you know that when once the King takes offence, he was never known to forgive? I suppose it would be impossible to have your motives explained to him, because it would touch his weak side, yet any thing is better than his attributing your refusal to contempt and indifference. Would to God I could bear these necessary losses instead of Tom, particularly as I so entirely approve of your conduct."
"I trust you will be able to do something positive for Tom about money. I am willing to make any sacrifice in the world for that purpose, and to live in any way whatever. Whatever he has now ought to be certain, or how will he know how to regulate his expenses?"
The fate, indeed, of young Sheridan was peculiarly tantalizing. Born and brought up in the midst of those bright hopes, which so long encircled his father's path, he saw them all die away as he became old enough to profit by them, leaving difficulty and disappointment, his only inheritance, behind. Unprovided with any profession by which he could secure his own independence, and shut out, as in this instance, from those means of advancement, which, it was feared, might compromise the independence of his father, he was made the victim even of the distinction of his situation, and paid dearly for the glory of being the son of Sheridan. In the expression of his face, he resembled much his beautiful mother, and derived from her also the fatal complaint of which he died. His popularity in society was unexampled,—but he knew how to attach as well as amuse; and, though living chiefly with that class of persons, who pass over the surface of life, like Camilla over the corn, without leaving any impression of themselves behind, he had manly and intelligent qualities, that deserved a far better destiny. There are, indeed, few individuals, whose lives have been so gay and thoughtless, whom so many remember with cordiality and interest: and, among the numerous instances of discriminating good nature, by which the private conduct of His Royal Highness the Duke of York is distinguished, there are, none that do him more honor than his prompt and efficient kindness to the interesting family that the son of Sheridan has left behind him.
Soon after the Declaration of War against France, when an immediate invasion was threatened by the enemy, the Heir Apparent, with the true spirit of an English Prince, came forward to make an offer of his personal service to the country. A correspondence upon the subject, it is well known, ensued, in the course of which His Royal Highness addressed letters to Mr. Addington, to the Duke of York, and the King. It has been sometimes stated that these letters were from the pen of Mr. Sheridan; but the first of the series was written by Sir Robert Wilson, and the remainder by Lord Hutchinson.
The death of Joseph Richardson, which took place this year, was felt as strongly by Sheridan as any thing can be felt, by those who, in the whirl of worldly pursuits, revolve too rapidly round Self, to let any thing rest long upon their surface. With a fidelity to his old habits of unpunctuality, at which the shade of Richardson might have smiled, he arrived too late at Bagshot for the funeral of his friend, but succeeded in persuading the good-natured clergyman to perform the ceremony over again. Mr. John Taylor, a gentleman, whose love of good-fellowship and wit has made him the welcome associate of some of the brightest men of his day, was one of the assistants at this singular scene, and also joined in the party at the inn at Bedfont afterwards, where Sheridan, it is said, drained the "Cup of Memory" to his friend, till he found oblivion at the bottom.
At the close of the session of 1803, that strange diversity of opinions, into which the two leading parties were decomposed by the resignation of Mr. Pitt, had given way to new varieties, both of cohesion and separation, quite as little to be expected from the natural affinities of the ingredients concerned in them. Mr. Pitt, upon perceiving, in those to whom he had delegated his power, an inclination to surround themselves with such strength from the adverse ranks as would enable them to contest his resumption of the trust, had gradually withdrawn the sanction which he at first afforded them, and taken his station by the side of the other two parties in opposition, without, however, encumbering himself, in his views upon office, with either. By a similar movement, though upon different principles, Mr. Fox and the Whigs, who had begun by supporting the Ministry against the strong War-party of which Lord Grenville and Mr. Windham were the leaders, now entered into close co-operation with this new Opposition, and seemed inclined to forget, both recent and ancient differences in a combined assault upon the tottering Administration of Mr. Addington.
