« AnteriorContinuar »
as a preliminary to negotiation. I will not abandon this situation, in order to throw myself upon the mercy of that right honorable gentleman. He calls me now a mere nominal minister, the mere puppet of secret influence. Sir, it is because I will not become a mere nominal minister of his creation, it is because I disdain to become the puppet of that right honorable gentleman, that I will not resign; neither shall his contemptuous expressions provoke me to resignation: my own honor and reputation I never will resign.
Let this House beware of suffering any individual to involve his own cause, and to interweave his own interests, in the resolutions of the House of Commons. The dignity of the House is forever appealed to. Let us beware that it is not the dignity of any set of men. Let us beware that personal prejudices have no share in deciding these great constitutional questions. The right honorable gentleman is possessed of those enchanting arts whereby he can give grace to deformity. He holds before your eyes a beautiful and delusive image; he pushes it forward to your observation; but, as sure as you embrace it, the pleasing vision will vanish, and this fair phantom of liberty will be succeeded by anarchy, confusion, and ruin to the Constitution. For, in truth, Sir, if the constitutional independence of the Crown is thus reduced to the very verge of annihilation, where is the boasted equipoise of the Constitution? Dreadful, therefore, as the conflict is, my conscience, my duty, my fixed regard for the Constitution of our ancestors, maintain me still in this arduous situation. It is not any proud contempt, or defiance of the constitutional resolutions of this House, it is no personal point of honor, much less is it
any lust of power, that makes me still cling to office. The situation of the times requires of me--and, I will add, the country calls aloud to me. that I should defend this castle; and I am determined, therefore, I WILL defend it!
77. BARBARISM OF OUR BRITISH ANCESTORS. — Id.
THERE was a time, Sir, which it may be fit sometimes to revive in the remembrance of our countrymen, when even human sacrifices are said to have been offered in this island. The very practice of the slave-trade once prevailed among us. Slaves were formerly an established article of our exports. Great numbers were exported, like cattle, from the British coast, and were to be seen exposed for sale in the Roman market. The circumstances that furnished the alleged proofs that Africa labors under a natural incapacity for civilization might also have been asserted of ancient and uncivilized Britain. Why might not some Roman Senator, reasoning upon the principles of some honorable members of this House, and pointing to British barbarians, have predicted, with equal boldness, "There is a People that will never rise to civilization! There is a People destined never to be free!
We, Sir, have long since emerged from barbarism; we have almost forgotten that we were once barbarians; we are now raised to a situation which exhibits a striking contrast to every circumstance by which a Roman might have characterized us, and by which we now characterize Africa. There is, indeed, one thing wanting to complete the contrast, and to clear us altogether from the imputation of acting, even to this hour, as barbarians; for we continue to this hour a barbarous traffic in slaves, we continue it even yet, in spite of all our great and undeniable pretensions to civilization. We were once as obscure among the Nations of the earth, as savage in our manners, as debased in our morals, as degraded in our understandings, as these unhappy Africans are at present. But, in the lapse of a long series of years, by a progression slow, and, for a time, almost imperceptible, we have become rich in a variety of acquirements, favored above measure in the gifts of Providence, unrivalled in commerce, preëminent in arts, foremost in the pursuits of philosophy and science, and established in all the blessings of civil society. From all these blessings we must forever have been shut out, had there been any truth in those principles which some gentlemen have not hesitated to lay down as applicable to the case of Africa. Had those principles been true, we ourselves had languished to this hour in that miserable state of ignorance, brutality and degradation, in which history proves our ancestors to have been immersed. Had other Nations adopted these principles in their conduct towards us, had other Nations applied to Great Britain the reasoning which some of the Senators of this very island now apply to Africa, ages might have passed without our emerging from barbarism; and we, who are enjoying the blessings of British liberty, might, at this hour, have been little superior, either in morals, in knowledge, or refinement, to the rude inhabitants of the Coast of Guinea.
