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and some of them have shot beyond it in the fierceness of their pursuit. I grudge not to other Nations that share of liberty which they may acquire; - in the name of Heaven, let them enjoy it! But let us warn them, that they lose not the object of their desire by the very eagerness with which they attempt to grasp it. Inheritors and conservators of rational freedom, let us, while others are seeking it in restlessness and trouble, be a steady and shining light to guide their course, not a wandering meteor to bewilder and mislead them.
A search after abstract perfection in government may produce, in generous minds, an enterprise and enthusiasm to be recorded by the historian, and to be celebrated by the poet; but such perfection is not an object of reasonable pursuit, because it is not one of possible attainment; and never yet did a passionate struggle after an absolutely unattainable object fail to be productive of misery to an individual, of madness and confusion to a People. As the inhabitants of those burning climates which lie beneath the tropical sun sigh for the coolness of the mountain and the grove, so (all history instructs us) do Nations which have basked for a time in the torrent blaze of an unmitigated liberty too often call upon the shades of despotism, even of military despotism, to cover them:
"O quis me gelidis in vallibus Hæmi
Sistat, et ingenti ramōrum protěgat umbra!”
A protection which blights while it shelters; which dwarfs the intellect and stunts the energies of man, but to which a wearied Nation willingly resorts from intolerable heats, and from perpetual danger of convulsion.
Our lot is happily cast in the temperate zone of freedom, the clime best suited to the development of the moral qualities of the human race, to the cultivation of their faculties, and to the security as well as the improvement of their virtues;-a clime not exempt, indeed, from variations of the elements, but variations which purify while they agitate the atmosphere that we breathe. Let us be sensible of the advantages which it is our happiness to enjoy. Let us guard, with pious gratitude, the flame of genuine liberty, that fire from Heaven, of which our Constitution is the holy depository; and let us not, for the chance of rendering it more intense and more radiant, impair its purity, or hazard its extinction!
94. ON MR. TIERNEY'S MOTION, DECEMBER 11, 1798. — George Canning.
THE friendship of Holland! The independence of Spain! Is there a man so besotted as to suppose that there is one hour of peace with France preserved by either of these unhappy countries, that there is one syllable of friendship uttered by them towards France, but what is extorted by the immediate pressure, or by the dread and terror, of French arms?
Which the poor heart would fain refuse, but dare not!"
Have the regenerated Republic of Holland, the degraded Monarchy of Spain, such reason to rejoice in the protection of the French Republic, that they would voluntarily throw themselves between her and any blow which might menace her existence?
But does the honorable Gentleman intend his motion as a motion for peace? If he really thinks this a moment for opening a negotiation, why has he not the candor and manliness to say so? Mark, I entreat you, how delicately he manages it! He will not speak to France, but he would speak at her. He will not proposenot he―that we should say to the Directory, "Will you make peace?" No, Sir; we are merely to say to ourselves, loud enough for the Directory to overhear us, "I wish these French Gentlemen would make an overture to us." Now, Sir, does this save the dignity of the country? or is it only a sneaking, shabby way of doing what, if fit to be done at all, must, to have any serious effect, be done openly, unequivocally, and directly? But I beg the honorable Gentleman's pardon; I misrepresent him; I certainly do. His motion does not amount even to so much as I have stated. He begins further off. The soliloquy which he prompts us, by his motion, is no more than this-"We must continue to make war against France, to be sure; and we are sorry for it; but we will not do it as if we bore malice. We will not make an ill-natured, hostile kind of war any longer,― that we won't. And who knows but, if they should happen to overhear this resolution, as the Directory are good-natured at bottom, their hearts may soften and grow kind towards us and then they will offer to make a peace!" And thus, Sir, and thus only, is the motion a motion for peace.