The only parties, perhaps, that acted with consistency through these transactions, were Mr. Sheridan and the few who followed him on one side, and Lord Grenville and his friends on the other. The support which the former had given to the Ministry,—from a conviction that such was the true policy of his party,—he persevered in, notwithstanding the suspicion it drew down upon him, to the last; and, to the last, deprecated the connection with the Grenvilles, as entangling his friends in the same sort of hollow partnership, out of which they had come bankrupts in character and confidence before. [Footnote: In a letter written this year by Mr. Thomas Sheridan to his father, there is the following passage—"I am glad you intended wrong to Lord ——, he is quite right about politics—reprobates the idea most strongly of any union with the Granvilles, &c which, he says he sees as Fox's leaning. 'I agreed with your father perfectly on the subject, when I left him in town, but when I saw Charles at St. Ann's Hill, I perceived he was wrong and obstinate.'"] In like manner, it must be owned the Opposition, of which Lord Grenville was the head, held a course direct and undeviating from beginning to end. Unfettered by those reservations in favor of Addington, which so long embarrassed the movements of their former leader, they at once started in opposition to the Peace and the Ministry, and, with not only Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, but the whole people of England against them, persevered till they had ranged all these several parties on their side:—nor was it altogether without reason that this party afterwards boasted that, if any abandonment of principle had occurred in the connection between them and the Whigs, the surrender was assuredly not from their side.
Early in the year 1804, on the death of Lord Elliot, the office of Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall, which had been held by that nobleman, was bestowed by the Prince of Wales upon Mr. Sheridan, "as a trifling proof of that sincere friendship His Royal Highness had always professed and felt for him through a long series of years." His Royal Highness also added, in the same communication, the very cordial words, "I wish to God it was better worth your acceptance."
The following letter from Sheridan to Mr. Addington, communicating the intelligence of this appointment, shows pretty plainly the terms on which he not only now stood, but was well inclined to continue, with that Minister:—
"George-Street, Tuesday evening.
"Convinced as I am of the sincerity of your good will towards me, I do not regard it as an impertinent intrusion to inform you that the Prince has, in the most gracious manner, and wholly unsolicited, been pleased to appoint me to the late Lord Elliot's situation in the Duchy of Cornwall. I feel a desire to communicate this to you myself, because I feel a confidence that you will be glad of it. It has been my pride and pleasure to have exerted my humble efforts to serve the Prince without ever accepting the slightest obligation from him; but, in the present case, and under the present circumstances, I think it would have been really false pride and apparently mischievous affectation to have declined this mark of His Royal Highness's confidence and favor. I will not disguise that, at this peculiar crisis, I am greatly gratified at this event. Had it been the result of a mean and subservient devotion to the Prince's every wish and object, I could neither have respected the gift, the giver, nor myself; but when I consider how recently it was my misfortune to find myself compelled by a sense of duty, stronger than my attachment to him, wholly to risk the situation I held in his confidence and favor, and that upon a subject [Footnote: The offer made by the Prince of his personal services in 1803,—on which occasion Sheridan coincided with the views of Mr. Addington somewhat more than was agreeable to His Royal Highness.] on which his feelings were so eager and irritable, I cannot but regard the increased attention, with which he has since honored me, as a most gratifying demonstration that he has clearness of judgment and firmness of spirit to distinguish the real friends to his true glory and interests from the mean and mercenary sycophants, who fear and abhor that such friends should be near him. It is satisfactory to me, also, that this appointment gives me the title and opportunity of seeing the Prince, on trying occasions, openly and in the face of day, and puts aside the mask of mystery and concealment. I trust I need not add, that whatever small portion of fair influence I may at any time possess with the Prince, it shall be uniformly exerted to promote those feelings of duty and affection towards their Majesties, which, though seemingly interrupted by adverse circumstances, I am sure are in his heart warm and unalterable—and, as far as I may presume, that general concord throughout his illustrious family, which must be looked to by every honest subject, as an essential part of the public strength at this momentous period. I have the honor to be, with great respect and esteem,
"Your obedient Servant,
"Right Hon. Henry Addington.
"R. B. SHERIDAN."
The same views that influenced Mr. Sheridan, Lord Moira, and others, in supporting an administration which, with all its defects, they considered preferable to a relapse into the hands of Mr. Pitt, had led Mr. Tierney, at the close of the last Session, to confer upon it a still more efficient sanction, by enrolling himself in its ranks as Treasurer of the Navy. In the early part of the present year, another ornament of the Whig party, Mr. Erskine, was on the point of following in the same footsteps, by accepting, from Mr. Addington, the office of Attorney-General. He had, indeed, proceeded so far in his intention as to submit the overtures of the Minister to the consideration of the Prince, in a letter which was transmitted to his Royal Highness by Sheridan. The answer of the Prince, conveyed also through Sheridan, while it expressed the most friendly feelings towards Erskine, declined, at the same time, giving any opinion as to either his acceptance or refusal of the office of Attorney-General, if offered to him under the present circumstances. His Royal Highness also added the expression of his sincere regret, that a proposal of this nature should have been submitted to his consideration by one, of whose attachment and fidelity to himself he was well convinced, but who ought to have felt, from the line of conduct adopted and persevered in by his Royal Highness, that he was the very last person that should have been applied to for either his opinion or countenance respecting the political conduct or connection of any public character,—especially of one so intimately connected with him, and belonging to his family.