78. RESULTS OF THE AMERICAN WAR, 1780.- Charles James Fox.
Charles James Fox was born in England, on the 24th of January, 1749. He made his first speech in Parliament on the 15th of April, 1769. In the style of his oratory he has been compared, by some critics, to Demosthenes. "A certain sincerity and open-heartedness of manner; an apparently entire and thorough conviction of being in the right; an abrupt tone of vehemence and indignation; a steadfast love of freedom, and corresponding hatred of oppression in all its forms; a natural and idiomatic style, vigor, argument, power, these were characteristics equally of the Greek and English orator." Fox died on the 13th September, 1806, in the fifty-eighth year of his age.
We are charged with expressing joy at the triumphs of America. True it is that, in a former session, I proclaimed it as my sincere opinion, that if the Ministry had succeeded in their first scheme on the liberties of America, the liberties of this country would have been at an end. Thinking this, as I did, in the sincerity of an honest heart, I rejoiced at the resistance which the Ministry had met to their attempt. That great and glorious statesman, the late Earl of Chatham, feeling for the liberties of his native country, thanked God that America had resisted. But, it seems, "all the calamities of the
country are to be ascribed to the wishes, and the joy, and the speeches, of Opposition." O, miserable and unfortunate Ministry! O, blind and incapable men! whose measures are framed with so little foresight, and executed with so little firmness, that they not only crumble to pieces, but bring on the ruin of their country, merely because one rash, weak, or wicked man, in the House of Commons, makes a speech against them!
But who is he who arraigns gentlemen on this side of the House with causing, by their inflammatory speeches, the misfortunes of their country? The accusation comes from one whose inflammatory harangues have led the Nation, step by step, from violence to violence, in that inhuman, unfeeling system of blood and massacre, which every honest man must detest, which every good man must abhor, and every wise man condemn! And this man imputes the guilt of such measures to those who had all along foretold the consequences; who had prayed, entreated and supplicated, not only for America, but for the credit of the Nation and its eventual welfare, to arrest the hand of Power, meditating slaughter, and directed by injustice!
What was the consequence of the sanguinary measures recommended in those bloody, inflammatory speeches? Though Boston was to be starved, though Hancock and Adams were proscribed, yet at the feet of these very men the Parliament of Great Britain was obliged to kneel, flatter, and cringe; and, as it had the cruelty at one time to denounce vengeance against these men, so it had the meanness afterwards to implore their forgiveness. Shall he who called the Americans "Hancock and his crew," shall he presume to reprehend any set of men for inflammatory speeches? It is this accursed American war that has led us, step by step, into all our present misfortunes and national disgraces. What was the cause of our wasting forty millions of money, and sixty thousand lives? The American war! What was it that produced the French rescript and a French war? The American war! What was it that produced the Spanish manifesto and Spanish war? The American war! What was it that armed forty-two thousand men in Ireland with the arguments carried on the points of forty thousand bayonets ? The American war! For what are we about to incur an additional debt of twelve or fourteen millions? This accursed, cruel, diabolical American war!
79. THE FOREIGN POLICY OF WASHINGTON, 1794. — Charles James Foz.
How infinitely superior must appear the spirit and principles of General Washington, in his late address to Congress, compared with the policy of modern European Courts! Illustrious man! — deriving honor less from the splendor of his situation than from the dignity of his mind! Grateful to France for the assistance received from her, in that great contest which secured the independence of America, he yet did not choose to give up the system of neutrality in her favor. Having once laid down the line of conduct most proper to be pursued, not
all the insults and provocations of the French minister, Genet,* could at all put him out of his way, or bend him from his purpose. It must, indeed, create astonishment, that, placed in circumstances so critical, and filling a station so conspicuous, the character of Washington should never once have been called in question; that he should, in no one instance, have been accused either of improper insolence, or of mean submission, in his transactions with foreign Nations. It has been reserved for him to run the race of glory without experiencing the smallest interruption to the brilliancy of his career. The breath of censure has not dared to impeach the purity of his conduct, nor the eye of envy to raise its malignant glance to the elevation of his virtues. Such has been the transcendent merit and the unparalleled fate of this illustrious man!
