juries of those who suffered in the same place centuries ago. They are most of them half English, by blood and lineage-and much more than half English, in speech, training, character, and habits. they are to punish the descendants of the individual English who usurped Irish possessions, and displaced true Irish possessors, in former days, they must punish themselves;-for undoubtedly they are far more nearly connected with those

(December, 1826.)

Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan. By THOMAS MOOREFourth Edition. 2 vols. 8vo. London: Longman and Co. 1826.* between them, seem to be chiefly two:— First, that their doctrines are timid, vacillating, compromising, and inconsistent; and, secondly, that the party which holds them is small, weak, despised, and unpopular. These are the favourite texts, we think, of those whose vocation it has lately become to preach against us, from the pulpits at once of servility and of democratical reform. But it is necessary to open them up a little farther, before we enter on our defence.

The first charge then is, That the Whigs are essentially an inefficient, trimming, halfway sort of party-too captious, penurious, and disrespectful to authority, to be useful servants in a Monarchy, and too aristocratical, cautious, and tenacious of old institutions, to deserve the confidence, or excite the sympa thies, of a generous and enlightened People. Their advocates, accordingly-and we our selves in an an especial manner-are accused of dealing in contradictory and equivocating doctrines; of practising a continual see-saw of admissions and retractations; of saying now a word for the people-now one for the aris tocracy-now one for the Crown; of paralysing all our liberal propositions by some timid and paltry reservation, and never being betrayed into a truly popular sentiment without instantly chilling and neutralising it by some cold warning against excess, some cautious saving of the privileges of rank and establishment. And so far has this system of inculpation been lately carried, that a liberal Journal, of great and increasing celebrity, has actually done us the honour, quarter after quarter, of quoting long passages from our humble pages, in evidence of this sad infirmity in our party and principles.

WE have frequently had occasion to speak of the dangers to which the conflict of two extreme parties must always expose the peace and the liberties of such a country as England, and of the hostility with which both are apt to regard those who still continue to stand neutral between them. The charges against this middle party-which we take to be now represented by the old constitutional Whigs of 1688-used formerly to be much the same, though somewhat mitigated in tone, with those which each was in the habit of addressing to their adversaries in the opposite extreme. When the high Tories wanted to abuse the Whigs, they said they were nearly as bad as the Radicals; and when these wished in their turn to lessen the credit of the same unfortunate party, the established form of reproach was, that they were little better than the Tories! Of late years, however, a change seems to have come over the spirit, or the practical tactics at least, of these gallant belligerents. They have now discovered that there are vices and incapacities peculiar to the Whigs, and inseparable indeed from their middle position and that before settling their fundamental differences with each other, it is most wise and fitting that they should unite to bear down this common enemy, by making good against them these heavy imputations. It has now become necessary, therefore, for those against whom they are directed, to inquire a little into the nature and proofs of these alleged enormities; the horror of which has thus suspended the conflict of old hereditary enemies, and led them to proclaim a truce, till the field, by their joint efforts, can be cleared for fair hostilities, by the destruction of these hated intruders.

Now, the topics of reproach which these two opposite parties have recently joined in directing against those who would mediate

spoilers than any of the hated English, whose ancestors never adventured to the neighbour ing island. Mr. O'Driscol's partiality for the ancient Irish, therefore, is truly a mere peculiarity of taste or feeling-or at best but an historical predilection; and in reality has no influence, as it ought to have none, on his views as to what constitutes the actual grievances, or is likely to work the deliverance, of the existing generation.

What is here given forms but a small part of the article originally published under this title, in 1826. But it exhibits nearly the whole of the General Politics contained in that article; and having been, as I believe, among the last political discussions, I contributed to the Review, I have been tempted to close, with it, this most anxious and perilous division of the present publication.

Now, while we reject of course the epithets which are here applied to us, we admit, at once, the facts on which our adversaries profess to justify them. We acknowledge that we are fairly chargeable with a fear of opposite excesses-a desire to compromise and reconcile the claims of all the great parties in the State-an anxiety to temper and qualify whatever may be said in favour of one, with a steady reservation of whatever may be justly due to the rest. To this sort of trimming, to