If, at any time, Sheridan had entertained the idea of associating himself, by office, with the Ministry of Mr. Addington, (and proposals to this effect were, it is certain, made to him,) his knowledge of the existence of such feelings as prompted this answer to Mr. Erskine would, of course, have been sufficient to divert him from the intention.
The following document, which I have found, in his own handwriting, and which was intended, apparently, for publication in the newspapers, contains some particulars with respect to the proceedings of his party at this time, which, coming from such a source, may be considered as authentic:—
"STATE OF PARTIES.
"Among the various rumors of Coalitions, or attempted Coalitions, we have already expressed our disbelief in that reported to have taken place between the Grenville-Windhamites and Mr. Fox. At least, if it was ever in negotiation, we have reason to think it received an early check, arising from a strong party of the Old Opposition protesting against it. The account of this transaction, as whispered in the political circles, is as follows:—
"In consequence of some of the most respectable members of the Old Opposition being sounded on the subject, a meeting was held at Norfolk-House; when it was determined, with very few dissentient voices, to present a friendly remonstrance on the subject to Mr. Fox, stating the manifold reasons which obviously presented themselves against such a procedure, both as affecting Character and Party. it was urged that the present Ministers had, on the score of innovation on the Constitution, given the Whigs no pretence for complaint whatever; and, as to their alleged incapacity, it remained to be proved that they were capable of committing errors and producing miscarriages, equal to those which had marked the councils of their predecessors, whom the measure in question was expressly calculated to replace in power. At such a momentous crisis, therefore, waving all considerations of past political provocation, to attempt, by the strength and combination of party, to expel the Ministers of His Majesty's choice, and to force into his closet those whom the Whigs ought to be the first to rejoice that he had excluded from it, was stated to be a proceeding which would assuredly revolt the public feeling, degrade the character of Parliament, and produce possibly incalculable mischief to the country.
"We understand that Mr. Fox's reply was, that he would never take any political step against the wishes and advice of the majority of his old friends.
"The paper is said to have been drawn up by Mr. Erskine, and to have been presented to Mr. Fox by his Grace of Norfolk, on the day His Majesty was pronounced to be recovered from his first illness. Rumor places among the supporters of this measure the written authority of the Duke of Northumberland and the Earl of Moira, with the signatures of Messrs. Erskine, Sheridan, Shum, Curwen, Western, Brogden, and a long et caetera. It is said also that the Prince's sanction had been previously given to the Duke,—His Royal Highness deprecating all party struggle, at a moment when the defence of all that is dear to Britons ought to be the single sentiment that should fill the public mind.
"We do not vouch for the above being strictly accurate; but we are confident that it is not far from the truth."
The illness of the King, referred to in this paper, had been first publicly announced in the month of February, and was for some time considered of so serious a nature, that arrangements were actually in progress for the establishment of a Regency. Mr. Sheridan, who now formed a sort of connecting link between Carlton-House and the Minister, took, of course, a leading part in the negotiations preparatory to such a measure. It appears, from a letter of Mr. Fox on the subject, that the Prince and another person, whom it is unnecessary to name, were at one moment not a little alarmed by a rumor of an intention to associate the Duke of York and the Queen in the Regency. Mr. Fox, however, begs of Sheridan to tranquillize their minds on this point:—the intentions, (he adds,) of "the Doctor," [Footnote: To the infliction of this nickname on his friend, Mr. Addington, Sheridan was, in no small degree, accessory, by applying to those who disapproved of his administration, and yet gave no reasons for their disapprobation, the well-known lines,—
"I do not love thee, Doctor Fell, And why I cannot tell; But this I know full well, I do not love thee, Doctor Fell."] though bad enough in all reason, do not go to such lengths; and a proposal of this nature, from any other quarter, could be easily defeated.
Within about two months from the date of the Remonstrance, which, according to a statement already given, was presented to Mr. Fox by his brother Whigs, one of the consequences which it prognosticated from the connection of their party with the Grenvilles took place, in the resignation of Mr. Addington and the return of Mr. Pitt to power.
