Imágenes de página

of which Burke was a member, on the address in answer to his Majesty's -peech, reprobated the measures of Administration respecting the colonies. Burke made an oration on the subject; the tenor of which was to prove that the late resolutions were ill-timed and inexpedient, and the means employed for their execution unwise and ineffectual. In this speech he took occasion to direct his eloquence against the secret influence of which he alledged Ministry to be the tools. Of the interior cabinet, a main object, he said, was to separate friend from friend, party from party, that public men might the more easily be rendered subservient to the Cabal. This speech contained many of the heads of the subsequent essay on the Causes of the Discontents:

Lord Chatham, finding that Ministry were : proceeding in a plan totally opposite to his opinion, and under a direction which he deemed ruinous to the country, having, in spite of age and ill health, made every effort that patriotism could prompt, to give things a contrary bias, and finding his exertions

vain, resigned in disgust. The magnanimous, patriotic mind of the great Pitt would not descend to receive the mandates of court favourites; to truckle to men whom he despised. This was an independence of mind not always the concomitant even of conscious genius, :

At the close of this session parliament was dissolved. Burke, who had been only two years a member, was already considered as the first orator in the house, at a time when there was in it a very splendid assemblage of talents. His orations at first were more tinctured with the metaphysical learning which had occupied a great part of his early life, than is to be perceived in the speeches of more mature moral and political experience. His was the eloquence of a very great mind, accustomed to generalization ; but became afterwards more marked by practical wisdom.

Burke was re-elected for Wendover. The new parliament met in November, 1768. '

[ocr errors]

An act passed during this session which excited great disturbances in and out of parliament. This was the famous expulsion of Wilkes, and the consequent proceedings.

Wilkes, when the Ministers who had persecuted him were dismissed from office, and the Marquis of Rockingham was appointed, had returned to London. The Marquis and his friends, whatever might be their opinion of his private character, had strongly expressed their disapprobation of his unjust treatment. From them Wilkes hoped for compassion for his sufferings, and redress for the injuries he had received. To fortify his cause by private influence, he prevailed on Mr. Macleane, an intimate friend of Burke, to second him in applying to that gentleman. Burke acquainted him, from the Marquis, that he was disposed to serve him, but would not pledge himself to any specific mode. Wilkes conceived that, as the Minister courted popularity, he, having been so strenuous in a popular cause, might command his own terms. He accordingly

demanded a general pardon, five thousand pounds in cash, and a pension on the Irish establishment. Burke refused to carry so presumptuous a requisition to his patron; nor would any other person make so extravagant an application. '.:.

Disappointed by his own confident folly, and not being able to procure the reversal of his outlawry, Wilkes was obliged to return to exile. When the Duke of Grafton became Prime Minister, he wrote him to the following purport : * · He congratulated the country on the promotion of his Grace, and intreated him to mediate his pardon from the King ; declaring, that he had never, in any moment of his life, swerved from the duty and allegiance he owed to his Sovereign, and professing in every thing to submit to his Majesty's clemency. Your Grace's noble manner of thinking,' says he, and the obligations I have formerly received, which are still fresh in my mind, will, I hope, give a full propriety to this address ; and I am sure, a heart glowing with the sacred zeal of

* Belsham's Memoirs of George III. voi' i. p. 233.

liberty must have a favourable reception from the Duke of Grafton.'

This application was neglected. Mr. Wilkes's hope of pardon being extinguished, he resolved to make his enemies feel his resentment. At the present crisis, the conduct of the Court appeared wholly unaccountable. There was plainly no just medium between the opposite determinations of rigour and lenity. If the former were adopted, by putting into immediate execution his sentence of outlawry, his projects of revenge and ambition would have been easily and completely defeated. If, on the contrary, the wiser and more generous plan of lenity were preferred, a full and free pardon ought to have been granted: with his persecution, his influence and popularity would have ceased. To halt between the two opinions was an infallible proof of weakness in the cabinet counsels.

On the dissolution of parliament Wilkes came from Paris to London, to offer himself

« AnteriorContinuar »