this inconsistency, to this timidity, we distinctly plead guilty. We plead guilty to a love to the British Constitution-and to all and every one of its branches. King, Lords, and Commons; and though not We are for perhaps exactly in that order, we are prond to have it said that we have a word for each in its turn; and that, in asserting the rights of one, we would not willingly forget those of the others. Our jealousy, we confess, is greatest of those who have the readiest means of persuasion; and therefore, we are generally far more afraid of the encroachments of arbitrary power, under cover of its patronage, and the general love of peace, security, and distinction, which attract so strongly to the region of the Court, than of the usurpations of popular violence. But we are for authority, as well as for freedom. We are for the natural and wholesome influence of wealth and rank, and the veneration which belongs to old institutions, without which no government has ever had either stability or respect; as well as for that vigilance of popular control, and that supremacy of public opinion, without which none could be long protected from abuse. We know that, when pushed, to their ultimate extremes, those principles may be said to be in contradiction. But the escape from inconsistency is secured by the very obvious precaution of stopping short of such extremes. It was to prevent this, in fact, that the English constitution, and indeed all good government everywhere, was established. Every thing that we know that is valuable in the ordinances of men, or admirable in the arrangements of Providence, seems to depend on a compromise, a balance; or, if the expression is thought better, on a conflict and struggle, of opposite and irreconcileable principles. Virtue-society-life itself, and, in so far as we can see, the grand movements and whole order of the universe, are maintained only by such a balance or contention.

These, we are afraid, will appear but idle truisms, and shallow pretexts for foolish selfcommendation. No one, it will be said, is for any thing but the British constitution; and nobody denies that it depends on a balance of opposite principles. The only question is, whether that balance is now rightly adjusted; and whether the Whigs are in the proper central position for correcting its obliquities. Now, if the attacks to which we are alluding had been reducible to such a principle as this, -if we had been merely accused, by our brethren of the Westminster, for not going far enough on the popular side, and by our brethren of the Quarterly, for going too far, we should have had nothing to complain of, beyond what is inseparable from all party contentions; and must have done our best to answer those opposite charges, on their separate and specific merits,-taking advantage, of course, as against each, of the authority of the other, as a proof, à fortiori, of the safety of our own intermediate position. But the peculiarity of our present case, and the hardship which alone induces us to complain of it is, that this is not the course that has been lately



followed with regard to us,-that our adversaries have effected, or rather pretended, an unnatural union against us,-and, deserting but, as it humbly appears to us, their own not only the old rules of political hostility, fundamental principles, have combined to attack us, on the new and distinct ground of our moderation,-not because we are opposed to their extreme doctrines respectively, but because we are not extremely opposed to them!

and, affecting a generous indulgence and respect for those who are diametrically against them, seem actually to have agreed to join forces with them, to run down those who stand peacefully between, and would gladly effect their reconcilement. We understand very well the feelings which lead to such a course of proceeding; but we are not the less convinced of their injustice, and, in spite of all that may be said of neutrals in civil war, or interlopers in matrimonial quarrels, we still believe that the Peacemakers are Blessed,and that they who seek conscientiously to moderate the pretensions of contending factions, are more likely to be right than either of their opponents.

the very important function of a middle party The natural, and, in our humble judgment, is, not only to be a check, but a bulwark to both those that are more decidedly opposed; and though liable not to be very well looked on by either, it should only be very obnoxious, we should think, to the stronger, or those who are disposed to act on the offensive. To them it naturally enough presents the appearance of an advanced post, that must be carried before the main battle can be joined, and for the assault of which they have neither the same weapons, the same advantages of position, nor the same motives of action. To the weaker party, however, or those who stand on their defence, it must, or at least should, always be felt to be a protection,-though reas a sort of half-faced fellowship, yielded ceived probably with grudging and ill grace, with no cordiality, and ready enough to be withdrawn if separate terms can be made with the adversary. With this scheme of tactics we have long been familiar; and for those feelings we were prepared. But it is rather too much, we think, when those who are irreconcileably hostile, and whose only quarrel with us is, that we go half the length of their hated opponents,-have the face to pretend that we are more justly hateful to them, than those who go the whole length,— that they have really no particular quarrel with those who are beyond us, and that we, in fact, and our unhappy mid-way position, are the only obstacles to a cordial union of those whom it is, in truth, our main object to reconcile and unite!

this is a hollow, and, in truth, very flimsy
Nothing, we take it, can be so plain as that
pretext: and that the real reason of the ani-
mosity with which we are honoured by the
more eager individuals in both the extreme
parties is, that we afford a covering and a
shelter to each-impede the assault they are
impatient mutually to make on each other,

