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of persecution, that these unfortunate people (conspired against by their fellow-subjects of every complexion), if they did not emigrate to countries where hair of another colour was persecuted, would be driven to the falsehood of perukes, or the hypocrisy of the Tricosian fluid.
THE CATHOLICS ASKING FOR MORE-AN APOLOGUE.
WHAT amuses me the most is, to hear of the indulgences which the Catholics have received, and their exorbitance in not being satisfied with those indulgences: now if you complain to me that a man is obtrusive and shameless in his requests, and that it is impossible to bring him to reason, I must first of all hear the whole of your conduct toward him; for you may have taken from him so much in the first instance, that, in spite of a long series of restitution, a vast latitude for petition may still remain behind.
There is a village (no matter where) in which the inhabitants, on one day in the year, sit down to a dinner prepared at the common expense; by an extraordinary piece of tyranny (which Lord Hawkesbury would call the wisdom of the village ancestors), the inhabitants of three of the streets, about a hundred years ago, seized upon the inhabitants of the fourth street, bound them hand and foot, laid them upon their backs, and compelled them to look on while the rest were stuffing themselves with beef and beer; the next year, the inhabitants of the persecuted street (though they contributed an equal quota of the expense) were treated precisely in the same manner. The tyranny grew into a custom; and (as the manner of our nature is) it was considered as the most sacred of all duties to keep these poor fellows without their annual dinner; the village was so tenacious of this practice, that nothing could induce them to resign it; every enemy to it was looked upon as a disbeliever in Divine Providence, and any nefarious churchwarden who wished to succeed in his election had nothing to do but to represent his antagonist as an abolitionist, in order to frustrate his ambition, endanger his life, and throw the village into a state of the most dreadful commotion. By degrees, however, the obnoxious street grew to be so well-peopled, and its inhabitants so firmly united, that their oppressors, more afraid of injustice, were more disposed to be just. At the next dinner they are unbound,
A SHARE OF THE DINNER.
the year after allowed to sit upright, then a bit of bread and a glass of water; till at last, after a long series of concessions, they are emboldened to ask, in pretty plain terms, that they may be allowed to sit down at the bottom of the table, and to fill their bellies as well as the rest. Forthwith a general cry of shame and scandal: "Ten years ago, were you not laid upon your backs? Don't you remember what a great thing you thought it to get a piece of bread? How thankful you were for cheese-parings? Have you forgotten that memorable era, when the lord of the manor interfered to obtain for you a slice of the public pudding? And now, with an audacity only equalled by your ingratitude, you have the impudence to ask for knives and forks, and to request, in terms too plain to be mistaken, that you may sit down to table with the rest, and be indulged even with beef and beer: there are not more than half a dozen dishes which we have reserved for ourselves; the rest has been thrown open to you in the utmost profusion; you have potatoes, and carrots, suet-dumplings, sops in the pan, and delicious toast and water, in incredible quantities. Beef, mutton, lamb, pork, and veal, are ours; and if you were not the most restless and dissatisfied of human beings, you would never think of aspiring to enjoy them."
Is not this, my dainty Abraham, the very nonsense, and the very insult, which is talked to and practised upon the Catholics? You are surprised that men who have tasted of partial justice, should ask for perfect justice; that he who has been robbed of coat and cloak will not be contented with the restitution of one of his garments. He would be a very lazy blockhead if he were content, and I (who, though an inhabitant of the village, have preserved, thank God, some sense of justice) most earnestly counsel these half-fed claimants to persevere in their just demands, till they are admitted to a more complete share of a dinner for which they pay as much as the others; and if they see a little attenuated lawyer squabbling at the head of their opponents, let them desire him to empty his pockets, and to pull out all the pieces of duck, fowl, and pudding, which he has filched from the public feast to carry home to his wife and children.
DEAR ABRAHAM: In the correspondence which is passing between us, you are perpetually alluding to the foreign secretary; and in answer to the dangers of Ireland which I am pressing upon your notice, you have nothing to urge but the confidence which you repose in the discretion and sound sense of this gentleman. I can only say, that I have listened to him long and often, with the greatest attention; I have used every exertion in my power to take a fair measure of him, and it appears to me impossible to hear him upon any arduous topic without perceiving that he is eminently deficient in those solid and serious qualities upon which, and upon which alone, the confidence of a great country can properly repose. He sweats and labours, and works for sense, and Mr. Ellis seems always to think it is coming, but it does not come; the machine can't draw up what is not to be found in the spring; Providence has made him a light, jesting, paragraph-writing man, and that he will remain to his dying day. When he is jocular he is strong, when he is serious he is like Samson in a wig; any ordinary person is a match for him; a song, an ironical letter, a burlesque ode, an attack in the newspaper upon Nicoll's eye, a smart speech of twenty minutes, full of gross misrepresentations and clever turns, excellent language, a spirited manner, lucky quotation, success in provoking dull men, some half information picked up in Pall Mall in the morning; these are your friend's natural weapons; all these things he can do; here I allow him to be truly great; nay, I will be just, and go still farther, if he would confine himself to these things, and consider the facete and the playful to be the basis of his character, he would, for that species of man, be universally regarded as a person of a very good understanding; call him a legislator, a reasoner, and the conductor of the affairs of a great nation, and it seems to me as absurd as if a butterfly were to teach bees to make honey. That he is an extraordinary writer of small poetry, and a diner-out of the highest lustre, I do most readily admit. After George Selwyn, and perhaps Tickell,† there has been no such man for this half century.
