« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
of a vessel, after having done every thing possible for its security, and equipped it with every thing for the purpose, and with the prospect of safety, were to encounter a storm, and, upon his tackle being strained, or wholly giving way, were to suffer shipwreck, and then some one should blame;-why, I had not the control of the vessel, he might reply ;any more than I had the command of the army, or was the master of Fortune, instead of being the mistress of every thing. But recollect and consider this ; —if it was our evil destiny so to fail when fighting in conjunction with the Thebans, what might we not have expected, if we had not had them for our allies, but they had been united with Philip-an event for which this Eschines was eternally lifting up his voice? And if, when the battle was fought, at the distance of three days' journey, such danger and consternation came upon the city, what ought we not to suppose must have happened, if the calamity had taken place within our own territory? Do you think we should have been allowed now to exist, and assemble and breathe again? Three days, or two, or even one, contributed largely to the salvation of the country. In the other event-but I need not pursue consequences, which the goodness of Providence, and the shield I placed before the city by this decreewhich you, Æschines, revile-would not allow us to experience.
But all these numerous topics are addressed to you, the judges, and to the strangers who are present and listening to the trial; for as much as against this contemptible wretch himself, a short and simple statement would suffice. For if futurity was revealed to you alone of all mankind, Æschines, when the state was in deliberation upon the measures to be adopted
that was the time for you to have foretold the result; but if you did not foresee it, you are open to the imputation of the same ignorance as others :what greater right then have you to accuse me upon this subject, than I to accuse you?
In this, at least, I proved myself so much a better citizen than yourself, upon these very measures-and
I am, at present, speaking of none other-in proportion as I rendered myself responsible for what then seemed to be the public interest, without any personal apprehension, or underhand calculation about myself; whilst you neither offered any better suggestions, for if you had, the people would not have acted upon mine-nor made yourself useful in any one particular, but the very course which might have been expected from the worst-disposed person and the bitterest enemy of the state, you are proved to have pursued upon the events as they have arisen, -and, at the same moment, Aristratus at Naxos, Aristolaus at Thassus-in one word, the enemies of the Athenians, all the world over, are dragging their friends to the bar of justice, and at Athens, Æschines is, of course, accusing Demosthenes! Although that man, for whom the misfortunes of the Greeks are reserved as a source of glory, ought rather to suffer death himself, than accuse another; and he cannot be well affected to his country, who has such an identity of interest with its enemies, as that the same circumstances should be at once profitable to both. By the habits of your life and private conduct; -by what you do in public affairs, and by what you decline doing, you manifest what you are. Is there any thing going on, from which there is a prospect of advantage to the country? Eschines is dumb. Has there been any failure, or a result different from what it ought? Forth comes Eschines! just as old fractures and sprains rack us afresh, when the body is attacked by disease.
Mr. Sheridan on the Repealing of the Bill for Sus pending the Habeas Corpus Act, Jan. 5, 1795.1
I CAN suppose the case of a haughty and stiff-necked minister, who never mixed in a popular assembly, who has therefore no common feeling with the mass of the people, no knowledge of the mode in which
their intercourse is conducted, who had not been a month in the ranks in this house before he was raised to the first situation, and, though on a footing with any other member, elevated with the idea of fancied superiority; such a minister can have no communication with the people of England, except through the medium of spies and informers; he is unacquainted with the mode in which their sentiments are expressed, and cannot make allowance for the language of toasts and resolutions, adopted in an unguarded and convivial hour. Such a minister, if he lose their confidence, he will bribe their hate; if he disgust them by arbitrary measures, he will not leave them till they are completely bound and shackled; above all, he will gratify the vindictive resentment of apostacy, by prosecuting all those who dare to espouse the cause which he has betrayed: and he will not desist from the gratification of his malignant propensities, and the prosecution of his arbitrary schemes, till he has buried in one grave, the peace, the happiness, the glory, the independence, of England. Such a minister must be disqualified to judge of the real state of the country, and must be eternally the dupe of those spies, whose interest it is to deceive him, as well as betray others. In what country, or from what quarter of the community, are we to apprehend the effects of those principles of insubordination, with which we have been so often threatened? The characteristic feature of the English nation is entirely different; they testify on every occasion the utmost respect for superiority (I am sorry to use the phrase), wherever the advantages of rank or fortune are exercised by those who enjoy them with any tolerable decency or regard to the welfare of their dependants. What nobleman or gentleman finds in his tenants or servants, as long as he treats them with propriety and kindness, a hostile and envious disposition? What merchant or great manufacturer finds in those whom he employs, so long as he treats them well, a sullen and uncomplying temper, instead of a prompt and cheerful obedience? This tendency to insubordination forms no part of the temper or character of
the people: the contrary disposition is even carried to an extreme. If I am asked, whether there is any danger in the present moment, I say, yes. But it is not a danger of that sort which is to be remedied by suspending the rights, or abridging the privileges, of the people The danger arises from a contempt being produced, among the lower orders, of all public men and all public principles.
-I will not admit the inference or the argument, that, because a people, bred under a proud, insolent, and grinding despotism, maddened by the recollection of former injuries, and made savage by the observation of former cruelties; a people, in whose minds no sincere respect for property or law ever could have existed, because property had never been secured to them, and law had never protected them; a people separated and divided into classes by the strongest and harshest lines of distinction, generating envy and smothered malice in the lower ranks, and pride and insolence in the higher :-that the actions of such a people at any time, much less in the hour of frenzy and of fury, provoked and goaded by the arms and menaces of the surrounding despots that assailed them, should furnish an inference or ground on which to estimate the temper, character, or feelings, of the people of Great Britain; of a people who, though sensible of many abuses which disfigure the constitution, are yet not insensible to its many and invaluable blessings; a people who reverence the laws of their country, because those laws protect and shield all alike; a people, among whom all that is advantageous in private acquisition, all that is honourable in public ambition, is equally open to the efforts, the industry, and the abilities of all; among whom progress and rise in society and public estimation is one ascending slope, as it were, without a break or landing-place; among whom no sullen line of demarcation separates and cuts off the several orders from each other, but all is one blended tint, from the deepest shade that veils the meanest occupation of laborious industry, to the brightest hue that glitters in the luxurious pageantry of title, wealth,
and power. I, therefore, will not look to the example of France; for, between the feelings, the tempers, and the social disposition towards each other, much less towards the governments which they obey, of nations so differently constituted, and of such different habits, I will assert that no comparison can be made which reason and philosophy ought not to spurn at with contempt and indignation.
Mr. Fox on the Conduct of the War with France.
May 10, 1796.
BEFORE We go into particular inquiries, let us first examine whether erroneous maxims of policy have not been adopted, and whether the principles which have been acted upon are not fundamentally wrong. There is an argument, which has been used by an ancient orator, the greatest orator that perhaps the world ever saw, which, in my opinion, is not inapplicable to the present situation of this country. Demosthenes uses this brilliant, and, in my opinion, no less solid than brilliant argument, in the introduction to one of his noblest orations. When he observed the conduct and the fate of the Athenians, and compared their calamities with the mismanagement of their rulers, this mismanagement so far from being a cause of despair, he directly stated as a ground of hope. "If," said he, "they had fallen into these misfortunes by the course of natural and irremediable causes, then, indeed, there would be reason for despair; if, the contrary, they are the fruits of folly and misconduct, it may be possible, by wisdom and prudence, to repair the evil." In the same manner I would argue on the present occason. Had we not fallen into our present situation, from plans ill formed and worse executed; if every minister had been wise, and every enterprize ably executed, then, indeed, our state, would have been truly deplorable. But if our policy, has been erroneous, and our mea