The confidence of Mr. Pitt, in thus taking upon himself, almost single-handed, the government of the country at such an awful crisis, was, he soon perceived, not shared by the public. A general expectation had prevailed that the three great Parties, which had lately been encamped together on the field of opposition, would have each sent its Chiefs into the public councils, and thus formed such a Congress of power and talent as the difficulties of the empire, in that trying moment, demanded. This hope had been frustrated by the repugnance of the King to Mr. Fox, and the too ready facility with which Mr. Pitt had given way to it. Not only, indeed, in his undignified eagerness for office, did he sacrifice without stipulation the important question, which, but two years before, had been made the sine-qua non of his services, but, in yielding so readily to the Royal prejudices against his rival, he gave a sanction to that unconstitutional principle of exclusion, [Footnote: "This principle of personal exclusion, (said Lord Grenville,) is one of which I never can approve, because, independently of its operation to prevent Parliament and the people from enjoying the Administration they desired, and which it was their particular interest to have, it tends to establish a dangerous precedent, that would afford too much opportunity of private pique against the public interest. I, for one, therefore, refused to connect myself with any one argument that should sanction that principle; and, in my opinion, every man who accepted office under that Administration is, according to the letter and spirit of the constitution, responsible for its character and construction, and the principle upon which it is founded."—Speech of Lord Grenville on the motion of Lord Darnley for the repeal of the Additional Force Bill, Feb. 15, 1805.] which, if thus acted upon by the party-feelings of the Monarch, would soon narrow the Throne into the mere nucleus of a favored faction. In allowing, too, his friends and partisans to throw the whole blame of this exclusive Ministry on the King, he but repeated the indecorum of which he had been guilty in 1802. For, having at that time made use of the religious prejudices of the Monarch, as a pretext for his manner of quitting office, he now employed the political prejudices of the same personage, as an equally convenient excuse for his manner of returning to it.
A few extracts from the speech of Mr. Sheridan upon the Additional Force Bill,—the only occasion on which he seems to have spoken during the present year,—will show that the rarity of his displays was not owing to any failure of power, but rather, perhaps, to the increasing involvement of his circumstances, which left no time for the thought and preparation that all his public efforts required.
Mr. Pitt had, at the commencement of this year, condescended to call to his aid the co-operation of Mr. Addington, Lord Buckinghamshire, and other members of that Administration, which had withered away, but a few months before, under the blight of his sarcasm and scorn. In alluding to this Coalition, Sheridan says—
"The Right Honorable Gentleman went into office alone;—but, lest the government should become too full of vigor from his support, he thought proper to beckon back some of the weakness of the former administration. He, I suppose, thought that the Ministry became, from his support, like spirits above proof, and required to be diluted; that, like gold refined to a certain degree, it would be unfit for use without a certain mixture of alloy; that the administration would be too brilliant, and dazzle the House, unless he called back a certain part of the mist and fog of the last administration to render it tolerable to the eye. As to the great change made in the Ministry by the introduction of the Right Honorable Gentleman himself, I would ask, does he imagine that he came back to office with the same estimation that he left it? I am sure he is much mistaken if he fancies that he did. The Right Honorable Gentleman retired from office because, as was stated, he could not carry an important question, which he deemed necessary to satisfy the just claims of the Catholics; and in going out he did not hesitate to tear off the sacred veil of Majesty, describing his Sovereign as the only person that stood in the way of this desirable object. After the Right Honorable Gentleman's retirement, he advised the Catholics to look to no one but him for the attainment of their rights, and cautiously to abstain from forming a connection with any other person. But how does it appear, now that the Right Honorable Gentleman is returned to office? He declines to perform his promise; and has received, as his colleagues in office, those who are pledged to resist the measure. Does not the Right Honorable Gentleman then feel that he comes back to office with a character degraded by the violation of a solemn pledge, given to a great and respectable body of the people, upon a particular and momentous occasion? Does the Right Honorable Gentleman imagine either that he returns to office with the same character for political wisdom, after the description which he gave of the talents and capacity of his predecessors, and after having shown, by his own actions, that his description was totally unfounded?"
