« ElőzőTovább »
and misguidings of an heir to dominion, he has also had all the opportunities that can in any way counteract the ill fate of men in his situation, and feed in them a continual desire to make up for their public errors. The situation itself is indeed of a nature to inspire a counter feeling to the very follies which it is of a nature to indulge; and perhaps the ill chances of royalty have been ingeneral too much lamented, when we consider how little is expected from it, and with what enthusiasm that little is received. No mistake is greater, or indeed more philosophically gross with regard to a knowledge of human nature, than to attribute to the middle and lower orders of a people what is called a naturally democratic spirit. The predominant spirit, all over the world, in every class of society, is a love of comfort; and what with this natural desire to be happy, the ties of domestic life, the daily routine of society, and the common prejudices of education and habit, which inculcate a respect for rank, it may be safely asserted not only that a democratic spirit, taken in the full extent of the epithet as now used, is not natural to a people in the present condition of society, but that whenever it does appear, it arises entirely from the faults, and the gross faults too, of the court or government. In fact, the least sense, the least virtue, the least decorum, is magnified fifty fold, in all that is said and done by princes; and if we are to allow them many excuses on account of the adulation with which servility assails them, we are to hold them inexcuseable if they once become insensible to that delicate and cordial flattery which is paid them by the natural affection of their people. Of this, the Prince of Wales has had long and affecting proofs,-affecting by their indulgent and almost unconquerable pertinacity. Never perhaps did parent more fondly cling to his hopes of a careless child than the people of this country have done to his character. They have watched it without ceasing; they have seen it guilty of follies and imprudencies without ceasing; and without ceasing they have par doned it and awaited its amendment. He goes from mistress to mistress, and from lavishment to lavishment :-very well, he is young, and is exposed to great temptations. He comes to Parlia ment for money to pay his debts:-very well, he is young, and generosity is better than avarice. He comes a second time: -very well; he is still young; at least he is not old, and this will be the last application. He comes a third time, after promising too to come no more:--this is somewhat staggering, but no matter; if he is not young, he has still time enough to reform, and there is no doubt he will do so :-habit too is to be considered, and particularly the awkwardness of his situation in being a prince without power and without interest. He marries; and without seeking unwarrantably into the cause of the marriage,
every body is transported with the Happy Union :---it is pro.. claimed in all possible ways; court and city revel upon it; lamps, ribbands, and garters burn with it in gold; the good old people, almost with tears in their eyes, drink it in a glass extraordinary; and the rising generation munch it contemplatively in gingerbread. What is the event? The married couple separate in a short time, and never unite again :---but then princes are much to be pitied on these occasions; they can scarcely be said to have a will of their own, much less affections; and in a word, he who had been so indulged and excused surely could not find it in his heart to trespass any further on the public attachment. Something like a shew of reformation did certainly take place, for though the Prince did not get rid of his debts, though he did not take back his wife or put away his mistress, yet he became comparatively regular and retired, and several years stole over his Brighton enjoyments with so much unexpected serenity, that the nation had almost begun to conclude him purified from all relish of what was frivolous, when an unlucky birth-day occurred, favourable for the display of shew, and his Royal Highness ap peared at his parade, tricked out like an actor of spectacle, and followed by his barouche containing my Lord Erskine and Colonel Hanger! At this vision, I believe, a general groan went round the nation; but no new follies ensued; and hope, elastic, ever during hope, sprang up again. From that time to his Royal Highness's entrance upon the office of Regent, nearly three years elapsed, during which he was more retired than ever; and the public hailed his reappearance, under circumstances so interesting, with a cordiality forgetful of past errors, and a warmth of expectation that could have no other cause but their own ardent good temper. It is true, there must have been a number of persons who did not participate in this warmth, whatever they might do in it's good wishes; but certainly the general feeling was otherwise; and nothing that his Royal Highness has done as the Prince, or may yet do as the Regent, will hinder it from accompanying him to the throne. How he may conduct himself in that situation, may perhaps be conjectured from his late behaviour; but of this presently. So winning is a generous temper under any aspect, and so readily are it's most specious substitutes allowed to stand in the place of virtue, that as long as the Prince shall display an air of it, undisproved by direct oppression or by a series of measures absolutely contemptible, so long will he enjoy the credit of ultimate good conduct,--so long will the idea of him be pleasing to the hopes and anticipations of the people. The good and inexperienced will be particularly warm to the last mo. ment,---granting that such a moment is to arrive.
What tho' no credit doubting wits may give,
The fair and innocent shall still believe.
What is highly curious is, that with great numbers of people, excuse of youth will act almost imperceptibly in his behalf, and has done so, in fact, to a very singular period. Even the Duke of York, on a late occasion, was not forsaken by this remarkable plea at the age of seven and forty; and the Prince, who has been constantly before the public under the aspect of youthful error,--an aspect withal so courteous and gallant,-bids fair to be young for ever in the general mind, or at least till he takes a more staid and paternal title than his present one.
