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The beacons and their rusted swords are gleaming
Thus, through hard fight alone the boon is given
*From "The Lyre and Sword," being translations of Körner's Poems, by W. B. Chorley.-TRANSLATOR.
POLITICAL ELOQUENCE. FOX. BURKE. PITT.
POLITICAL eloquence may be considered as constituting part of British Literature. I have had opportunities of forming my opinion upon it at two very different periods of my life.*
The England of 1688 was, about the end of the last century, at the apogee of its glory. As a poor emigrant in London from 1792 to 1800, I listened to the speeches of the Pitts, the Foxes, the Sheridans, the Wilberforces, the Grenvilles, the Whitbreads, the Lauderdales, the Erskines: as a magnificent ambassador in 1822, I cannot express how I was struck when, instead of the great speakers whom I had formerly admired, I saw those who had been their seconds at the time of my first visit, the scholars, rise instead of the
* All that follows, as far as the chapter entitled "Travels," is extracted from my Memoirs.
masters. Britain fares no better than the rest; general ideas have penetrated into that particular society and are leading it. But the enlightened aristocracy, placed at the head of that country for the last one hundred and forty years, will have exhibited to the world one of the most powerful societies that ever did honour to mankind since the Roman Patriciate. The last successes of the British crown on the continent have hastened its fall; victorious England, as well as Bonaparte vanquished, lost her empire at Waterloo,
In 1791 I was present at the memorable sitting of the House of Commons, when Burke renounced his political connection with Fox. The question related to the French revolution, which Burke attacked, and Fox defended. Never did the two speakers, who had till then been friends, display such eloquence. The whole house was affected, and tears trickled down Fox's cheeks when Burke concluded his reply in these words :
"The right honourable gentleman, in the speech which he has just made, has treated me in every sentence with uncommon harshness. He has brought down the whole strength and heavy artillery of his judgment, eloquence, and abilities upon me, to crush me at once by a censure upon my whole life, conduct, and opinions. Notwithstanding this great and serious, though on my part
unmerited, attack and attempt to crush me, I will not be dismayed. I am not yet afraid to state my sentiments in this house or any where else, and I I will tell all the world that the constitution is in danger. It certainly is an indiscretion at any period, but especially at my time of life, to provoke enemies, or to give my friends occasion to desert me; yet, if my firm and steady adherence to the British constitution places me in such a dilemma, I will risk all; and, as public duty and public prudence teach me, with my last words exclaim, Fly from the French constitution!""
Mr. Fox here whispered "that there was no loss of friends."
"Yes," exclaimed Burke, "there is a loss of friends: I know the price of my conduct. I have done my duty at the price of my friend. Our friendship is at an end. Before I sit down, let me earnestly warn the two right honourable gentlemen who are the great rivals in this house, whether they hereafter move in the political hemisphere as two flaming meteors, or walk together like brothers hand in hand, to preserve and cherish the British constitution, to guard against innovation, and to save it from the danger of those new theories."
Pitt, Fox, and Burke are no more, and the English constitution has felt the influence of the
new theories. You should have seen the gravity of the parliamentary debates at that period; you should have heard the speakers, whose prophetic voices seemed to announce a speedy revolution; in order to form some idea of the scene to which I have just adverted. Liberty restricted within the limits of order seemed to be struggling at Westminster under the influence of that anarchical liberty which was declaiming at the still bloody tribune of the Convention.
Pitt, tall and slender, had an air at once melancholy and sarcastic. His delivery was cold, his intonation monotonous, his action scarcely perceptible; at the same time the lucidity and the fluency of his thoughts, the logic of his arguments, suddenly irradiated with flashes of eloquence, rendered his talent something above the ordinary line.
I frequently saw Pitt walking across St. James's Park, from his own house to the palace. On his part, George III. arrived from Windsor, after drinking beer out of a pewter pot with the farmers of the neighbourhood; he drove through the mean courts of his mean habitation in a grey chariot, followed by a few of the Horse Guards. This was the master of the kings of Europe, as five or six merchants of the City are the masters of India. Pitt, dressed in black, with a steel-hilted sword by his side, hat under his arm, ascended, taking two