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queens could alone cement politicians together in indissoluble unity, while the fate and fortune of one third of the empire might be complimented away from one minister to another, without the smallest breach in their cabinet alliance. Politicians, at least honest politicians, should be very flexible and accommodating in little things, very rigid and inflexible in great things. And is this not a great thing? Who has painted it in finer and more commanding eloquence than Mr. Canning? Who has taken a more sensible and statesmanlike view of our miserable and cruel policy than Lord Castlereagh? You would think, to hear them, that the same planet could not contain them and the oppressors of their country—perhaps not the same solar system. Yet for money, claret and patronage, they lend their countenance, assistance, and friendship, to the ministers who are the stern and inflexible enemies to the emancipation of Ireland!
Thank God that all is not profligacy and corruption in the history of that devoted people—and that the name of Irishman does not always carry with it the idea of the oppressor or the oppressed —the plunderer or the plundered—the tyrant or the slave. Great men hallow a whole people and lift up all who live in their time. What Irishman does not feel proud that he has lived in the days of GRATTAN? who has not turned to him for comfort, from the false friends and open enemies of Ireland? who did not remember him in the days of its burnings, and wastings, and murders? No government ever dismayed him—the world could not bribe him -he thought only of Ireland-lived for no other object-dedicated to her his beautiful fancy, his elegant wit, his manly courage and all the splendour of his astonishing eloquence. He was so born and so gifted, that poetry, forensic skill, elegant literature and all the highest attainments of human genius, were within his reach; but he thought the noblest occupation of a man was to make other men happy and free; and in that straight line he went on for fifty years, without one side-look, without one yielding thought, without one motive in his heart which he might not have laid open to the view of God and man. He is gone!-but there is not a single day of his honest life of which every good Irishman would not be more proud, than of the whole political existence of his countrymen-the annual deserters and betrayers of their native land.
ANCESTORS AND CONTEMPORARIES.
JOHN BULL'S CHARITY SUBSCRIPTIONS.*
THE English are a calm, reflecting people; they will give time and money when they are convinced; but they love dates, names, and certificates. In the midst of the most heart-rending narratives, Bull requires the day of the month, the year of our Lord, the name of the parish and the countersign of three or four respectable householders. After these affecting circumstances, he can no longer hold out; but gives way to the kindness of his nature – puffs, blubbers, and subscribes.
WISDOM OF OUR ANCESTORS.†
Our Wise Ancestors—the Wisdom of our Ancestors—the Wisdom of Ages-Venerable Antiquity-Wisdom of Old Times.This mischievous and absurd fallacy springs from the grossest perversion of the meaning of words. Experience is certainly the mother of wisdom, and the old have, of course, a greater experience than the young; but the question is, who are the old? and who are the young? Of individuals living at the same period, the oldest has, of course, the greatest experience; but among generations of men the reverse of this is true. Those who come first (our ancestors), are the young people, and have the least experience. We have added to their experience the experience of many centuries; and, therefore, as far as experience goes, are wiser, and more capable of forming an opinion than they were. The real feeling should be, not can we be so presumptuous as to put our opinions in opposition to those of our ancestors? but can such young, ignorant, inexperienced persons as our ancestors necessarily were, be expected to have understood a subject as well as those who have seen so much more, lived so much longer, and enjoyed the experience of so many centuries? All this cant, then, about our ancestors is merely an abuse of words, by transferring phrases true of contemporary men to succeeding ages. Whereas (as we have before observed) of living men the oldest has, cæteris paribus, the most experience; of generations, the oldest has,
*Prisons. Ed. Rev., Feb., 1822.
† From a Review of The Book of Fallacies: from Unfinished Papers of Jeremy Bentham. By a Friend. Ed. Rev., Aug., 1825.
cæteris paribus, the least experience. Our ancestors, up to the Conquest, were children in arms; chubby boys in the time of Edward the First; striplings under Elizabeth; men in the reign of Queen Anne; and we only are the white-bearded, silver-headed ancients, who have treasured up, and are prepared to profit by, all the experience which human life can supply. We are not disputing with our ancestors the palm of talent, in which they may or may not be our superiors, but the palm of experience, in which it is utterly impossible they can be our superiors. And yet, whenever the chancellor comes forward to protect some abuse, or to oppose some plan which has the increase of human happiness for its object, his first appeal is always to the wisdom of our ancestors; and he himself, and many noble lords who vote with him, are, to this hour, persuaded that all alterations and amendments on their devices are an unblushing controversy between youthful temerity and mature experience!—and so, in truth, they are-only that much-loved magistrate mistakes the young for the old and the old for the young-and is guilty of that very sin against experience which he attributes to the lovers of innovation.
