« 上一頁繼續 »
volved in the political success of a man who wanted some of the requisites we have deemed essential to the success of the man of ambition, that the times in which he flourished somewhat resembled France of the present day. England had only recently passed through a cycle of intense political excitement, and lass:tude, corruption, and want of public principle had been the natural result of the reaction; a desire to make money had replaced the desire of glory, whether on the field of battle or in the equally exciting field of revolutionary politics. In such a state of society any power which offers protection to the "men of order" is sure of the adhesion of the majority, and the very mediocrity of its professions, the "safeness" of its character, only increases its strength. Preserve property, foster trade, promote public companies, and a nation just recovering from a revolution can do for a time without glory and without excitement other than that of gambling.
Lord Brougham devotes considerable space to a consideration of the character of Bolingbroke. It is a finished portrait, painted con amore, perhaps from the latent idea that there was something in the character of Bolingbroke akin to his own.
Bolingbroke has left a reputation of being the greatest of English orators, though there is not in existence a solitary speech of his whereby we may test the accuracy of the common report. His fastidious contemporaries thought his eloquence supernatural, and when we consider that Swift and Pope were among them, we know not of any other English orator to whose excellence such testimony can be brought. And Pitt, looking to this great traditional fame, thought that a speech of Bolingbroke was a greater desideratum than any of the missing classics; while Brougham agrees as to this general opinion, on independent grounds.
If Bolingbroke spoke as he wrote he must have been the greatest of modern orators, as far as composition goes; for he has the raciness and spirit, occasionally even the fire, perhaps not the vehemence, of Fox, with richer imagery and far more correct diction; the accurate composition of Pitt, with in
finitely more grace and variety; the copiousness, almost the learning, and occasionally the depth of Burke, without his wearily elaborate air; his speech never degenerates for an instant into dissertation, which Burke scarcely ever avoids.
We cannot resist the temptation of inserting one of the passages from Bolingbroke's writings, which Brougham adduces in support of his opinion. It is taken from the celebrated dedication to Sir Robert Walpole :--
Should a minister govern in various instances of domestic and foreign management, ignorantly, weakly, or even wickedly, and yet pay this reverence and bear this regard to the constitution, he would deserve certainly much better quarter, and would meet with it too from every man of sense and honour, than a minister who should conduct the administra. tion with great ability and success, and should at the same time procure and abet, or even connive at such indirect violations of the rules of the constitution as tend to the destruction of it; or even at such evasions as tend to render it useless. A minister who had the ill qualities of both of these, and the good qualities of neither; who made his administration hateful in some respects and despicable in others; who sought that security by ruining the constitution which he had forfeited by dishonouring the government; who encouraged the profligate and seduced the unwary to concur in this design, by affecting to explode all public spirit, and to ridicule every form of our constitution-such a minister would be looked upon most justly as the shame and scourge of his country. Sooner or later he would fall without pity, and it is hard to say what punishment would be proportional to his crimes.
We have little time to trace the orbit of this wandering star, but the leading incidents of his political life are sufficiently known to deprive him of any claim to the respect of any party in the political world. His intrigues to overthrow the government of Godolphin and Marlborough, in which he succeeded, to the infinite injury of his country; his intrigues to overthrow the Protestant succession, in which he failed to his country's advantage; his banishment; his service with the Stuarts; his desertion of them and his return to retirement, literature, ennui, and political infamy, are known to every reader of history. But the political Satan had amiable points in his character; his
attachment to his friends was warm and zealous, and they cultivated it and looked up to him with somewhat like idolatry.
His spirit was high and manly, his courage, personal and political, was without a stain. He had no sordid propensities; his faults were not mean or paltry; they were, both in his private life and his public, on a large scale, creating for the most part wonder or terror more than scorn or contempt.
That the genius which he displayed in the Senate his wisdom, his address, his resources in council - should, when joined to fascinating manners and literary accomplishments, have made him shine in society without a rival, can easily be comprehended. So great an orator, so noble a person in figure and demeanour, one so little under dominion of the principle which makes men harsh, and the restraint which renders their manners formal, was sure to captivate all superficial admirers, and even to win the more precious applause of superior minds.
Such was Bolingbroke; one of those men who to the rarest endowments of genius add an almost total want of principle, and whose influence, both on their contemporaries and on posterity, is almost entirely evil, lending attractions to vice and prestige to a course of conduct setting at defiance all notions of duty.