3 B2

and take away from them the means of that direct onset, by which the sanguine in both hosts imagine they might at once achieve a decisive victory. If there were indeed no belligerents, it is plain enough that there could be no neutrals and no mediators. If there was no natural war between Democracy and Monarchy, no true ground of discord between Tories and Radical Reformers-we admit there would be no vocation for Whigs: for the true definition of that party, as matters now stand in England, is, that it is a middle party, between the two extremes of high monarchical principles on the one hand, and extremely popular principles on the other. It holds no peculiar opinions, that we are aware of, on any other points of policy, and no man of common sense can doubt, and no man of common candour deny, that it differs from each of the other parties on the very grounds on which they differ from each other, the only distinction being that it does not differ so widely.

Can any thing be so preposterous as a pretended truce between two belligerents, in order that they may fall jointly upon those who are substantially neutral?-a dallying and coquetting with mortal enemies, for the purpose of gaining a supposed advantage over those who are to a great extent friends? Yet this is the course that has recently been followed, and seems still to be pursued. It is now some time since the thorough Reformers began to make awkward love to the Royalists, by pretending to bewail the obscuration which the Throne had suffered from the usurpations of Parliamentary influence, the curtailment of the Prerogative by a junto of ignoble boroughmongers, and the thraldom in which the Sovereign was held by those who were truly his creatures. Since that time, the more prevailing tone has been, to sneer at the Whig aristocracy, and to declaim, with all the bitterness of real fear and affected contempt, on the practical insignificance of men of fortune and talents, who are neither Loyal nor Popular-and, at the same time, to lose no opportunity of complimenting the Tory possessors of power, for every act of liberality, which had been really forced upon them by those very Whigs whom they refuse to acknowledge as even co-operating in the cause! The high Tory or Court party have, in substance, played the same game. They have not indeed affected, so barefacedly, an entire sympathy, or very tender regard for their radical allies: but they have acted on the same principle. They have echoed and adopted the absurd fiction of the unpopularity of the Whigs, and, speaking with affected indulgence of the excesses into which a generous love of liberty may occasionally hurry the ignorant and unthinking, have reserved all their severity, unfairness, and intolerance, for the more moderate opponents with whose reasonings they find it more difficult to cope, and whose motives and true position in the country, they are therefore so eager to misrepresent.

Now, though all this may be natural enough in exasperated disputants, who are apt to wreak their vengeance on whatever is most

[ocr errors]

within their reach, it is not the less unfair and unworthy in itself, nor the less shortsighted and ungrateful in the parties who are guilty of it. For we do not hesitate to say, that it is substantially to this calumniated and mo tually reviled Whig party, or to those who act on its principles, that the country is truly indebted for its peace and its constitution,-and one at least, if not both of the extreme par ties, for their very existence! If there were no such middle body, who saw faults and merits in both, and could not consent to the unqualified triumph or unqualified extirpation of either-if the whole population of the country was composed of intolerant Tories and fiery reformers,-of such spirits, in short, to bring the matter to a plain practical bearing, as the two hostile parties have actually chosen, and now support as their leaders and spokesmen, does any man imagine that its peace or its constitution could be maintained for a single year? On such a supposition, it is plain that they must enter immediately on an active, uncompromising, relentless contention; and, after a short defying parley, must, by force or fear, effect the entire subversion of one or the other; and in either case, a complete revolution and dissolution of the present constitution and principle of govern ment. Compromise, upon that supposition, we conceive, must be utterly out of the ques tion; as well as the limitation of the contest to words, either of reasoning or of abuse. They would be at each other's Throats, before the end of the year! or, if there was any compromise, what could it be, but a compromise on the middle ground of Whiggism?-a virtual conversion of a majority of those very combatants, who are now supposed so to hate and disdain them, to the creed of that moderate and liberal party?

What is it, then, that prevents such a mortal conflict from taking place at the present moment between those who represent themsent themselves respectively, as engrossing all the principle and all the force of the country? what, but the fact, that a very large portion of the population do not in reality be long to either; but adhere, and are known to adhere, to those moderate opinions, for the profession of which the Whigs and their advocates are not only covered with the obloquy of those whom they save from the perils of such frightful extremities, but are preposterously supposed to have incurred the dislike of those with whom in fact they are identified, and to whom they belong?

