Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

a candidate for the city. He was received with rapturous applause by the people; but rejected on the poll, through Harley, the Lord Mayor, a strenuous supporter of the Court. The magistrate was grossly insulted by the populace. Wilkes immediately offered for Middlesex. Supported not only by the lower people, but by men of the first opulence in the city, and men of the first talents at the bar and in the senate, he was returned by a very great majority. Soon after he surrendered himself to the jurisdiction of the King's Bench.

A sentence was passed condemning him to imprisonment for two years; to pay a fine of a thousand pounds, and to find security for his good behaviour for seven years. The people, enraged at this sentence, which an arbitrary alteration of records made still more hateful, forcibly rescued him from the officers who were taking him to prison, and made a triumphant procession with him through the city. As soon as the multitude dispersed he surrendered himself to the Marshal of the Bench. The day of the first meeting of the new parliament, numbers assembled in St. George's Fields, expe ting to see Wilkes go from the place of his confinement to the House of Commons. As they became very riotous, the Surrey Magistrates were obliged to interfere, and at last to call the military. The mob abused and attacked the soldiers: they being ordered to fire, unfortunately killed an innocent man. Government expressed the highest approbation of the justices and the troops, in a letter from Lord Weymouth, Secretary of State, to the Surrey Magistrates. A copy of this letter was procured by Wilkes, who published it, with a very severe and violent prefatory attack. Parliament meeting, voted this preface an insolent, scandalous, and seditious libel. Wilkes, avowing himself the author, was expelled the house. On a new election he was again unanimously chosen. The house then declared, that Mr. Wilkes, þeing expelled, was incapable of sitting in the same parliament; and that, therefore, the election was void. He was chosen a

third time, and the third election declared void. At the fourth Col. Luttrel stood candidate. For Wilkes there were twelve hundred and forty-three, for Luttrel two hundred and ninety-six. Wilkes was returned, but his name was erased from the writ by order of the house, and Luttrel's substituted in its place.

Some of our readers may have forgotten the series of proceedings concerning this noted demagogue. Besides their general importance in the questions they involved, and the very great political and literary exertions on both sides which they excited, they have a special importance to a biographer of Burke. They more fully unfolded the powers of his eloquence in the house than had been hitherto done; and from the closet they called forward the most able, comprehensive, and profound account of the political state of the country. I have, therefore, thought this summary concerning Wilkes not irrelative to the subject of my work,

Opposition consisted of two parties of very different views and principles, though agreed in their disapprobation of the Grafton Ministry: the party of which Lord Rocke ingham was the nominal leader, and Burke the most distinguished orator; and that of which Mr. Grenville was the head.

The author of the Memoirs of Mr. Burke draws the following character of Grenville's and of Burke's eloquence. “Mr. Burke's eloquence was splendid, copious, and animated ; sometimes addressing itself to the passions, much oftener to the fancy; but very seldom to the understanding. It seemed fitter for shew than debate; for the school than the senate; and was calculated rather to excite applause than to produce conviction. Mr. Grenville’s was plain, yet correct; manly, argumentative, trusting more to genuine candour, to the energy of reason, and the well displayed evidence of truth, , than to the rainbow colours of fine imagery, or the blaze of artificial declamation. Mr. Burke, naturally ardent and impetuous,

took fire at the smallest collision ; and the sudden bursts of his anger, or his vehemence, when all around him was calm, could only be compared to the rant of intoxication in the presence of a sober and dispassionate company: Mr. Grenville, even when attacked with the utmost asperity, shewed a perfect command of temper.'

Coinciding in some parts of this opinion, I by no means accede to all. I am far from thinking that Burke addresses himself very seldom to the understanding. To me his speeches appear to have, besides their imagery, a greater abundance and variety of knowledge, more forcible reasoning and more enlarged philosophy, than those of Mr. Grenville, or almost any orator of any age or country. So far from seldom addressing the understanding, I think he commonly directed to it more of argument, and of general principle, than the mere subject required; or, perhaps, some of the audience could comprehend. His presents to intellect, so far from being scanty, are

« AnteriorContinuar »