Nor in such cases is there any sufficient antidote. The desire of fame is the great motive influencing the nobler order of public men. Power may have its attractions, and even the desire of wealth has urged many to climb the difficult ascent of state preferment; but it is the aspiration after the praise of future ages-a motive perhaps irrational and ideal, but noble and chivalrous--which has been the main sustaining motive of all those who have left their impress on history; but when, as in a case like Bolingbroke's, this crowning glory is seen to be secured without the aid, and even in defiance of virtue, the spring of moral excellence is poisoned in its purest source, and the stream which otherwise would fertilize nations, forced into the narrow channels of egotism, becomes a torrent devastating the face of society.
Perhaps the best corrective against the influence of such anarchs of history is to point out that in general their career results in the shipwreck
of their personal fortunes; and the reason is, that they want one set of those dual qualifications which we have mentioned as necessary in the successful man of ambition. Thus, for instance, Bolingbroke, unhesitating in action-whose whole career, in fact, was a series of coups d'et it--was deficient in that party honour which alone can secure adherents; and though no man could be less accused of allowing the grass to grow under his heels, he was utterly destitute of that patience and perseverance essentrial to any lasting result.
In this and in other respects his character presents an instructive contrast to that of Walpole, who, while deficient in the qualities which rendered Bolingbroke notorious and pernicious, was eminently endowed with those which, if they could not have added to Bolingbroke's fame, would to a certainty have made him an eminently useful man in the state. While, on the other hand, had somewhat of Bolingbroke's dash been added to the laissez-aller nature of Walpole, his name might be mentioned with admiration by those young and ardent spirits who are the heralds of fame, and who now accord to him only a very dubious respect, if they do not absolutely decry his memory.
We now accompany Lord Brougham to the portrait of a statesman who, to all Bolingbroke's ability and impetuosity, combined a sagacity equal to that of Walpole, with a high and unstained honor without a parallel.
No man occupies so pure and unsullied a page in English history as that greatest of statesmen and patriots, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Lord Brougham is among his sincere admirers, as, indeed, who is the Englishman of what party or sect soever, who does not admire that pure and lofty patriot who knew no party or sectarian policy, save the good of his country?
The following is one of several delineations of Chatham's character by our author:
The first place among the great qualities which distinguished Lord Chatham is unquestionably due to firmness of purpose, resolute determination in the pursuit of his objects. Quicquid vult, id valde vult, and although extremely apt to exist in excess, it
junior Lords, was obliged to sign the naval orders issued by Mr. Pitt, while the writing was covered over from their eyes.
must be admitted to be the foundation of all truc greatnoss of character, Everything, however, depends on the endowments in company of which it is found ; and in Lord Chatham these were of a very high order, The quickness with which he could ascertain his object and discover his road to it, was fully commensurate with his perseverance and his boldness in pursuing it; the firmness of grasp with which he held his advantage was fully equalled by the rapidity of the glance with which he discovered it. Add to this a mind eminently fertile in resources ;
a courage which nothing could daunt in the choice of his means ; a resolution equally indomitable in their application ; a genius, in short, origipal and daring, which bounded over the petty obstacles raised by ordinary men— their squeamishness, and their precedents, and their forms and their regularities—and forced away his path through the entanglements of this base undergrowth to the worthy object ever in view, the prosperity and renown of his country. In pursuing his course towards that goal, he disregarded alike the frown of power and the gales of popular applause, exposed himself undaunted to the vengeance of the court, while he battled against its corruptions, and confronted unappalled the rudest shocks of public indignation, while he resisted the dictates of pernicious agitators, and could conscientiously exclaim, with an illustrious statesman of antiquity,“ Ego hoc animo semper fui, ut invidiam virtute partam, gloriam non invidiam putarem."
None but a man who held his commission to rule direct from nature could have acted in this way, and none other would have been obeyed. “ Can I choose my own king ?” says the erudite Teufelsdrockh.
“I can choose my own King Popinjay, and play what farce and tragedy I may with him, but he who is to be my ruler, whose will is to be higher than mny will, was chosen forme in Heaven."
