« PreviousContinue »
AM extremely pleased at the appearance of this
large and respectable meeting. The steps I may be obliged to take will want the sanction of a confiderable authority; and in explaining any thing which may appear doubtful in my publick conduct, I must naturally desire a very full audience.
I have been backward to begin my canvass. The diffolution of the parliament was uncertain ; and it did not become me, by an unfeasonable importunity, to appear diffident of the fact of my fix years endeavours to please you. I had served the city of Bristol honourably; and the city of Bristol had no reason to think, that the means of honourable service to the publick, were become indifferent to me.
I found on my arrival here, that three gentlemen had been long in eager pursuit of an object which but two of us can obtain. I found, that they had all met with encouragement. A contested election in such a city as this, is no light thing. I paused on the brink of the precipice. These three gentlemen, by various merits, and on various titles,
A a 2
I made no doubt were worthy of your favour. I shall never attempt to raise myself by depreciating the merits of my competitors. In the complexity and confusion of these cross pursuits, I wished to take the authentick publick sense of my friends upon a business of so much delicacy. I wished to take your opinion along with me; that if I should give up the contest at the very beginning, my surrender of my post may not seem the effect of inconftancy, or timidity, or anger, or disgust, or indolence, or any other temper unbecoming a man who has engaged in the publick service. If, on the contrary, I should undertake the election, and fail of success, I was full as anxious, that it should be manifest to the whole world, that the peace
of the city had not been broken by my rashness, presumption, or fond conceit of my own merit.
I am not come, by a false and counterfeit fhew of deference to your judgment, to seduce it in my favour. I ask it seriously and unaffectedly. If you wish that I should retire, I shall not consider that advice as a censure. upon my conduct, or an alteration in your sentiments; but as a rational fubmission to the circumstances of affairs. If, on the contrary, you should think it proper for me to proceed on my canvass, if you will risk the trouble on your part, I will risk it on mine. My pretensions are such as you cannot be ashamed of, whether they succeed or fail.
If you call upon me, I shall solicit the favour of the city upon manly ground. I come before you with the plain confidence of an honest servant in the equity of a candid and discerning master. I come to claim your approbation, not to amuse you with vain apologies, or with professions still more vain and senseless. I have lived too long to be served by apologies, or to stand in need of them. The part I have acted has been in open day; and to hold out to a conduct, which stands in that clear and steady light for all its good and all its evil, to hold out to that conduct the paltry winking tapers of excuses and promises—I never will do it. They may obscure it with their sinoke; but they never can illumine sunshine by such a flame as theirs.
I am sensible that no endeavours have been left untried to injure me in your opinion. But the use of character is to be a shield against calumny. I could wish, undoubtedly (if idle wishes were not the most idle of all things) to make every part of my conduct agreeable to every one of my constituents. But in so great a city, and so greatly divided as this, it is weak to expect it.
In such a discordancy of sentiments, it is better to look to the nature of things than to the humours of men. The very attempt towards pleafing every body, discovers a temper always Aashy, and often false and insincere. Therefore, as I have