« AnteriorContinuar »
whom it immediately affected. Lord North and his new
found among his voters at the next election; they considered him as having receded from those principles of liberty, on which he had first acted; for he had now become cool in his zeal for that reform of parliament, which had, in conjunction with his great talents, first entitled him to their notice.
An occasion, as we have just remarked, suddenly offered, in 1784, for bringing Mr. Pitt forward once more on the great theatre of politics, as a candidate for fame and power. The British dominions in India had long been in an alarming situation, and it was generally admitted that an immediate remedy was indispensably necessary to preserve them. With this view, :Mr. Fox, then Secretary of State, formed, digested, and brought forward his famous India Bill, which he carried through its several stages with a high hand *).
The coalition-ministry, composed of such an heterogeneous mixture, notwithstanding their majority in the House of Commons, were generally obnoxious to the nation, and this measure was particularly offensive to the great body
allies were accordingly dismissed, and that too in a very unconstitutional manner, and Mr. Pitt, the new Premier, was assisted by the advice of Lord Thurlow **), as keeper of the great seal arrangements which, at that time, were, however only considered as temporary!
He now astonished the commercial and political world, by his own India bill ***)! He had, however, the mortification to find the majority of the House of Commons against him, and he was placed in the particular situation of a minister acting with a minority, and that too in opposition to the strongest conflux of talents ever combined against any administration. He, however, remained firm in his seat amidst a general confusion; and though the House had pe-, titioned his Majesty; to dismiss him and his coadjutors, our young Premier ventured to inform the representatives of the nation that their petition could not be complied with!
This struggle between the Commons and the Crown was of the greatest importance; but the people, at large, were of
* S. weiter unten den Artikel Fox. **) Lord Thurlow war mit einer kurzen Unterbrechung Lord Chancellor von 1778 bis 1792. ***) Man finder den Inhalt derselben ausführlich in den Beiträgen zur Kenntniss des Innern von England etc. 4tes Stück, S. 112,
opinion, that the former encroached upon the regal prerogam - tives; and on the question being, in a manner, thrown into
their hands by'a dissolution of Parliament,, a new one was · returned, which changed the majority, and preserved the Premier in a post which he has sturdily maintained ever since! *).
Various public measures have, of course, during a period of fourteen years, been brought forward by this active minister; to notice which would far exceed the bounds of a memoir, so limited in its object, as the present. They are incorporated in the history of his country, and at present familiarly recollected by his contemporaries.
The commercial treaty with France was a bold 'scheme, and evinced deep political and mercantile knowledge. But the most critical circumstance in the annals of Mr. Pitt's administration, and that on which his, biographer should dwell the most, is the period when the regal powers were, in a manner, unhappily suspended, and all the wisdom of the legislature was required to form a regency. It was a crisis not only novel, but of extreme magnitude, as likely to become the precedent for future times; no such incident having, till then, occurred in the annals of our history **).
Some statesmen would have worshipped the rising sun'; Mr. Pitt, and his colleagues, however, pursued a different course, and thereby added greatly to their popularity, and effectually secured themselves in power.
But if, on some occasions, he has courted the favour of the people, he certainly has not always sacrificed at their "shrine. He appears, indeed, to have a proper conception of the value in which popular esteem is to be held, but to be sensible, at the same time, that it ought not to influence the conduct of a legislator, if evidently repugnant to the true interests of the country.
When the revolution took place in France, the situation of the prime minister of this kingdom became once more exo tremely critical.
*) Der Leser erinnere sich bei dieser und einigen undern Siel len, dass obiger Aufsatz im Jahre 1799 geschrieben wurde. **) Urber Pitt's Benchmen während der Krankheit des Königs findet man ausführliche Nachrichten im 16ten Stück der mehrmals angeführten Beiträge etc. S. 7. u. f.
The aspect of Europe has assumed a neto face, since the monarchy of France was shaken from its ancient basis, war has ensued totally different from all former wars. In judging, therefore, of the merits of those who are concerned in managing the affairs of the nation, it is impossible to have recourse either to precedents, or to old political principles. A new mode of action, a new scheme of politics, was to be devised and adapted to the existing circumsiances,
If any merit be due to boldness of invention, to vigour of execution, to wide extension of plans, and to firmness and perseverance of conduct, certainly the present administration has : an undoubted claim to public gratitude; it must, however, be allowed, that they are accused of having trenched more than once on the liberties of the people.
An attention to commerce has greatly distinguished Mr. Pitt's administration, particularly during the present contest. Perhaps there is no man in the kingdom better acquainted with the principles of trade than he is. The oldest, and most experienced merchants have been astonished at his readiness in conversing with them upon subjects of which they thought themselves exclusively masters. Many who have waited upon him in full confidence that they should communicate some new and important information, have, to their great surprise, found him minutely and intimately acquainted with all those points to which they conceived he was a stranger. By the close attention which he has uniformly paid to the mercantile interests, he has also secured to himself an exclusive basis of support, which has enabled him not only to resist a most vigorous opposition, but to carry into effect financial measures until his time deemed impracticable.