Chatham's whole mind was kingly. While fighting what he thought the battle of the Constitution in the person of Wilkes, he took special care to mark his abhorrence of that demagogue's character, “as one not desery. ing to be ranked with the human species.” Nor did he lower the lofty tone which was his by right even to hereditary royalty; and George III., obstinate as he was and inflated with ideas of his prerogative, had to yield, like others, to the will of this man.
We have scanty materials for esti. mating his great reputation as an orator. His speech on the employment of the Indians in the American war is the longest extant, but it is somewhat hacknied, and loses its effect from our familiarity with it since our school days. Brougham gives some other selections not so well known, a few of which we will insert.
Speaking of confidence in a mediocre ministry, which he tolerated and sometimes patronised, he said, after giving them credit for characters fair enough ;
Confide in you? O no! You must pardon me, gentlemen ; confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom.
The success of the administration of Chatham is familiar to every tyro of history. He found the country in the most depressed state in which it had ever stood in the Commonwealth of Europe, he left it undisputably, and for the first time in history, the paramount power of the world. 1. These," said Horace Walpole, “ are the doings of Mr. Pitt, and they are marvellous in our eyes."
His ministry was the despotism of genius :
Upon his first proposition for changing the conduct of the war he stood single among his colleagues, and tendered his resig. nation should they persist in their dissent; they at once snccumbed, and from that hour ceased to have an opinion of their own upon any branch of public affairs. Nay, so absolutely was he determined to have the control of these measures, of which he knew the reponsibility rested upon him alone, that he insisted upon the First Lord of the Admi. ralty not having the correspondence of his own department; and no less eminent a naval character than Lord Anson, as well as his
The Constitution at this moment stands violated. If the breach be effectually repaired, the people will return to tranquillity. If not, let discord reign for ever! I know to what point my language will appear directed, but I have the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without fear or reserre, Rather than that the Constitution should be tamely given up, and our birthrights be sur. rendered to a despotic minister, I hope, my
Lords, old as I am, that I shall see the ques. Who among those who since their time tion brought to an issue, and fairly tried be- have guided the destinies of England, tween the people and government.
with the solitary exception of Welling
ton, have carried captive in their career In an argument on Parliamentary the most distinguished of their Privilege, he says :
contemporaries? With the one exThe poorest man may in his cottage bid
ception, England has had no natural defiance to all the forces of the crown. It
leaders since. The days of allegiance may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind
to uncrowned merit are gone, not may blow through it, the storm may enter,
because there is any want of willing the rain may enter-but the King of England subjects, but because the dynasty cannot enter ! All his force dares not cross of the kings by right divine has the threshold of the ruined tenement. disappeared. Party men now are
kept together purely by party ties ; “ These examples,” says Brougham, the spirit of clique has seized on the "may serve to convey a pretty ac- vacant throne of genius. Political curate idea of the peculiar vein of adhesion now depends either on coneloquence which distinguished this nection by marriage, or on the natural great man's speeches. It was of the attraction inherent in thedispensers of very highest order; vehement, fiery, patronage for the time being; and the close to the subject, concise, some- most obsequious of political adhetimes eminently, even boldly figura- rents feels in his inner nature a protive; it was original and surprising, test in favour of his own indepenyet quite natural. To call it argu- dence-a tacit caveat that his obement would be an abuse of terms; dience is not to be construed into an but it had always a sufficient founda- admission of any natural right to tion in reason to avoid any appearance command in the party obeyed, and of inconsistency or error, or wander- that the fact of the one ruling and ing from the point."
the other obeying is merely an acci
dent. It cannot be denied that Chatham But it is not alone in politics that was deficient in some of the requisites this want of the Kanig is felt. We we have desiderated in the success- feel the void everywhere in society. fully ambitious man. He had no There is no one to look up to. No compromise about him.
one whom if undressed, literally and commanding, imperious, and seldom metaphorically, we would see any used conciliation. He walked straight propriety in obeying: This arises forward to his object, despising and not so much from the intellectual overthrowing all obstacles, and yet, mediocrity of the age as from its notwithstanding his vehemence, his moral degradation. Our aristocracy political life was unstained by any have lost much of their nobility, violentact of authority. For Chatham Gentlemanly feeling is dying awaywas one of nature's autocrats, to the old way of estimating things whom people yielded by instinct. which was somewhat confused and It was not necessary for him to per- hazy, because viewed through the suade when he could command, nor light of a hundred emotions of the to strain his legal authority when heart, undefined in their limits and there
no opposition to his fluctuating in their obligations with wishes.