THE GOOD OLD TIMES.
We cannot, of course, be supposed to maintain that our ancestors wanted wisdom, or that they were necessarily mistaken in their institutions, because their means of information were more limited than ours. But we do confidently maintain, that when we find it expedient to change anything which our ancestors have enacted, we are the experienced persons, and not they. The quantity of talent is always varying in any great nation. To say that we are more or less able than our ancestors, is an assertion that requires to be explained. All the able men of all ages, who have ever lived in England, probably possessed, if taken altogether, more intellect than all the able men now in England can boast of. But if authority must be resorted to rather than reason, the question is, What was the wisdom of that single age which enacted the law, compared with the wisdom of the age which proposes to alter it? What are the eminent men of one and the other period? If you say that our ancestors were wiser than us, mention your date and year. If the splendour of names is equal, are the circumstances the same? If the circumstances are the same, we have a superiority of experience, of which the difference between the two periods is the measure. It is necessary to insist
upon this; for upon sacks of wool, and on benches forensic, sit grave men, and agricolous persons in the Commons, crying out, "Ancestors, Ancestors! hodie non! Saxons, Danes, save us! Fiddlefrig, help us! Howel, Ethelwolf, protect us." Any cover for nonsense- -any veil for trash-any pretext for repelling the innovations of conscience and of duty!
THE whole of these fallacies may be gathered together in a little oration, which we will denominate the Noodle's Oration.
"What would our ancestors say to this, sir? How does this measure tally with their institutions? How does it agree with their experience? Are we to put the wisdom of yesterday in competition with the wisdom of centuries? (Hear, hear!) Is beardless youth to show no respect for the decisions of mature age? (Loud cries of hear! hear!) If this measure be right, would it have escaped the wisdom of those Saxon progenitors to whom we are indebted for so many of our best political institutions? Would the Dane have passed it over? Would the Norman have rejected it? Would such a notable discovery have been reserved for these modern and degenerate times? Besides, sir, if the measure itself is good, I ask the honourable gentleman if this is the time for carrying it into execution—whether, in fact, a more unfortunate period could have been selected than that which he has chosen? If this were an ordinary measure, I should not oppose it with so much vehemence; but, sir, it calls in question the wisdom of an irrevocable law—of a law passed at the memorable period of the Revolution. What right have we, sir, to break down this firm column, on which the great men of that age stamped a character of eternity? Are not all authorities against this measure, Pitt, Fox, Cicero, and the Attorney and Solicitor General? The proposition is new, sir; it is the first time it was ever heard in this house. I am not prepared sir—this house is not prepared-to receive it. The measure implies a distrust of his majesty's government; their disapproval is sufficient to warrant opposition. Precaution only is requisite where danger is apprehended. Here the high character of the individuals in question is a sufficient *From the same.
Give not, then, your
guarantee against any ground of alarm. sanction to this measure; for whatever be its character, if you do give your sanction to it, the same man by whom this is proposed, will propose to you others to which it will be impossible to give your consent. I care very little, sir, for the ostensible measure; but what is there behind? What are the honourable gentleman's future schemes? If we pass this bill, what fresh concessions may he not require? What further degradation is he planning for his country? Talk of evil and inconvenience, sir! look to other countries-study other aggregations and societies of men, and then see whether the laws of this country demand a remedy, or deserve a panegyric. Was the honourable gentleman (let me ask him) always of this way of thinking? Do I not remember when he was the advocate in this house of very opposite opinions? I not only quarrel with his present sentiments, sir, but I declare very frankly I do not like the party with which he acts. If his own motives were as pure as possible, they cannot but suffer contamination from those with whom he is politically associated. This measure may be a boon to the constitution, but I will accept no favour to the constitution from such hands (Loud cries of hear! hear!) I profess myself, sir, an honest and upright member of the British Parliament, and I am not afraid to profess myself an enemy to all change, and all innovation. I am satisfied with things as they are; and it will be my pride and pleasure to hand down this country to my children as I received it from those who preceded me. The honourable gentleman pretends to justify the severity with which he has attacked the noble lord who presides in the Court of Chancery. But I say such attacks are pregnant with mischief to government itself. Oppose ministers, you oppose government; disgrace ministers, you disgrace government; bring ministers into contempt, you bring government into contempt; and anarchy and civil war are the consequences. Besides, sir, the measure is unnecessary. Nobody complains of disorder in that shape in which it is the aim of your measure to propose a remedy to it. The business is one of the greatest importance; there is need of the greatest caution and circumspection. Do not let us be precipitate, sir; it is impossible to foresee all consequences. Everything should be gradual; the example of a neighbouring nation should fill us with alarm! The honourable gentleman has taxed
NOODLE ON REFORM.