In the mean time however, allowing all that is here said of him to be correct, is this all that can be said of the opportunities and the lessons which have been afforded him for reformation? Are the affection and long indulgence of the nation all that can be brought forward as sufficient motives for him to become an excellent king? If so, many persons will still argue, that such lessons and motives are, in point of fact and experience, not sufficient for such a purpose; that it is too much to demand wisdom of a prince who has been so treated ;---and that the foolish indulgence of the nation, if foolish, may reasonably return in punishment on it's own head. Without stopping to answer how destitute of common gratitude and sense this reasoning must suppose the Prince, it may be replied at once, that these lessons and motives are by no - means the only ones that have been afforded him for serious thinking, either in his own country or abroad ;---and even setting aside what he cannot but have observed at home,---setting aside the disrepute and the danger into which a wealthy knot of courtiers, outgrowing the protection so fatally given them, have brought the government and constitution,---setting aside all that he has heard and witnessed from his childhood respecting obstinate wars, encreasing debts, diminished credit and resources, irresponsible ministers, and degraded royalty,---enough has happened on the Continent alone to reach with alarming echoes into his privacy, and turn his most thoughtless moments to reflection. There is not a folly or a vice, that he has seen practised at home, but he has also seen punished abroad, and in the most awful manner. Of all the continental thrones, two only have remained entire in the space of twenty years; and however extravagantly at first, and inconsistently afterwards, their destroyers may have acted, the most bigotted politician among us will not venture to deny that their overthrow was originally owing to themselves. In the fall of the French throne was punished the long debauchery of a court, which lust of war had made odious and lust of pleasure unfeeling in that of the Neapolitan throne, a similar debauchery, rendered despica e by ignorance; in that of the Spanish, a de
bauchery equally despicable and more hideous from it's gravity; in that of the Portuguese, the enfeebling stupidity of bigotry: and in that of Sweden, the insane obstinacy that shuts it's eyes to reform. Other thrones, not absolutely swept away, have been shaken to their foundations, or retain little but a name :---the petty princes of Italy have joined the fate of their former subjects and become mere slaves---the House of Austria, reduced from Empire to vassalage, suffers for her insolent pretensions and shuf fling policy--and to the Prussian kinglet, who awaits in silence the final sentence of his conqueror, not a shadow, not a pretence remains of that artificial power which was created by the military talent and kidnapping principles of Frederick the Second, falsely called the Great. Never had the heir of a crown greater reason to congratulate himself on his security, and to avail himself heartily of his situation, than the Prince of Wales, surrounded as he has been, amidst all these tumults and awful warnings, with the English seas and with English affection, and enabled to survey at his leisure the terrible convulsions that at every fresh explosion swallowed up a throne. He had men about him too, discerning enough to see the real cause of the weakness of these thrones, and frank enough to point it out to him, as far as politics were concerned. He saw that corruption first rendered them weak, and that want of national attachment left them defenceless; and though his friends might not have chosen to be very sincere with him on the public effects of private vices in a court, yet his self-love could hardly have kept him so blind as to hinder him from seeing how invariably those vices became the aggravators of the offence, and the embitterers of it's punishment.
True, say his friends; he has discerned all this, and he has profited by it :---only wait till he ascend the throne, and you will have every proof of his experience and his patriotism.- -God grant it may be so ! But in the mean time, in order that he may have the chance of hearing the truth, if he has nobody to tell it him,---or at least, that every honest Englishman may not be visited with the remorse of having omitted to speak the truth when it was necessary, let us see what he does since he has enjoyed a portion of authority, and what prospect it affords us of an im provement in our affairs. If a plain statement on this head will be of little or no service, the bare possibility that it may catch a particular eye and excite one single particular feeling, is sufficient to warrant it; and at all events, it is a duty which we owe to our national pride. One thing is clear ;---that if speaking can do little, silence can do less. No good whatever, either to our welfare or reputation, can possibly arise from that affected respectfulness of credulity, with which the courtiers treat every thing royal as something sacred and not to be canvassed, and in
which they would willingly be copied by the whole nation. may agrée, if we please, that the Prince will surely make an excellent monarch: we may agree to be silent on all subjects affecting the feelings of men in power, and to take every thing which they do for granted as the best which can be done; but the instant we act in this manner, we become pandars to the lust of arbitrary power; and no eventual service is rendered either to ourselves or our betrayers; for in the first instance, we shall become a despicable people; and in the second, the day of retribution will only come heavier upon those who have bestridden and galled us in our dumbness.
The public actions of the Prince of Wales, since his acceptance of the Regency, have been of various importance, some of them observable in an historical point of view, others of a more familiar nature and more illustrative of private character, but on that account, perhaps, the most important to our present purpose. They may be summed up under four heads; which shall be view ed in the order of their actual occurrence.
1. His Royal Highness's first proceeding was the Retention of Ministers in Office. This has been already canvassed in the prcsent work, and in most others that take any particular notice of politics; and the supposition upon which the general opinion agrees to account for it, is that his Royal Highness entertained confident expectations of the King's recovery, and thought it useless to make any political change that promised to be momentary. This certainly appears the most reasonable explanation of the matter; and if he really did entertain such expectations, it is clear that he could not have acted otherwise. The very general per suasion however, among observant persons, that there was no likeli hood of his Majesty's resumption of the regal powers,---a persuasion, which notwithstanding the direct and repeated contradiction of the physicians, every day has helped to confirm,---gave rise to a multitude of surmises respecting the origin of the counter-persuasion in the mind of his Royal Highness, whom they were inclined, unwarrantably enough perhaps, to regard with something like wonder on account of his opposite conclusions on that subject. They proceeded therefore, somewhat hastily, to imagine that his conviction must have submitted to some influence on the part of others, or in plain words, must have yielded too implicitly to the views of those who were interested in his forming such a conclusion; and upon this supposition, they already began to consider him as manifesting a weakness of mind, that augured little for his future judgment.
2. While they were half regarding and half turning away from this bad prospect, and hoping themselves deceived in it, suddenly came that noble Reply to the Minister, which electrified the national