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“spring of commerce' between two great Powers; and it closed a wasteful source of illwill and discord.
He has, however, admirably explained and described one main cause of the national progress, the extraordinary developement of wealth and industry due to the inventive genius of the time. His account of the prodigious results wrought by the construction of our canal system, by the recent discovery of the full power of steam and its application to all kinds of uses, and by the skilful processes which made the growth of our textile manufactures a wonder of the world, is one of the most interesting episodes in his book; and if it be true that these agencies contributed largely to the fall of Napoleon, they perhaps saved the England of the youth of Pitt from bankruptcy. Another remarkable feature of the time deserves the attention of thoughtful minds. The power of the daily press was still immature, but it was steadily growing and asserting itself; and a spirit of inquiry, and of earnest interest in political questions of every kind, was spreading through many parts of the nation. This force of opinion had a potent influence in banishing corruption and intrigue from Parliament, and in purifying the whole system of government, as great, possibly, as the economic reform which was one of the best achievements of Burke. The philanthropic tendency, too, of the age was quickened in England by a strong religious movement; and this had much effect in lessening discontent, and in improving the relations between the rich and the poor. A Wilberforce never found a place in the House of Commons of Walpole and Pelham ; he was the type of a class in the House of Commons of Pitt.
The prosperity of England in these years, however, must, to a great extent, be ascribed to Pitt, and Mr. Lecky is justified in placing that striking and commanding figure in the forefront, so to speak, of his narrative. His portrait of Pitt, we have said, is excellent; and his estimate of his career as a statesman, though not, in our judgement, wholly just, is nevertheless of real value. Indomitable resolution' was, we think, the most distinctive feature of Pitt's character; and this great quality—the only one, perhaps, in which he closely resembled Chatham-was the most conspicuous of his splendid gifts. To his firmness and constancy we may largely attribute his astonishing triumph in 1784, the stability of his long tenure of power, and the success of his earlier foreign policy; and this rare excellence, happily combined with self-confidence and a sanguine spirit,
to a considerable extent, in our opinion, redeems his shortcomings as a war minister. Strength of character, however, was united in Pitt with moderation and admirable tact; his manner, no doubt, was unbending and haughty, but he knew how to conciliate, and when to yield; he could fascinate friends and disarm opponents; and his marvellous ascendency in the House of Commons was partly the result of his singular skill in managing a proud and fastidious assembly. Of his patriotism it is unnecessary to speak; his nature, too, was lofty and grand; his integrity as a public man was unsullied, in an age still somewhat lax and unscrupulous ; and his conscientious industry and the purity of his life secured him the reverence, nay the affection, of the best and most respectable parts of the nation. Nor were the intellectual gifts and tendencies of Pitt less remarkable, and calculated to achieve success, than his high and commanding moral qualities. As an orator be was only second to Fox; and his faculty of perspicuous and exhaustive statement, and his extraordinary skill in what may be called debating tactics, place him in the first rank of parliamentary speakers. But mere oratory, whatever may be said, has never raised an English statesman to greatness; and one of the chief characteristics of Pitt, and one main cause of his supremacy in the State, was that the turn of his mind and his tastes and attainments in the first and the most fortunate part of his career were in harmony with the wants and ideas of the time. He was an earnest disciple of Adam Smith; financial and economic reforms were his strong points, and engrossed his thoughts; he had liberal, enlightened, and national views, and peculiar sympathy with the middle classes, and these special qualities stood hiin in good stead at a period when questions of trade and industry held a prominent place in public attention, when the whole system of our finances required amendment and reconstruction, and when manufacturing and commercial wealth was rapidly acquiring large influence. He also possessed in a high degree the respect of Englishmen for public law, and their faith in treaties and international rights; and this conviction in a great measure directed his foreign policy in these years, and contributed to its marked success.