How did he act when insulted by Genet? Did he consider it as necessary to avenge himself for the misconduct or madness of an individual, by involving a whole continent in the horrors of war? No; he contented himself with procuring satisfaction for the insult, by causing Genet to be recalled; and thus, at once, consulted his own dignity and the interests of his country. Happy Americans! while the whirlwind flies over one quarter of the globe, and spreads everywhere desolation, you remain protected from its baneful effects by your own virtues, and the wisdom of your Government. Separated from Europe by an immense ocean, you feel not the effect of those prejudices and passions which convert the boasted seats of civilization into scenes of horror and bloodshed. You profit by the folly and madness of the contending Nations, and afford, in your more congenial clime, an asylum to those blessings and virtues which they wantonly contemn, or wickedly exclude from their bosom! Cultivating the arts of peace under the influence of freedom, you advance, by rapid strides, to opulence and distinction; and if, by any accident, you should be compelled to take part in the present unhappy contest, if you should find it necessary to avenge insult, or repel injury, the world will bear witness to the equity of your sentiments and the moderation of your views; and the success of your arms will, no doubt, be proportioned to the justice of your cause!
80. LIBERTY IS STRENGTH. Fox, 1797, on the State of Ireland.
OPINIONS become dangerous to a State only when persecution makes it necessary for the People to communicate their ideas under the bond of secrecy. Publicity makes it impossible for artifice to succeed, and designs of a hostile nature lose their danger by the certainty of exposure. But it is said that these bills will expire in a few years; that they will expire when we shall have peace and tranquillity restored to What a sentiment to inculcate! You tell the People that, when everything goes well, when they are happy and comfortable, then they may meet freely, to recognize their happiness, and pass eulogiums *Pronounced Zjennay.
on their Government; but that, in a moment of war and calamity,-of distrust and misconduct, it is not permitted to meet together; because then, instead of eulogizing, they might think proper to condemn Ministers. What a mockery is this! What an insult, to say that this is preserving to the People the right of petition! To tell them that they shall have a right to applaud, a right to rejoice, a right to meet when they are happy; but not a right to condemn, not a right to deplore their misfortunes, not a right to suggest a remedy!
Liberty is order. Liberty is strength. Look round the world, and admire, as you must, the instructive spectacle. You will see that liberty not only is power and order, but that it is power and order predominant and invincible, - that it derides all other sources of strength. And shall the preposterous imagination be fostered, that men bred in liberty the first of human kind who asserted the glorious distinction of forming for themselves their social compact-- can be condemned to silence upon their rights? Is it to be conceived that men, who have enjoyed, for such a length of days, the light and happiness of freedom, can be restrained, and shut up again in the gloom of ignorance and degradation? As well, Sir, might you try, by a miserable dam, to shut up the flowing of a rapid river! The rolling and impetuous tide would burst through every impediment that man might throw in its way; and the only consequence of the impotent attempt would be, that, having collected new force by its temporary suspension, enforcing itself through new channels, it would spread devastation and ruin on every side. The progress of liberty is like the progress of the stream. Kept within its bounds, it is sure to fertilize the country through which it runs; but no power can arrest it in its passage; and shortsighted, as well as wicked, must be the heart of the projector that would strive to divert its course.
81. VIGOR OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENTS, 1797.- Charles James Fox.
WHEN We look at the Democracies of the ancient world, we are compelled to acknowledge their oppressions to their dependencies; their horrible acts of injustice and of ingratitude to their own citizens; but they compel us, also, to admiration, by their vigor, their constancy, their spirit, and their exertions, in every great emergency in which they were called upon to act. We are compelled to own that the democratic form of government gives a power of which no other form is capable. Why? Because it incorporates every man with the State. Because it arouses everything that belongs to the soul, as well as to the body, of man. Because it makes every individual feel that he is fighting for himself; that it is his own cause, his own safety, his own dignity, on the face of the earth, that he is asserting. Who, that reads the history of the Persian War, what boy, whose heart is warmed by the grand and sublime actions which the democratic spirit produced, does not find, in this principle, the key to all the wonders which were achieved at Thermopyla and elsewhere, and of which the