Some men have charged him with political tergiversation, on the ground of having abandoned, if not opposed, the project of a parliamentary reform. If he really considers such a reform as no longer necessary, it will not be difficult to eronerate him from this heavy accusation. But there certainly is a great difference between absolute apostacy, and an occasional cessation from a particular system of opinions or line of conduct. It does not follow that Mr. Pitt is an enemy to necessary reform, because he considers the existing circumstances of the country as too critical to admit the trial of the experiment,
As a public speaker, the minister is not to be characterized by over-strained parallels, drawn from the orators of antiquity. He possesses rather the elegance and grace of Cicero, than the fire of Demosthenes. He displays, however, more of the acute logician, than of the persuasive rhetorician; but his voice, though clear and powerful, possesses not. those modulations that charm the ear, and steal upon
the heart. His deficiencies, however, are more than counterbalanced by a conclusive and forcible method of reasoning, added to
a facility of stating his arguments, which makes them not only conceiveable to the meanest understanding, but gives them frequently a precision and vigour which may be pronounced irresistible.
The Premier also possesses an advantage of inestimable value, in a minister of state, namely, a great command over his temper, added to much coolness, during the ardour of debate.
This enables him to reply clearly and particularly to the arguments of his opponents, and to defend his cause, by often turning their own weapons upon themselves. Though he is confident, and, frequently, it must be confessed, even arrogant, in his speeches, which sometimes provokes the opposition orators to use harsh language, yet he seldom loses his own temper, or retorts in anger.
His action is not strictly graceful, which is, in some measure owing to the disadvantage of an exterior, which however dignified, is yet not engaging; for he is very tall, and deficient in embonpoint. His countenance is also severe and forbidding, expressive, indeed (in the language of physiognomists) of a capacious mind, and inflexible resolution; but also of a too lofty, and, perhaps, unbending spirit.
Mr. Pitt forms, in all points, a direct contrast to his political opponent: and it is certainly a curious circuma stance, that two such extraordinary men should be as opposite - in their private characters, as in their public career, In debate, Mr. Fox is vehement, Mt. Pitt cool.
The pone is frank and open, the other close and reserved. The urbanity of the exminister gains him friends, among all parties; the hauteur and sang froid of the Premier, does not conciliate even his associates.
Mr. Pitt is the same guarded and unbending politician in his social hours, that he is in the House of Commons.
In private life, his sole pleasures are of an official and convivial nature.
Ambition is the ruling passion of his soul, before which every other sinks into insignificance; and at the shrine of this goddess, and at that of Bacchus, he is supposed alone to pay his devotions. That health and talents may not suffer by the latter, and that his country may prosper under the influence of the former, is the earnest wish of the writer of this article.
Pitt resignirte im März 1801. Wie grofs dessen ungeachtet sein Einfluss auf das neue Ministerium, zu dessen vornehmsten Mitgliedern Addington, St. Vincent, Aawkesbury und Hobart gehörten, und welches fast ganz nach seinen Grundsätzen zu handeln schien, gewesen, ist bekannt. Seine scheinbare Entfernung von der unmittelbaren Verwaltung der Staatsangelegenheiten dauerte, wie vorauszusehen war, nicht lange, denn schon den 'ioten Mai 1804 hatte er seinen vorigen Posten eingenommen. Er bekleidete denselben bis zu seinem den 23sten Januar 1806 zu Pulteney erfolgren Tode. Sein Vaterland verlor in ihm einen seiner hochherzigsten Patrioten, und bezeigte durch eine feierliche Beisetzung seines Leichnams in der Westminster-Abtei seine Theilnahme an dem grossen Verlust, den es erlitten. So sehr die Mitglieder der Opposition die Grundsätze tadelten, nach welchen er handelte, so wahr ist es doch und Fox, sein chemaliger eifrigster Gegner, schien davon überzeugt zu seyn - dass ein PreinierMinister Englands nicht nach andern Grundsätzen handeln dürfe. Was das hier aufgenommene Bruchstück seiner Rede betrifft, so braucht zum Verständnisse desselben nur folgendes angeführt zu werden: Dundas trug in der Parliamentssitzung vom 3ten Febr. 1800 auf eine Dank-Adresse an den König für die Mittheilung der Antworten an, welche auf die FriedensAnträge Frankreichs ertheilt worden waren; verschiedene Mitglieder sprachen dagegen, Ensonderheit Th. Erskine. Nun erhob sich Pitt, und redete ausführlich über die Schwierigkeiten, gegenwärtig mit Frankreich zu negociiren. . Seine Rede sowohl, als auch Fox's Beantwortung derselben (wovon in dem nächst folgenden Artikel ein Fragment mitgetheilt werden soll), findet man in Woodfall's parliamentary Reports 1800. Vol. II.
91. vollständig abgedruckt. Eine umständliche Erzählung seines Lebens enthält folgendes Werk: History of the political life of the right honourable William Pitt, including some account of the times in which be lived, by John Gif