Since, then, Sir, this motion appears to me to be founded on no principle of policy or necessity; since, if it be intended for a censure ɔn ministers, it is unjust, if for a control, it is nugatory; as its tendency is to impair the power of prosecuting war with vigor, and to diminish the chance of negotiating peace with dignity, or concluding it with safety; as it contradicts, without reason, and without advantage, the established policy of our ancestors; as it must degrade in the eyes of the world the character of this country; as it must carry dismay and terror throughout Europe; and, above all, as it must administer consolation, and hope, and power, and confidence, to France, I shall give it my most hearty and decided negative.
95. VINDICATION OF MR. PITT.-George Canning.
Ir appears to be a measure of party to run down the fame of Mr. Pitt. I could not answer it to my conscience or to my feelings, if I had suffered repeated provocations to pass without notice. Mr. Pitt, it seems, was not a great man. Is it, then, that we live in such heroic times, that the present is a race of such gigantic talents and qualities, as to render those of Mr. Pitt, in the comparison, ordinary and contempt
ible? Who, then, is the man now living, is there any man now sitting in this House, who, by taking the measure of his own mind, or of that of any of his contemporaries, can feel himself justified in pronouncing that Mr. Pitt was not a great man? I admire as much as any man the abilities and ingenuity of the honorable and learned gentleman who promulgated this opinion. I do not deny to him many of the qualities which go to constitute the character which he has described. But I think I may defy all his ingenuity to frame any definition of that character which shall not apply to Mr. Pitt, trace any circle of greatness from which Mr. Pitt shall be excluded.
I have no manner of objection to see placed on the same pedestal with Mr. Pitt, for the admiration of the present age and of posterity, other distinguished men; and amongst them his great rival, whose memory is, I have no doubt, as dear to the honorable gentlemen opposite, as that of Mr. Pitt is to those who loved him living, and who revere him dead. But why should the admiration of one be incompatible with justice to the other? Why cannot we cherish the remembrance of the respective objects of our veneration, leaving to each other a similar freedom? For my own part, I disclaim such a spirit of intolerance. Be it the boast and the characteristic of the school of Pitt, that, however provoked by illiberal and unjust attacks upon his memory, whether in speeches in this House or in calumnies out of it, they will never so far forget the respect due to him or to themselves, as to be betrayed into reciprocal illiberality and injustice, — that they disdain to retaliate upon the memory of Mr. Pitt's great rival!
96. "MEASURES NOT MEN," 1802. George Canning.
IF I am pushed to the wall, and forced to speak my opinion, I have no disguise nor reservation: - I do think that this is a time when the administration of the government ought to be in the ablest and fittest hands; I do not think the hands in which it is now placed answer to that description. I do not pretend to conceal in what quarter I think that fitness most eminently resides; I do not subscribe to the doctrines which have been advanced, that, in times like the present, the fitness of individuals for their political situation is no part of the consideration to which a member of Parliament may fairly turn his attention. I know not a more solemn or important duty that a member of Parliament can have to discharge, than by giving, at fit seasons, a free opinion upon the character and qualities of public men. Away with the cant of " measures, not men!" the idle supposition that it is the harness, and not the horses, that draw the chariot along! No, Sir; if the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing. I speak, Sir, of times of difficulty and danger; of times when systems are shaken, when precedents and general rules of conduct fail. Then it is, that not to this or that measure, however prudently devised, however blameless in
execution, but to the energy and character of individuals, a State must be indebted for its salvation. Then it is that kingdoms rise or fall in proportion as they are upheld, not by well-meant endeavors (laudable though they may be), but by commanding, overawing talents, - by able
And what is the nature of the times in which we live? Look at France, and see what we have to cope with, and consider what has made her what she is. A man! You will tell me that she was great, and powerful, and formidable, before the days of Bonaparte's government; that he found in her great physical and moral resources; that he had but to turn them to account. True, and he did so. Compare the situation in which he found France with that to which he has raised her. I am no panegyrist of Bonaparte; but I cannot shut my eyes to the superiority of his talents, to the amazing ascendency of his genius. Tell me not of his measures and his policy. It is his genius, his character, that keeps the world in awe. Sir, to meet, to check, to curb, to stand up against him, we want arms of the same kind. I am far from objecting to the large military establishments which are proposed to you. I vote for them, with all my heart. But, for the purpose of coping with Bonaparte, one great, commanding spirit is worth them all.