all the varieties of character among Burke, Pitt, Fox, have been drawn individual men-a grand fine Turner by the masters of every school, and painting, afterall-has given place to a We are thus acquainted with their precise, definite system by which the minutest lineaments seen under all value of every one, human and divine, varieties of light. Yet let us not can be ascertained within a hundred through this familiarity, deprive pounds. Adhesion to statesman A, these great men of the high consider- will give me a probable chance of a ation to which they are entitled. post worth £300 per annum; and And to keep us from any such error, adhesion to B, will give me a chance let us simply ask ourselves what of £600 per annum, therefore I will statesmen since their death have ap- adhere to B. I have no definite proached, or even equalled them? conviction on the question which of
their principles is best for the coun- The career of this distinguished try; there is a good deal to be said on statesman corroborates our remarks both sides, and individually they are as to the qualifications necessary to both very "respectable” men ; but I gain the prizes of ambition. Burke's have the chance of getting twice as mind was of the meditative cast, and much from B as from A, and it is a he was far too honest to make use of duty I owe to my family and to my- coups d'etat to further his advanceself, to stand by her Majesty's Go- ment, while, great man though he was, vernment, to whom God be gracious, he had not the majesty of Chatham to and send a speedy appreciation of enable him to rise without them. The my inerits, else I may feel it my consequence was, that his career as duty to turn a patriot.
a statesman, so far as his personal But to return to our three states- advancement was concerned, was a
failure. It is a common mistake among Bronyham gives a discriminating, those who have not read Burke's and of course an incongruous characworks, to call him a mere theorist, ter of Fox.
With such capacities to but he was the most cautious and rise in his higher nature, and such practical of statesmen, thoroughly facility of sinking in his lower nature, aware of the intense action and re
no one presents so puzzling a problem action in human affairs, and therefore as Fox, if we attempt a moral estinever attempting to carry principles mate of his character. He seems, to their extreine consequences. He while we contemplate him, to undergo knew that constitutions grew, and a perpetual metempsychosis. At one could not be spun out of logic; and time he is Cato, and again he is Me so he laboured rather to ameliorate phistopheles. We see him now as than to change-to modify than to Socrates, scattering maxims of wissubvert. In fact, the political ideas dom and morality; the morrow he is he propounded were not unlike those the ruined gambler, not unfrequently of the “Idée Napoleonienne,” only in a state of intoxication. Then ana expressed in richer language, and ther change comes over him: he goes modified by their adaptation to a to the House, and declaims in majestic constitutional system of government. terms on the rights of mankind, and He had the same preference as the his audience feel themselves elevated two Napoleons for a perfect machine, in moral tone as they listen to him ; with as few clogs or useless wheels as but next day there is a subscription to may be ; but Burke's machine be- pay his gambling debts, which he achoved to go by wind, by water, or hy cepts without hesitation. steam, and sometimes to stand still ; patriot, he yet seemed to wish for the whereas the engine of the Bona- triumph of Napoleon over his country, partes was constructed with a view and he thwarted Pitt in his attempt to perpetual motion under the in- tocheck the aggrandisement of Russia. fluence of steam only, and that al- Continually declaiming in favour of ways at high press
liberty, and denouncing the ministry Brougham thinksBurkeexaggerated as embarked in a conspiracy against the mischiefs to be apprehended from the constitution, he retired with his the French revolution. He might, he party from the House of Commons, says, have foreseen the possibility of a where it was his duty to watch over “ new, orderly, and profitable govern- that very constitution, and defend it ment” rising out of the ruins of the from all attacks. Republic. Allthis we now see clear- Pitt wasa much simpler character; ly enough,” he says, “having survived cold, able, statuesque, draping himself Mr. Burke forty years." We who in a proud self-respect which rendered have survived another eighteen years him incapable of any meanness, or of since Brougham made this remark, anything tending to abate the dignity have seen this "new, orderly, and pro- of his public life; he was a statesman fitable government” disappear from modelled on the schoolboy notions of the face of the earth, and another go- the patriot of Greece or Rome; equally vernment, very orderly, though some- as perfect, uncorruptible, and uncomwhat like a despotism, Occupyits place. promising, and as little capable of Burke has not yet been proved to have sympathising with the infirmities and
weaknesses of ordinary men,