In alluding to Lord Melville's appointment to the Admiralty; he says,—
"But then, I am told, there is the First Lord of the Admiralty,—'Do you forget the leader of the grand Catamaran project? Are you not aware of the important change in that department, and the advantage the country is likely to derive from that change?' Why, I answer, that I do not know of any peculiar qualifications the Noble Lord has to preside over the Admiralty; but I do know, that if I were to judge of him from the kind of capacity he evinced while Minister of War, I should entertain little hopes of him. If, however, the Right Honorable Gentleman should say to me, 'Where else would you put that Noble Lord, would you have him appointed War-Minister again?' I should say, Oh no, by no means,—I remember too well the expeditions to Toulon, to Quiberon, to Corsica, and to Holland, the responsibility for each of which the Noble Lord took on himself, entirely releasing from any responsibility the Commander in Chief and the Secretary at War. I also remember that, which, although so glorious to our arms in the result, I still shall call a most unwarrantable project.—the expedition to Egypt. It may be said, that as the Noble Lord was so unfit for the military department, the naval was the proper place for him. Perhaps there wore people who would adopt this whimsical reasoning. I remember a story told respecting Mr. Garrick, who was once applied to by an eccentric Scotchman, to introduce a production of his on the stage. This Scotchman was such a good-humored fellow, that he was called 'Honest Johnny M'Cree.' Johnny wrote four acts of a tragedy, which he showed to Mr. Garrick, who dissuaded him from finishing it; telling him that his talent did not lie that way; so Johnny abandoned the tragedy, and set about writing a comedy. When this was finished, he showed it to Mr. Garrick, who found it to be still more exceptionable than the tragedy, and of course could not be persuaded to bring it forward on the stage. This surprised poor Johnny, and he remonstrated. 'Nay, now, David, (said Johnny,) did you not tell me my talents did not lie in tragedy?'—'Yes, (replied Garrick,) but I did not tell you that they lay in comedy.'—'Then, (exclaimed Johnny,) gin they dinna lie there, where the de'il dittha lie, mon?' Unless the Noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty has the same reasoning in his mind as Johnny M'Cree, he cannot possibly suppose that his incapacity for the direction of the War-department necessarily qualifies him for the Presidency of the Naval. Perhaps, if the Noble Lord be told that he has no talents for the latter, His Lordship may exclaim with honest Johnny M'Cree, 'Gin they dinna lie there, where the de'il dittha lie, mon?'"
On the 10th of May, the claims of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, were, for the first time, brought under the notice of the Imperial Parliament, by Lord Grenville in the House of Lords, and by Mr. Fox in the House of Commons. A few days before the debate, as appears, by the following remarkable letter, Mr. Sheridan was made the medium of a communication from Carlton House, the object of which was to prevent Mr. Fox from presenting the Petition.
"I did not receive your letter till last night.
"I did, on Thursday, consent to be the presenter of the Catholic Petition, at the request of the Delegates, and had further conversation on the subject with them at Lord Grenville's yesterday morning. Lord Grenville also consented to present the Petition to the House of Lords. Now, therefore, any discussion on this part of the subject would be too late; but I will fairly own, that, if it were not, I could not be dissuaded from doing the public act, which, of all others, it will give me the greatest satisfaction and pride to perform. No past event in my political life ever did, and no future one ever can, give me such pleasure.
"I am sure you know how painful it would be to me to disobey any command of His Royal Highness's, or even to act in any manner that might be in the slightest degree contrary to his wishes, and therefore I am not sorry that your intimation came too late. I shall endeavor to see the Prince today; but, if I should fail, pray take care that he knows how things stand before we meet at dinner, lest any conversation there should appear to come upon him by surprise.
"Arlington Street, Sunday,
"C. J. F."
It would be rash, without some further insight into the circumstances of this singular interference, to enter into any speculations with respect to its nature or motives, or to pronounce how far Mr. Sheridan was justified in being the instrument of it. But on the share of Mr. Fox in the transaction, such suspension of opinion is unnecessary. We have here his simple and honest words before us,—and they breathe a spirit of sincerity from which even Princes might take a lesson with advantage.
Mr. Pitt was not long in discovering that place does not always imply Power, and that in separating himself from the other able men of the day, he had but created an Opposition as much too strong for the Government, as the Government itself was too weak for the country. The humiliating resource to which he was driven, in trying, as a tonic, the reluctant alliance of Lord Sidmouth,—the abortiveness of his efforts to avert the full of his old friend, Lord Melville, and the fatality of ill luck that still attended his exertions against France,—all concurred to render this reign of the once powerful Minister a series of humiliations, shifts, and disasters, unlike his former proud period in every thing but ill success. The powerful Coalition opposed to him already had a prospect of carrying by storm the post which he occupied, when, by his death, it was surrendered, without parley, into their hands.
