Page images

downright, and uncompromising: he holds in such sovereign contempt all conventional etiquette, when it would interfere with public duty; he looks the question and his adversaries so fully in the face; he views with such utter indifference the angry fro'wn and the contemptuous shr'ug; that we should, without hesitation, point to him as the truest English speaker whom the present day affords.



WE select JOSEPH HUME as the object of. this sketch, because we think his character has been more misrepresented, and his merits more undervalued, than those of any existing member of the House of Commons ;-because he has fought harder, and to more practical purpose, for that consideration which he now enjoys, than any other man we could name ;— and because, at this moment, he is really the most important man, out of office, in the British Senate. True, he possesses not one quality calculated for dazzling the crowd;-true, he cannot declaim like Hobhouse, draw out a syllogism like Denman, raise a pyramid topped with Latin like Mackintosh, or break an adversary on the wheel like Brougham,—true, he never delivered a finished oration-nor, perhaps, ever uttered a perfect sentence;-but equally true, he never chose a useless subject on account of its sound, and he never shrunk from what he conceived to be a public duty, on account of the hostility which it stirred up in others, or the labour which it

* If “usefulness, after all, is the most valuable quality of a Member of Parliament" (an opinion advanced by a talented writer in the London Quarterly Review), Mr. Hume has peculiar claims to the gratitude of his countrymen ;-and if "a vigilant and jealous eye over executory and judicial magistrates, an anxious care of public money, and an openness, approaching to facility to complaint," be, according to Burke, the characteristics of a faithful Member of the House of Commons, we need not feel surprise at the compliment recently paid him by the Premier: "I admire him for his untiring industry and zeal; and I am only anticipating a judgment which will be passed by a grateful posterity, in acknowledging his great public services, and his disinterested motives, whilst engaged in the performance of much public good for the last forty years.”—(Vide Speech of Sir R. Peel in a debate on the Income Tax, Feb. 19, 1845.)

occasioned himself. Upon parade days, he does not rend the air and rattle the benches like some others that we could name; but when these have once let themselves off, they are as inefficient as discharged blunderbuses; they go away. 66 one to his farm, and another to his merchandise,' -one to his pastime, and another to his private business: while Joseph Hume stands firm at his post, in fair weather or in foul, applauded or deserted. He is a statesman of the Franklin school: he comes upon his adversaries with the figures of arithmetic, and before their heavy array, the light and gaudy troops of the figures of speech cannot stand for a moment. This has been evinced again and again. All the light missiles of wit, and all the toothed matters of invective, have been literally rained at him from both sides of the House; but he stands, like the tower of Belus amidst the confusion of tongues, or his native hills during a snow storm; he shakes not at the noise and the blast; he bears no dint from the flakes; but, waiting his opportunity, he (with the whole strength of his arm, and it is not a weak one) launches at them Cocker's Arithmetic, which very seldom fails to take effect.

When Hume last came into Parliament, there were strong prejudices against him. The circumstances of the times identified him with clamouring demagogues, in a manner which he neither desired nor merited; the Whig aristocracy kept aloof; and by all their small followers he was held as a man upon whom a joke might always be played off with favour, and the reversionary recompense of a dinner and a compliment. During all this time, however, Joseph Hume was no theoretical dreamer in politics, as little was he a man who sought to overturn the State, the Church, or any one branch of either. Educated in a more severe manner, he had none of the ambition or the levity of those who thought to put him down; but he had strong intuitive perceptions of right and wrong; and these he directed, not to what was the most fair and fascinating in theory, but to what was most useful and most within reach in practice. We remember that, about the middle of the first session, the wise ones who prophesied in the train of their idols on both sides, predicted that next session he would be lowered; and in a third, he would either be silent or sunk into some little government office; but here he is still, as earnest and as active as ever; and though we agree, that he sometimes speaks when he should be silent, we say, without fearing contradiction, that he is more

listened to than ever. We are sure, too, that the enlightened 'members now at the head of the financial and commercial departments of government will admit, and admit without hesitation, that they have profited more, and to better purpose, by Joseph Hume, than by all others on the left hand of the Speaker; and though he generally both argues and divides against them, we find them frequently acting upon his suggestions. Though Hume sits with, and divides with the old Opposition, we cannot regard him as being one of their party. The fact is, that he has formed a party and opposition wholly his own, and were we to apply a distinctive epithet to him and the few who follow in his steps-though with less energy and perseverance, we should call them the Financial Opposition-the men who work the sledge hammer to ministers in shaping reductions of taxation and expenditure.

