網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[ocr errors]

BURKE'S PANEGYRIC ON THE ELOQUENCE OF SHERIDAN.

He has this day surprised the thousands who hung with rapture on his accents, by such an array of talents, such an exhibition of capacity, such a display of powers, as are unparalleled in the annals of oratory-a display that reflected the highest honour on himself-lustre upon letters-renown upon parliament-glory upon the country. Of all species of rhetoric, of every kind of eloquence that has been witnessed or recorded, either in ancient or modern times; whatever the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the senate, the solidity of the judgment-seat, and the sacred morality of the pulpits, have hitherto furnished, nothing has equalled what we have this day heard in Westminster-hall. No holy seer of religion, no statesman, no orator, no man of any literary description whatever, has come up, in the one instance, to the pure sentiments of morality, or in the other, to that variety of knowledge, force of imagination, propriety and vivacity of allusion, beauty and elegance of diction, strength and copiousness of style, pathos and sublimity of conception, to which we this day listened, with ardour and admiration. From poetry up to eloquence, there is not a species of composition, of which a complete and perfect specimen might not, from that single speech, be culled and collected.

SPEECH OF GRATTAN ON THE NATIONAL GRIEVANCESL JULY 1788.

The apostles were meek and inspired men-they went forth in humble guise, with naked feet, and brought to every man's door, in his own tongue, the true belief; their word prevailed against the potentates of the earth; and on the ruin of the barbaric pride, and pontific luxury, they placed the naked majesty of the Christian religion. This light was soon put down by its own ministers; and on its extinction, a beastly and pompous priesthood ascended; political potentates, not Christian pastors-full of false zeal, full of worldly pride, and full of gluttony-empty of the true religion. To their flock oppressive-to their inferior clergy brutal to their king abject, and to their God impudent and familiar; they stood on the altar, as a stepping-stool to the

throne, glozing in the ear of princes, whom they poisoned with crooked principles and heated advice, and were a faction against their king when they were not his slaves; ever the dirt under his feet, or a poniard in his heart. Their power went down, it burst of its own plethory, when a poor reformer, with the gospel in his hand, and in the inspired spirit of poverty, restored the Christian religion. The same principle which introduced Christianity, guided reformation. The priesthood of Europe is not now what it once was; their religion has increased, as their power has diminished. In these countries, particularly, for the most part, they are a mild order of men, with less dominion and more piety; therefore their character may be described in a few words -morality, enlightened by letters and exalted by religion. Parliament is not a bigot-you are no sectary, no polemic -it is your duty to unite all men, to manifest brotherly love and confidence to all men. The parental sentiment is the true principle of government. Men are ever finally disposed to be governed by the instrument of their happiness; the mystery of government, would you learn it ?-look on the gospel, and make the source of your redemption the rule of your authority; and, like the hen in the Scripture, expand your wings, and take in all your people.

Let bigotry and schism, the zealot's fire, and the highpriest's intolerance, through all their discordancy, tremble, while an enlightened parliament, with arms of general protection, overarches the whole community, and roots the Protestant ascendancy in the sovereign mercy of its nature. Laws of coercion, perhaps necessary, certainly severe, you have put forth already, but your great engine of power, you have hitherto kept back; that engine which the pride of the bigot, nor the spite of the zealot, nor the ambition of the high, nor the arsenal of the conqueror, nor the inquisition, with its jaded rack and pale criminal, never thought of:— the engine which, armed with physical and moral blessings, comes forth, and overlays mankind with services-the engine of redress :-this is government, and this the only description of government worth your ambition. Were I to raise you to a great act, I should not recur to the history of other nations; I would recite your own acts, and set you

in emulation with yourselves. Do you remember that night, when you gave your country a free trade, and with your hands opened all her harbours? That night when you gave her a free constitution, and broke the chains of a centurywhile England stood eclipsed by your glory, and your island rose, as it were, from its bed, and got nearer to the sun? In the arts that polish life-the inventions that accommodate, the manufactures that adorn it-you will be for many years inferior to some other parts of Europe; but to nurse a growing people-to mature a struggling, though hardy community; to mould, to multiply, to consolidate, to inspire, and to exalt a young nation; be these your barbarous accomplishments!

SPEECH OF MR PITT ON THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE.