And this leads us to say a few words on the second grand position of the Holy Allies against whom we are now called to defend ourselves, that the Whigs are not only incon sistent and vacillating in their doctrines, but, in consequence of that vice or error, are, in fact, weak, unpopular, and despised in the country. The very circumstance of their being felt to be so formidable as to require this strange alliance to make head against them, ! and to force their opponents to intermit all other contests, and expend on them exclusively the whole treasures of their sophistry

[ocr errors]



ministration in some measure in their hands would be glad enough to put down all popu lar interference, whether by assemblies, by speech, or by writing; and, in fact, only allow We reckon as Whigs, in this question, all ministration to be so much more indulgent, the law to be as indulgent as it is, and its adthose who are not disposed to go the length from a conviction that they would not be of either of the extreme parties who would ported in more severe measures, either by now divide the country between them,-all, public opinion without, or even by their own supin other words, who wish the Government to majorities within the walls of the Legislature. be substantially more popular than it is, tending to be-but, at the same time, to re- adherents are attached to them by no other They know very well that a great part of their tain more aristocratical influence, and more tie than that of their own immediate interest, deference to authority, than the Radical Re--and that, even among them as they now formers will tolerate:-and, we do not hesi- stand, they could command at least as large tate to say, that so far from being weak or a following for Whig measures as for Tory inconsiderable in the country, we are perfectly measures, if only proposed by an administraconvinced that, among the educated classes, tion of as much apparent stability. It is not which now embrace a very large proportion necessary, indeed, to go farther than to the of the whole, it greatly outnumbers both the common conversation of the more open or others put together. It should always be careless of those who vote and act among the recollected, that a middle party like this is Tories, to be satisfied, that a very large proinvariably much stronger, as well as more portion, indeed, of those who pass under that determined and formidable, than it appears. title, are what we should call really Whigs in Extreme doctrines always make the most heart and conviction, and are ready to declare noise. They lead most to vehemence, pas- themselves such, on the first convenient opsion, and display,-they are inculcated with portunity. With regard to the Radical Remost clamour and exaggeration, and excite formers, again, very little more, we think, can the greatest alarm. In this way we hear of be necessary to show their real weakness in them most frequently and loudly. But they the country, than to observe how very few are not, upon that account, the most widely votes they ever obtain at an election, even in spread or generally adopted ;--and, in an en- the most open boroughs, and the most populightened country, where there are two oppo- lous and independent counties. We count for site kinds of extravagance thus trumpeted nothing in this question the mere physical abroad together, they serve in a good degree force which may seem to be arrayed on their as correctives to each other; and the great side in the manufacturing districts, on occabody of the people will almost inevitably set- sions of distress and suffering; though, if they tle into a middle or moderate opinion. The felt that they had even this permanently at champions, to be sure, and ambitious leaders their command, it is impossible that they on each side, will probably only be exasperat- should not have more nominations of parliaed into greater bitterness and greater confi- mentary attorneys, and more steady and imdence, by the excitement of their contention. posing exhibitions of their strength and union. -But the greater part of the lookers-on can scarcely fail to perceive that mutual wounds have been inflicted, and mutual infirmities revealed, and the continuance and very fierceness of the combat is apt to breed a general opinion, that neither party is right, to the height of their respective pretensions; and that truth and justice can only be satisfied by large and mutual concessions.

Of the two parties-the Thorough Reformers are most indebted for an appearance of greater strength than they actually possess, to their own boldness and activity, and the mere curiosity it excites among the idle, co-operating with the sounding alarms of their opponents, -while the high Tories owe the same advantage in a greater degree to the quiet effect of their influence and wealth, and to that prudence which leads so many, who in their hearts are against them, to keep their opinions to themselves, till some opportunity can be found of declaring them with effect. Both, however, are conscious that they owe much to such an illusion,-and neither, accordingly, has courage to venture on those measures to which they would infallibly resort, if they trusted to their apparent, as an actual or available strength. The Tories, who have the ad

and abuse, might go far, we think, to refute
this desperate allegation. But a very short
resumption of the principles we have just
been unfolding will show that it cannot pos-
sibly be true.

suaded that the proper Whig party is in reality At the present moment, then, we are perby much the largest and the steadiest in the country; and we are also convinced, that it is in a course of rapid increase. The effect of all long-continued discussion is to disclose flaws in all sweeping arguments, and to multiply exceptions to all general propositionsabate confidence and intolerance, and thus to to discountenance extravagance, in short, to lay the foundations for liberal compromise and mutual concession. Even those who continue to think that all the reason is exclusively on their side, can scarcely hope to convert their opponents, except by degrees. Some few rash and fiery spirits may contrive to pass from one extreme to the other, without going through the middle. But the common course undoubtedly is different; and therefore we are entitled to reckon, that every one who is detached from the Tory or the Radical faction, will make a stage at least, or half-way house, of Whiggism; and may probably be induced, by the comfort and respectability of the establishment, to remain: As the temperate regions of the earth are found to detain the greater part of those who have been induced to fly from the heats of the Equator, or the rigours of the Pole.

