Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

INFLUENCE OVER THE PEOPLE.

377

ence of the empire, and Lambeth and Fulham are cursed by the affrighted people.

I have always compared the Protestant church in Ireland (and I believe my friend, Thomas Moore, stole the simile from me) to the institution of butchers' shops in all the villages of our Indian empire. "We will have a butcher's shop in every village, and you, Hindoos, shall pay for it. We know that many of you do not eat meat at all, and that the sight of beef-steaks is particularly offensive to you; but still, a stray European may pass through your village, and want a steak or a chop: the shop shall be established; and you shall pay for it." This is English legislation for Ireland!! There is no abuse like it in all Europe, in all Asia, in all the discovered parts of Africa, and in all we have heard of Timbuctoo! It is an error that requires twenty thousand armed men for its protection in time of peace; which costs more than a million a year; and which, in the first French war, in spite of the puffing and panting of fighting steamers, will and must break out into desperate rebellion.

It is commonly said, if the Roman Catholic priests are paid by the state, they will lose their influence over their flocks; not their fair influence-not that influence which any wise and good man would wish to see in all religions—not the dependence of humble ignorance upon prudence and piety-only fellowship in faction, and fraternity in rebellion; all that will be lost. A peep-of-day clergyman will no longer preach to a peep-of-day congregation— a Whiteboy vicar will no longer lead the psalm to Whiteboy vocalists; but everything that is good and wholesome will remain. This, however, is not what the anti-British faction want; they want all the animation which piety can breathe into sedition, and all the fury which the priesthood can preach to diversity of faith: and this is what they mean by a clergy losing their influence over the people! The less a clergyman exacts of his people, the more his payments are kept out of sight, the less will be the friction with which he exercises the functions of his office. A poor Catholic may respect a priest the more who marries, baptizes, and anoints; but he respects him because he associates with his name and character the performance of sacred duties, not because he exacts heavy fees for doing so. Double fees would be a very doubtful cure for skepticism; and though we have often seen the tenth

378

of the earth's produce carted away for the benefit of the clergyman, we do not remember any very lively marks of satisfaction and delight which it produced in the countenance of the decimated person. I am thoroughly convinced that state payments to the Catholic clergy would remove a thousand causes of hatred between the priest and his flock, and would be as favourable to the increase of his useful authority, as it would be fatal to his factious influence over the people.

EFFECT OF PAYMENT.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

LETTER ON THE CHARACTER OF SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.* MY DEAR SIR: You ask for some of your late father's letters: I am sorry to say I have none to send you. Upon principle, I keep no letters except those on business. I have not a single letter from him, nor from any human being in my possession.

The impression which the great talents and amiable qualities of your father made upon me, will remain as long as I remain. When I turn from living spectacles of stupidity, ignorance, and

* It may assist the reader to recall the chief facts of Mackintosh's Life. He was born in the county of Inverness, Scotland, in 1765. He was educated at Aberdeen and in Edinburgh, where he took the degree of Doctor of medicine in 1787. He was called to the English bar in 1795; in 1803 received the honour of knighthood, on his appointment as Recorder of Bombay; discharged the duties of that office, in India, from 1804 till 1811; returned to Britain in 1812; in the following year was elected Member of Parliament for Nairnshire. In 1818, he became Professor of Law and General Politics, at Hayleybury College, an institution for the civil servants of the East India Company, and was, the same year, chosen Member of Parliament for Knares borough, which he continued to represent till his death. He was chosen Lord-Rector of the University of Glasgow in 1823, and made Privy-Councillor by Canning, in 1827. He died in 1832. His chief writings were his Vindicia Gallicæ, a reply to Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution, at the age of twenty-six, in 1791; his Introductory Discourse on the Law of Nature and Nations; a Dissertation on the History and Progress of Ethical Philosophy, a History of the early English Reigns for Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia, a Life of Sir Thomas More, and various articles in the Edinburgh Review. His Life, Correspondence, and Journals, were published by his son, Robert James Mackintosh, to which work this Letter, by Sydney Smith, was an important contribution.

$80

HIS CONVERSATION.

malice, and wish to think better of the world-I remember my great and benevolent friend Mackintosh.

ness.