97. THE BALANCE OF POWER, 1826.-George Canning.
BUT, then, Sir, the balance of power! Gentlemen assert that the entry of the French army into Spain disturbed that balance, and we ought to have gone to war to restore it! Were there no other means than war for restoring the balance of power? Is the balance of power a fixed and unalterable standard? Or, is it not a standard perpetually varying, as civilization advances, and as new Nations spring up, and take their place among established political communities? The balance of power, a century and a half ago, was to be adjusted between France and Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and England. Some years afterwards, Russia assumed her high station in European politics. Some years after that, again, Prussia became not only a substantive, but a preponderating monarchy. Thus, while the balance of power continued in principle the same, the means of adjusting it became more varied and enlarged. To look to the policy of Europe in the times of William and Anne to regulate the balance of power in Europe at the present day, is to disregard the progress of events, and to confuse dates and facts which throw a reciprocal light upon each other.
I admit, Sir. that the entry of a French army into Spain was a disparagement to Great Britain. I do not stand up here to deny that fact. One of the modes of redress was by a direct attack upon France, --by a war upon the soil of Spain. Was there no other mode of redress? If France occupied Spain, was it necessary, in order to avoid the consequences of that occupation, that we should blockade
Cadiz? No. I looked another way. I sought materials of compensation in another hemisphere. Contemplating Spain such as our ancestors had known her, I resolved that, if France had Spain, it should not be Spain "with the Indies." I called the New World into existence, to redress the balance of the Old! Thus, Sir, I answer the question of the occupation of Spain by the army of France. That occupation is an unpaid and unredeemed burden to France. France would be glad to get rid of the possession of Spain. France would be very glad if England were to assist her to get rid of that possession; and the only way to rivet France to the possession of Spain is to make that possession a point of honor. The object of the measure before the House is not war. It is to take the last chance of peace. If you do not go forth, on this occasion, to the aid of Portugal, Portugal will be trampled down, to your irrecoverable disgrace; and then war will come, and come, too, in the train of degradation. If you wait until Spain have courage to mature her secret machinations into open hostility, you will, in a little while, have the sort of war required by the pacificators: and who shall say where that war shall end?
98. A COLLISION OF VICES, 1825.-George Canning.
My honorable and learned friend began by telling us that, after all, hatred is no bad thing in itself. "I hate a tory," says my honorable friend; "and another man hates a cat; but it does not follow that he would hunt down the cat, or I the tory." Nay, so far from it, hatred, if it be properly managed, is, according to my honorable friend's theory, no bad preface to a rational esteem and affection. It prepares its votaries for a reconciliation of differences; for lying down with their most inveterate enemies, like the leopard and the kid in the vision of the prophet. This dogma is a little startling, but it is not altogether without precedent. It is borrowed from a character in a play, which is, I dare say, as great a favorite with my learned friend as it is with me, I mean the comedy of the Rivals; in which Mrs. Malaprop, giving a lecture on the subject of marriage to her niece (who is unreasonable enough to talk of liking, as a necessary preliminary to such a union), says, "What have you to do with your likings and your preferences, child? Depend upon it, it is safest to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated your poor dear uncle like a blackamoor before we were rried; and yet, you know, my dear, what a good wife I made him." Such is my learned friend's argument, to a hair. But, finding that this doctrine did not appear to go down with the House so glibly as he had expected, my honorable and learned friend presently changed his tack, and put forward a theory, which, whether for novelty or for beauty, I pronounce to be incomparable; and, in short, as wanting nothing to recommend it but a slight foundation in truth. "True philosophy," says my honorable friend, "will always continue to lead men to virtue by the instrument
* Sir James Mackintosh.