The Administration that succeeded, under the auspices of Lord Greville and Mr. Fox, bore a resemblance to the celebrated Brass of Corinth, more, perhaps, in the variety of the metals brought together, than in the perfection of the compound that resulted from their fusion. [Footnote: See in the Annual Register of 1806, some able remarks upon Coalitions in general, as well as a temperate defence of this Coalition in particular,—for which that work is, I suspect, indebted to a hand such as has not often, since the time of Burke, enriched its pages.] There were comprised in it, indeed, not only the two great parties of the leading chiefs, but those Whigs who differed with them both under the Addington Ministry, and the Addingtons that differed with them all on the subject of the Catholic claims. With this last anomalous addition to the miscellany the influence of Sheridan is mainly chargeable. Having, for some time past, exerted all his powers of management to bring about a coalition between Carlton-House and Lord Sidmouth, he had been at length so successful, that upon the formation of the present Ministry, it was the express desire of the Prince that Lord Sidmouth should constitute a part of it. To the same unlucky influence, too, is to be traced the very questionable measure, (notwithstanding the great learning and ability with which it was defended,) of introducing the Chief Justice, Lord Ellenborough, into the Cabinet.
As to Sheridan's own share in the arrangements, it was, no doubt, expected by him that he should now be included among the members of the Cabinet; and it is probable that Mr. Fox, at the head of a purely Whig ministry, would have so far considered the services of his ancient ally, and the popularity still attached to his name through the country, as to confer upon him this mark of distinction and confidence. But there were other interests to be consulted;—and the undisguised earnestness with which Sheridan had opposed the union of his party with the Grenvilles, left him but little supererogation of services to expect in that quarter. Some of his nearest friends, and particularly Mrs. Sheridan, entreated, as I understand, in the most anxious manner, that he would not accept any such office as that of Treasurer of the Navy, for the responsibility and business of which they knew his habits so wholly unfitted him,—but that, if excluded by his colleagues from the distinction of a seat in the Cabinet, he should decline all office whatsoever, and take his chance in a friendly independence of them. But the time was now past when he could afford to adopt this policy,—the emoluments of a place were too necessary to him to be rejected;—and, in accepting the same office that had been allotted to him in the Regency—arrangements of 1789, he must have felt, with no small degree of mortification, how stationary all his efforts since then had left him, and what a blank was thus made of all his services in the interval.
The period of this Ministry, connected with the name of Mr. Fox, though brief, and in some respects, far from laudable, was distinguished by two measures,—the Plan of Limited Service, and the Resolution for the Abolition of the Slave-Trade,—which will long be remembered to the honor of those concerned in them. The motion of Mr. Fox against the Slave-Trade was the last he ever made in Parliament;—and the same sort of melancholy admiration that Pliny expressed, in speaking of a beautiful picture, the painter of which had died in finishing it,—"dolor manas dum id ageret, abreptae"—comes naturally over our hearts in thinking of the last, glorious work, to which this illustrious statesman, in dying, set his hand.
Though it is not true, as has been asserted, that Mr. Fox refused to see Sheridan in his last illness, it is but too certain that those appearances of alienation or reserve, which had been for some time past observable in the former, continued to throw a restraint over their intercourse with each other to the last. It is a proof, however, of the absence of any serious grounds for this distrust, that Sheridan as the person selected by the relatives of Mr. Fox to preside over and direct the arrangements of the funeral, and that he put the last, solemn seal to their long intimacy, by following his friend, as mourner, to the grave.
The honor of representing the city of Westminster in Parliament had been, for some time, one of the dreams of Sheridan's ambition. It was suspected, indeed,—I know not with what justice,—that in advising Mr. Fox, as he is said to have done, about the year 1800, to secede from public life altogether, he was actuated by a wish to succeed him in the representation of Westminster, and had even already set on foot some private negotiations towards that object. Whatever grounds there may have been for this suspicion, the strong wish that he felt on the subject had long been sufficiently known to his colleagues; and on the death of Mr. Fox, it appeared, not only to himself, but the public, that he was the person naturally pointed out as most fit to be his parliamentary successor. It was, therefore, with no slight degree of disappointment he discovered, that the ascendancy of Aristocratic influence was, as usual, to prevail, and that the young son of the Duke of Northumberland would be supported by the Government in preference to him, It is but right, however, in justice to the Ministry, to state, that the neglect with which they appear to have treated him on this occasion,—particularly in not apprising him of their decision in favor of Lord Percy, sufficiently early to save him from the humiliation of a fruitless attempt,—is proved, by the following letters, to have originated in a double misapprehension, by which, while Sheridan, on one side, was led to believe that the Ministers would favor his pretensions, the Ministers, on the other, were induced to think that he had given up all intentions of being a candidate.
The first letter is addressed to the gentleman, (one of Sheridan's intimate friends,) who seems to have been, unintentionally, the cause of the mistake on both sides.