Though it is natural enough, therefore, for those who hold extreme opinions, to depreciate the weight and power of those who take their station between them, it seems sufficiently certain, not only that their position must at all times be the safest and best, but that it is destined ultimately to draw to itself all that is truly of any considerable weight upon either hand; and that it is the feeling of the constant and growing force of this central attraction, that inflames the animosity of those whose importance would be lost by the convergence. For our own part, at least, we are satisfied, and we believe the party to which we belong is satisfied, both with the degree of influence and respect which we possess in the country, and with the prospects which, we think, upon reasonable grounds, we may entertain of its increase. In assuming to our selves the character of a middle party, we conceive that we are merely stating a fact, which cannot well be disputed on the present occasion, as it is assumed by both those who are now opposed to us, as the main ground of their common attack; and almost all that we have said follows as a necessary consequence of this assumption. From the very nature of the thing, we cannot go to either of the extreme parties; and neither of them can make any movement to increase their popularity and substantial power, without coming nearer to us. It is but fair, however, before concluding, to state, that though we do occupy a position between the intolerant Tories and the thorough Reformers, we conceive that we are considerably nearer to the latter than to the former. In our principles, indeed, and the ends at which we aim, we do not materially differ from what is professed by the more sober among them; though we require more caution, more securities, more exceptions, more temper, and more time.

That is the difference of our theories. In practice, we have no doubt, we shall all have time enough:-For it is the lot of England, we have little doubt, to be ruled in the main by what will be called a Tory party, for as long a period as we can now look forward to with any great distinctness-by a Tory party, however, restrained more and more in its propensities, by the growing influence of Whig principles, and the enlightened vigilance of that party, both in Parliament and out of it; and now and then admonished, by a temporary expulsion, of the necessity of a still greater conformity with the progress of liberal opinions, than could be spontaneously obtained. The inherent spirit, however, of monarchy, and the natural effect of long possession of power, will secure, we apprehend, for a con

siderable time, the general sway of men professing Tory principles; and their speedy res toration, when driven for a season from their places by disaster or general discontent: and the Whigs, during the same period, must content themselves with preventing a great deal of evil, and seeing the good which they had suggested tardily and imperfectly effected, by those who will take the credit of originating what they had long opposed, and only at last adopted with reluctance and on compulsion. It is not a very brilliant prospect, perhaps, nor a very enviable lot. But we believe it to be what awaits us; and we embrace it, not only cheerfully, but with thankfulness and pridethankfulness, that we are enabled to do even so much for the good and the liberties of our country-and pride, that in thus seeking her service, we cannot well be suspected of selfish or mercenary views.

The thorough Reformers never can be in power in this country, but by means of an actual revolution. The Whigs may, and occa sionally will, without any disturbance to its peace. But these occasions might be multiplied, and the good that must attend them accelerated and increased, if the Reformers, aware of the hopelessness of their separate cause, would throw their weight into the scale of the Whigs, and so far modify their pretensions as to make it safe or practicable to support them. The Whigs, we have already said, cannot come to them; both because they hold some of their principles, and their modes of asserting them, to be not merely unreasonable, but actually dangerous; and because, by their adoption, they would at once hazard much mischief, and unfit themselves for the good service they now perform. But the Reformers may very well come to the Whigs; both because they can practically do nothing (peaceably) for themselves, and be cause the measures which they might occasionally enable the Whigs to carry, though not in their eyes unexceptionable or sufficient, must yet appear to them better than those of the Tories-which is the only attainable al ternative. This accordingly, we are persuaded, will ultimately be the result; and is already, we have no doubt, in a course of accomplishment; and, taken along with the gradual abandonment of all that is offensive in Tory pretensions, and the silent adoption of most of the Whig principles, even by those who continue to disclaim the name, will effect almost all that sober lovers of their country can expect, for the security of her liberties, and the final extinction of all extreme parties, in the liberal moderation of Whiggism.

« 前へ次へ »