* George Ellis, Editor of the Early English Poets and Metrical Romances, an associate of Canning in the poetry of the Anti-Jacobin, and his warm friend through life.
↑ Richard Tickell is less known than Selwyn to readers of the present
The foreign secretary is a gentleman, a respectable as well as a highly agreeable man in private life; but you may as well feed me with decayed potatoes as console me for the miseries of Ireland by the resources of his sense and his discretion. It is only the public situation which this gentleman holds which entitles me or induces me to say so much about him. He is a fly in amber; nobody cares about the fly: the only question is, How the devil did it get there? Nor do I attack him from the love of glory, but from the love of utility, as a burgomaster hunts a rat in a Dutch dyke, for fear it should flood a province.*
VIGOUR IN IRELAND.
I CANNOT describe the horror and disgust which I felt at hearing Mr. Perceval call upon the then ministry for measures of vigour in Ireland. If I lived at Hampstead upon stewed meats and claret; if I walked to church every Sunday before eleven young gentlemen of my own begetting, with their faces washed, and their hair pleasingly combed; if the Almighty had blessed me with every earthly comfort-how awfully would I pause beday. He was brother-in-law of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and the grandson of Addison's friend and associate in the Spectator. He was patronized by Lord North, wrote "Anticipation," a parody on the speeches at the opening of Parliament and a satire of the opposition, some other squibs of the kind, and two plays which have given him a niche in the Biographia Dramatica.
*Set a wit to catch a wit! This character of Canning seems scant measure from the mirthful Plymley. The 'fly' was destined for a more precious bit of amber in the national annals. But no one will be content with history or biography in a single political skirmish. Canning's witty effusions were freely scattered in society. The chief monument of them which remains are his brilliant contributions with his old friend of the microcosm, Frere, and others, to the poetry of the Anti-Jacobin. Sydney Smith, by the way, in a passage from the Edinburgh Review (ante p. 160) speaks of Canning as an Irishman. He was of Irish parentage and “accidentally," as he himself said, born in London. His father, however, at the time of his marriage had been a number of years a resident in the British metropolis, where among other occupations he had sustained with some ability the part of a literary adventurer. He wrote poems and a political pamphlet, “On the Connection between Great Britain and her American Colonies," in the "general manner" of which Mr. Robert Bell finds traces of "a curious resemblance to some peculiarities in the style of George Canning the son." (Life of Canning, chapter i.)
311 fore I sent forth the flame and the sword over the cabins of the poor, brave, generous, open-hearted peasants of Ireland! How easy it is to shed human blood-how easy it is to persuade ourselves that it is our duty to do so—and that the decision has cost us a severe struggle-how much, in all ages, have wounds and shrieks and tears been the cheap vulgar resources of the rulers of mankind-how difficult and how noble it is to govern in kindness, and to found an empire upon the everlasting basis of justice and affection!— But what do men call vigour? To let loose hussars and to bring up artillery, to govern with lighted matches, and to cut, and push, and prime—I call this, not vigour, but the sloth of cruelty and ignorance. The vigour I love consists in finding out wherein subjects are aggrieved, in relieving them, in studying the temper and genius of a people, in consulting their prejudices, in selecting proper persons to lead and manage them, in the laborious, watchful, and difficult task of increasing public happiness by allaying each particular discontent. In this way Hoche pacified La Vendée-and in this way only will Ireland ever be subdued. But this, in the eyes of Mr. Perceval, is imbecility and meanness; houses are not broken open women are not insulted the people seem all to be happy; they are not rode over by horses, and cut by whips. Do you call this vigour?-Is this government?
GOD SAVE THE KING.
Do not imagine, by these observations, that I am not loyal, without joining in the common cant of the best of kings, I respect the king most sincerely as a good man. His religion is better than the religion of Mr. Perceval, his old morality very superior to the old morality of Mr. Canning, and I am quite certain he has a safer understanding than both of them put together. Loyalty, within the bounds of reason and moderation, is one of the great instruments of English happiness; but the love of the king may easily become more strong than the love of the kingdom, and we may lose sight of the public welfare in our exaggerated admiration of him who is appointed to reign only for its promotion and support. I detest Jacobinism; and if I am doomed to be a slave at all, I would rather be the slave of a king than a cobler.