"Somerset-Place, September 14.
"You must have seen by my manner, yesterday, how much I was surprised and hurt at learning, for the first time, that Lord Grenville had, many days previous to Mr. Fox's death, decided to support Lord Percy on the expected vacancy for Westminster, and that you had since been the active agent in the canvass actually commenced. I do not like to think I have grounds to complain or change my opinion of any friend, without being very explicit, and opening my mind, without reserve, on such a subject. I must frankly declare, that I think you have brought yourself and me into a very unpleasant dilemma. You seemed to say, last night, that you had not been apprised of my intention to offer for Westminster on the apprehended vacancy. I am confident you have acted under that impression; but I must impute to you either great inattention to what fell from me in our last conversation on the subject, or great inaccuracy of recollection; for I solemnly protest I considered you as the individual most distinctly apprised, that at this moment to succeed that great man and revered friend in Westminster, should the fatal event take place, would be the highest object of my ambition; for, in that conversation I thanked you expressly for informing me that Lord Grenville had said to yourself, upon Lord Percy being suggested to him, that he, Lord Grenville, 'would decide on nothing until Mr. Sheridan had been spoken to, and his intentions known' or words precisely to that effect. I expressed my grateful sense of Lord Grenville's attention, and said, that it would confirm me in my intention of making no application, however hopeless myself respecting Mr. Fox, while life remained with him,—and these words of Lord Grenville you allowed last night to have been so stated to me, though not as a message from His Lordship. Since that time I think we have not happened to meet; at least sure I am, we have had no conversation on the subject. Having the highest opinion of Lord Grenville's honor and sincerity, I must be confident that he must have had another impression made on his mind respecting my wishes before I was entirely passed by. I do not mean to say that my offering myself was immediately to entitle me to the support of Government, but I do mean to say, that my pretensions were entitled to consideration before that support was offered to another without the slightest notice taken of me,—the more especially as the words of Lord Grenville, reported by you to me, had been stated by me to many friends as my reliance and justification in not following their advice by making a direct application to Government. I pledged myself to them that Lord Grenville would not promise the support of Government till my intentions had been asked, and I quoted your authority for doing so: I never heard a syllable of that support being promised to Lord Percy until from you on the evening of Mr. Fox's death. Did I ever authorize you to inform Lord Grenville that I had abandoned the idea of offering myself? These are points which it is necessary, for the honor of all parties, should be amicably explained. I therefore propose, as the shortest way of effecting it,—wishing you not to consider this letter as in any degree confidential,—that my statements in this letter may be submitted to any two common friends, or to the Lord Chancellor alone, and let it be ascertained where the error has arisen, for error is all I complain of; and, with regard to Lord Grenville, I desire distinctly to say, that I feel myself indebted for the fairness and kindness of his intentions towards me. My disappointment of the protection of Government may be a sufficient excuse to the friends I am pledged to, should I retire; but I must have it understood whether or not I deceived them, when I led them to expect that I should have that support.
"I hope to remain ever yours sincerely,
"R. B. SHERIDAN.
"The sooner the reference I propose the better."
The second letter, which is still further explanatory of the misconception, was addressed by Sheridan to Lord Grenville:
"MY DEAR LORD,
"Since I had the honor of Your Lordship's letter, I have received one from Mr. ——, in which, I am sorry to observe he is silent as to my offer of meeting, in the presence of a third person, in order to ascertain whether he did or not so report a conversation with Your Lordship as to impress on my mind a belief that my pretensions would be considered, before the support of Government should be pledged elsewhere. Instead of this, he not only does not admit the precise words quoted by me, but does not state what he allows he did say. If he denies that he ever gave me reason to adopt the belief I have stated, be it so; but the only stipulation I have made is that we should come to an explicit understanding on this subject,—not with a view to quoting words or repeating names, but that the misapprehension, whatever it was, may be so admitted as not to leave me under an unmerited degree of discredit and disgrace. Mr. —— certainly never encouraged me to stand for Westminster, but, on the contrary, advised me to support Lord Percy, which made me the more mark at the time the fairness with which I thought he apprised me of the preference my pretensions were likely to receive in Your Lordship's consideration.