There were flaws, however, in this great character, and these are fully pointed out in this book. Pitt was arrogant and extremely avaricious of power. We see a striking instance of the first defect in his conduct during the Westminster scrutiny and his idea of sending Fox to the Tower,
and of the second in the unwise concessions he repeatedly made to the prejudices of the king, in order, we fear, to remain in office. His nature, too, was somewhat harsh and stern; though an economic and social reformer, he scarcely bestowed a thought on the increasing distress and poverty of the humbler classes oppressed by excessive taxation in the last years of the century; he had no sympathy with human sorrow in its most tragic and pathetic aspects, as was seen in his attitude to the royal family of France during the agony of 1792, and he was unaffected by the philanthropy of his time. Unlike Burke, for example, he took no steps to mitigate the barbarities of our criminal law, and he looked too long with something like callousness at the atrocities of 1798 in Ireland. Very possibly, too, though in this respect Mr. Lecky's strictures are too severe, Pitt's love of power and parliamentary arts occasionally induced him to abandon principle in the exigencies of the passing hour, and to drop measures which he might have carried had he insisted on them with the full force of his will; and his policy and conduct after the Irish Union lay him but too open to this serious charge. Though amiable, moreover, in private life, he was imperious and cold in his official manner. He commanded the allegiance of the House of Commons, but, unlike Fox, scarcely gained its sympathies; and the character of the man is revealed in his stately, scornful, and reinorseless sarcasm. The most remarkable defect of Pitt remains, however, to be still noticed. He was thoroughly
, acquainted with the condition of England, with the requirements and the views of the nation, and with the tendencies of our complex society, and his skill in managing Parliament has been never equalled. He was well versed also in international law, and he had acquired, partly from his renowned father and partly from his own experience and study, a just conception of the relations of England with foreign Powers and the old order of Europe. He was unconscious of the revolutionary movement which, long before it broke out in France, was at this period disturbing the Continent; and having become minister at the age of twenty-four, he had no leisure to devote his mind to anything but the pressing questions of the hour. Pitt, moreover, had not, like Burke, the genius which intuitively perceives political crises, and apprehends them in their full results; and he did not possess Chatham's peculiar gift of selecting fitting persons for arduous posts in times of danger and great emergencies. His training and disposition thus
made him an admirable head of the State for guiding the fortunes of England in a time of peace, through a difficult period of social change, and even for restoring her to her fitting place among the established Powers of Europe. But, being unskilled in Irish affairs, his Irish policy before the Union must, we think, be pronounced a complete failure, and after the Union it can be only relieved from the charge of weakness, if not of bad faith, by a plea of ignorance of the real state of the island. As for the French Revolution, it showed that Pitt knew little about the condition of France; he utterly misunderstood that portentous event, its character, its importance, and its real tendencies, and he stood, so to speak, bewildered before it. As the natural result, the tremendous crisis found him unprepared and in a sea of troubles; he mismanaged our affairs at home and abroad, and could not discover instruments to serve his purpose, though, as we have said, more is to be urged in his behalf in the direction of the war than is generally believed.
We transcribe Mr. Lecky's judgement on Pitt. It coincides in many respects with our own, but it scarcely does justice to Pitt's highest qualities.
Parliamentary talents under a parliamentary government are often extravagantly overrated, and the type which I have endeavoured to describe, though combining great qualities both of intellect and character, is not, I think, of the very highest order. Under such a government, Pitt was indeed pre-eminently formed to be a leader of men, capable alike of directing, controlling, and inspiring, of impressing the imagination of nations, of steering the bark of the State in times of great difficulty and danger. He was probably the greatest of English parliamentary leaders; he was one of the greatest of parliamentary debaters; he was a very considerable finance minister, and he had a sane, sound judgement on ordinary events. But his eye seemed always fixed on the immediate present or on the near future. His mind, though quick, clear, and strong, was narrow in its range, and neither original nor profound; and though his nature was pure, lofty, and magnanimous, there were moral as well as mental defects in his statesmanship. Of his sincere and single-minded patriotism there can, indeed, I believe, be no doubt. “For personal purity, dis“ interestedness, integrity, and love of his country," wrote Wilhelm, “I have never known his equal.” He was not a statesman who would ever have raised dangerous questions, or embarrassed foreign negotiations, or trammelled his country in times of war, or appealed to subversive passions or class hatreds in order to climb into power, or to win personal or party advantages. But the love of power which was so dominant a feature in his character, though it never led him to take a course directly injurious to his country, did, I think, undoubtedly
more than once lead him to cast aside great causes which might have benefited her. A certain want of heart, a deficiency of earnestness and self-sacrifice is very apparent in his career. Perhaps with a warmer nature he would not have so generally possessed that balance of intellect which was pre-eminent among his merits.'
The following, we think, is perfectly correct :
'In Ireland Pitt had to deal with social and political conditions wholly different from those to which he was accustomed, and he conspicuously failed to master them. In the French Revolution he had to deal with a new and unexampled phenomenon, and it will now be scarcely disputed that he totally misunderstood its character and importance. In the conduct of the war, the strength of his character and the confidence he imposed proved of great value ; but he had nothing of his father's skill, nothing of that intuitive perception of character by which his father brought so many men of daring and ability to the forefront, and until his death English operations on the Continent present few features except those of extreme costliness and almost uniform failure.'
These volumes close, we have said, with the first act of the war, and coincide with that part of the administration of Pitt which, in almost every respect, was successful. Mr. Lecky has described the conduct of the Minister in detail, but has not placed events in their just proportions. . For example, he has dwelt at undue length on the controversy as regards the Regency-a question, except in its Irish aspects, of much less importance than several others, and now chiefly interesting as affording proof of Pitt's unrivalled skill in parliamentary tactics. As an administrator in all that relates to finance and to the management of the revenues of the State, Pitt transformed a most faulty into an efficient system with unsurpassed perseverance and skill. By gradually extinguishing all kinds of sinecures, by establishing a strict supervision of the national accounts, and by the abolition of the multifarious duties which made the Customs a seat of fraud and abuses, Pitt reduced by nearly a third the expense of collecting a largely increased revenue. His settlement of the Consolidated Fund was a triumph of administrative power and industry, and his reform in the practice of negotiating loans not only effected a large saving for the State, but closed a source of indirect corruption. As Mr. Lecky observes, his genius in managing details like these was preeminent; and details like these, at all times more important than is commonly supposed, were, at this conjuncture, of extreme consequence. As regards finance in its higher parts, Pitt found England almost insolvent, and in 1792 saw her