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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 pleasing everybody discovers a temper always flashy, and often, false and insincere. Therefore, as I have proceeded straight onward in my conduct, so I will proceed in my account of those parts of it which have been most excepted to. But I must first leave just to hint to you that we may suffer very great detriment by being open to every talker. It is not to be imagined how much of service is lost from spirits full of activity and full of energy, who are pressing, who are rushing forward, to great and capital objects, when you oblige them to be continually looking back. Whilst they are defending one service, they defraud you of an hundred. Applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover; but let us pass on,- for God's sake, let us pass on !
Do you think, Gentlemen, that every public act in the six years since I stood in this place before you, that all the arduous things which have been done in this eventful period which has crowded into a few years' space the revolutions of an age, can be opened to you on their fair grounds in half an hour's conversation ?
But it is no reason, because there is a bad mode of inquiry, that there should be no examination at all. Most certainly it is our duty to examine ; it is our interest too: but it must be with discretion, with an attention to all the circumstances and to all the motives; like sound judges, and not like cavilling pettifoggers and quibbling pleaders, prying into flaws and hunting for exceptions. Look, Gentlemen, to the whole tenour of your member's conduct. Try whether his ambition or his avarice have jostled him out of the straight line of duty,– or whether that grand foe of the offices of active life, that master vice in men of business, a degenerate and inglorious sloth, has made him flag and languish in his course. This is the object of our inquiry. If our member's conduct can bear this touch, mark it for sterling. He may have fallen into errors, he must have faults; but our error is greater, and our fault is radically ruinous to ourselves, if we do not bear, if we do not even applaud, the whole compound and mixed mass of such a character. Not to act thus is folly ; I had almost said it is impiety. He censures God who quarrels with the imperfections of man.
was himself aware of; but he was built too high in manly honour and self. respect to practice any sort of jugglery with the people, or use any demagogic craft for the sake of gaining or keeping their favour. Therewithal he regarded the issue with the calmness of a philosopher. A short time before the making of this speech, he wrote to a prominent citizen of Bristol as follows: “It rc. mains to be seen whether there be enough of independence among us to support a representative who throws himself on his own good behaviour, and the good dispositions of his constituents, without playing any little game either to bribe or to delude them. I shall put this to the proof within a few days. It must have a good effect, one way or the other; for it is always of use to know the true temper of the time and country one lives in."
Gentlemen, we must not be peevish with those who serve the people ; for none will serve us, whilst there is a Court to serve, but those who are of a nice and jealous honour. They who think every thing, in comparison of that honour, to be dust and ashes, will not bear to have it soiled and impaired by those for whose sake they make a thousand sacrifices to preserve it immaculate and whole. We shall either drive such men from the public stage, or we shall send them to the Court for protection, where, if they must sacrifice their reputation, they will at least secure their interest. Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will be free. None will violate their conscience to please us, in order afterwards to discharge that conscience which they have violated, by doing us faithful and affectionate service. If we degrade and deprave their minds by servility, it will be absurd to expect that they who are creeping and abject towards us will ever be bold and incorruptible assertors of our freedom against the most seducing and the most formid. able of all powers. No! human nature is not so formed: nor shall we improve the faculties or better the morals of public men by our possession of the most infallible receipt in the world for making cheats and hypocrites.
Let me say, with plainness, I who am no longer in a public character, that if, by a fair, by an indulgent, by a gentlemanly behaviour to our representatives, we do not give confidence to their minds and a liberal scope to their understandings, if we do not permit our members to act upon a very enlarged view of things, we shall at length infallibly degrade our national representation into a confused and scuffling bustle of local agency. When the popular member is narrowed in his ideas and rendered timid in his proceedings, the service of the Crown will be the sole nursery of statesmen. Among the frolics of the Court, it may at length take that of attending to its busi
Then the monopoly of mental power will be added to the power of all other kinds it possesses. On the side of the people there will be nothing but impotence : for ignorance is impotence; narrowness of mind is impotence; timidity is itself impotence, and makes all other qualities that go along with it impotent and useless.
At present it is the plan of the Court to make its servants insignificant. If the people should fall into the same humour, and should choose their servants on the same principles of mere obsequiousness and flexibility and total vacancy or indif.
ference of opinion in all public matters, then no part of the State will be sound, and it will be in vain to think of saving it.
I thought it very expedient at this time to give you this candid counsel ; and with this counsel I would willingly close, if the matters which at various times have been objected to me in this city concerned only myself and my own election. These charges, I think, are four in number: my neglect of a due attention to my constituents,- the not paying more frequent visits here; my conduct on the affairs of the first Irish Trade Acts; my opinion and mode of proceeding on Lord Beauchamp's Debtors' Bills; and my votes on the late affairs of the Roman Catholics. All of these (except perhaps the first) relate to matters of very considerable public concern; and it is not lest you should censure me improperly, but lest you should form improper opinions on matters of some moment to you, that I trouble you at all upon the subject. My conduct is of small importance.