"Unquestionably Your Lordship's recollection of what passed between Mr. —— and yourself must be just; and were it no more than what you said on the same subject to Lord Howick, I consider it as a mark of attention; but what has astonished me is, that Mr. —— should ever have informed Your Lordship, as he admits he did, that I had no intention of offering myself. This naturally must have put from your mind whatever degree of disposition was there to have made a preferable application to me; and Lord Howick's answer to your question, on which I have ventured to make a friendly remonstrance, must have confirmed Mr. ——'s report. But allow me to suppose that I had myself seen Your Lordship, and that you had explicitly promised me the support of Government, and had afterwards sent for me and informed me that it was at all an object to you that I should give way to Lord Percy, I assure you, with the utmost sincerity, that I should cheerfully have withdrawn myself, and applied every interest I possessed as your Lordship should have directed.
"All I request is, that what passed between me and Mr. —— may take an intelligible shape before any common friend, or before Your Lordship. This I conceive to be a preliminary due to my own honor, and what he ought not to evade."
The Address which he delivered, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in declining the offer of support which many of the electors still pressed upon him, contains some of those touches of personal feeling which a biographer is more particularly bound to preserve. In speaking of Mr. Fox, he said,—
"It is true there have been occasions upon which I have differed with him —painful recollections of the most painful moments of my political life! Nor were there wanting those who endeavored to represent these differences as a departure from the homage which his superior mind, though unclaimed by him, was entitled to, and from the allegiance of friendship which our hearts all swore to him. But never was the genuine and confiding texture of his soul more manifest than on such occasions; he knew that nothing on earth could detach me from him; and he resented insinuations against the sincerity and integrity of a friend, which he would not have noticed had they been pointed against himself. With such a man to have battled in the cause of genuine liberty,—with such a man to have struggled against the inroads of oppression and corruption,—with such an example before me, to have to boast that I never in my life gave one vote in Parliament that was not on the side of freedom, is the congratulation that attends the retrospect of my public life. His friendship was the pride and honor of my days. I never, for one moment, regretted to share with him the difficulties, the calumnies, and sometimes even the dangers, that attended an honorable course. And now, reviewing my past political life, were the option possible that I should retread the path. I solemnly and deliberately declare that I would prefer to pursue the same course; to bear up under the same pressure; to abide by the same principles; and remain by his side an exile from power, distinction, and emolument, rather than be at this moment a splendid example of successful servility or prosperous apostacy, though clothed with power, honor, titles, gorged with sinecures, and lord of hoards obtained from the plunder of the people."
At the conclusion of his Address he thus alludes, with evidently a deep feeling of discontent, to the circumstances that had obliged him to decline the honor now proposed to him:—
"Illiberal warnings have been held out, most unauthoritatively I know, that by persevering in the present contest I may risk my official situation, and if I retire, I am aware, that minds, as coarse and illiberal, may assign the dread of that as my motive. To such insinuations I shall scorn to make any other reply than a reference to the whole of my past political career. I consider it as no boast to say, that any one who has struggled through such a portion of life as I have, without obtaining an office, is not likely to I abandon his principles to retain one when acquired. If riches do not give independence, the next-best thing to being very rich is to have been used to be very poor. But independence is not allied to wealth, to birth, to rank, to power, to titles, or to honor. Independence is in the mind of a man, or it is no where. On this ground were I to decline the contest, should scorn the imputation that should bring the purity of my purpose into doubt. No Minister can expect to find in me a servile vassal. No Minister can expect from me the abandonment of any principle I have avowed, or any pledge I have given. I know not that I have hitherto shrunk in place from opinions I have maintained while in opposition. Did there exist a Minister of a different cast from any I know in being, were he to attempt to exact from me a different conduct, my office should be at his service tomorrow. Such a Minister might strip me of my situation, in some respects of considerable emolument, but he could not strip me of the proud conviction that I was right; he could not strip me of my own self-esteem; he could not strip me, I think, of some portion of the confidence and good opinion of the people. But I am noticing the calumnious threat I allude to more than it deserves. There can be no peril, I venture to assert, under the present Government, in the free exercise of discretion, such as belongs to the present question. I therefore disclaim the merit of putting anything to hazard. If I have missed the opportunity of obtaining all the support I might, perhaps, have had on the present occasion, from a very scrupulous delicacy, which I think became and was incumbent upon me, but which I by no means conceive to have been a fit rule for others, I cannot repent it. While the slightest aspiration of breath passed those lips, now closed for ever,—while one drop of life's blood beat in that heart, now cold for ever,—I could not, I ought not, to have acted otherwise than I did.—I now come with a very embarrassed feeling to that declaration which I yet think you must have expected from me, but which I make with reluctance, because, from the marked approbation I have experienced from you, I fear that with reluctance you will receive it.—I feel myself under the necessity of retiring from this contest."