The first points of character which everybody noticed in him were the total absence of envy, hatred, malice, and uncharitableHe could not hate-he did not know how to set about it. The gall-bladder was omitted in his composition, and if he could have been persuaded into any scheme of revenging himself upon an enemy, I am sure (unless he had been narrowly watched) it would have ended in proclaiming the good qualities, and promoting the interests of his adversary. Truth had so much more power over him than anger, that (whatever might be the provocation) he could not misrepresent, nor exaggerate. In questions of passion and party, he stated facts as they were, and reasoned fairly upon them, placing his happiness and pride in equitable discrimination. Very fond of talking, he heard patiently, and, not averse to intellectual display, did not forget that others might have the same inclination as himself.

Till subdued by age and illness, his conversation was more brilliant and instructive than that of any human being I ever had the good fortune to be acquainted with. His memory (vast and prodigious as it was) he so managed as to make it a source of pleasure and instruction, rather than that dreadful engine of colloquial oppression into which it is sometimes erected. He remembered things, words, thoughts, dates, and everything that was wanted. His language was beautiful, and might have gone from the fireside to the press; but though his ideas were always clothed in beautiful language, the clothes were sometimes too big for the body, and common thoughts were dressed in better and larger apparel than they deserved. He certainly had this fault, but it was not one of frequent commission.*

*There is a bit of humour in Smith's Memoirs on this text. Writing to Lord Holland, in 1826, he says: "It struck me last night, as I was lying in bed, that Mackintosh, if he were to write on pepper, would thus describe it

"Pepper may philosophically be described as a dusty and highly-pul verized seed of an Oriental fruit; an article rather of condiment than diet, which, dispersed lightly over the surface of food, with no other rule than the caprice of the consumer, communicates pleasure, rather than affords nutrition; and, by adding a tropical flavour to the gross and succulent viands of the North, approximates the different regions of the earth, explains the objects of commerce, and justifies the industry of man.''

[blocks in formation]

He had a method of putting things so mildly and interrogatively, that he always procured the readiest reception for his opinions. Addicted to reasoning in the company of able men, he had two valuable habits, which are rarely met with in great reasoners—he never broke in upon his opponent, and always avoided strong and vehement assertions. His reasoning commonly carried conviction, for he was cautious in his positions, accurate in his deductions, aimed only at truth. The ingenious side was commonly taken by some one else; the interests of truth were protected by Mackintosh.

His good-nature and candour betrayed him into a morbid habit of eulogizing everybody-a habit which destroyed the value of commendations, that might have been to the young (if more sparingly distributed) a reward of virtue and a motive to exertion.*

* Smith hit off this trait of his friend in a parody. The following is from Lady Holland's Memoir :

"What a loss you had in not knowing Mackintosh! how was it?... Yes, his manner was cold; his shake of the hand came under the genus 'mortmain;' but his heart was overflowing with benevolence. I like that simile I made on him in my letter, of a great ship cutting its cable;' it is fine, and it well described Mackintosh. His chief foible was indiscriminate praise. I amused myself the other day,' said he, laughing, 'in writing a termination of a speech for him; would you like to hear it? I will read it to you:

"It is impossible to conclude these observations without expressing the obligations I am under to a person in a much more humble scene of life — I mean, sir, the hackney-coachman by whom I have been driven to this meeting. To pass safely through the streets of a crowded metropolis must require, on the part of the driver, no common assemblage of qualities. He must have caution without timidity, activity without precipitation, and courage without rashness; he must have a clear perception of his object, and a dexterous use of his means. I can safely say of the individual in question, that, for a moderate reward, he has displayed unwearied skill; and to him I shall never forget that I owe unfractured integrity of limb, exemption from pain, and perhaps prolongation of existence.

[ocr errors]

"Nor can I pass over the encouraging cheerfulness with which I was received by the waiter, nor the useful blaze of light communicated by the linkboys, as I descended from the carriage. It was with no common pleasure that I remarked in these men, not the mercenary bustle of venal service, but the genuine effusions of untutored benevolence; not the rapacity of subordinate agency, but the alacrity of humble friendship. What may not be said of a country where all the little accidents of life bring forth the hidden qualities of the heart-where her vehicles are driven, her streets illumined, and her bells answered, by men teeming with all the refinements of civilized life?

« ElőzőTovább »