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orb was entirely set, and while the western horizon was
You under stand, to be sure, that I speak of Charles Townshend, officially the re-producer of this fatal scheme ; whom I cannot even now remember without some degree of sensibility. In truth he was the delight and ornament of this house, and the charm of every private society which he honoured with his presence. Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any country, a man of a more pointed and finished wit; and (where his
pas. sions were not concerned) of a more refined, exquisite and penetrating judgment. If he had not so great a stock as some have had who flourished formerly, of knowledge long treasured up, he knew better by far than any man I ever was acquainted with, how to bring together within a short time, all that was necessary to establish, to illustrate, and to decorate that side of the question he supported. He stated his matter skilfully and powerfully. He particularly excelled in a most luminous explanation and display of his subject. His style of argument was neither trite and vulgar, nor subtle and abstruse. He hit the house just between wind and water. And not being troubled with too anxious a zeal for any matter in question, he was never more tedious or more earnest than the pre-conceived opinions and present temper of his hearers required : to whom he was always in perfect unison. He conformed exactly to the temper of the house and he seemed to guide, because he was always sure to follow it.
I beg pardon, sir, if when I speak of this and of other great men, I appear to digress in saying something of their characters. In this eventful history of the revo . lutions of America, the characters of such men are of much importance. Great men are the guide - posts and land-marks in the state. The credit of such men at
court, or in the nation, is the sole cause of all the public measures. It would be an invidious thing (most foreign I trust to what you think my disposition) to remark the errors into which the authority of great names has brought the nation, without doing justice at the same time to the great qualities whence that authority arose. The subject is instructive to those who wish to form themselves on whatever of excellence has gone before them. There are many young members in the house, who never saw that prodigy, Charles Townshend ; nor of course know what a ferment he was able to excite in every thing by the violent ebullition of his mixed virtues and failings. For failings he had undoubtedly-many of us remember them-we are this day considering the effects of them. But he had no failings which were not owing to a noble cause ; to an ardent, generous, perhaps an immoderate passion for fame; a passion, which is the instinct of all
He worshipped that goddess wheresoever she appeared; but he paid his particular devotions to her in her favourite habitation, in her chosen temple, the house of commons. Besides the characters of the individuals who coinpose our body, it is impossible, Mr. Speaker, not to observe, that this house has a collective character of its own. That character, too, however imperfect, is not unamiable. Like all great public collections of men, you possess a marked love of virtue, and an abhorrence of vice. But among vices, there is none which the house abhors in the same degree with obstinacy. Obstinacy, sir, is certainly a great vice; and in the changeful state of political affairs it is frequently the cause of great mischief. It happens, however, very unfortunately, that almost the whole line of the great and masculine virtues, constancy, gravity, magnanimity, fortitude, fidelity, and firmness, are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which you have so just an abhorrence; and in their excess, all these virtues very easily fall into it. He who paid such a particular attention to all your feelings, certainly took care not
to shock them by that vice which is most disgustful to you.
That fear of displeasing those who ought most to be pleased, betrayed him sometimes into the other extreme. He had voted, and in the year 1765, had been an advocate for the stamp act. Things and the dispositions of men's minds were changed. In short, the stamp act began to be no favourite with this house. Accordingly, he voted for the repeal. The very next session, as the fashion of this world passeth away, the repeal began to be in as bad repute as the stamp act had been the session before. To conform to the temper which began to prevail, and to prevail mostly amongst those most in power, he declared very early in the winter that a reve. nue must be had out of America. Here this extraordi. nary man, then chancellor of the exchequer, found him. self in great straits. To please, universally was the object of his life; but to tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men. However, he attempted it. To render the tax palatable to the partizans of American revenue, he made a preamble stating the necessity of such a revenue. To close with the American distinction, this revenue was external, or port-duty; but again to soften it to the other party, it was a duty of supply, &c. This fine spun scheme had the usual fate of all exquisite policy. But the original plan, and the mode of executing that plan, both arose singly and solely from a love of our applause. He was truly the child of the house. He never thought, did, or said any thing but with a view to you. He every day adapt . ed himself to your disposition ; and adjusted himself before it, as at a looking-glass.
He had observed, that several persons, infinitely his inferiors in all respects, had formerly rendered them selves considerable in this house by one method alone. They were a race of men (I hope in God the species is extinct) who, when they rose in their place, no man living could divine from any known adherence to parties,
to opinions, or to principles ; from any order or system in their politics ; or from any sequel or connection in their ideas, what part they were going to take in any debate. It is astonishing, how much this uncertainty, especially at critical times, called the attention of all parties on such men. All eyes where fixed on them, all ears open to hear them ; each party gaped and looked alternately for their vote, almost to the end of their speeches. While the house hung in this uncertainty, now the hear-hims rose from this side-now they re-bellowed from the other ; and that party to whom they fell at last from their tremulous and dancing balance, always received them in a tempest of applause. The fortune of such men was a temptation too great to be resisted by one, to whom a single whiff of incense withheld gave much greater pain, than he received delight in the clouds of it which daily rose about him from the prodigal superstition of innumerable admirers. He was a candi. date for contradictory honours ; and his great aim was to make those agree in the admiration of him who never agreed in any thing else,
[The following arguments towards the conclusion of this speech are so sensible, so moderate, so wise and beautiful, that I cannot resist the temptation of copying them out, though I did not at first intend it. Burke's speeches are to me, in this my parliamentary progress, what the Duke's castle was to Sancho : I could be content to stay there longer than I am able. I have no inclination to leave the stately palaces, the verdant lawns, the sumptuous entertainments, the grave discourse, and pleasing sounds of music, to sally forth in search of bad roads, meagre, fare, and barren adventurés. Charles Fox is indeed to come ; but he is but the knight of the Green Surtout. Pitt is the brazen head that delivers mysterious answers; and Sheridan, Mastor Peter with his puppet-show.. Mais allons.
If you do not fall in with this motion, then secure some. thing to fight for, consistent in theory, and valuable in practice. If you must employ your strength, employ it to uphold you in some honourable right or some profita
If you are apprehensive that the concession recommended to you, though proper, should be a means of drawing on you further but unreasonable claims,why then employ your force in supporting that reasonable concession against those unreasonable demands. You will employ it with more grace, with better effect, and with great probable concurrence of all the rational and quiet people in the provinces ; who are now united with, and hurried away by, the violent ; having indeed different dispositions, but a common interest. If you apprehend that on a concession you should be pushed by metaphysical process to the extreme lines, and argued out of your whole authority, my advice is this: when you have recovered your old, your strong, your tenable position, then face about-stop short-do nothing more--reason not at all-oppose the ancient policy and practice of the empire, as a rampart against the speculations of innovations on both sides of the question ; and you will stand on great, manly, and sure ground. On this solid basis fix your machines, and they will draw worlds to you.
Your ministers have already adopted the American distinction of internal and external duties. It is a distinction, whatever merit it may have, that was originally moved by the Americansthemselves ; and I think they will acquiesce in it, if they are not pushed with too much logic, and too little sense; in all the consequences. That is, if external taxation be understood as they and you understood it, when you please, to be not a distinction of geography, but of policy; that it is a power for regulating trade, and not for supporting establishments. The distinction which is as nothing with regard to right, is of most weighty consideration in practice. Recover your old ground, and your old tranquillity-try it-I am persuaded, the Americans will compromise with you.