Why ought the slave trade to be abolished? Because it is incurable injustice. How much stronger, then, is the argument for immediate than gradual abolition? By allowing it to continue even for one hour, do not my right honourable friends weaken-do not they desert their own argument of its injustice? If, on the ground of injustice, it ought to be abolished at last, why ought it not now? Why is injustice to be suffered to remain for a single hour? From what I hear without doors, it is evident that there is a general conviction entertained, of its being far from just; and from that very conviction of its injustice, some men have been led, I fear, to the supposition, that the slave trade never could have been permitted to begin, but from some strong and irresistible necessity; a necessity, however, which, if it was fancied to exist at first, I have shown cannot be thought by any man whatever to exist now. This plea of necessity, thus presumed, and presumed, as I suspect, from the circumstance of injustice itself, has caused a sort of acquiescence in the continuance of this evil. Men have been led to place it among the rank of those necessary evils, which are supposed to be the lot of human creatures, and to be permitted to fall upon some countries or individuals rather than upon others, by that Being, whose ways are inscrutable to us, and whose dispensations, it is conceived, we

ought not to look into. The origin of evil is indeed a subject beyond the reach of human understanding: and the permission of it by the Supreme Being, is a subject into which it belongs not to us to inquire. But where the evil in question is a moral evil, which a man can scrutinise, and where that evil has its origin with ourselves, let us not imagine that we can clear out our consciences by this general, not to say irreligious and impious, way of laying aside the question. If we reflect at all on this subject, we must see that every necessary evil supposes that some other and greater evil would be incurred, were it removed: I therefore desire to ask, what can be a greater evil, which can be stated to overbalance the one in question? I know of no evil that ever has existed, nor can imagine any evil to exist, worse than the tearing of seventy or eighty thousand persons annually from their native land, by a combination of the most civilised nations, inhabiting the most enlightened part of the globe; but more especially, under the sanction of the laws of that nation which calls herself the most free and the most happy of them all.

Reflect on these eighty thousand persons thus annually taken off! There is something in the horror of it, that surpasses all the bounds of imagination. Admitting that there exists in Africa something like to courts of justice, yet, what an office of humiliation and meanness is it in us, to take upon ourselves to carry into execution the partial, the cruel, iniquitous sentences of such courts, as if we also were strangers to all religion, and to the first principles of justice! But that country, it is said, has been in some degree civilised, and civilised by us. It is said they have gained some knowledge of the principles of justice. What, sir! have they gained principles of justice from us? Their civilisation brought about by us!! Yes- we give them enough of our intercourse to convey to them the means, and to initiate them in the study, of mutual destruction. We give them just enough of the forms of justice, to enable them to add the pretext of legal trials to their other modes of perpetrating the most atrocious iniquity. We give them just enough of European improvements, to enable them the more effectually to turn Africa into a ravaged wilderness.

Some evidences say, that the Africans are addicted to the practice of gambling; that they even sell their wives and children, and, ultimately, themselves. Are these, then, the legitimate source of slavery? Shall we pretend, that we can thus acquire an honest right to exact the labour of these people? Can we pretend, that we have a right to carry away to distant regions, men of whom we know nothing by authentic inquiry, and of whom there is every reasonable presumption to think, that those who sell them to us, have no right to do so? But the evil does not stop here. I feel that there is not time for me to make all the remarks which the subject deserves, and I refrain from attempting to enumerate half the dreadful consequences of this system. Do you think nothing of the ruin and the miseries in which so many other individuals, still remaining in Africa, are involved, in consequence of carrying off so many myriads of people? Do you think nothing of their families which are left behind? of the connections which are broken? of the friendships, attachments, and relationships, that are burst asunder? Do you think nothing of the miseries, in consequence, that are felt from generation to generation? of the privation of that happiness which might be communicated to them, by the introduction of civilisation, and of mental and moral improvement?

EXTRACT FROM SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH'S SPEECH IN DEFENCE OF MR PELTIER, FOR A LIBEL ON NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, FEBRUARY 1803.

Gentlemen of the jury-The time is now come for me to address you on behalf of the unfortunate gentleman who is the defendant on this record. I cannot but feel, gentlemen, how much I stand in need of your favourable attention and indulgence. The charge which I have to defend, is surrounded with the most invidious topics of discussion; but they are not of my seeking. The case, and the topics which are inseparable from it, are brought here by the pro

[ocr errors]

secutor.

Gentlemen, there is one point of view in which this case seems to merit your most serious attention. The real prosecutor is the master of the greatest empire the civilised

S

« 上一頁繼續 »