With regard to the first charge, my friends have spoken to me of it in the style of amicable expostulation, not so much blaming the thing as lamenting the effects. Others, less partial to me, were less kind in assigning the motives. I admit, there is a decorum and propriety in a member of Parliament's paying a respectful court to his constituents. If I were conscious to myself that pleasure, or dissipation, or low, unworthy occupations had detained me from personal attendance on you, I would readily admit my fault, and quietly submit to the penalty. But, Gentlemen, I live at an hundred miles' distance from Bristol; and at the end of a session I come to my own house, fatigued in body and in mind, to a little repose, and to a very little attention to my family and my private concerns. A visit to Bristol is always a sort of canvass, else it will do more harm than good. To pass from the toils of a session to the toils of a canvass is the farthest thing in the world from repose. I could hardly serve you as I have done, and court you too. Most of you have heard that I do not very remarkably spare myself in public business; and in the private business of my constituents I have done very near as much as those who have nothing else to do. My canvass of you was not on the 'change, nor in the county meetings, nor in the clubs of this city: it was in the House of Commons; it was at the Custom-House ; it was at the Council ; it was at the Treasury; it was at the Admiralty. I canvassed you through your affairs, and not your persons. I was not only your representative as a body; I was the agent, the solicitor of individuals ; I ran about wherever your affairs could call me; and in acting for you I often appeared rather as a ship-broker than as a member
of Parliament. There was nothing too laborious or too low for me to undertake. The meanness of the business was raised by the dignity of the object. If some lesser matters have slipped through my fingers, it was because I filled my hands too full, and, in my eagerness to serve you, took in more than any hands could grasp. Several gentlemen stand round me who are my willing witnesses; and there are others who, if they were here, would be still better, because they would be unwilling witnesses to the same truth. It was in the middle of a summer residence in London, and in the middle of a negotiation at the Admiralty for your trade, that I was called to Bristol; and this late visit, at this late day, has been possibly in prejudice to your affairs.
Since I have touched upon this matter, let me say, Gentlemen, that, if I had a disposition or a right to complain, I have some cause of complaint on my side. With a petition of this city in my hand, passed through the corporation without a dissenting voice, a petition in unison with almost the whole voice of the kingdom, (with whose formal thanks I was covered over,) whilst I laboured on no less than five bills for a public reform, and fought, against the opposition of great abilities and of the greatest power, every clause and every word of the largest of those bills, almost to the very last day of a very long session, all this time a canvass in Bristol was as calmly carried on as if I were dead. I was considered as a man wholly out of the question. Whilst I watched and fasted and sweated in the House of Commons, by the most easy and ordinary arts of election, by dinners and visits, by “How do you do's," and, “My worthy friends,” I was to be quietly moved out of my seat; and promises were made, and engagements entered into, without any exception or reserve, as if my laborious zeal in my duty had been a regular abdication of my trust.
To open my whole heart to you on this subject, I do confess, however, that there were other times, besides the two years in which I did visit you, when I was not wholly without leisure for repeating that mark of my respect. But I could not bring my mind to see you. You remember that in the beginning of this American war (that era of calamity, disgrace, and downfall, an era which no feeling mind will ever mention without a tear for England) you were greatly divided; and a very strong body, if not the strongest, opposed itself to the madness which every art and every power were employed to render popular, in order that the errors of the rulers might be lost in the general blind.
7 The reference here is to the speaker's labours in behalf of economical ro form. What these were, is partly shown in the preceding speech.
ness of the nation. This opposition continued until after our great, but most unfortunate victory at Long Island. Then all the mounds and banks of our constancy were borne down at once, and the frenzy of the American war broke in upon us like a deluge. This victory, which seemed to put an immediate end to all difficulties, perfected us in that spirit of domination which our unparalleled prosperity had but too long nurtured. We had been so very powerful, and so very prosperous, that even the humblest of us were degraded into the vices and follies of kings. We lost all measure between means and ends; and our headlong desires became our politics and our morals. All men who wished for peace, or retained any sentiments of moderation, were overborne or silenced; and this city was led by every artifice (and probably with the more management because I was one of your members) to distinguish itself by its zeal for that fatal cause. In this temper of yours and of my mind, I should sooner have fled to the extremities of the Earth than have shown myself here. I, who saw in every American victory (for you have had a long series of these misfortunes) the germ and seed of the naval power of France and Spain, which all our heat and warmth against America was only hatching into life, I should not have been a welcome visitant, with the brow and the language of such feelings. When, afterwards, the other face of your calamity was turned upon you, and showed itself in defeat and distress, I shunned you full as much. I felt sorely this variety in our wretchedness; and I did not wish to have the least appearance of insulting you with that show of superiority which, though it may not be assumed, is generally suspected, in a time of calamity, from those whose previous warnings have been despised. I could not bear to show you a representative whose face did not reflect that of his constituents,-a face that could not joy in your joys, and sorrow in your sorrows. But time at length has made us all of one opinion, and we have all opened our eyes on the true nature of the American war,– to the true nature of all its successes and all its failures.
In that public storm, too, I had my private feelings. I had seen blown down and prostrate on the ground several of those houses to whom I was chiefly indebted for the honour this city has done me.8 I confess that, whilst the wounds of those I loved were yet green, I could not bear to show myself in pride and triumph in that place into which their partiality had brought me, and to appear at feasts and rejoicings in the midst
8 Bristol was then the centre of a large American trade, and was thus held to the side of the colonies by the strong tie of commercial interest. Of course the business of the place suffered greatly from the stoppage of trade by the war.