For this purpose no man is better fitted than Hume, either in body or in mind; in body he is a perfect colossus in point of strength; and that strength, together with the temperance and regularity of his habits, makes him able to undergo fatigue which would exhaust any other man. Of his mind, firmness and patience are the leading characters; and those characters are so strongly marked in his form and face, that no man who has read the debates, has occasion, upon entering the House of Commons, to ask which is Joseph Hume. You perceive him sitting by his pillar, in a dress equally remarkable for its plainness and its cleanness. There is nothing of the fop or the sloven about him. You never find him lounging; you never hear him laugh; and when he speaks to those about him, it is always respecting the business before the House, or the contents of some papers, a pile of which are always beside him. If he be without his hat, you are instantly struck with the appearance of his head. It wants the dazzling eloquence of that of Mr. Canning; it has not the acuteness of that of Huskisson ; you seek in vain for the perspicuity of Robinson; and you can mark no trace of the dark-lowering strength of Brougham; but there is in it a firmness of purpose, an inflexibility of temper, and a truth to the end, which accompany not, and perhaps cannot accompany, these more splendid qualities. There is no imagination, and neither a beam of wit nor humour; and the power of oratory is entirely lost in the deep retiring of the eyes. But the lower lateral parts of the forehead, and, above all, the firm setting of the nose, and the hard line to which the lips are

compressed, tell you that this, and none other that you see in the House, must be Joseph Hume. Along with this firmness there is a considerable indication of honesty. You instantly pronounce that the man will neither change a subject, nor a mode of treating it, without being in earnest. He rises to speak. His manner is unseemly, his accent strongly and even disagreeably provincial, and his language both inaccurate and inelegant; but still, somehow or other, you find yourself obliged to listen to it; and though he never rounds, and seldom completes a period, he is always intelligible, and very often convincing. No doubt the constant occurrence of numbers in what he says, and his habit of sometimes mistaking those numbers, make him unpleasant to mere lovers of language; but with those who can judge of things as well as words, he is, though sometimes very tedious, never absolutely tiresome. There, too, the character of such a man

as Hume is open to misrepresention. Of those who attend the House of Commons, so as to be able to form any opinion of the members, there are many who come there as mere loungers, or as the listeners of their favourite orators; and to them the following of Hume through his long and intricate calculations, is a work of aversion. To the intelligent within the House, and the rational without, he, however, appears in a very different point of view. They regard him, as indeed posterity will regard him, as being, though far from the most splendid, one of the most straightforward, persevering, and useful labourers of the age; and possessing those substantial qualities, he may well leave others to enjoy the show. Indeed, he must so leave them, for he is not at all equal to the field-day parade of the orators,-as little as they are equal to his every-day duty.



[A beautiful description (but too long for this Selection) is given in Mr. Montgomery's "Greenland," of the destruction of an immense number of Greenlanders, who had assembled on the ice for the purposes of convivial intercourse and social festivity. In the midst of their amusements, a thaw suddenly takes place the ice breaks upand the whole of the assembly, with the exception of five, are consigned to the merciless deep.-The situation and circumstances of this little party (whose ultimate fate is, however, unknown), are the subjects of

the following beautiful description, on the day succeeding the awful


WHERE are the multitudes of yesterday?

At morn they came; at eve, they passed away,

Yet some survive; yon castellated pile
Floats on the surges, like a fairy isle ;
Pre-eminent upon its peak, behold,

With walls of amethyst, and roofs of gold,
The semblance of a city; towers and spires
Glance in the firmament with opal fires;
Prone from those heights pellucid fountains flow
O'er pearly meads, through emerald vales below.
No lovelier pageant moves beneath the sky,
Nor one so mournful to the nearer eye;
Here, when the bitterness of death had passed
O'er others with their sledge and rein-deer cast,
Five wretched ones in dumb despondence wait
The lingering issue of a nameless fate;
A bridal party:-mark yon reverend sage
In the brown vigour of autumnal age;

His daughter in her prime; the youth, who won
Her love by miracles of prowess done;
With these, two meet companions of their joy,
Her younger sister, and a gallant boy,
Who hoped like him, a gentle heart to gain,
By valorous enterprise on land or main.

-These, when the ocean-pavement failed their feet,
Sought on a glacier's crags a safe retreat,
But, in the shock from its foundation torn,
That mass is slowly o'er the waters borne,
An ice-berg!-on whose verge all day they stand,
And eye the bright horizon's ring for land.
All night around a dismal flame they weep;
Their sledge, by piecemeal, lights the hoary deep.
Morn brings no comfort; at her dawn expire
The latest embers of their latest fire;
For warmth and food the patient reindeer bleeds,
Happier in death than those he warms and feeds.
How long, by that precarious raft upbuoyed,
They blindly drifted on a shoreless void;—
How long they suffered, or how soon they found
Rest in the gulf, or peace on living ground :-

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »