Animoque supersunt Jam prope post animani. -APOLL. SIDON.
Public Criers of Greece
Prolixity made Penal
Mark Antony, the Consul
Crillon - King Clovis
Peter the Hermit
Pope Urban II
Independence of the Bar
The Long Parliament
Audi Alteram Partem
Fletcher of Salton
Earl of Shaftesbury
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton
Earl of Carnarvon
Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down. I
Logan, the Indian
Philip, Duke of Wharton
Frederic the Great
Sir Thomas Sewell
The Rival Orators|
Death of Lord Chatham
Burke and Fox
Pitt and Sheridan
Parliamentary Courtier of 1626
Last Days of Knox
Pulpit Flattery Reproved
Parliament of Paris
Impeachment of the Earl of Strafford
Magdaleine de Savoie
Fisher, Bishop of Rochester
Henry IV. of France
Prynn's Speech on the Scaffold
Pulteney, first Earl of Bath
Sir John Bernard
Quarrel between Flood and Grattan
The Begum Charge
Mr. Fox's India Bill
Sir Elijah Impey
A Hint well Taken
Parliament of 1794
The Thread of Discourse
Way to Promotion
The Orator and the Tyrant
The Orator of the Human Race
Power of Elocution
Jesuit of Maranham
A 'Fierce Democracy.'
Eloquence of Silence
Earl of Peterborough
Sir Richard Pepper Arden
Bench and Bar - their Duties
Graces of Speech
Philip alla the Athenian Orators
Freedom of Speech
A Base Brief Honourably Refused
Sir Samuel Romilly
Frederic the Great
The Gift of Tongues
Time and Eternity
Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury
Kirwan, Dean of Killaloe
The Earl of Rochester
The Slave Trade
GORGIAS of Leontium is the first orator we read of who possessed the gift so much prized in modern times, and so distinctly characteristic of modern eloquence - the gift of extemporaneous speaking. He made it his boast, that in a public assembly he could on the instant declaim as fluently on any subject which might be proposed to him as persons who had pondered over the subject ever so long, in gloomy caves, or by the wild sea-shore. This faculty of the Leontine orator exposed him, however to great disadvantage in the race of immortality with his contemporaries - a disadvantage from which the more recent of his successors in the same path have been happily exempted. There were no reporters in those days: and of the first of extempore speeches, not one is now extant.
That the world has lost something by their passing into oblivion, we may fairly conclude from the effects which some of them are recorded to have produced. In the war between his native city, Leontium, and Syracuse, the citizens of the former sent Gorgias and Tesias as ambassadors to the Athenians, to supplicate their assistance. On their arrival at Athens, about the year 427 B.C., Gorgias made such an artful address to the passions of the Athenian people, on the grievances which he made them suppose they had suffered from the Syracusans, and on the advantages which they might reap from an alliance with his countrymen, that he prevailed on them to rush headlong into a war that proved in the end more fatal to them than any war in which they had ever engaged.
'Quem mirabantur Athenae
Torrentem, et pleni moderantem fraena theatri.'
JUV. SAT. X
Demosthenes has been styled, by one second only to himself in the gift of eloquence, 'the Prince of Orators :' and the rank which Tully conferred, the common consent of the learned of all succeeding ages has amply confirmed How delightful would it be, were we able to add that. while a 'Prince among Orators,' he was also a 'Prince among Men.' But truth' always most stubborn when it treats of great examples, shuts its book on the willing encomium. In the life of this Prince of Orators we see unhappily exemplified almost everything which is a reproach to the reputation of this noble faculty, ORATORY. Everything which is most calculated to make its importance to the interests of society undervalued and despised. We see in Demosthenes the first great instance of an orator without courage, an orator without honesty, an orator without principle. We see in the story of his life eloquence alternately exalted and debased: now exerted for the noblest of purposes, the next moment silenced for the basest. We see a man whose philippics seem animated by the purest spirit of patriotism, afterwards sacrificing the honour of his country for a paltry bribe. We see a man who is a very hero in rousing others to fight bravely for their rights, the veriest poltroon himself in the field. We see, finally, a man who made it the pride of his life to animate others to die for their country, pusillanimously flying from the evils which environ him, and resolved to die for himself alone, seeking the coward's refuge in a suicide's grave. But, gentle reader, we forget that our business is not to expatiate but to narrate.
His dastardly flight from the battle of Cheronaea:
His skulking from the presence of Alexander, when commissioned to propitiate his clemency.
We dwell not on these facts. They are circumstances which display more of the weakness than of the wickedness of human nature.
When Harpalus, one of Alexander's officers, after betraying his master and purloining his treasures, made his escape to Athens, it became a question with the Athenians whether they should give the traitor-robber shelter? Demosthenes, to whose opinion the people looked up with reverence, declared at first that they ought on no account to disgrace the character of the republic, by affording refuge to one so infamous. A day was appointed for the solemn decision of the matter, and in the meantime Harpalus, sensible how much his success depended on gaining over 'the Prince of Orators' to his side, sought and obtained an opportunity of showing Demosthenes the precious store of goodly things of which he had robbed his royal master. The orator was particularly struck with the sight of a messy golden cup, and, poising it in his hand, he asked Harpalus, 'What was its weight?' Harpalus replied, 'To you it shall weigh twenty talents.' When Demosthenes had departed, the cup was accordingly sent after him to his house, along with twenty talents in money. Next day, when the case of Harpalus came on for consideration, Demosthenes appeared in the assembly with his throat muffled up, and when called on to speak, he made signs that he had lost his voice!
To the honour of Athens, this act of abominable venality was not allowed to pass unpunished. It was the cause of a fine of fifty talents being imposed on the orator, to avoid the payment of which he fled to AEgina, where he remained m exile, until an emergency in the affairs of the republic produced his recal.
Demosthenes once observed to Phocion, who was at the head of a party of orators whom Philip had bribed over to his interest that 'the Athenians would one day murder him in a mad fit.' 'Take care,' replied Phocion, 'that they do not murder you in a sober one.'
The warning was prophetical. The Athenians, as the puce of their reconciliation with Antipater, were obliged to pass a decree condemning Demosthenes to death. The orator fled for refuge to the temple of Neptune at Celaura: but, inwardly convinced that no place could afford him a sanctuary from such vengeance as pursued him, he drank of poison, and died.
The character of Isocrates presents the rare combination of a man, who, devoid of fear is recorded to have passed through a long life without having made an enemy of a single individual, by the boldness of his eloquence. When Theramenes, proscribed by the thirty tyrants, took refuge at the altar, Isocrates generously volunteered to plead in his defence at the hazard of his own life; and after the death of Socrates, when all his disciples, struck with dismay, fled into distant parts, Isocrates alone had the courage to appear in mourning in the public streets of Athens.
The eloquence of Pericles, which his countrymen were wont to designate by the attribute of 'thunder and lightning,' must have mingled a wondrous share of the persuasive in its power over the passions. When Thucydides, the Milesian, one of his great opponents in state matters, was asked by Archidamus, King of Sparta, which was the better wrestler, Pericles or himself?' 'It is in vain,' replied Thucydidos, 'to wrestle with that man. As often as I have cast him to the ground, he has as stoutly denied it; and when I would maintain that he had got the fall, he would as obstinately maintain the reverse; and so efficaciously withal, that he has made all who heard him - nay, the very spectators, believe him.'
The eloquence of Plato is said by Tully to have been thus beautifully prefigured in his youth. When yet an infant, his father, Aristo, went to Hymettus with his wife and child to sacrifice to the muses: and while they were busied in the divine rites, a swarm of bees came and distilled their honey on his lips.
Apuleius relates that Socrates, the night before Plato was recommended to him dreamed that a young swan fled from Cupid's altar to the academy, and settled in his lap: thence soared to heaven, and delighted the gods with its music: and when Aristo the next day presented Plato to him, 'Friends,' said Socrates, 'this is the swan of Cupid's academy.'
Public Criers of Greece.
The Greeks were so nice in point of eloquence, and so offended with a vicious pronunciation, that they would not suffer even the public crier to proclaim their laws, unless he was accompanied by a musician, who, in case of a vicious tone, might be ready to give him the proper pitch and expression. It would seem that the town criers of classic story could boast of a degree of oratorical propriety, from which their modern successors must have sadly degenerated: since to speak as a town crier, is now become a bye-word of shame among the people:-
'I'd as lieve the town-crier spoke the lines.'
We find from Quintilian that even Gracchus, one of the greatest orators of his time, thought It necessary to have a flutenist to stand by while he was speaking, in order to give him the proper pitch to regulate his elevation and cadences, and to assist him with a proper tone In case he made a false inflexion of the voice.
Cicero, however, thought it beneath an orator (as it certainly is) to have occasion for such an assistance. 'Leave,' says he, 'the pipe at home, but carry the custom with you.'
A law made by Otho for the assignment of separate seats in the theatres to the equestrian order, gave a great offence to the Roman people. Otho, on coming in to the theatre one night was received by the populace with an universal hiss: but by the knights with loud applauses. From clamour and reproaches, the parties were proceeding to blows: when Cicero, informed of the tumult, hastened to the theatre, and calling the people out into the temple of Bellona, so tamed and stung them by the power of his words, and made them so ashamed of their folly and perverseness, that on their return to the theatre, they vied with the knights in testifying their respect for Otho. In this speech, which was published, he reproached the rioters for their went of taste and good sense, in making such a disturbance while Roscius was acting. This memorable instance of Cicero's command over men's passions, is supposed to be alluded to in that beautiful passage of Virgil, thus translated by Pitt:
'And when sedition fires th' ignoble crowd,
And the wild rabble storms and thirsts for blood:
Of stones and brands, a mingled tempest flies,
With all the sudden arms that rage supplies:
If some grave sire appears amidst the strife,
In morals strict, and innocence of life,
All stand attentive, while the sage controls
Their wrath, and calms the tempest of their souls.'
Prolixity made Penal.
It appears from several of the ancient Royal Ordinances of France, and particularly from one of Charles VII. of France, that lawyers in that country (would to heaven it were so in all countries!) were subjected to heavy penalties, when guilty of prolixity in their pleadings. The Roman advocates used to make a sort of agreement with the court, how long they might have liberty to speak in defence of their client. Martial alludes to this practice in the following epigram:
'Septem clepsydras magna tibi voce petenti
Arbiter invitus, Caeciliane, dedit;
At tu multa diu dicis, vitreisque tepentem
Ampullis, potas semisupinus aquam.
Ut tandem saties vocemque sitimque rogamus
Jam de clepsydra, Caeciliane bibas.'
'Seven glasses, Caecilian, thou loudly didst crave:
Seven glasses the judge full reluctantly gave:
Still thou bawl'st and bawl'st on, and as ne'er to bawl off,
Tepid water in bumpers, supine thou cost quaff.
That thy voice and thy thirst at a time thou may'st slake
We entreat from the glass of old Chronus thou'dst take.'
Mark Antony, the Consul.
It was owing to Mark Antony, according to the testimony of Cicero, that Rome could boast of being a rival to Greece in the art of eloquence.
One of the most remarkable of his pleadings was that in favour of Marcus Aquilius. He moved the judges in so sensible a manner by the tears he shed, and the scars he showed on the breast of his client, that he procured his acquittal.
He would never publish any of his speeches, that he might not, as he said, be proved to say in one cause, what might be contrary to what he should advance in another.
He was unfortunately killed during those bloody commotions which arose out of the contentions of Marius and Cinna. He was discovered in a secret hiding place to which he had fled, and soldiers were sent to dispatch him, but he supplicated their forbearance in so eloquent a manner, that the only man who had the cruelty to kill him, was one who had not heard his discourse.
'The genius of Hortensius,' says Cicero, 'like the statue of Phidias, had only to be seen in order to be admired.'
For a long time he was the reigning orator in Rome, and was popularly styled the King of the Forum.
Hortensius was rendered, however, more remarkable by one single defeat, than by all his triumphs. He was employed as advocate for C. Verres, in the celebrated prosecution instituted against him for his conduct in the government of Sicily, but was so confounded by the admirable speech in which Cicero fulminated his charges of injustice, rapine, and cruelty, against the guilty orator, that he felt all his powers of speech taken from him, and threw up the case of his client without saying a word in his defence. Verres, equally confounded with his advocate, did not wait for sentence being pronounced, but instantly fled into exile, where he died some years afterwards, forgotten and deserted by all his friends.
The daughter of Hortensius inherited the eloquence of her father, and when the Roman women were required to render on oath an account of their property, preparatory to a heavy tax, she pleaded the cause of her sex with such force, that the decree was annulled. The harangue which she delivered on this occasion before the triumvirs, Antony, Octavius and Lepidus, was extant in the time of Quintillian, who speaks of it with great applause
'Vita enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita.' CICERO.
The origin of the custom of pronouncing funeral orations over departed worth, is generally ascribed to Velerius Publicola. We are told by Plutarch, that Velerius having honoured the obsequies of his colleague with an eloquent discourse in praise of his many virtues, the Romans were so pleased with the novelty, that it became a regular custom ever afterwards to have the characters of their great men illustrated in a funeral oration by the most eloquent among their survivors.
The custom of the Romans has been continued among the Christians: and it is to be wished, that with the custom we had also borrowed one of their laws by which it was regulated. 'It was part of the laws of burial,' says Cicero, 'that only honourable men should be honoured with funeral orations.'
The shortest, and perhaps also the best, funeral oration extant, is that pronounced by the Earl of Morton over the grave of the illustrious Scottish reformer, John Knox. 'Here lies he who never feared the face of man.'
In the time of Nero, when the bondage of the Romans became so oppressive, that the Britons were determined to resist, Boadicea animated them to shake it off by an eloquent address, which she concluded in these words: 'Let the Romans, who are not better than hares and foxes, understand, that they make a wrong match with wolves and greyhounds.' As she said this, she let a hare out from her lap, as a token of the fearfulness of the Romans. The result of the battle, however, proved that there was more wit than truth in the comparison.
Crillon - King Clovis.
The brave Crillon attending on a Good Friday the public offices of devotion, was so affected by an eminent preacher's delineation of our Saviour's death and sufferings, that, laying his hand upon his sword, he cried out in a transport of generous resentment, 'Where art thou, Crillon?'
It would be idle to suspect Crillon of plagiarism in his honest anger and mode of venting it. Yet his behaviour was merely a copy of that of King Clovis, on a similar occasion. 'Had I been present at the head of my valiant Franks,' exclaimed that monarch indignantly, I would have redressed his wrongs!'
Peter the Hermit.
It is difficult to fix limits to human achievements, when superstition or enthusiasm is aided by the power of eloquence. The celebrated Peter the Hermit having made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, towards the close of the eleventh century, was deeply impressed with the oppression sustained by the Christians from the 'Turks, and resolved to make an effort to rouse the western nations to arms in their behalf. The appearance of Peter was mean, his stature small, his body meagre, and his countenance shrivelled; but with these disadvantages, he had a keen and lively eye, and a ready eloquence. Being encouraged by Pope Urban II., he travelled as a missionary through the provinces of Italy and France. He rode on an ass: his head and feet were naked, and he bore a weighty crucifix. He prayed frequently fed on bread and water, gave away in alms all that he received, and by his saintly demeanour and fervid address, drew innumerable crowds of all ranks to listen to his preaching. When he painted the indignities offered to the true believers at the birth-place and sepulchre of the Saviour, every heart was melted to compassion, and animated to revenge. His success was such as might be expected from the rude enthusiasm and martial spirit of the age: and Peter soon collected an army of 60,000 followers, with which he proceeded towards Jerusalem.
Pope Urban II.
Pope Urban II. finding a general ardour for the crusade against the Turks, proposed by Peter the Hermit on his return from Palestine in 1093, assembled a grand and numerous council at Placentia, and recommended an expedition against the infidels. Soon after the proposal was renewed with success at the council of Clermont; at which were present, the papal court and council of Roman cardinals, thirteen archbishops, two hundred and twenty-five bishops, four hundred mitred prelates, four thousand ecclesiastics, and three hundred thousand laymen. In the marketplace of Clermont, Pope Urban II. ascended a lofty scaffold, and addressed a well-prepared and impatient audience. Such was the success and power of his eloquence that he was interrupted by the clamorous shouts of thousands who with one voice exclaimed 'Deus vult! Deus vult!' 'God wills it! God wills it!' 'It is indeed the will of God,' replied the pope; 'and let this memorable word, the inspiration surely of the Holy Spirit, be for ever adopted as your cry of battle, to animate the devotion and courage of the champions of Christ. His cross is the symbol of your salvation; wear it; a red, a bloody cross, as an external mark on your breasts or shoulders, as a pledge of your sacred and irrevocable engagement.'
The legate of the skies! his theme divine,
His office sacred, his credentials clear.
By him the violated law speaks out
Its thunders; and by him, in strains as sweet
As angels use, the gospel whispers peace.'
When this illustrious preacher was asked where a man like him, whose life was dedicated to retirement, could borrow his admirable descriptions of real life, he answered, 'from the human heart; however little we examine it, we shall find in it the seeds of every passion. When I compose a sermon, I imagine myself consulted upon some doubtful piece of business. I give my whole application to determine the person who has recourse to me, to act the good and proper part. l exhort him, I urge him, and I quit him not till he has yielded to my persuasions.'
On preaching the first Advent sermon at Versailles, Louis XIV. paid the following most expressive tribute to to the power of his eloquence. 'Father, when I hear others preach I am very well pleased with them; when I hear you, I am dissatisfied with myself.'
The first time he preached his sermon on the small number of the elect, the whole audience were at a certain part of it seized with such violent emotion that almost every person half rose from his seat, as if to shake off the horror of being one of the cast-out into everlasting darkness.
When Baron, the actor, came from hearing one of his sermons, 'Friend,' said he, to one of the same profession who accompanied him, 'here is an orator; we are only actors.'
In 1565, Lord Darnley, who had lately married Mary Queen of Scots, consented, at the desire of his friends, to go and hear Mr. Knox preach, in hopes thereby of conciliating him
instead of which he took occasion to declaim against the government of wicked princes who, for the sins of the people, are sent as tyrants and scourges to torment them. Darnley complained of the insult to the council, who interdicted the preacher from the use of his pulpit for several days.
'Rigid and uncomplying himself,' says Dr. Robertson, 'he showed no indulgence to the infirmities of others. Regardless of the distinction of rank and character, he uttered his admonitions with acrimony and vehemence, more apt to irritate than to reclaim. Those very qualities, however, which now render his character less amiable, fitted him to be the instrument of Providence for advancing the reformation among a fierce people; and enabled him to face dangers and to surmount opposition, from which a person of a more gentle spirit would have been apt to shrink back.'
When Bossuet was a very young preacher the king, Louis XIV., was so delighted with him that he wrote in his own name to his father, the Intendant of Soissons, to congratulate him on having a son that would immortalize himself An unbeliever going to hear Bossuet preach, said, on entering the church, 'This is the preacher for me, for it is by him alone I know that I shall be converted, if ever I am so.' Bossuet pronounced the funeral oration on the Duchess of Orleans, who died so suddenly in the midst of a brilliant court, of which she was the glory and delight. No person better possessed the talent of infusing into the soul of his auditors the profound sentiments with which he was himself penetrated. When he pronounced these words, 'O nuit desastreuse, nuit effroyable! ou retentit tout-a-coup comme un eclat de tonnerre, cette nouvelle; MADAME se meurt! MADAME est morte!' all the court were in tears. The pathetic and the sublime shone equally in this discourse. A sensibility more sweet, but less
sublime, is displayed in the last words of his funeral oration on the Great Conde. It was with this fine discourse that Bossuet terminated his career of eloquence. He concluded by thus apostrophising the hero that France mourned: 'Prince, vous mettrez fui a tous ces discours! Au lieu deplorer la mort des autres, je veux desormais apprendre de vous a rendre la mienne sainte; heureux si, avert, par ces cheveux blancs, du compte que je dois rendre de mon administration, je reserve au troupeau que je dois nourir de la parole de vie, le reste d'une voix qui tombe, et d'une ardeur qui s'eteint!'
The first time that Abbadie, the celebrated Calvinist minister, heard M. Saurin preach, he exclaimed, 'Is it an angel or a man that speaks?'
Charles II. was wont in his humorous way to say of his chaplain, Dr. Barrow, that 'he was the most unfair preacher in England because he exhausted every subject, and left no room for others to come after him.' It was indeed too much the doctor's way; when he got hold of a topic, he never knew how to leave anything unsaid upon it. One of his best discourses, that on 'The duty and reward of bounty to the poor,' actually took him up three hours and a half in delivering!
Independence of the Bar.
So low in point of independence was the profession of the bar in the time of Henry VI. that in the case respecting precedence between the Earl of Warwick and the Earl Marshal, both the advocates for the parties, viz., Sir Walter Beauchamp (the first lawyer, by-the-bye, who ever wore the spurs of knighthood in England) and Mr. Roger Hunt, made most humble protestations, each entreating the peer against whom he was retained not to take amiss what he might be obliged to advance on the part of his client.
Mr. Hume, speaking of a later period, says, 'That the answers given into court by the famous Prynn and his associates were so full of invectives against the prelates, 'that no lawyer could be prevailed on to sign them.' The truth, however, is, that the lawyers allowed themselves to be intimidated by the menaces of the court from defending them at all. Mr. Holt, one of their number, signed Prynn's answer, and was told by Lord Chief Justice Finch that he deserved to have his gown pulled over his ears for drawing it, though it contained nothing but mere explanations of points of fact, and a dry recital of acts of parliament, and afterwards, when it was expunged by order of the judges, and another prepared, Mr. Holt, in excuse for not signing the second, being appealed to by Prynn in open court, submissively replied that 'he durst not set his hand to it for fear of giving their honours distaste.'
The Rev. John Howe, when minister of Great Torrington, in Devonshire, having occasion to take a journey to London, went as a hearer to the chapel at Whitehall. Cromwell was present; and struck with his demeanour and person, sent a messenger to inform him, that he wished to speak with him when the service was over. In the course of the interview the Protector desired him to preach before him the following Sunday. Mr. Howe requested to be excused, but Cromwell was not to be denied. Mr. Howe preached accordingly, and the Protector was so pleased with him that he immediately appointed him his domestic chaplain. To some of the peculiar notions of Cromwell Mr. Howe could not, however, assent; and in one particular instance he had the boldness to preach against them in his presence believing that they might lead to practical ill consequences. The friends of the preacher were alarmed for him; and one of them predicted that he would find it difficult, if not impossible, to regain his favour. 'I have,' said the worthy man 'discharged my conscience, and the event must be left to God.' From this period the friendship of Cromwell was less ardent, and his manners cool and reserved; but he never took any notice of the subject.
The Long Parliament.
There perhaps was no period in the history of the British senate, in which our senators more nearly approached the nervous eloquence of the Greeks and Romans, than during the sitting of the long parliament. The language was clear and copious, and often displayed strong marks of the most animated eloquence. In one of the debates at this period, the lord keeper, Finch, having observed, 'That whatever supplies had been raised from the subject, had been again restored to them in fructifying showers ,' to this remark Lord Digby very spiritedly answered, 'It has been a frequent metaphor with these ministerial oppressors, that whatever supplies have been raised from the subject, have been again restored to them in fructifying showers; but it has been in hail-stones and mildews, to wither our hopes, and batter and prostrate our affections.'
Audi Alteram Partem.
'In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil!'
MERCHANT OF VENICE.
James the First, soon after his accession to the English throne, was present in a court of justice, to observe the pleadings in a cause of some consequence. The counsel for the plaintiff having finished, the king was so perfectly satisfied, that he exclaimed, Tis a plain case!' and was about to leave the court. Being persuaded, however, to stay and hear the other side of the question, the pleaders for the defendant made the case no less plain on their side. On this, the monarch rose and departed in a great passion, exclaiming, 'They are all rogues alike!'
Fletcher of Salton.
Mr. Fletcher is allowed to have been by far the finest speaker in the parliament of Scotland at the time of the union. He was remarkable for a close and nervous eloquence which commanded the admiration of all who heard it. To an uncommon elevation of mind, he added a warmth of temper which would suffer him to brook from no man, or in any place, the slightest indignity. Of this he exhibited on one occasion an eminent proof. The Earl of Stair, Secretary of State, and Minister for Scotland, having in the heat of debate used an improper expression against Mr. Fletcher, he seized the lord by his robe, and insisted upon immediate and public satisfaction. The Earl was instantly obliged to beg his pardon in presence of parliament.
Earl of Shaftesbury.
The author of the Characteristics, when Lord Ashley, and soon after he had taken his seat in the House of Commons, rose to speak' in support of the act 'for granting counsel to prisoners in cases of high treason ,' but found himself so embarrassed, that he was unable to express his sentiments. The house cheered him; and, recovering from his confusion, he very happily converted the difficulty and embarrassment of his own situation in favour of the bill. 'If I, sir,' said he addressing the speaker, 'if I, who rise only to offer my opinion on the bill now depending, am so confounded that I am unable to express the least of what I intended to say, what must the condition of that man be, who, without any assistance, is pleading for his life?'
A singular specimen of parliamentary eloquence, at a very early period of English history, is furnished in the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the House of Peers, in 1377, the first year of the reign of Richard II., who ascended the throne at the age of eleven years. The cause of the summons was declared by the archbishop in a speech beginning with this text, rex tuus venit tibi: which subject he divided into three parts, saying, 'That for three causes every friend ought to be welcome to another. first, if he came to rejoice or be merry with his friend, for any singular benefit or good hap that had befallen him: and, therefore, made use of this odd expression, for a male friend: et exultavit infans in utero ejus. The next was, if the said friend came to comfort another in adversity, as is mentioned in the book of Job. And the last, for trying his friend in the time of adversity, according to the Scripture, in necessitate probabiter amicus. To this preface he applied, 'That the king, their undoubted liege lord, was now come unto them, not for one, but for all the three causes. For the first, to rejoice with them in the great providence and grace of God, by sending his person amongst them; not by any collateral means, or election, but by special descent of inheritance: and for their good wills towards him, he was, therefore, come to give them thanks. For the second, to visit and comfort them in their necessities and adversities he was also come, not only for the death of the noble King Edward, and the prince, his son, but also for the great losses which they had sustained on the sea coasts and elsewhere, within the realm, by their enemies, whereunto he was now come, not only to proffer himself in aid, but to confirm all their liberties: to maintain the laws and peace of the kingdom; and to redress all that was to the contrary. Thirdly, to try or assay them, he was also come to advise and counsel with them for suppressing the enemy; and to require an aid of them, without which they could not perform the same. For all which reasons, he desires them to consult together.'
When Richard II. had been deposed by the usurpation of Henry of Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV., the House of Peers decreed, that he should be 'put under a safe and secret guard, and in such a place, where no concourse of people might resort to him.' The only man, either in the clergy or laity, that had the courage to oppose this usurpation at the time, was Thomas Merks, Bishop of Carlisle. Sir Walter Raleigh, in speaking of this prelate, says, that 'he was the only honest man in this parliament, who scorned his life and fortune, in respect to his sovereign's right, and his own allegiance.' This prelate suffered dearly for his integrity; for he was instantly deprived of his dignity, and suffered long imprisonment; and had it not been for his order, which was then held inviolable, he would have died the death of a traitor. The following are some of the most remarkable passages of this eloquent speech.
'But, alas! good King Richard, why such cruelty? What such impiety hath he ever committed? Examine rightly those imputations which are laid against him, without any false circumstance of aggravation, and you shall find nothing objected, either of any truth, or of great moment. It may be that many errors and oversights have escaped him, yet none so grievous to be termed tyranny; as proceeding rather from unexperienced ignorance, or corrupt counsel, than from any natural or wilful malice. Oh! how shall the world be pestered with tyrants, if subjects may rebel upon every presence of tyranny? How many good princes shall daily be suppressed by those whom they ought to be supported? If they levy a subsidy, or any other taxation, it shall be claimed oppression: if they put any to death for traitorous attempts against their persons, it shall be exclaimed cruelty; if they do anything against the lust and liking of the people, it shall be proclaimed tyranny.' He concluded by declaring that the duke whom they called king, had more offended against the king and the realm than Richard had done; and conjured the house, that 'if this injury and this perjury cloth nothing more as yet, let both our private and common dangers somewhat withdraw us from these violent proceedings.'
When England was threatened with invasion by the 'invincible armada' of Spain, and a camp was formed at Tilbury, of twenty three thousand men, to protect the capital, on this memorable and momentous occasion, Queen Elizabeth resolved to visit in person the camp, for the purpose of encouraging her troops. Like a second Boadicea, armed for defence against the invader of her country, she appeared at once the warrior and the queen; the sacred feelings of the moment, superior to all the artifices of royal dignity and the tricks of royal condescension, inspire] her with that impressive earnestness of look, of words, of gesture, which alone is truly dignified, and truly eloquent.
Mounted on a noble charger, with a general's truncheon in her hand, a corslet of polished steel laced on over her magnificent apparel, and a page in attendance bearing her white plumed helmet, she rode, bareheaded, from rank to rank, with a courageous deportment, and smiling countenance; and amid the affectionate plaudits, and shouts of military ardour, which burst from the animated and admiring soldiery, she addressed them in the following short but spirited harangue.
'My loving people, I have been persuaded by some that are careful of my safety, to take heed how I committed myself to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery. But I tell you, that I would not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear; I have so behaved myself, that under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. Wherefore, I am come among you at this time but for my recreation and pleasure, being resolved, in the midst and heart of the battle to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, mine honour and my blood even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too; and take foul scorn that Parma, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm. To the which, rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will venture my royal blood. I myself will be your general, judge, and reward* of your virtue in the field. I know that already for your forwardness you have deserved reward, and crowns and I assure you, on the word of a prince you shall not fail of them. In the meantime, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting, but by your concord in the camp, and velour in the field, and your obedience to myself and my general, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God and of my kingdom.'
As the preceding speech differs in some points from the copy of it already printed, it may be necessary to state, that it has been faithfully transcribed from No. 6798 of the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, the orthography alone being corrected. It is there stated to have been 'Gathered by on yt heard itt, and was commanded to utter itt to ye . whole army ye next day, to send itt gathered to ye queen herself.'
During the summer of 1597, a Polish ambassador sent to Queen Elizabeth, then in the sixty-fourth year of her age, to complain of an invasion of neutral rights. Speed, the ablest of our chroniclers, gives at length her extempore Latin reply to the harangue of the ambassador, adding, in his quaint but expressive phrase, that she, 'Thus lion-like rising daunted the male pert orator no less with her stately port and majestical departure, than with the tartness of her princely cheeks: and turning to the train of her attendants, thus said, '- 's death, my lords, I have been informed this day to scour up my old Latin, that hath laid so long in rusting!"
In a volume of the Harleian MSS., No. 6798, there is a copy of this celebrated speech as delivered in Latin, with an English translation by Harry Capel. It is as follows:
'The answer of the queene, to the orator of the Kinge of Polonia, the 25th day of July, 1597.
'Oh, how I was beguiled! I expected an ambassador, but you have brought me a complaint. I understand by my letters you were an ambassador, but I have founde you an heralde. I never in my life hearde such an orator. I cannot but admire so great and so strange boldness in an open assembly, and I can hardly be induced to believe, that your kinge himselfe, if he had hither arrived unto our presence, woulde ever entertaine such wordes, so rudely attired, into his mouthe; otherwise if this your oration cancell itselfe within the limits of his commandement, (whereof I am halfe afrayde) must needes impute it unto this, that sith your prince's head IS not as yet seasoned with grey haires, as also challenging the right of his government, not by any lawfull descent, but by a favourable election, and as yet but lately invested with the Polonian diademe, he cannot fathome the hidden mystery of managinge these state matters with other princes so perfectly as either his predecessors have to us performed, or those that are afterwards themselves to be inthroned in his kingdome may peradventure observe. And to approache a little nearer unto you, you seeme to have tossed many volumes, yet scarcely with your forefinger to have touched any treatises of kings, but rather to be a very raw scholar in judginge of princes' behaviour, nay, even in that which your mother Nature, or the accustomed law of all nations, might have taught you, that when princes are up in armes, it is no point of injustice for the one to arrest the other, his warlike compliments, not regardinge then the place from whence they came, and to carry a provident eye, lest peradventure they might returne to his owne damage. This IS I say that same law of nature and of all nations. Whereas you make intention of the new alliance contracted with the house of Austria: wherein you secure to repose great confidence; you are not ignorant, that out of that stocke some have sprange out, which would have disrobed your hinge of all kingly authority. As to the rest to which this place and tyme seem to deny an answere, because they are many in number, and those also severally to be examined, you shall attende the determination of certayne of my counsel! assigned by mee for the same purpose. In the mean tyme content yourself, and trouble me no more.'
The death of Mary Queen of Scots so affected one of her retinue, that he died soon after of grief, leaving his widow, Margaret Lambrun, who became so infuriated in consequence, that she resolved to revenge the death of both upon the person of Queen Elizabeth. To accomplish her purpose, she dressed herself as a man, assumed the name of Anthony Spark, and attended at the court of Elizabeth with a pair of pistols, with one of which she intended to kill the queen, and with the other to shoot herself, should she be discovered. One day, as she was pushing through the crowd in order to get to her majesty, she accidentally dropped one of her pistols. This being observed by one of the guards, she was immediately seized. The queen interfered, and desired to examine the culprit. She accordingly demanded her name: to which Margaret, with undaunted resolution, replied:-
'Madame, though I appear before you in this garb, yet I am a woman. My name is Margaret Lambrun. I was several years in the service of Mary, a queen whom you have unjustly put to death, and thereby deprived me of the best of husbands, who could not survive that bloody catastrophe of his innocent mistress. His memory is hardly more dear to me than that of my injured queen: and regardless of consequences, l determined to revenge their death upon you. Many, but fruitless, were the attempts made to divert me from my purpose. I found myself constrained to prove by experience the truth of the maxim, that neither reason nor force can hinder a woman from vengeance, when she is impelled to it by love.'
Highly as the queen had cause to resent this speech, she heard it with coolness and moderation. 'You are persuaded, then,' said her majesty, 'that in this step you have done nothing but what your duty required. What think you is my duty to you?' 'Is that question put in the character of a queen, or that of a judge?' inquired Margaret, with the same intrepid firmness. Elizabeth professed to her it was in that of a queen. 'Then,' continued Lambrun, 'it is your majesty's duty to grant me a pardon.' 'But what security,' demanded the queen, 'can you give me, that you will not make the like attempt upon some future occasion?' 'A favour ceases to be one, madam,' replied Margaret' 'when it is yielded under such restraints; m doing so, your majesty would act against me as a judge.'
Elizabeth, turning to her courtiers, exclaimed, 'I have been a queen thirty years; I never had such a lecture read to me before.' She then immediately granted an unconditional pardon to Margaret Lambrun, though in opposition to the advice of her council.
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton.
One of the earliest and most pleasing triumphs of the trial by jury in this country was displayed in the case of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, accused of high treason in 1554. He was indicted for being concerned in Wyatt's rebellion, and was brought to trial before Lord Chief Justice Bromley, and a special commission of privy counsellors, judges, and crown lawyers. He had been in close confinement for fifty-eight days, without any of his friends being allowed access to him, or any assistance of counsel, which was never then permitted. Sir Nicholas was no lawyer by profession: yet under all these disadvantages he made a defence not only distinguished for its plain good sense and strong reasoning, but incomparably more learned as a legal argument, than anything that was urged against him by the united knowledge of the bench and bar. In every question of law that occurred, he baffled the whole host of lawyers opposed to him; and the judges got at last so irritated, that they made an attempt to put him to silence, by refusing to order certain statutes which he called for to be read. To their astonishment, however, he repeated them with perfect accuracy, after complaining indignantly, that instead of law, they gave him 'only the form and image of law.' When he had finished, the chief justice exclaimed with surprise, 'why do not you of the queen's learned counsel answer him? Methinks, Throckmorton, you need not have the statutes for you have them perfectly.' When the judges quoted cases against him, he retorted others in which these had been condemned as erroneous; till Sergeant Stanford on the part of the crown, peevishly remarked, that if he had known the prisoner was so well furnished with cases, he would have come better prepared. Throckmorton coolly replied, that he had no law, but what he had learned from Mr. Sergeant Stanford himself, when attending in parliament. At length Griffin, the attorney-general, fairly lost all patience at the dexterity and acuteness displayed by the prisoner, and called out, 'I pray you, my lords, that be the queen's commissioners, suffer not the prisoner to use the queen's counsel thus: I was never interrupted thus in my life, nor I never knew any thus suffered to talk as this prisoner is suffered; some of us will come no more at the bar, an we be thus handled.'
The jury acquitted the prisoner; for which (such was the degree of freedom then in England) they were immediately imprisoned, and those who did not make due acknowledgment of their fault in deciding according to their consciences, were afterwards heavily fined by the Star Chamber, even to the ruin of some of them, particularly the foreman and another who lay in jail eight months.
His late majesty observed one day to a gentleman of high literary character, and of distinguished political reputation, that oratory, in this country was carried to a height far beyond its real use; and that the desire of excelling in this accomplishment, made many young men of genius neglect the more solid branches of knowledge. 'I am sure,' said his majesty, 'that the rage for public speaking, and the extravagant length to which some of our most popular orators carry their harangues in parliament, is very detrimental to the national business, and I wish that in the end it may not prove injurious to the public peace.' It is remarkable, that the opinion of the king agrees exactly with that of Aristotle, who says, 'Nothing so effectually contributes to the ruin of popular governments as the petulance of their orators.' (Polit. lib. v.)
Earl of Carnarvon.
In the debate relative to the impeachment of the treasurer, the Earl of Danby, in the House of Lords, 1678, several noblemen spoke very warmly on both sides of the question, and among others, the Earl of Carnarvon, a nobleman who had never opened his lips before in the house. Having been dining with the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke (who intended no favour to the treasurer, but only ridicule) had got the earl to promise, before he went to the house, that he would speak upon any subject that should offer itself Accordingly he rose in the debate, and spoke as follows: 'My lords, I understand but little Latin, but a good deal of the English History, from which I have learnt the mischiefs of such kinds of prosecutions as these, and the ill fate of the prosecutors. I could bring many in stances, and those very ancient; but, my lords, I shall go no farther back than the latter end of Queen Elizabeth's reign; at which time the Earl of Essex was run down by Sir Walter Raleigh. My Lord Bacon he ran down Sir Walter Raleigh, and your lordships know what became of Lord Bacon. The Duke of Buckingham he ran down my Lord Bacon, and your lordships know what happened to the Duke of Buckingham. Sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Stafford, ran down the Duke of Buckingham, and you ail know what became of him. Sir Harry Vane he ran down the Earl of Stafford, and your lordships know what became of Sir Harry Vane. Chancellor Hyde he ran down Sir Harry Vane, and your lordships know what became of the chancellor. Sir Thomas Osborne, now Earl of Danby, ran down Chancellor Hyde, but what will become of the Earl of Danby, your lordships best can tell. But let me see that man that dare run the Earl of Dandy down, and we shall soon see what will become of him.'
This speech being delivered with remarkable humour and tone, the Duke of Buckingham, both surprised and disappointed, cried out, 'The man is inspired, and claret has done the business.' The majority, however, were against the commitment.
When the tax on newspapers, proposed by Mr. Pitt in 1789, was under discussion in the House of Commons, Mr. Drake said that he disliked the tax, and would oppose it from a motive of gratitude. 'The gentlemen concerned in writing for them, had been particularly kind to him. They had made him deliver many well-shaper speeches, though he was convinced that he had never spoke so well in his whole life.'
Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down. I
This eloquent prelate, from the fertility of his mind and the extent of his imagination, has been styled the Shakspeare of Divines. His sermons abound with some of the most brilliant passages, and embrace such a variety of matter, and such a mass of knowledge and of learning, that even the acute Bishop Warburton said of him, 'I can fathom the understandings of most men, yet I am not certain that I can always fathom the understanding of Jeremy Taylor.' His comparison between a married and single life, in his sermon on the Blessedness of Marriage, is rich in tender sentiments, and exquisitely elegant imagery. 'Marriage,' says the bishop, is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities, churches, and even heaven itself. Celibacy, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in a perpetual sweetness; but sits alone, and is confined, and dies in singularity but marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house and gathers sweetness from every flower, and labours and unites into societies and republics; and sends out colonies, and fills the world with delicacies; and obeys their king, keeps order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the interest of mankind; and is that state of things to which God hath designed the present constitution of the world. Marriage hath in it the labour of love, and the delicacies of friendship; the blessings of society, and the union of hands and hearts. It hath in it less of beauty, but more of safety, than a single life; it is more merry and more sad; is fuller of joys and fuller of sorrow; it lies under more burthens, but is supported by all the strength of love and charity; and these burthens are delightful.'
In the debate on the Occasional Conformity and Schism Bills in the House of Lords, in December, 1718, they were very warmly opposed by Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, who said, 'he had prophecied last winter this bill would be attempted in the present session, and he was sorry to find he had proved a true prophet.' Lord Coningsby, who always spoke m a passion, rose immediately after the bishop, and remarked, that 'one of the right reverends had set himself forth as a prophet; but for his part, he did not know what prophet to liken him to, unless to that famous prophet Balaam, who was reproved by his own ass.' The bishop, in reply, with great wit and calmness exposed his rude attack, concluding in these words: 'Since the noble lord bath discovered in our manners such a similitude, I am well content to be compared to the prophet Balaam; but, my lords, I am at a loss how to make out the other part of the parallel. I am sure that I have been reproved by nobody but his lordship.' From that day forth, Lord Coningsby was called 'Atterbury's Pad.'
Logan, the Indian.
Logan, the celebrated Indian chief, who had long been a zealous partisan of the English, and had often distinguished himself in their service, was taken prisoner, and brought before the General Assembly of Virginia, who hesitated whether he should be tried by a court martial as a soldier, or at the criminal bar for high treason. Logan interrupted their deliberations, and state& to the assembly, that they had no jurisdiction to try him; 'that he owed no allegiance to the King of England, being an Indian chief, independent of every nation.' In answer to their inquiries, as to his motives for taking up arms against the English, he thus addressed the assembly:
'I appeal to any white man to say, If ever he entered Logan's cabin hungry, and I gave him not meat? if ever he came cold or naked, and I gave him not clothing? During the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his tent, an advocate for peace, nay, such was my love for the whites, that those of my own country pointed at me, as they passed' by' and said, Logan is the friend of white men. I had ever thought to live with you, but for the injuries of one man. Colenel Cressop, the last spring, in cold blood and unprovoked, cut off all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any human creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour the thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.'
This pathetic and affecting speech touched the sensibility of all who heard him. The General Assembly applauded his noble sentiments, and immediately set him at liberty. Every house in Virginia vied with each other which should entertain him the best, or show him the most respect, and he returned to his native country, loaded with presents and honours.
Philip, Duke of Wharton.
Philip, Duke of Wharton, in one of his speeches in the House of Lords, in the reign of George the First, said, 'My lords, there was in the reign of Tiberius a favourite minister, by name Sejanus: the first step he took was to wean the emperor's affections from his son; the next, to carry the emperor abroad: and so Rome was ruined.' To which Lord Stanhope replied, 'That the Romans were most certainly a great people, and furnished many illustrious examples in their history which ought to be carefully read: and which he made no doubt the noble peer who spoke last had done. The Romans were likewise universally allowed to be a wise people: and they showed themselves to be so in nothing more than by debarring young noblemen from speaking in the senate, till they understood good manners and propriety of language; and as the duke had quoted an instance from their history of a bad minister, he begged leave to quote from the same history an instance of a great man, a patriot of his country, who had a son so profligate, that he would have betrayed the liberties of it, on which account his father himself (the elder Brutus) had him whipped to death!'
Frederic the Great.
Frederic the Great being informed of the death of one of his chaplains, a man of considerable learning and piety, determined to select a successor with the same qualifications and took the following method of ascertaining the merit of one of the numerous candidates for the appointment. He told the applicant that he would furnish him with a text the following Sunday, when he was to preach at the Royal Chapel. The morning came, and the chapel was crowded to excess. The king arrived at the end of the prayers, and on the candidate ascending the pulpit, he was presented with a sealed paper by one of his majesty's aides-de-camp. The preacher opened it, and found nothing written. He did not however lose his presence of mind; but turning the paper on both sides, he said, 'My brethren, here is nothing, and there is nothing: out of nothing God created all things ,' and proceeded to deliver a most eloquent discourse on the wonders of the creation.
Sir Thomas Sewell.
Sir Thomas Sewell, Master of the Rolls, who usually sat in the House of Commons in his great wig, spoke in favour of the adjournment of the debate on the illegality of general warrants in 1764, because that such adjournment, though short, would afford him an opportunity to examine his books and authorities upon the subject, and he should then be prepared with an opinion upon it: which at present he was not.' Upon the adjourned debate, the same gentleman said, that 'he had that very morning turned the whole matter over in his mind as he lay upon his pillow, and after ruminating and considering upon it a good deal, he could not help declaring, that he was of the same opinion as before.' Mr. Charles Townshend, on this, started up, and said, 'He was very sorry to find that what the right honourable gentleman had found in his night-cap, he had lost in his periwig.'
When Patrick Henry, who gave the first impulse to the ball of the American revolution, introduced his celebrated resolution on the Stamp Act into the House of Burgesses of Virginia (May, 1765), he exclaimed, when descanting on the tyranny of the obnoxious act, 'Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third' - Treason!' cried the speaker: 'treason! treason!' echoed from every part of the house. It was one of those trying moments which are decisive of character. Henry faltered not for an instant: but rising to a loftier attitude, and fixing on the speaker an eye flashing with fire continued, "may profit by their example." If this be treason, make the most of it.'
The Indian warrior Tecumseh, who fell in the late American war, was not only an accomplished military commander, but also a great natural statesman and orator. Among the many strange, and some strongly characteristic, events in his life, the council which the American General Harrison held with the Indians at Vincennes, in 1811, affords an admirable instance of the sublimity which sometimes distinguished his eloquence. The chiefs of some tribes had come to complain of a purchase of lands which had been made from the Kickafous. This council effected nothing but broke up in confusions in consequence of Tecumseh having called General Harrison 'a liar.' It was in the progress of the long talks that took place in the conference, that Tecumseh having finished one of his speeches, looked round, and seeing every one seated, while no seat was prepared for him, a momentary frown passed over his countenance. Instantly, General Harrison ordered that a chair should be given him. Some person presented one, and bowing, said to him, 'Warrior, your father, General Harrison, offers you a seat.' Tecumseh's dark eye flashed. 'My father!' he exclaimed, indignantly, extending his arm towards the heavens; 'the sun is my father, and the earth is my mother; she gives me nourishment, and I repose upon her bosom.' As he ended, he sat down suddenly on the ground.
Lord Chancellor Loughborough stands foremost among the few eloquent lawyers who have been eloquent speakers in parliament; and it is not a little singular, that his rise in life should have been owing to the bitterness of a sarcasm which he pronounced on the very quality in which he so much excelled. He was brought up not to the English, but to the Scottish, bar; and not long after commencing practice, happened to be opposed in a case to Mr. * * * *, at that time one of the brightest luminaries of which the Scottish bar could boast. Mr. * * * * had made a very impassioned appeal to the judge: and in replying to it, Mr. Wedderburn (Lord L.) summed up a most ironical picture of Mr. * * * *'s powers of eloquence, in these words. 'Nay, my lords, if tears could have moved your lordships, tears sure I am would not have been wanting.' The lord president immediately interrupted Mr. W., and told him that he was pursuing a very indecorous course of observation. Mr.W. spiritedly maintained that he had said nothing but what he was well entitled to say, and would have no hesitation in saying again. The lord president, irritated probably at so bold an answer from so young a man, rejoined in a manner, the personality of which provoked Mr. W. to tell his lordship, that the had said that as a judge, which he durst not justify as a gentleman. An observation such as this, which put an end to all observation, was not of course to be brooked; the lord president threw himself on the judgment and protection of his brother judges: and the result was, that Mr. W. was unanimously ordered to make a most abject and ample apology, under pain of deprivation. Mr. W. declared indignantly that 'he never would make an apology for what his conscience told him was no offence;' and with these words throwing off his gown, he cast it on the ground, and rubbing the dust from off his feet upon it, bade the court and his brethren at the bar farewell. Fortune, it would seem, was in one of her tricky moods. Exiled by mere accident from that native scene of action on which all his hopes of success had been originally set, and where he could never have attained to more than a provincial eminence, Mr. W. bent his steps towards England; he devoted himself to the study of its laws, and in no long time became the first law officer in England, and the right arm of as able a minister as ever wielded the destinies of Britain.
Mr. Lee, the barrister, was famous for studying effect when he pleaded. On the circuit of Norwich, a brief was brought to him by the relatives of a woman who had been deceived into a breach of promise of marriage. Lee inquired among other particulars, whether the woman was handsome? 'A most beautiful face, was the answer. Satisfied with this, he desired she should be placed at the bar, immediately in front of the jury. When he rose, he began a most pathetic and eloquent address, directing the attention of the jury to the charms which were placed in their view, and painting in glowing colours the guilt of the wretch who could injure 50 much beauty. When he perceived their feelings worked up to a proper pitch, he sat down, under the perfect conviction that he should obtain a verdict. What then must have been his surprise, when the counsel retained by the opposite party rose and observed, that it was impossible not to assent to the encomiums which his learned friend had lavished on the face of -the plaintiff; but he had forgot to say, that she had a wooden leg!' This fact, of which Lee was by no means aware, was established to his utter confusion. His eloquence was thrown away; and the jury, who felt ashamed of the effects it had produced upon them, instantly gave a verdict against him.
A witness was one day called to the bar of the House of Commons, when some one took notice, and pointedly remarked, upon his ill-looks. Mr. Fox (afterwards Lord Holland), whose gloomy countenance strongly marked his character, observed, 'That it was unjust, ungenerous, and unmanly, to censure a man for that signature which God had impressed upon his countenance, and which therefore he could not by any means remedy or avoid.' Mr. Pitt rose hastily and said, 'I agree from my heart with the observation of my fellow member; it is forcible, it is judicious and true. But there are some (throwing his eyes full on Fox) upon whose face the hand of Heaven has so stamped the mark of wickedness, that it were IMPIETY not to give it credit.'
On this prince's declaration of war against Louis Xl. of France, he addressed his parliament in an able speech, which concluded with the following impressive words:
'But I detain you too long by my speech from action. I see the clouds of dire revenge gathered in your hearts, and the lightning of fury break from your eyes, which bodes thunder against our enemy; let us therefore lose no time, but suddenly and severely scourge this perjured court to a severe repentance, and regain honour to our nation, and his kingdom to our crown.'
During the French Revolution, the inhabitants of a village in Dauphiny had determined on sacrificing their lord to their revenge, and were only dissuaded from it by the eloquence of their curate, who thus addressed them. 'My friends,' said he, 'the day of vengeance is arrived; the individual who has so long tyrannized over you, must now suffer his merited punishment. As the care of this flock has been entrusted to me,- it behoves me to watch over their best interests, nor will I forsake their righteous cause. Suffer me only to be your leader, and swear to me that in all circumstances you will follow my example.' All the villagers swore they would. 'And,' continued he, 'that you further solemnly promise to enter into any engagement which I may now make, and that you remain faithful to this your oath.' All the villagers exclaimed, 'We do.' 'Well then,' solemnly taking the oath, 'I swear to forgive our lord.' Unexpected as this was, the villagers all forgave him.
'Slow in speech, yet sweet as spring-time flowers. SHAKSPEARE.
'The funeral orations of Flechier,' says D'Alembert, 'were not only pure and correct in style, but full of sweetness and eloquence. Nothing could be more truly pathetic; they exceeded everything when delivered by the author himself. His serious action, and his slow and sometimes feeble voice, brought the hearers into a disposition of sympathetic sorrow; the soul felt itself gradually penetrated by the simple expressions of the sentiment; and the ear by the soft cadence of the periods. Hence he was sometimes obliged to make a pause in the pulpit, that he might leave a free course to plaudits not of the tumultuous kind which resound at profane spectacles, but expressed by that general and modest murmur which eloquence arrests even in our temples from an audience deeply moved; a kind of involuntary enthusiasm which not even the sanctity of the place can repress '
The most admired of Flechier's orations, was that on Marshal Turenne. Mark Antony, with the dead body of Caesar before him could scarcely have produced a more vivid impression on his hearers, than Flechier did by the following noble exordium.
'Do not expect, my friends, that I shall set before your eyes the tragic scene of this great man's death; that I shall exhibit the hero stretched lifeless on his own trophies; that I shall point to the pale and bloody corpse still enveloped m the smoke of the thunderbolt which struck it; that I shall make his blood cry out like that of Abel; or that I shall afflict your sight with the melancholy spectacle of religion and patriotism leaning over his remains, all drowned in tears.'
The following similitude is of a still higher order of eloquence; it is an example of sublimity of the very tenderest description. 'The man who defended the cities of Judah; who subdued the puce of the children of Ammon and of Esau; who returned charged with the spoils of Samaria, after having burnt upon their own altars the gods of the heathens - that man whom God hath set around Israel as a wall of brass, against which the forces of Asia were broken to pieces, who, after having defeated numerous armies, disconcerted the ablest and proudest generals of the kings of Syria - came every year in common with the meanest of the Israelites, to repair with his triumphant hands the ruins of the sanctuary and wished to have no other recompense for the good he had rendered to his country than the honour of having done it some service.' This valiant man pursuing, with a courage invincible, the enemy whom he had compelled to a shameful flight, received at last his death wound, falling, as it were, overwhelmed in the triumph he had achieved. On the first I report of this disastrous event, all the cities of Judah were deeply affected; rivers of tears flowed from the eyes of their inhabitants they were in one moment overcome, mute immoveable. After a long and mournful silence, they at last cried out in a voice broken by the sighs which sadness, pity, fear, forced from their hearts, " How, is the mighty fallen who saved the people of Israel!" At these words, all Jerusalem wept more and more, the roofs of the temple shook; the Jordan was troubled, and all Its banks re-echoed the mournful strains, "How is the mighty fallen who saved the people of Israel!" '
In 1686, Flechier was nominated to the bishopric of Lavaur; on which occasion Louis XIV. paid him the following handsome compliment. 'I have,' said he, 'made you wait some time for a place which you have long deserved; but I was unwilling sooner to deprive myself of the pleasure of hearing you.'
The published sermons of Tillotson rank among the best in the English language; and it is probable that there would not have been a bad one from his pen to complain of, had his ability in delivering his sermons been equal to his ability m writing them. But it happened to Tillotson (too much after the manner of the pulpit orators of his country) that he once preached his king asleep, and by way of making amends for the sleeping draught he was ordered to publish what, had it been heard, neither king nor subject could have wished but to forget. In 1680, an extreme dread of popery induced him to deliver before the king the sermon which bears in the published collection of his works the title of 'The Protestant religion vindicated from the charge of Singularity and Novelty.' The king dropped asleep, and slept nearly all the time the archbishop was delivering it. When the preacher had finished, and the king rose to depart, a nobleman who was with him said, 'It is a pity your majesty was asleep, for we have had the rarest piece of Hobbism that ever you heard in your life.' 'Have we?' replied Charles; 'then, odds fish, he shall print it.' And so his majesty was pleased to order, to the no small mortification of the archbishop, who knew that, designed for a temporary purpose, the sermon rested on none of those eternal principles which could enable it Lo appear with credit in the eyes of posterity.
In one of the debates in the House of Peers in 1794, a noble lord quoted the following lines from Bishop Porteus's Poem on War.
'One murder makes a villain;
Millions, a hero! Princes are privileged
To kill, and numbers sanctify the crime.
Ah! why will kings forget that they are men;
And men, that they are brethren? Why delight
In human sacrifice? Why burst the ties
Of nature, that should knit their souls together
In one soft bond of amity and love?
They yet still breathe destruction, still go on,
Inhumanly ingenious to find out
New pains for life; new terrors for the grave.
Artificers of DEATH! Still monarchs dream
Of universal empire growing up
From universal ruin. Blast the design,
Great God of Hosts! Nor let thy creatures fall
Unpitied victims at Ambition's shrine.'
The bishop, who was present, and who generally voted with the minister, was asked by a noble earl, then accustomed to stand alone in the discussions of the house, if he were really the author of the excellent lines here quoted? The bishop replied, 'Yes, my lord: but they were not composed for the present war!'
When the court of Rome, under the pontificates of Gregory IX. and Innocent IV., set no bounds to their ambitious projects, they were opposed by the Emperor Frederic, who was of course anathematized. A curate of Paris, a humorous fellow, got up in his pulpit, with the bull of Innocent in his hand. 'You know, my brethren,' said he,: 'that I am ordered to proclaim an excommunication against Frederic. I am ignorant of the motive. All that I-know is, that there exists between this prince and the Roman Pontiff great differences, and an irreconcilable hatred.
God only knows which of the two is wrong. Therefore, with all my power, I excommunicate him who injures the other; and I absolve him who suffers, to the great scandal of all Christianity.'
Sewel, who is more generally known by his Dutch and English Dictionary, than as an English writer, relates the following anecdote of his mother, Judith Zinspenning, who visited England, and was much esteemed there among the quakers. Being at a meeting in London, and finding herself stirred up to speak of the loving kindness of the Lord to those that feared him, she desired one Peter Sybrands to be her interpreter; but he, though an honest man, being not very fit for that service, one or more friends told her they were so sensible of the power by which she spoke, that though they did not understand her words, yet they were edified by the life and power that accompanied her speech; and, therefore, they little regretted the want of interpretation. And so she went on without any interpreter!
The Rival Orators.
AEschines having drawn up an accusation against one Ctesiphon, or rather against Demosthenes, a time was fixed for hearing the trial. No cause ever excited so much curiosity, or was pleaded with so much pomp. 'People flocked to it from all parts,' says Cicero, 'and they had great reason for so doing, for what sight could be nobler than a conflict between two orators, each of them so excellent; both formed by nature, improved by art, and animated by perpetual dissensions and an insuperable jealousy. The disposition of the people, and the juncture of affairs, seemed to favour AEschines; but, notwithstanding, he lost his cause, and was sentenced to banishment for his rash accusation. He then went and settled in Rhodes, where he opened a school of eloquence, the fame and glory of which continued for many ages. He began his lectures with the two orations that had occasioned his banishment. Great encomiums were given to that of AEschines; but when they heard that of Demosthenes, the plaudits and acclamations were redoubled and it was then that he spoke these words, so generous in the mouth of an enemy: 'But what applauses would you have bestowed, had you heard Demosthenes speak it himself!'
Mr. Campbell, the missionary, mentions in his 'Travels in South Africa,' that during his stay at Graaf Reynet, Boozak and Cupido, two converted Hottentots, frequently 'addressed the heathen;' and he gives the following among other specimens of their oratorical powers:-
'Before the mssionaries,' said Boozak, 'came to us, we were as ignorant of everything as you now are. I thought then I was the same as a beast; that when I died, there would be an end of me; but after hearing them, I found I had a soul that must be happy or miserable for ever. Then I became afraid to die. I was afraid to take a gun into my hand, lest it should kill me; or to meet a serpent, lest it should bite me. I was then afraid to go to the hill to hunt lions or elephants, lest they should devour me. But when I heard of the Son of God having come into the world to die for sinners, all that fear went away. I took my gun again, and without fear of death, went to hunt lions, and tigers, and elephants.'
The following specimen from a sermon of the other convert, Cupido, is in a higher strain.
'He illustrated,' says Mr. Campbell, 'the immortality of the soul; by alluding to the serpent, who, by going between the two branches of a bush which press against each other, strips himself once a year of his skin.'
"When we find the skin," said he, "we do not call it the serpent; no, it is only the skin: neither do we say the serpent is dead; no, for we know he is alive, and has only cast his skin." The serpent he compared to the soul, and the skin to the body of man.'
Caractacus, after defending himself with invincible bravery against the Romans, who had invaded his dominions, was treacherously seized and betrayed to his enemies, by whom he was sent, with the rest of his family, in chains to Rome. The behaviour of Caractacus, in that metropolis of the world, was truly great. When brought before the emperor, he appeared with a manly and undaunted countenance, and thus addressed himself to Claudius:- 'If in my prosperity the moderation of my conduct had been equivalent to my birth and fortune, I should have come into this city, not as a captive, but as a friend, nor would you, Caesar, have disdained the alliance of a man born of illustrious ancestors, and ruler over several nations. My present fate is to me dishonourable; to you magnificently glorious. I once had horses; I once had men, I once had arms; I once had riches; can you wonder then I should part with them unwillingly? Although, as Romans, you may aim at universal empire, it does not follow that all mankind must tamely submit to be your slaves. If I had yielded without resistance, neither the perverseness of my fortune, nor the glory of your triumph, had been so remarkable. Punish me with death, and I shall soon be forgotten. Suffer me to live, and I shall remain a lasting monument of your clemency.'
The manner in which this noble speech was delivered, affected the whole assembly, and made such an impression on the emperor, that he ordered the chains of Caractacus and his family to be taken off; and Agrippine, who was more than an equal associate in the empire, not only received the captive Britons with great marks of kindness and compassion, but confirmed to them the enjoyment of their liberty.
The most able and strenuous opponent m the Scottish Parliament, to the Union between England and Scotland, was the representative of the ancient and illustrious house of Belhaven. He delivered a speech on the occasion, which made so powerful an impression on the house, that it had nearly gone the length of overturning the project entirely. Nobody felt equal to the task of replying to it; and nobody did reply to it. The petty criticism, however, of a noble lord reconciled a majority of the members to vote, against the impression of their minds, in the way in which they had been bribed; and with such men, the eloquence even of an angel could have been of no avail.
The speech is a fine specimen of simple and unaffected oratory. After a very brief exordium, the speaker proceeded at once to fix the attention of the house on the essence of the question they were about to determine, by picturing to their imagination all the melancholy consequences which he thought (happily with no spirit of prophecy) would ensue from the union which he deprecated.
'I think,' said his lordship, 'I see a free and independant kingdom delivering up that which all the world hath been fighting for since the days of Nimrod; yea, that for which most of all the empires, states, principalities, and dukedoms of Europe are at this very time engaged in the most cruel wars that ever were, viz., a power to manage their own affairs by themselves, without the assistance and counsel of others.
'I think I see a national church founded upon a rock, a secured claim of right, hedged and fenced about by the strictest and pointedest legal sanction that sovereignty could contrive, voluntarily descending into a plain upon an equal level with Jews, Papists, Socinians, Arminians, Anabaptists, and other sectaries.
'I think I see the noble and honourable peerage of Scotland, whose valiant predecessors led armies against their enemies upon their own proper charges and expenses, now divested of their full orders and vassalages, and put upon such an equal footing with their vassals, that I think I see a petty English exciseman receive more homage and respect than was formally paid to their Maccallanmores.
'I think I see the present peers of Scotland, whose noble ancestors conquered provinces, over-ran counties, reduced and subjected towns, and fortified places through the greatest part of England, now walking in the Court of Requests, like so many English attorneys, laying aside their walking swords when in company with the English peers, lest their self-defence should be found murder.
'I think I see the honourable estate of barons, the bold assertors of their nation's rights and liberties in the worst of times, now setting a watch upon their lips, and a guard upon their tongues, lest they be found guilty of scandalum magnatum.
'I think I see the royal state of boroughs walking their desolate streets, hanging down their heads, wormed out of all the branches of their old trade, uncertain what hand to turn to, necessitated to become apprentices to their unkind neighbours, and yet after all, finding their trade so fortified by companies, and secured by proscription, that they despair of any success therein.
'I think I see our learned judges laying aside their practiques and decisions, studying the common law of England, gravelled with certioraris, nisi priuses, writs of error, injunctions, demurrers, &c., and frightened with appeals and advocations, because of the new regulations and rectifications that they may meet with.
'I think I see the valiant and gallant soldiery either sent to learn the plantation trade abroad, or at home petitioning for a small subsistence as the reward of their honourable exploits; while our old corps are broken, the common soldiers left to beg, and the youngest English corps kept standing.
'I think I see the honest industrious tradesman loaded with new taxes and impositions disappointed of the equivalents, drinking water instead of ale, eating his saltless porridge, petitioning for encouragement to his manufactures, and answered by counterpetitions.
'In short, I think I see the laborious ploughman with his corn spoiling on his hands for want of sale, cursing the day of his birth, dreading the expense of his burial, and uncertain whether to marry or to do worse.
'I think I see the incurable difficulties of the landsmen fettered under the golden chain of equivalents; their pretty daughters petitioning for want of husbands, and their sons for want of employment.
'I think I see our mariners delivering up their ships to their Dutch partners; and, what through presses and necessities, earning their bread as underlings in the royal English navy.
'But, above all, my lord, I think I see our ancient mother, Caledonia, like Caesar sitting in the midst of our senate, ruefully looking round about her, covering herself with her royal garment, waiting the fatal blow, and breathing out her last,' looking to where the squadron (a soi-disant independent party) sat, 'with an et tu quoque, mi fili!'
Following up the affecting image thus presented to his hearers, he proceeded to charge the advocates for the union with conspiring to give the death-blow to their country, and called on all who would avoid participating in the damned guilt, to join with him in protecting it from violation.
'Shall we not,' he exclaimed, 'speak for that for which our fathers have fought and bled? Shall the hazard of a father unbind the ligaments of a dumb son's tongue? And shall we be silent when our more than father - our country, is in danger?'
After speaking for some time in the same strain, he made a solemn pause.
'My lord,' he said, 'I shall here make a pause, till I see if his grace, the lord commissioner, will receive any proposals for removing misunderstandings from amongst us, and putting an end to our fatal divisions. Upon honour, I have no other design; and I am content to beg the favour on my bended knees.'
He stopped, and threw himself on his knees. None interposed. He could expect none to interpose; but the impression upon the house was very powerful. He then arose, and finished his speech.
A considerable time elapsed before any member on the opposite side attempted to speak. At length, the Earl of Marchmont rose, and said, 'My Lord Chancellor, and gentlemen, I have heard a long speech, and a very terrible one; but it only requires, I think, this short reply: Behold, I dreamed, but when I awoke, lo! I found it was all a dream!'
Admiral Blake, when a captain, was sent with a small squadron to the West Indies, on a secret expedition against the Spanish settlements. It happened in an engagement, that one of the ships blew up, which damped the spirits of the crew; but Blake, who was not to be subdued by one unsuccessful occurrence, called out to his men, 'Well, my lads, you have seen an English ship blown-up, and now let's see what figure a Spanish one will make in the same situation!' This well-timed harangue raised their spirits immediately, and in less than an hour he set his antagonist on fire. 'There, my lads,' said he, 'I knew we should have our revenge soon.'
During the mutiny which unfortunately appeared to pervade almost the whole British navy in 1797, Admiral Duncan was blockading the Dutch fleet. The disaffection raged to such an extent in his squadron, that he was left with only three ships, but with these he still remained firm in his station off the Texel, and succeeded in keeping the Dutch navy from proceeding to sea. The speech which he made on this occasion to the crew of his own ship, on the 3rd of June, 1797, was an admirable specimen of artless an] affecting eloquence. His men being assembled, the admiral thus addressed them from the quarter-deck: 'My lads, I once more call you together with a sorrowful heart, from what I have lately seen of the disaffection of the fleets; I call it disaffection, for the crews have no grievances. To be deserted by my fleet, in the face of an enemy, is a disgrace which I believe never before happened to a British admiral, nor could I have supposed it. My greatest comfort, under God, is, that I have been supported by the officers, seamen, and marines, of this ship; for which, with a heart overflowing with gratitude, I request you to accept my sincere thanks. I flatter myself much good may result from your example, by bringing those deluded people to a sense of the duty which they owe, not only to their king and country, but to themselves. The British navy has ever been the support of that liberty which has been handed down to us by our ancestors, and which, I trust, we shall maintain to the latest posterity, and that can only be done by unanimity and obedience. The ship's company, and others, who have distinguished themselves by their loyalty and good order, deserve to be, and doubtless will be, the favourites of a grateful country; they will also have from their individual feelings a comfort which must be lasting, and not like the fleeting and false confidence of those who swerved from their duty. It has often been my pride with you to look into the Texel, and see a foe which dreaded coming out to meet us. My pride is now humble indeed! My feelings are not easily to be expressed! Our cup has overflowed, and made us wanton. The all-wise Providence has given us this check as a warning, and I hope we shall improve by it. On him, then, let us trust, where our only security can be found. I find there are many good men among us, for my own part, I have had full confidence of all in this ship, and once more beg to express my approbation of your conduct. May God, who has thus so far conducted you, continue to do so! and may the British navy, the glory and support of our country, be restored to its wonted splendour, and be not only the bulwark of Britain, but the terror of the world! But this can only be effected by a strict adherence to our duty and obedience; and let us pray that the Almighty God may keep us in the right way of thinking. God bless you all.' The crew of the Venerable were so affected by this impressive address, that on retiring, there was not a dry eye among them.
'I must tell thee, sirrah, I write Man, to which title age cannot bring thee.' SHAKSPEARE.
In the parliamentary session of 1740, Sir Charles Wager brought in a bill for the encouragement of seamen and speedier manning the royal navy, which was strongly opposed by Mr. Pitt. His speech on this occasion produced an answer from Mr. H. Walpole, who in the course of it said, 'Formidable sounds and furious declamation, confident assertions and lofty periods may affect the young and inexperienced; and perhaps the honourable gentleman may have contracted his habits of oratory, by conversing more with those of his own age, than with such as have had more opportunities of acquiring knowledge, and more successful methods of communicating their sentiments.' Mr. Walpole added some expressions, such as vehemence of gesture theatrical emotion, &c., which he applied to Mr. Pitt's manner of speaking. As soon as he sat down, Mr. Pitt rose, and made the following admirable reply:
'The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but content myself with wishing, that I may be one whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience.
'Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not assume the province of determining. But surely age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without improvement, and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch that, after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, continues still to blunder, and whose age has only added obstinacy to stupidity, is surely the object of either abhorrence or contempt, and deserves not that his grey head should secure him from rebukes.
'Much more is he to be abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has receded from virtue, and becomes more wicked with less temptation; who prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains of his life in the ruin of his country.
'But youth is not my only crime. I have been accused of acting a theatrical part: a theatrical part may either imply some peculiarities of gesture or a dissimulation of one's real sentiments, and an adoption of the opinion and language of other men.
'In the first sense, the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves only to he mentioned that it may be despised. I am at liberty, like every other man, to use my own language; and though I may perhaps have, some ambition, yet, to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction or his mien, however matured by age or modelled by experience, if any man shall, by charging me with theatrical behaviour, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain: nor shall any protection shelter him from the treatment which he deserves. I shall on such occasion, without scruple, trample upon all those forms with which wealth and dignity entrench themselves; nor shall anything but age restrain my resentment - age which always brings one privilege, that of being insolent and supercilious without punishment.
'But with regard to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion that if I had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure; the heat that offended them is the ardour of conviction, and that zeal for the service of my country which neither hope nor fear shall influence me to suppress. I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence upon public delinquency. I will exert my endeavours, at whatever hazard, to repel the aggression, and drag the offenders to justice, whatever may protect them in their villainy, and whoever may partake of their plunder.'
Dignity was one of the distinguished characteristics of Lord Chatham's oratory: this presided throughout, and gave force even to the sallies of pleasantry. It was this that elevated the most familiar language, and gave novelty and grace to the most familiar allusions, so that in his hand even the crutch became a weapon of oratory. In one of his speeches on the American war, in which he greatly distinguished himself, he said, 'You talk, my lords, of conquering America: of your numerous friends there to annihilate the Congress, and of your powerful forces to disperse her army: I might as well talk of driving them before me with this crutch.'
Death of Lord Chatham.
'Shall Chatham die, and be forgot? No.
Warm from its source let grateful sorrow flow:
His matchless ardour fir'd each fear-struck mind,
His genius soar'd when Britons droop'd and pin'd.' GARRICK.
Lord Chatham entered the House of Lords for the last time on the 7th of April, 1778, leaning upon two friends. He was wrapped up in flannel, and looked pale and emaciated. His eye was still penetrating: and though with the evident appearance of a dying man, there never was seen a figure of more dignity: he appeared like a being of a superior species. He rose from his seat slowly and with difficulty, leaning on his crutches, and supported under each arm by two of his friends. He took one hand from his crutch, and raised it, casting his eyes towards heaven, and said:- 'I thank God that I have been enabled to come here this day - to perform my duty, and to speak on a subject which has so deeply interested my mind. I am old and infirm: have one foot, more than one foot, m the grave. I am risen from my bed, to stand up in the cause of my country! perhaps never again to speak in this house!' At first he spoke in a very low and feeble tone: but as he grew warm, his voice rose, and was as harmonious as ever, perhaps more oratorical and affecting than at any former period, both from his own situation and from the importance of the subject on which he spoke. He gave the whole history of the American war: of all the measures to which he had objected; and all the evils which he had prophesied would be the consequence of them, adding, at the end of each, 'And so it proved.'
In one part of his speech he ridiculed the apprehension of an invasion, and then recalled the remembrance of former invasions. 'Of a Spanish invasion, of a French invasion, of a Dutch invasion, many noble lords may have read in history: and some lords (looking keenly at one who sat near him) may perhaps remember a Scotch invasion!'
When the Duke of Richmond was speaking, he looked at him with attention and composure: but when he rose to answer, his strength failed him, and he fell backward. He was instantly supported by those who were near him. He was then carried to Mr. Serjent's house in Downing Street, and thence conveyed home to Hayes, and put to bed, from which he never rose. Such was the glorious end of the great Lord Chatham, who died in the discharge of a great political duty, a duty which he came in a dying state to perform.
It has been said of his late majesty, George III., that he recited a speech, or delivered an oration, with more true modulation and eloquence than most men in his dominions. His speeches from the throne to the two houses of parliament were always considered as specimens of beautiful elocution, and this was the snore remarkable, since in common conversation the king spoke with a rapidity which sometimes made him unintelligible to those who were not familiarized to his peculiar mode of expression. His present majesty has the same merit of deliberate articulation, without the fault of an hasty utterance.
When the trial of Mr. Hastings commenced in Westminster Hall, the first two days were taken up in reading the articles of impeachment against him; and four more were occupied by Mr. Burke in opening the case and stating the grounds of the accusation. Never were the powers of that great man displayed to such advantage as on this occasion. The contrast which he drew between the ancient and the modern state of Hindostan, was sketched with the hand of a master, and wrought up in a manner that could not fail to fix the attention and to command admiration. When at length he came to speak of Mr. Hastings, no terms can describe the more than mortal vehemence with which he uttered his manifold accusations against him. He seemed for the moment as if armed to destroy with all the lightning of all the passions. The whole annals of judicial oratory contain nothing finer than his conclusion.
'I impeach Warren Hastings,' said he, 'in the name of the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, whose parliamentary trust he has abused.
'I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain, whose national character he has dishonoured.
'I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose laws, rights, and liberties ho has subverted, whose properties he has destroyed, whose country he has laid waste and desolate.
'I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has so cruelly outraged, injured, and oppressed. And I impeach him in the name and by the,' virtue of those eternal laws of justice which ought equally to pervade in both sexes, every age, condition, rank, and situation in the world.'
The agitation produced by this speech was such that the whole audience appeared to have felt one convulsive emotion, and when it was over it was some time before Mr. Fox could obtain a hearing
Amidst the assemblage of concurring praises which this speech excited, none was more remarkable than the tribute of Mr. Hastings himself. 'For half an hour,' said that gentleman, 'I looked up at the orator in a reverie of wonder, and during that space I actually felt myself the most culpable man on earth.' Had the sentiment concluded here, our readers would not believe that it was in the language or manner of Mr. Hastings. 'But,' continued he, 'I recurred to my own bosom, and there found a consciousness which consoled me under all I heard and all I suffered.'
Mr. Burke, in speaking of the indisposition of Mr. Fox, which prevented his making a motion for an investigation into the conduct of Lord Sandwich, said:- 'No one laments Mr. Fox's illness more than I do, and I declare, if he should continue ill, the inquiry into the conduct of the First Lord of the Admiralty should not be proceeded upon; and should the country suffer so serious a calamity as his death, it ought to be followed up earnestly and solemnly; nay, of so much consequence is the inquiry to the public, that no bad use would be made of the skin of my departed friend (should such, alas! be his fate), If, like that of John Zisca, it should be converted into a drum, and used for the purpose of sounding an alarm to the people of England.'
While Mr. B. was speaking in the House of Commons on the Scotch anti-Popish mob, which he attributed to the supineness of the Government, he observed that the Prime Minister was indulging himself in a profound nap. 'I hope,' said Burke, 'Government is not dead, but asleep ,' and pointing to Lord North, added, 'Brother Lazarus is not dead, only sleepeth.' The laugh upon this occasion was not more loud on one side of the house than it appeared to be relished on the other Even the noble lord himself enjoyed the allusion as heartily as the rest of the house when he was apprised of the joke.
Though upon great occasions Mr. B. was one of the most eloquent men that ever sat in the British senate, he had in ordinary matters as much as any man the faculty of tiring his auditors. During the latter years of his life, failing gained so much upon him, that he more than once dispersed the house: a circumstance which procured him the nickname of the Dinner-Bell. A gentleman was once going into the house, when he was surprised to meet a great number of people coming out in a body. 'Is the house up?' said he. 'No,' answered one of the fugitives, 'but Mr. Burke is up.'
The following idea of Mr. Burke, attributed to General Fitzpatrick, is very characteristic. Ask any person in either house, who is the best informed man? the answer will certainly be, Mr. Burke. Who is the man of the greatest wit? Mr. Burke. Who is the most eloquent? Mr. Burke. Who is the most tiresome of all orators? he will receive the same answer, Mr. Burke.
Mr. Burke was not the only tiresome speaker in his days, as will be seen from the following anecdote, which Lord North used to relate, as containing the best specimen of wit he ever heard in the House of Commons.
One afternoon, the opposition had come down to the House to give the ministers battle on a very important point. The business was opened by one of the ministerial party. Mr. Burke was ready to rise the moment his antagonist sat down: but beheld David Hartley, who sat a few benches behind Mr. Burke, was on his legs before him. Mr. Hartley received the usual nod from the speaker, and began his oration. The wilderness style of Mr. Hartley's eloquence is well known: in the course of three hours, almost every member who could possibly get away, had left the House. Mr. Burke sat writhing on the tenter-hooks of impatience, till at length Mr. Hartley stumbled on some idea which made him call for the reading of the Riot Act. 'The Riot Act!' said Burke, starting up, 'what does the gentleman mean? Why, they are all dispersed already.'
The prevalent and off-repeated assertion, that William Gerard Hamilton spoke but once in the House of Commons, is not strictly true. His first effort at parliamentary eloquence was made November 13, 1755, when, to use the words of Waller respecting Denham, 'he broke out like the Irish rebellion; threescore thousand strong, when nobody was aware, or in the least suspected it.' Certainly no first speech in parliament ever produced such an effect, or acquired such eulogies both within and without the House of Commons, and yet no copy of this speech remains. For many years it was supposed to have been his only attempt and hence the familiar name of single speech was fixed upon him: but he spoke a second time in February 1756, and such was the admiration that followed this display of his eloquence, that Mr. Fox, then one of the principal secretaries of state, immediately procured him the appointment of a lord of trade. At the time Mr. Hamilton made his first speech it was reported that Mr. Burke had written it for him, in gratitude for his having obtained a pension through his interest. This, however, although talked of in the better circles of that day, is totally without foundation. The connexion between Burke and Hamilton did not last long; for a few years afterwards, on some political contest, Mr. Hamilton, telling Mr. Burke, as coarsely as it was unfounded, that 'he took him from a garrets' the latter very spiritedly replied, 'Then, sir, by your own confession, it was I that descended to know you.'
Burke and Fox.
The powerful eloquence of these distinguished statesmen had long been exerted in the same cause, and they were considered the leading champions of the House of Commons. But on the commencement of the French revolution, they not only took opposite sides in politics, but actually terminated a private friendship of many years, and never afterwards had a private interview. It was on a debate relative to the army estimates on the 9th of February, 1790, that the first violent shock, or conflict of opinions, between Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, took place, both much regretted the circumstance, and passed the highest eulogies on each other.
Mr. Fox said, 'He must declare, that such was his sense of the judgment of his right honourable friend, such his knowledge of his principles, and such the value which he set upon them, and the estimation in which he held his friendship, that if he were to put all the political information which he had learnt from books, all which he had gained from science, and all which the knowledge of the world and its affairs had taught him, into one great scale; and all the improvements which he had derived from his right honourable friend's instruction and conversation into the other, he should be at a loss to which to give the preference. He had learnt more from his right honourable friend, than from all the men with whom he had ever conversed.'
Mr. Burke said, that 'he could, without the least flattery or exaggeration, assure his right honourable friend, that the separation of a limb from his body could scarcely give him more pain, than the circumstance of differing from him violently and publicly in opinion.'
A bill introduced by Mr. Pitt in the following year for the better government of Canada gave rise to another debate between Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, which completely dissolved their political connexion.
Mr. Burke, in a very eloquent speech, which treated almost entirely of the French revolution, said, that although on some occasions he had differed with Mr. Fox on political questions, yet, 'in all the course of their acquaintance and intimacy, no one difference of political opinion had ever for a moment affected their friendship. It certainly was indiscretion at any period, but much greater at his time of life, to provoke enemies; or to give his friends cause to desert him: yet if that was to be the case, by adhering to the British constitution, he would risk all: and as public duty and public prudence taught him m his last words exclaim, "Fly from the French constitution."'
On this, Mr. Fox whispered, 'There is no loss of Friendship, I hope.' Mr. Burke answered with some warmth, 'Yes, there is. I know the price of my conduct; our FRIENDSHIP IS AT AN END.' In the course of this brilliant speech, Mr. Burke, reasoning with great warmth, checked himself, and addressing himself to the chair, said, 'I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and soberness!'
Mr. Fox rose to reply; but for some time was so overpowered by his feelings that the tears trickled down his cheeks. He took a review of the close intimacy which for nearly twenty-five years had existed between Mr. Burke and himself, and complained of the ignominious epithets that his friend had applied to him.
Mr. Burke said he did not recollect that he had used any.
Mr. Fox replied, 'My right honourable friend does not recollect the epithets; they are out of his mind; then they are completely and for ever out of mine. I cannot cherish a recollection so painful; and from this moment they are obliterated and forgotten.'
Pitt and Sheridan.
In February, 1783, Mr. Sheridan first came into direct contact with Mr. Pitt, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer; and it is evident that the attack was premeditated on the part of Sheridan in an ambitious aim to cope with this extraordinary young man, whose powers as an orator and a statesman were then the general theme of admiration.
When the preliminaries of peace came under consideration, Mr. Sheridan levelled some strong observations against Mr. Pitt, who could not well avoid taking notice of them. Alluding to Mr. Sheridan's dramatic connexions and pursuits, he said, 'no man admired more than he did the abilities of the honourable gentleman, the elegant sallies of his, thoughts, the gay effusions of his fancy, his dramatic turns, his epigrammatic points: and if they were reserved for the proper stage they would, no doubt, receive what the honourable gentleman's abilities always did receive - the plaudits of the audience; and it would be his fortune sui plausu guadere theatre. But this was not the proper scene for the exhibition of these elegancies, and he therefore must beg leave to call the attention of the house to a serious consideration of the very important question before them.'
Mr. Sheridan, in explanation, adverted in a forcible manner to his personality, saying,he need not comment on it, as the propriety, the taste, and the gentlemanly point of It, must have been obvious to the house: but,' added he, 'let me assure the right honourable gentleman that I do now, end will at any time when he chooses to repeat this sort of allusion, meet it with the most sincere good humour: nay, I will say more: flattered and encouraged by the right honourable gentleman's panegyric on my talents, if ever I again engage in the composition he alludes to, I may be tempted to an act of presumption, to attempt an improvement of one of Ben Jonson's best characters, that of the angry boy in the Alchymist.'
This reciprocity of sarcastic ridicule, occasioned much sport at that period, and the whimsical application of Sheridan's dramatic reading, fixed upon his opponent an appellation which he did not get rid of for many years.
The late Lord Ellenborough, when Mr. Law, and at the bar, was unfortunate enough to make an enemy in Lord Kenyon, who took every opportunity to annoy him, and repress his rising talents. This conduct on the part of the judge once drew from Mr. Law a very smart retort. Mr. Erskine, who was engaged on the opposite side, had made a very violent speech, containing some personalities of such a nature, that he felt compelled to notice them. When Mr. Law rose to reply, he commenced with the following passage from Virgil:
'Dicta ferox non me tua fervida torrent Dii me terrent et JUPITER Hostis.'
When Mr. Law became attorney-general and had a seat in parliament, he transferred to it the same copiousness of manner, and energy of thought and language, which had distinguished him at the bar; but he was impatient of contradiction, and assuming in his tone, yet he struck hard, even when he struck indiscreetly. During a debate on the claims of the Prince of Wales, the attorney-general, then Sir Edward Law, remarked, that the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall were placed under the control of the king, Henry VI. during the minority of the Prince of Wales, in consequence of the refractory spirit of the Duke of York. It was suggested from the opposition benches, that the law was shortly after changed. 'Aye,' said Sir Edward Law, 'in times of trouble; the honourable gentlemen opposite seem well versed in the troubles of their country.' The whole opposition cried out, 'Order!' and an explanation took place.
In certain expressions which Mr. Windham made use of on a motion by Mr. Yorke, for enforcing the standing order for excluding strangers, the newspaper reporters considered themselves to be personally calumniated, and in order to express their resentment, came to a general resolution, that his speeches should no longer be reported, and acted up to this resolution for several months. By this temporary exclusion of Mr. Windham's speeches, some valuable ones have been entirely lost, while of others there have been preserved only a few slight and unsatisfactory fragments. Among the latter, was his celebrated speech on the Walcheren expedition, which presented one of the best examples of that keen irony, which formed so distinguished a feature in the eloquence of Mr. Windham. What, for instance, could be more poignantly sarcastic than the following passage?
'In discussing the conduct of this miserable expedition, this concatenation of blunders, this long lane of mischiefs, which has no turn except to destruction, the first thing to be observed is, that according to all their evidence. the planners of the expedition could have no hope of success, unless all the chances turned out in their favour, unless all their cards turned to be trumps. The wind must blow from a certain point, and it must blow with a certain degree of force; if the wind changed, the expedition could not arrive at the destined point; and if the wind blew fresh, it would produce a surf, and prevent the landing. Now, considering the proverbial certainty of the wind, the expectation that all these things would happen, must be admitted to have been extremely rational; but, supposing that his majesty's ministers could have had sufficient influence to induce the wind to blow exactly as they wished it, still, to insure anything like a prospect of success to the expedition, this mighty armament must, in all its subsequent operations, have moved with the regularity and precision of a piece of machinery, one operation must be performed in three days, another in four, the artillery must move through the sand without friction, and there must be "no enemy to fight withal." Sir, the truth is, that this gallant army, this last hope of England, was committed to imminent hazards, and ultimate destruction, without anything like a plan for the guidance of its operations. The noble lord seems to have thought it quite sufficient to send out an expedition, and leave the rest to chance. My Lord Chatham was sent out to try experiments. I remember a story of a man, who, being asked if he could play on the fiddle said, "he could not tell, but he would try." Such was precisely the situation of my Lord Chatham.'
Parliamentary Courtier of 1626.
'Seest thou not the air of court in these unfoldings?
Hath not my gait in it the measure of the court?
I am a courtier cap-a-pee.'
Among the members most active in the impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham in 1626, was Sir Dudley Carleton, vicechamberlain. His speech on the occasion is extremely amusing, on account of the many singular specimens which it contains of that unblushing sycophaney, which disgraced some of the elder periods of English history.
'Indeed,' he says, 'you would count it a great misery, if you knew the subject in foreign countries as well as myself; to see them look, not like our nation, with store of flesh on their backs, but like so many ghosts, and not men, being nothing but skin and bones, with some thin cover to their nakedness, and wearing only wooden shoes on their feet, so that they cannot eat meat, or wear good clothes, but they must pay and be taxed unto the king for it. This' is a misery beyond expression, and that which yet we are free from; let us be careful, then, to preserve the king's good opinion of parliaments, which bringeth this happiness to this nation, and makes us envied of all others, while there is this sweetness between his majesty and his commons, lest we lose the repute of a free-born nation by turbulency in parliament.'
In the same strain, Sir Dudley goes on to state, that in his opinion, 'the greatest and wisest part of a parliament are those who use the greatest silence, so as it be not opiniatory or sullen!!!'
Last Days of Knox.
'In the opening up of his text,' says James Melville, speaking of this celebrated preacher during the last days of his life, 'he was moderat the space of an half houre; but when he enterit to application, he made me so to grew and tremble, that I could not held a pen to wryt. He was very weik. I saw him everie day of his doctrine go hulie and fear, with a furring of marticks about his neck, a staff in the an hand, and gud godlike Richart Ballanden, his servand, haldin up the other oxter, from the abbey to the parish kirk, and he the said Richart, and another servand, lifted up to the pulpit; whar he behovit to learn at his first entrie; bot, er he haid done with his sermone, he was sa active and vigourous, that he was lyk to ding the pulpit in blads, and flie out of it.'
Pulpit Flattery Reproved.
Henry IV. went with his court to the church of St. Gervais at Paris on the Christmas Day of 1600, to hear a celebrated preacher, who vain of the honour of having so illustrious a hearer as his sovereign, soon interrupted the thread of his discourse, and apostrophized Henry. After having paid him the highest compliments on the clemency, the justice, and the humanity of his reign, he insisted upon many points, which, more like a politician than a divine, he thought necessary for the good of religion and the safety of the state. Henry heard him without the least emotion, and on going out of church, merely said, 'Why, the preacher of to-day did not entirely fill up his hour.' The day after, Henry went to hear him again, and meeting him as he was going into the pulpit, said to him, 'My father, every one expected that at this time you should be in the Bastile; but the opinions of the world and those of myself do not always go together; I am much obliged to you for the zeal you have shown for my salvation. Continue, I beg of you, to request it of God for me, and contribute to it yourself by your good advice. In whatever place, and at whatever time, you shall think fit to give it to me, you will always find me well inclined to follow it. I have only to request of you, that you will not let your zeal get the better of your discretion, when you think fit to give me advice in public; and that you would desist from those invectives which may alienate the love, and diminish the respect, my subjects owe to me. You know my extreme jealousy respecting the former, and the extreme jealousy that attends the latter. Except in public, at any private audience you may give as much latitude to your zeal as you please. On my part, I will bring to it all that docility of which I am capable; and if my weakness will permit me to go with you, it will be more my fault than yours if I do not become better. Once for all, continue, I beg, your regard to me, and be assured of my constant protection.'
Parliament of Paris.
During the disputes of the parliament of Paris, about the middle of the seventeenth century, there appeared many symptoms of ancient eloquence. The Advocate-General, Talon, in an oration, invoked on his knees the spirit of St. Louis to look down with compassion on his divided and unhappy people, and to inspire them from heaven with the love of concord and unanimity.
Mole was at this time president of the parliament. One day a man presented a dagger to his breast, threatening him with instant death if he would not consent to some decree proposed in the parliament, which M. Mole thought prejudicial to his country. 'Know, my friend,' said he, looking sternly at him, 'that the distance is infinite from the dagger of an assassin, to the heart of an honest man.'
In the valley of Beder, Mahomet was informed by his scouts that his adversary, Abu Sophian, with a rich caravan from Egypt of a thousand camels, was approaching on one side, while a body of eight hundred and fifty foot, and one hundred horse, was coming to its protection on the other. The prophet had no more than about three hundred men with him. After a short consultation, in which some of the officers were desirous that the caravan, on account of its riches, should be the main object, religion and revenge prevailed; and it was determined that against the body of idolaters in arms, the sword should be drawn. As the numbers of the Koreish were seen descending into the valley he exclaimed, looking at his followers, 'O God! if these are destoyed, by whom wilt thou be worshipped on earth? Courage, my children: close your ranks; discharge your arrows, and the day is your own.' At these words he mounted the pulpit, which was brought with him for the purpose of preaching from, and demanded from heaven the succour of Gabriel and three thousand angels: the caravan was suffered to pass unmolested, the Koreishites advanced, the Mussulmans were pressed and alarmed. At this decisive moment, Mahomet leaped from the pulpit, mounted his horse, and cast a handful of sand in the air, crying 'Let their faces be covered with confusion!' Both armies heard the thunder of his voice: and in the ardour of their fancy, actually imagined that they saw Gabriel and the angelic legion descending into the midst of them. The Koreishites trembled and fled, seventy of their bravest men were slain, and as many more captives fell into the hands of the prophet.
Machiavel relates, that when this celebrated demagogue of the city of Florence came to suffer death in the face of that very populace which had worshipped him with a degree of idolatry, he burst into loud complaints against the cruelty of his destiny, and the wretchedness of those citizens who had forced him to court and caress the multitude, in whom he found neither honour nor gratitude. Seeing Benedetto Alberti, an old party friend of his, at the head of the guards that surrounded the scaffold, he turned towards him, and exclaimed, 'Can you too, Benedetto, stand tamely by, and see me murdered in this vile manner? I assure you, if you were in my situation, and myself in yours, I would not permit you to be so treated. But remember what I now tell you, this is the cast day of my misfortunes, but it will be first of yours.'
Impeachment of the Earl of Strafford.
When the Earl of Strafford was impeached for high treason in the reign of Charles I., and sentenced for execution, the king, anxious to save him, wrote a letter with his own hands to the House of Lords, which he sent by the prince, begging that his execution might be respited, and that he might be suffered to fulfil the natural course of his life in close confinement, and entreating, that if he must die, he might be released until Saturday. The lords immediately sent a deputation to the king, declaring they could not comply with his request: on which the king said, 'That what he intended by his letter, was with an IF, if it may be done without discontentment of my people; if that cannot be, I say again the same that I wrote, fiat justitia.' The next day the unfortunate earl was beheaded. During his trial, and when on the scaffold, he conducted himself with the utmost courage and firmness.
The debate on the attainder of the earl was carried on with violent party feeling; and a list of those who voted against it was afterwards posted up, as 'The Straffordian betrayers of their country:' and the poor earl, though very ill, was hurried through his trial by the commons, who demanded that time should not be lost on this occasion.
Sir John Wray made the following speech:
'Mr. Speaker: truth is the daughter of time, and experience the best schoolmaster, who hath long since taught many men and states the sad and woeful effects of an halfdone work; those convulsions and rending pains, which the body of Great Britain now feel, show us, that the ill-humours and obstructions are not yet fully purged nor dissolved. Mr. Speaker, God will have a thorough work done; if instead of redressing evils, we think to transact all, by removing of persons and not things, well may we lull our troubles for a season, but they will return with greater violence, for believe it, Mr. Speaker, let us flatter ourselves as we please, a dim-sighted eye may see, that although we think we have now passed the equinoctial of the Straffordian line, and seem to have gone beyond Canterbury; yet the factious and undetermining agents of our religion grow daily more and more powerful . and no doubt do labour an extirpation of all the parliaments and men too, that will not think, say, and swear to their opinions and practices. Have we not then, Mr. Speaker, a wolf by the ears? Is there any way to get scot-free, or wolf-free, but one? Then let us take, and not forsake, that old English parliamentary road, which is via tuta, and will bring us safely to our journey's end.'
The earl, who, as Whitelocke says, 'moved the hearts of his auditors (some few excepted) to remorse and pity by his wisdom, constancy, and eloquence during his trial,' made a powerful appeal to the House in his defence. The following are some of the most striking passages:
'My lords, be pleased to give that regard to the peerage of England, as never to expose yourselves to such moot points, such constructive interpretations of law, if there must be a trial of evils, let the subject-matter be of somewhat else than the lives and honours of peers.
'It will be wisdom for yourselves, for your posterity, and for the whole kingdom, to cast into the fire these bloody and mysterious volumes of constructive and arbitrary treason, as the primitive Christians did their books of curious arts, and betake yourselves to the plain letter of the law and statute, that telleth us what is, and what is not treason, without being ambitious to be more learned in the art of killing than our forefathers.
'It is now full two hundred and forty years since any man was touched for this alleged crime, to this height, before myself. Let us not awaken these sleeping lions to our destruction by taking up a few musty records, that have lain by the walls so many ages forgotten or neglected.
'Do not put, my lords, such difficulties upon ministers of state, that men of wisdom, of honour, and of fortune, may not with cheerfulness and safety be employed for the public. If you weigh and measure them by grains and scruples, the public affairs of the kingdom will lie waste; no man will meddle who hath anything to lose.
'My lords, I have troubled you longer than I should have done, were it not for the interest of those dear pledges a saint in heaven hath left me.'
Here Lord Strafford paused some time, and paid the tribute of his tears to the memory of his lady, he then proceeded.
'What I forfeit myself, is nothing; but that my indiscretion should extend to my posterity, woundeth me to the very soul!
'You will pardon my infirmity. Something I should have added, but I am not able, therefore let it pass.
'Now, my lords, for myself, I have been, by the blessings of Almighty God, taught, that the afflictions of this present life, are not to be compared to the eternal weight of glory which shall be revealed hereafter.
'And so, my lords, even so, with all tranquillity of mind, I freely submit myself to your judgment: and whether that judgment be life or death, te Deum laudamus.'
Magdaleine de Savoie.
Anne Duc de Montmorenci, who was prime minister and great constable of France during the reigns of Francis I. Henry II. Francis Il. and Charles IX., was very unwilling to take up arms against the Prince of Conde and the Colignys, to whom he was endeared by the ties of friendship, as well as those of consanguinity. He was, however, induced to give way to this measure so inimical to his disposition, by the following animated and forcible speech of his wife, Magdaleine de Savoie.
'It is then in vain, sir, that you have taken as a motto to your escutcheon, the word of command that your ancestors always gave at the outset of every battle in which they were engaged (Dieu aide du premier Chretien). If you do not fight with all your energy in defence of that religion which is now attempted to be destroyed, who then is to give an example of respect and of veneration for the Holy See, if not he who takes his very name, his arms, his nobility, from the first baron of France who professed the holy religion of Christ?'
Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.
When Henry VIII. demanded of the convocation the surrender of the small abbeys in England, the clergy in general agreed to his requisition, but Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, arrested the yielding disposition of his brethren, by an eloquent address to them. He quoted the fable of the axe which wanted an handle; and concluded by saying, 'and so, my lords, if you grant the king these smaller monasteries, you do but make him a handle, whereby, at his own pleasure, he may cut down all the cedars within your Libanus; and then you may thank yourselves after you have incurred the displeasure of Almighty God.'
This speech changed the minds of all those who were formerly disposed to gratify the king's demands, so that all was rejected for that time. On this the king sent Cromwell to the bishop, to know what he would do if the Pope should send him a cardinal's hat? 'I should improve it,' replied he, 'to the best advantage that I could in assisting the holy Catholic Church, and in that respect, I would receive it on my knees.' Cromwell having reported this answer to the king, he said with great indignation, 'Yea! is he yet so lusty? well, let the Pope send him a cardinal's hat when he will. Holy Mother! he shall wear it on his shoulders then, for I will leave him never a head to set it on.' Henry was soon afterwards as good as his word, and sent to the block one of the most virtuous and upright prelates that his kingdom eve: produced.
Henry IV. of France.
Before the battle of Ivry, Henry made an address to his soldiers; it was brief, but singularly impressive.
'Enfans, je suds votre Roi, vous etes Francois, voile l'ennemi; donnons.'
'Soldiers, I am your king, you are Frenchmen. Behold the enemy: let us charge.'
On the day that the Emperor Domitian was slain at Rome, Apollonius Tyanaeus was preaching to a numerous assembly at Ephesus; and at the very moment the blow was struck, he suddenly lowered his voice, apparently seized with fear, but nevertheless pursued his discourse, often however stopping, as if his attention was intent upon another subject. At length he left off speaking fixed his eyes steadfastly on the ground, and after a short silence, exclaimed, 'Strike home! strike the tyrant dead - courage! despatch the tyrant!' The audience, astonished at his extraordinary rhapsody, stood in silence; but he soon recollected himself, and bade them rejoice, for Domitian was no more. According to Philostratus, Apollonius even mentioned in his reverie the name of Stephanus, who actually struck the blow.
Prynn's Speech on the Scaffold.
When the famous Prynn underwent the last horrid punishment inflicted on him by the star chamber, for 'writing and publishing certain seditious, schismatical, and libellous books against the hierarchy,' his speech on the scaffold, full of strong exhortations to the people to stand by their liberties, civil as well as religious, was interrupted by loud shouts of applause. The numerous sounds reaching the ear of Archbishop Laud, who was then sitting in the star chamber, he felt so provoked, that he instantly moved the court, that Prynn might be gagged, and a further sentence passed on him. Base and cruel as his colleagues were, however, they recoiled from so monstrous a proposition, and Prynn was suffered to conclude his speech, which he did in these memorable words:- 'Alas, poor England! what will become of thee, if thou look not sooner into shine own privileges, and maintainest not shine own lawful liberty! Christian people, I beseech you all stand firm, and be zealous for the cause of God and his true religion, to the shedding of your dearest blood otherwise you will bring yourselves and all your posterity into perpetual bondage and misery.'
Pulteney, first Earl of Bath.
Mr. William Pulteney was perhaps the greatest leader of opposition that ever sat in the House of Commons. During the reign of Queen Anne, he was a warm partizan against the ministry; and George I. was so sensible of his services, that he raised him to the offices of Secretary at War, and Cofferer of his Majesty's Household: but the intimacy between him and Sir Robert Walpole was soon interrupted, by his suspecting that the minister was desirous of extending the limits of the prerogative at the expense of the country.
The opposition of Mr. Pulteney at length became so obnoxious to the crown, that King George II. on the 1st July, 1731, called for the council book, and with his own hand struck the name of William Pulteney, Esq. out of the list of Privy Counsellors. His Majesty further ordered him to be put out of all the commissions of the peace; and the several lord-lieutenants, from whom he had received deputations, were ordered to revoke them. This proceeding only served to inflame his resentment, and increase his popularity, and it was shortly after this, that he made that celebrated speech in which he compared the ministry to an empiric, and the constitution of England to his patients.
'This pretender in physic,' said he, 'being consulted, tells the distempered person there were but two or three ways of treating his disease, and he was afraid that none of them would succeed. An emetic might throw him into convulsions that would occasion immediate death; a purge might bring on a diarrhoea that would carry him off in a short time; and he had already been bled so much and so often, that he could bear it no longer. The unfortunate patient, shocked at this declaration, replies, "Sir, you have always pretended to be a regular doctor, but I now find you are an arrant quack: I had an excellent constitution when I first fell into your hands, but you have quite destroyed it; and now I find I have no other choice for saving my life, but by calling for the help of some regular physician."'
On the resignation of Sir Robert Walpole in 1741, Mr. Pulteney was created Earl of Bath; but from the moment he accepted a title, all his popularity was at an end. Lord Chesterfield, in speaking of him rather severely, admits, 'He was a most complete orator and debater in the House of Commons; eloquent, entertaining, persuasive, strong, and pathetic, as occasion required; for he had arguments, wit, and tears at his command.'
A speech made by Mr. Pulteney on the 26th of January, 1732, on a motion for reducing the army, has always been admired for its eloquence and patriotism. After warmly opposing standing armies, which he contended had enslaved all the nations around us, and were perfectly incompatible with liberty, he thus proceeded:-
'It signifies nothing to tell me, that our army is commanded by such gentlemen as cannot be supposed to join in any measures for enslaving their country. It may be so: I hope it is so.
'But if we know the passions of men, we know how dangerous it is to trust the best of men with too much power. Where was there a braver army than that under Julius Caesar? Where was there ever an army that had served their country more faithfully? That army was commanded generally by the best citizens of Rome, by men of great fortune and figure in their country, yet that army enslaved their country; the affections of the soldiers towards their country, the honour and integrity of the under officers, are not to be depended on. By the military law; the administration of justice is so quick, and the punishment so severe, that neither officer nor soldier dares to dispute the orders of his supreme commander, he must not consult his own inclinations. If an officer were commended to pull his own father out of his house, he must do it; he dares not disobey; immediate death would be the sure consequence of the least grumbling; and if an officer were sent into the Court of Request, accompanied by a body of musqueteers with screwed bayonets, and with orders to tell us what we ought to do, and how we should vote, I know what would be the duty of this House. I know it would be our duty to order the officer to be taken and hanged up at the door of the lobby! But, sir, I doubt much if such a spirit could be found in the House, or in any House of Commons that will ever be in England.'
Sir John Bernard.
This virtuous citizen distinguished himself in Parliament by his integrity and his firmness. When Sir Robert Walpole, then prime minister, was one day whispering to the Speaker of the House of Commons, who leaned towards him over the arm of his chair, at the time Sir John Bernard was speaking, he exclaimed, 'Mr. Speaker, I address myself to you, and not to your chair: I will be heard; I call that gentleman to order.' The Speaker immediately dismissed Sir Robert, and begged Sir John's pardon, requesting him to proceed.
Sir Robert Walpole, whose measures Sir John generally opposed, once paid him a high compliment. They were riding in two different parties in a narrow lane, and one of Sir Robert's companions hearing some person speaking before he came up to them, enquired of Sir Robert whose voice it was? 'Do you not know?' replied the minister. 'It is one I shall never forget; I have often felt its power.'
'In senates, there his talents shone contest;
As wit delighted, passion storm'd the breast.
The mind with taste, sense, judgment, feeling, fraught,
Seem'd to be blest by more than human thought!
Hence, burning words for freedom gave the choice
The lightning of his eye, the magic of his voice!
In the debate on the articles of impeachment against Warren Hastings, in the House of Commons, on the 7th of February, 1787, Mr. Sheridan spoke on the fourth or Oude charge, for the space of five hours and forty minutes. His speech on that occasion united the most convincing closeness and accuracy of argument, with the most luminous precision and perspicuity of language; alternately giving force and energy to truth, by solid and substantial reasoning, and enlightening the most extensive and involved subjects with the purest clearness of logic, and the brightest splendour of rhetoric. It will be a permanent record of Mr. Sheridan's unrivalled abilities, that on this trying occasion, which of all others had divided not only the House of Commons, but the nation at large, into a variety of parties, this memorable speech produced almost universal union. When he described the sufferings of the Begums of Oude, an indescribable emotion was perceived to agitate the feelings of the audience. Alluding to the factious parties in the House,
'But,' said he, 'when inhumanity presents itself to their observation, it finds no divisions among them: they attack it as their common enemy; and as if the character of this land was involved in their zeal for its ruin, they leave it not till it is completely overthrown. It was not given to that house, to behold the objects of their compassion and benevolence in the present extensive consideration, as it was to those officers who relieved, and who so feelingly describe the ecstatic emotions of gratitude in the instant of deliverance. They could not behold the workings of the hearts the quivering lips, the trickling tears, the loud and yet tremulous joy, of the millions whom their vote of this night would for ever save from the cruelty of corrupted power. But though they could not directly see the effect, was not the true enjoyment of their benevolence increased, by the blessings being conferred unseen? Would not the omnipotence of Britain be demonstrated to the wonder of nations, by stretching its mighty arm across the deep, and saving by its fiat distant millions from destruction? and would the blessings of the people thus saved, dissipate in empty air? No! If I may dare,' said Mr. Sheridan, 'to use the figure, we shall constitute heaven itself for our proxy' to receive for us the blessings of their pious gratitude, and the prayers of their thanksgiving.'
On the conclusion of Mr. Sheridan's speech, the whole assembly, members, peers, and strangers, involuntarily joined in a tumult of applause, and adopted a mode of expressing their approbation new and irregular in that house, by loudly and repeatedly clapping their hands. A motion was immediately made and carried, for an adjournment, that the members who were in a state of delirious insensibility, from the talismanic influence of such powerful eloquence, might have time to collect their scattered senses for the exercise of a sober judgment. This motion was made by Mr. Pitt, who declared that this speech 'surpassed all the eloquence of ancient and modern times, and possessed everything that genius or art could furnish, to agitate and control the human mind.'
Quarrel between Flood and Grattan.
In a debate in the Irish Parliament, October, 28, 1783, on a resolution for declaring that the condition of the kingdom required every practicable retrenchment consistent with the honour and safety of the state, Mr. Grattan made some strong personal allusions to Mr. Flood, who supported the resolution, accusing him particularly of having affected an indisposition, and being guilty of apostacy; Mr. Flood rose, and replied in these words:
'The right honourable member can have no doubt of the propriety of my saying a word in reply to what he has delivered. Every member of the House can bear witness of the infirmity I mentioned, and therefore it required but little candour to make a nocturnal attack upon that infirmity. But I am not afraid of the right honourable member, I will meet him anywhere, or upon any ground, by night or by day. I should stand poorly in my own estimation and in my country's opinion, if I did not stand far above him. I do not come here dressed in a rich wardrobe of words to delude the people. I am not one who has promised repeatedly to bring in a bill of rights, yet does not bring in that bill, or permit any other person to do it. I am not one who threatened to impeach the Chief Justice of the Kings Bench, and afterwards shrunk from the charge. I am not one who would come at midnight, and attempt a vote of this House to stifle the people, which my egregious folly had raised against me. I am not the gentleman who subsists upon your accounts. I am not the mendicant patriot who was bought by his country for a sum of money, and then sold my country for prompt payment (alluding to the grant of £100,000 to Mr. Grattan for his public services, the half of which sum he accepted). I never was bought by the people, nor ever sold by them. The gentleman says he never apostatized; but I say I never changed my principles. Let every man say the same, and let the people believe it if they can.
'I have now done, and give me leave to say, if the gentleman enters often into this kind of colloquy with me, he will not have much to boast of at the end of the session.'
Mr. Grattan. 'In respect to the House, I could wish to avoid personality, but I must request liberty to explain some circumstances alluded to by the honourable member.' After making this explanation, he proceeded. 'It is not the slander of the bad tongue of a bad character that can defame me. I maintain my reputation in public and- in private life; no man who has not a bad character, can say I ever deceived him; no country has called me cheat. I will suppose a public character - a man not of course in the House, but who formerly might have been here. I will suppose it was his constant practice to abuse every man who differed from him, and to betray every man who trusted him. I will suppose him active; I will begin from his cradle, and divide his life into three stages. In the first he was intemperate; in the second, corrupt; and in the third, seditious. Suppose him a great egotist; his honour equal to his oath; and I will stop him and say, 'Sir, your talents are not so great as your life is in&moue; you were silent for years, and you were silent for money; when affairs of consequence to the nation were debating you might be seen passing by these doors like a guilty spirit just waiting for the moment of putting the question, that you might pop in and give your venal vote; or you might be seen hovering over the doom like an ill-omened bird of night, with sepulchral notes, with cadaverous aspect, and broken beak (alluding to a personal defect of Mr. Flood's) ready to stoop and pounce upon your prey. You can be trusted by no man; the people cannot trust you; the ministers cannot trust you, you deal out the most impartial treachery to both, you tell the nation it is ruined by other men, when it is sold by yourself; you fled from the Embargo; you fled from the Mutiny Bill; you fled from the Sugar Bill. I therefore tell you in the face of your country, before all the world, and to your very beard, you are not an honest man.'
Mr. Flood. 'I have heard very extraordinary language indeed, and I challenge any man to say that anything half so unwarrantable was ever uttered in this house. The right honourable gentleman set out with declaring he did not wish to use personality; and no sooner had he opened his mouth, than forth issued all the venom that ingenuity and disappointed vanity for two years brooding over corruption, has been able to produce. But taint my public character it cannot, four-and-twenty years employed in your service, has established that; and as to my private, Id that be learned from my friends, and from those under my own roof. To these I appeal, and this appeal I boldly make with an utter contempt of insinuations, false as they are illiberal.'.' Mr. Flood was proceeding, when the Speaker rose, and called for the support of the House to keep the gentlemen in order.
Mr. John Burke then moved, that the gentlemen might be made to promise that nothing farther should pass between them, and this being resolved, the House was cleared. But in the mean time, both Mr. Flood and Mr. Grattan had disappeared.
Next morning, Mr. Flood and Mr. Grattan were brought in custody before Lord Chief Justice Annaly, who bound them both over to keep the peace, in recognizances of £20,000 each. They had, attended by their respective friends, almost reached the ground appointed for a serious interview, when they were arrested by officers whom the magistrates had despatched after them.
The following epigrammatic dialogue appeared shortly after in the public prints.
Question. Say, what has given to Flood mortal wound?
Answer. Grattan's obtaining fifty thousand pound.
Question. Can Flood forgive an injury so sore?
Answer. Yes, if they give him fifty thousand more.
The Begum Charge.
Public curiosity was scarcely ever so strongly interested as on the day when Mr. Sheridan was to speak on the Begum charge, on the impeachment of Mr. Hastings. The avenues leading to the hall were filled with persons of the first distinction, many of them peeresses in full dress, who waited in the open air for upwards of an hour and a half before the gates were opened, when the crowd pressed so eagerly forward that many persons had nearly perished. No extract can do justice to this speech.
'He has this day,' said Mr. Burke, 'surprised the thousands who hung with rapture on his accents, by such an array of talents, such an exhibition of capacity, such a display of powers, as are unparalleled in the annals of oratory! a display that reflects the highest honour upon himself - lustre upon letters - renown upon parliament - glory upon the country. Of all species of rhetoric, of every kind of eloquence that has been witnessed or recorded, either in ancient or modern times; whatever the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the senate, the solidity of the judgment seat, and the sacred morality of the pulpit have hitherto furnished' nothing has surpassed, nothing has equalled, what we have this day heard in Westminster Hall. No holy seer of religion, no sage, no statesman, no orator, no man of any literary description whatever, has come up, m the one instance, to the pure sentiments of morality, or in the other, to that variety of knowledge, force of imagination, propriety and vivacity of allusion, beauty and elegance of diction, strength and copiousness of style, pathos and sublimity of conception, to which we have this day listened with ardour and admiration. From poetry up to eloquence there is not a species of composition of which a complete and perfect specimen might not, from that single speech, be culled and collected:'
The task of selection from such a treasure of excellence is difficult, but the following apostrophe may suffice to show the justness of Mr. Burke's encomium.
'Oh, faith! oh, justice! I conjure you, by your sacred names, to depart for a moment from this place, though it be your peculiar residence, nor hear your names profaned by such a sacrilegious combination as that which I am now compelled to repeat, where all the fair forms of nature and art, truth and peace, policy and honour, shrink back aghast from the deleterious shade - where all existences
nefarious and vile, had sway - where amidst the black agents on one side, and Middleton with Impey on the other, the toughest bend the most unfeeling shrink; the great figure of the piece, characteristic in his place, aloof and independent from the puny profligacy in his train, but far from idle and inactive, turning a malignant eye on all mischief that awaits him; the multiplied apparatus of temporizing expedients, and intimidating instruments - now clinging on his prey, and fawning on his vengeance; now quickening the limping pace of craft, and forcing every stand that retiring nature can make in the heart; the attach meets and decorums of life: each emotion of tenderness and honour, and all the distinctions of national characteristics, with a long catalogue of crimes and aggravations, beyond the reach of thought for human malignity to perpetuate, or human vengeance to punish - LOWER than PERDITION, BLACKER than DESPAIR.
'Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter.
When he speaks, the air, a chartered libertine, is still
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honey'd sentences.' SHAKSPEARE.
The first speech that Mr. Erskine ever made at the bar was from the back row of the Court of King's Bench, on the 24th of November, 1778, in the case of Captain Thomas Baillie, on an argument against filing a criminal information against him for a libel on the directors of Greenwich Hospital. In this speech Mr. Erskine displayed his fearless independence, and laid the foundation of his future greatness. The following specimen will show that the courage which marked Mr. Erskine's professional life was not acquired after the success which rendered it a safe and a cheap virtue, but being naturally inherent was displayed at a moment when attended with the most formidable risks. Speaking of some affidavits of the directors on which the criminal information against Captain Baillie had been moved, he said:
'They are indeed every way worthy of their authors; of Mr. ---, the good steward, who, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the captain of the week, received for the pensioner such food as would be rejected by the idle vagrant poor, and endeavoured to tamper with the cook to conceal it; and of Mr. --- who converted their wards into apartments for himself, and the clerks of clerks in the endless subordination of idleness, a wretch who has dared with brutal inhumanity to strike those aged men who in their youth would have blasted him with a look.
'In this enumeration of delinquents, the Rev. Mr. looks round as if he thought I had forgotten him. He is mistaken.
'I well remember him; but his infamy is worn threadbare, Mr. Murphy has already treated him with that ridicule which his folly, and Mr. Peckham with that invective which his wickedness deserves. I shall therefore forbear to taint the ear of the court further with his name - a name which would bring dishonour upon its country and its religion, if human nature were not happily compelled to bear the greater part of the disgrace, and to share it amongst mankind.
'Such, my lords, is the case. The defendant, not a disappointed malicious informer prying into official abuses, because without office himself, but himself a man in office, not troublesomely inquisitive into other men's departments, but conscientiously correcting his own; doing it pursuant to the rules of law; and, what heightens the character, doing it at the risk of his office, from which the effrontery of power has already suspended him without proof of his guilt; a conduct not only unjust and illiberal, but highly disrespectful to this court, whose judges sit in the double capacity of ministers of the law and governors of this sacred and abused constitution. Indeed, Lord - has in my mind acted such a part.'
Here Lord Mansfield observing Mr. Erskine heated with his subject, and making a personal attack on the first Lord of the Admiralty, told him that Lord was not now before the court. Mr. Erskine resumed:
'I know that he is not formally before the court, but for that very reason I will bring him before the court; he has placed these men in the front of the battle, in hopes to escape under their shelter, but I will not join in battle with them, their vices, though screwed up to the highest pitch of human depravity, are not of dignity enough to vindicate the combat with me. I will drag him to light, who is the dark mover behind the scene of iniquity. I assert that the Earl of teas but one road to escape out of this business, without pollution and disgrace; and that is, by publicly disavowing the act of the prosecutors, and restoring Captain Baillie to his command. If he does this, then his offence will be no more than the common one of having suffered his own personal interest to prevail over his public duty in placing his voters in the hospital. But if, on the contrary, he continues to protect the prosecutors, in spite of the evidence of their guilt, which has excited the abhorrence of the numerous audience that crowd this court; if he keeps this injured man suspended or dares to turn that suspension into a removal, I shall then not scruple to declare him an accomplice in their guilt, a shameless oppressor, a disgrace to his rank, and a traitor to his trust. But as I should be very sorry that the fortune of my brave end honourable friend should depend either upon the exercise of Lord - - 's virtues, or the influence of his fears, I do most earnestly entreat the court to mark the malignant object of this prosecution, and to defeat it; I beseech you, my lords, to consider, that even by discharging the rule, and with costs, the defendant is neither protected nor restored. I trust, therefore, that your lordships will not rest satisfied with fulfilling your judicial duty, but as the strongest evidence of foul abuses has, by accident, come collaterally before you, that you will protect a brave and public spirited officer from the prosecution this writing has brought upon him, and not suffer so dreadful an example to go abroad into the world, as the ruin of an upright man for having faithfully discharged his duty.
'My lords, this matter is of the last importance. I speak not as an advocate alone. I speak to you as a man; as a member of a state whose very existence depends upon her naval strength. If a misgovernment were to fall upon Chelsea Hospital, to the ruin and discouragement of our army, it would be no doubt to be lamented; yet I should not think it fatal: but if our fleets are to be clipped by the baneful influence of elections, we are lost indeed!' If the seaman, who while he exposes his body to fatigues and dangers, looking for ward to Greenwich as an asylum for infirmity and old age, sees the gates of it blocked up by corruption, and hears the voice and mirth of luxurious landsmen drowning the groans and complaints of the wounded, helpless com panions of his glory, he will tempt the seas no more. The Admiralty may press his body, indeed, at the expense of humanity and the constitution; but they cannot press his mind; they cannot press the heroic ardour of the British sailor; and instead of a fleet, to carry terror all round the globe, the Admiralty may not much longer be able to amuse us with even the peaceable unsubstantial pageant of a review.
'FINE AND IMPRISONMENT! the man deserves a PALACE instead of a PRISON, who prevents the palace, built by the public bounty of his country, from being converted into a dungeon; and who sacrifices his own security to the interests of humanity and virtue!'
In Mr. Erskine's defence of Lord George Gordon, there is a singular passage, which affords a great contrast m the calm and even mild tone of its reparation. It is indeed, as far as we know, the only instance of the kind in the history of modern eloquence, After reciting a variety of circumstances in Lord George's conduct, and quoting the language which he used, the orator suddenly, abruptly, and violently, breaks out with this exclamation, 'I say BY * * * that man is a ruffian who shall, after this, presume to build upon such honest artless conduct as an evidence of guilt.' The sensation produced by these words, and by the magic of his voice, the eye, the face, the figure, and all we call the manner, with which they were uttered, was quite electrical, and baffled all power of description. The feeling of the moment alone, that sort of sympathy which subsists between an observant speaker and his audience; which communicates to him, as he goes on, their feelings under what he is saying, deciphers the language of their looks, and even teaches him, without regarding what he sees, to adapt his words to the state of their minds, by merely attending to his own. This intuitive and momentary impulse could alone have prompted a flight, which it alone could sustain; and as its failure would have been fatal, so its eminent success must be allowed to rank it amongst the most famous feats of oratory.
Mr. Erskine's defence of Stockdale, for a libel on the managers of the impeachment of far. Hastings, was one of the most able and brilliant, as well as one of the most important, speeches he ever made, since it embraced the whole doctrine of the law of libel; and, as has justly been observed in reference to this speech, 'the liberties of his country are built on the matchless skill with which he could subdue the genius of the orator, to the uses of the most consummate advocate of the age.' In this celebrated speech, he fairly shows how much of the atrocities of Mr. Hastings' administration are to be imputed to his instructions, to his situation, to the policy of England and of Europe, in distant countries, to the general infamy of civilized man, when he disturbs the repose of enlightened fellow creatures; till, by description and anecdote, and even by a personal adventure of his own in North America, and a speech which he puts into the mouth of an Indian, he at last envelops the delicate point of his subject - Hastings, India, the book, and all in a blaze of imagery and declamation, which overpowers the understanding of his audience, and produces for his client a verdict of not guilty. The following is one of the many fine passages with which the speech abounds.
'The unhappy people of India, feeble and effeminate as they are from the softness of their climate, and subdued and broken as they have been by the knavery and strength of civilization, still occasionally start up in all the vigour and intelligence of insulted nature. To be governed at all, they must be governed with a rod of iron; and our empire in the east would long since have been lost to Great Britain, if. civil skill and military power had not united their efforts to support an authority which Heaven never gave, by means which it never can sanction.
'Gentlemen, I think I can observe that you are touched with this way of considering the subject; and I can account for it; I have not been considering it through the cold medium of books, but have been speaking of man, and his nature, and of human dominion, from what I have seen of them myself amongst reluctant nations, submitting to our authority. I know what they feel, and how such feelings can alone be repressed. I have heard them in my youth from a naked savage, in the indignant character of a prince, surrounded by his subjects, addressing the government of a British colony, holding a bundle of sticks in his hands, as the notes of his unlettered eloquence. " Who is it?" said the jealous ruler over the desert, encroached upon by the restless foot of the English adventurer, " who is it that causes that river to rise in the high mountains, and to empty itself in the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, that calms them again in the summer? Who is it that rears up the shades of those lofty forests, and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure? The same Being who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters and gave ours to us, and by this title we will defend it," said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk upon the ground, and raising the war-sound of his nation.
'These are the feelings of subjugated man all round the globe; and depend upon it, nothing but fear will control, where it is vain to look for affection.'
Mr. Fox's India Bill.
When the India Bill of Mr. Fox was brought from the committee and read in the House of Commons, Mr. Sheridan observed that twenty-one new clauses were added, which were to be known by the letters of the alphabet from A to W; he therefore hoped that some gentleman of ability would invent three more for X, Y. and Z. to complete the alphabet, which would then render the bill a perfect horn-book for the use of the minister and the instruction of rising politicians.
Sir Elijah Impey.
When on the impeachment of Mr. Hastings, Mr. Sheridan made some severe observations on the motives of Sir Elijah Impey in visiting Benares, and that by a circuitous route, and in acting both as secretary to the governor-general, and in a judicial capacity by taking affidavits, though then beyond the limits of his jurisdiction, Sir Elijah, who during the whole trial, had conducted himself with great boldness, made this powerful appeal to the court: 'It has been objected to me as a crime, my lord, that I stepped out of my official line, in the business of the affidavits; and that I acted as the secretary of Mr. Hastings. I did do so. But I trust it is not in one solitary instance that I have done more than mere duty might require. The records of the East India Company, the minutes of the House of Commons, the recollection of various inhabitants of India, all - all, I trust, will prove, that I have never been wanting in what I held was the service of my country. I have stayed when personal safety might have whispered, " there is no occasion for your services." I have gone forth, when individual ease might have said, " stay at home." I have advised, when I might coldly have denied my advice. But I thank God, recollection does not raise a blush at the part 1 took; and what I then did, I am not now ashamed to mention.'
When Mr. Sheridan came to speak on the Begum charge, he recurred to the journey of Sir Elijah and the affidavits in a very lively and sportive manner.
'This giddy chief justice,' said he, 'disregards business. He wants to see the country. Like some innocent school-boy, he takes the primrose path, and amuses himself as he goes. He thinks not that his errand is on danger and death; and that his party of pleasure ends with loading others with irons.'
Sir Elijah having acknowledged that he had taken the affidavits from a consideration of the probable service they might be at some future time, Mr. Sheridan drew important deductions from the admission.
'When at Lucknow, he never mentions the affidavits to the Nabob,' observed Mr. Sheridan. 'No; he is too polite. He never talks of them to Mr. Hastings - out of politeness too. A master of ceremonies in justice! When examined at the bar, he said he imagined there must have been a sworn interpreter from the looks of the manager! How I looked, heaven knows,' exclaimed Mr. Sheridan: 'but such a physiognomist there is no escaping. He sees a sworn interpreter in my looks! He sees the basin and the Ganges in my looks! (Alluding to the Hindoo mode of swearing, which is performed in the presence of a Brahmin, who holds a brass basin containing water from the Ganges, into which the hand of the person to be sworn is immersed while he takes the oath.) As for himself, he only looks at the tops and bottoms of affidavits! In seven years, he takes care never to look at these swearings; and then goes home one night, and undoes the whole; though when he has seen them, Sir Elijah seems to know less about them than when he has not.'
In a debate on the Westminster scrutiny in 1785, Mr. Michael Angelo Taylor first acquired the name of the Chicken, in consequence of his saying, 'That he always delivered his legal opinion in that house, and elsewhere with great humility, because he was young and might with propriety call himself a Chicken in the profession of the law.' Soon after this modest declaration, which excited a smile through the house, Mr. Bearcroft, who advocated the scrutiny against Mr. Fox, adverted to the expression used by Mr. Taylor, and said, for his part, with regard to legal opinions he should never be biassed by them, whether they came from chickens or old cocks. This was enough for Mr. Sheridan, who immediately followed, and in a humourous desultory speech, which produced repeated peals of laughter, he took notice of the diffidence of Mr. Taylor, as connected with an observation of the same gentleman, 'that he should then vote with the opposition, because they were in the right, but that in all pro bability he should never vote with them again;' thus presaging, that for the future they would be always in the wrong. 'If such be his augury,' said Sheridan, 'I cannot help looking upon this chicken as- a bird of ill omen, and wish that he had continued side by side by the full-grown cock (alluding to Mr. Bearcroft), who will, no doubt, long continue to feed about the gates of the treasury, to pick up those crumbs which are there plentifully scattered about, to keep the chickens and full-grown fowls together.'
As Themistocles was leading the forces of Athens against the Persians, he met some cocks fighting; on which he commanded his army to halt, and thus addressed them: 'Fellow soldiers, observe these animals, they do not assail each other for the sake of country, nor for their paternal goods, nor for the sepulchres of their heroic ancestors, nor for glory, nor for liberty, nor for children; but for mastery. How then ought you to fight who have all these things to contend for?' This homely but apt speech is said to have had a powerful effect in animating the Athenians to victory, and in order to perpetuate the memory of the incident, a law was afterwards passed, that 'there should be a public cock match on the stage every year." And hence, says AElian, arose the pastime of cockfighting.
A Hint well Taken.
In a Committee of Ways and Means, when the proposed tax upon horses came into consideration, the Earl of Surrey, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, suggested, as an improvement, a tax upon winning horses, as well as upon those that should start for the plate. Mr. Pitt instantly caught the idea, and adopted it in addition to his proposition, and not as a substitute, upon which Mr. Sheridan rose, and after some witty remarks, said, that the right honourable gentleman had proved, that a light rider had the best chance of winning the match, since he had left the noble lord behind him. This contrast between the thin and spare form of Mr. Pitt, and the jolly rotundity of Lord Surrey, elicited A general laugh, after which, the orator proceeded to assure his noble friend, that when he returned to the sporting gentlemen who would be affected by this new impost, instead of admiring him for his spirit, they would most probably exclaim, very feelingly,
'Jockey of Norfolk, be not too bold.'
The instruction of King George III. in elocution, was assigned to the celebrated Quin, under whose directions plays were sometimes performed at Leicester House by the young branches of the royal family. Quin, who afterwards obtained a pension for his services, was justly proud of the distinction conferred on him; and when he heard of the graceful manner in which his majesty delivered his first speech from the throne, he cried out, 'Ay, I taught the boy to speak.'
During the Irish rebellion, a Roman Catholic priest of the name of Roche is said to have told the soldiers that he would catch the bullets in his hand; and actually exhibited some which he pretended to have got in that manner. The imposture was by no means new. The celebrated anabaptist demagogue, Muncer, who, adding the fanaticism of religion to the extremest enthusiasm of republicanism, by his harangues to the populace of Mulhausen, soon found himself at the head of forty thousand troops, thus addressed them: Everything must yield to the Most High, who has placed me at the head of you. In vain the enemy's artillery shall thunder against you; in vain, indeed, for I will receive in the sleeve of my gown every bullet that shall be shot against you, and that alone shall be an impenetrable rampart against all the efforts of the enemy.' Muncer, however, was not so good as his word, for the Landgrave of Hesse, and many of the nobility, marching against him, his troops were defeated, himself taken prisoner, and carried to Mulhausen, where he perished upon a scaffold in 1525.
Parliament of 1794.
Perhaps the bitterness of political enmity was never carried to a greater height, than in the parliament of 1794, even on the one side or the other, which provoked caustic replies and what on ordinary concerns would only have excited mirth, now operated with instantaneous violence, in raising a tempest of conflicting passions. A curious instance of this occurred on Mr. Francis animadverting on the practice of confining every discussion to three or four members, who occupied the attention of the house with speeches of many hours. This observation was not taken in good part by any of the persons who felt the application. Mr. Burke prefaced what he had to say on the subject (the volunteer system). with declaring, that he would not be unmindful of the hint just thrown out, and which had been drawn from a writer of great authority with the gentleman opposite:-
'Solid men of Boston, make no long potations:
Solid men of Boston, make no long orations.
Bow! wow! wow!'
As an allusion in the debate had been made to the Marquis of Rockingham, the known patron of Mr. Burke, the opportunity was seized by Mr. Sheridan, to reply with some severity to that gentleman, whom he indirectly accused, not only of apostacy, but ingratitude. He felt himself much disappointed, he said at the kind of defence which he had a right to expect from Mr. Burke, of the conduct of the Marquis of Rockingham, and supposed that the in; unction against 'long orations,' was not the only precept in the system of ethics which served to regulate the practice of the right honourable gentleman. He would take the liberty to remind him of another passage in the same approved writer, in which he says:
'He went to Daddy Jenky, by Trimmer Hal attended
In such company, good lack! how his morals must be mended!
Bow! wow! wow!'
In prefacing a motion for the printing of a tax bill, a practice which, though not long adopted, has been of infinite service in preventing the blunders which formerly occurred, Mr. Sheridan proceeded to illustrate the style of a bill to remedy the defects of some bills already in being, by comparing it to the plan of a simple, but very ingenious moral tale, that had often afforded him amusement in his early days, under the title G.! 'The House that Jack Built.' 'First then comes in a bill, imposing a tax; and then comes in a bill to amend that bill for imposing a tax; and then comes in a bill to explain the bill that amended the bill, next, a bill to remedy the defects of a bill for explaining the bill that amended the bill; and so on ad infinitum.' After parodying the story in this way to a still greater length, Mr. Sheridan entered upon a comparison of tax bills, to a ship built in a dockyard, which was found to be defective every voyage, and consequently was obliged to undergo a new repair; first, it was to be caulked, then to be new planked, then to be new ribbed, then again to be covered; and after all these expensive alterations, the vessel was generally obliged to be broken up and rebuilt.
The orator next pointed out several absurdities in the tax bills which had been recently passed, and which, he contended, might have been avoided if the bills, by being printed, had undergone a full and public discussion. 'In the horse-tax bill, for instance, there was a clause which required a stamp to be placed, not indeed on the animal, but on some part of the accoutrements. The clause, however, on a little consideration, we; abandoned, but another was inserted so absurd that it never was carried into execution - namely, the one by which it was enacted that the numbers and names of all the horses in each parish should be affixed on the church-door. The church wardens were also required, by the same Act, to return lists of the windows within their districts to the commissioners of stamps, for the purpose of detecting those who had not entered their horses. 'Now,' said Mr. Sheridan, if horses were in the habit of looking out at windows, this might possibly have been a wise and judicious regulation; but under present circumstances, there is some little occasion for wonder how such ideas came to be associated in the minds of those who framed the bill, unless it was that they wished to sink the business of legislation into utter contempt.'
The Thread of Discourse.
Some people contract strong habits of what may be called external association, the body being more concerned in it than the mind, and external things than ideas. They connect a certain action with a certain object, so that without the one, they cannot easily perform the other; although, independently of habit, there is no connexion between them. Dr. Beattie mentions the case of a clergyman, who could not compose his sermon, except when he held a foot-rule in his hand: and of an other, who, while he was employed in study, would always be rolling between his fingers a parcel of peas, whereof he constantly kept a trencher full within reach of his arm. Locke speaks of a young man, who in one particular room, where an old trunk stood, could dance very well; but in any other room, if it wanted such a piece of furniture, could not dance at all. A writer in the Tatler, mentions a more probable instance of a lawyer, who in his pleadings used always to be twisting about his finger a pice of pack-thread, which the punsters of that time called, with some reason, the thread of his discourse. One day, a client of his had a mind to see how he would acquit himself without it, and stole it from him. The consequence was, that the orator became silent in the midst of his harangue, and the client suffered for his waggery, by the loss of his cause.
'Catesby, go you with speed to Doctor Shaw,
And thence to Friar Beaker - bid them forth
Attend me here within an hour at farthest.'
RICHARD THE THIRD.
Stow relates that, while Richard III. was Protector, it was desired by that crafty prince and his council that the famous, or rather infamous, Doctor Shaw, should in a sermon at Paul's Cross, from a text on the dangers of illegitimate succession, signify to the people that neither King Edward nor the Duke of Clarence, nor the children of the Duke of York, were lawfully begotten, and that the Protector should come in at this period of the discourse, as if by accident, when the doctor was to proceed in these words:- 'But see the Lord Protector, that very noble prince, the special pattern of knightly prowess, as well in all princely behaviour as in the lineaments and favour in his visage, representing the very face of the noble duke his father; this is the father's own figure, this his own countenance the very print of his visage; the very sure undoubted image, the plain express likeness of the noble duke.' It fell out, however, that through over-much haste, the doctor had spoken all this before the Protector came in yet, beholding him enter, he suddenly stopped In what he was saying, and began to repeat his lesson again: 'But see the Lord Protector that very noble prince,' and so on. 'But the people,' says Speed, 'were so far from crying 'King Richard!' that they stood as if they had been turned into stones for this very shameful sermon.'
Shaw is said to have suffered severely for this vile profanation of his sacred calling. His conduct was so universally execrated that he durst not go abroad; he kept out of sight like an owl, and, ere long, died of shame and remorse.
Way to Promotion.
Speed relates that Guymond, chaplain to King Henry the First, observing that for the most part ignorant men were advanced to the best dignities in the church, as he celebrated divine service before the king, and was about to read these words out of St. James, 'It rained not upon the earth iii. years and vi. months,' he read it thus: 'It rained not upon the earth one - one - one years and five - one months.' Henry noticed the singularity, and afterwards took occasion to blame the chaplain for it. 'Sir,' answered Guymond, 'I did it on purpose, for such readers I find are sooner preferred by your majesty.' The king smiled, and in a short time afterwards presented Guymond to the benefice of St. Frideswid's in Oxford.
The Orator and the Tyrant.
The report of the miserable state of slavery into which the Agrigentines had fallen under the tyrant Phalaris, so affected Zeno Eleates, that he resolved to leave his native country, and make a journey to Agrigentum, in order to try whether he could not by his counsels effect some amelioration in its condition. The philosopher made his first overtures to Phalaris himself, but finding the ear of the despot deaf to all wholesome counsel, he turned his attention to the patrician youth whom he endeavoured by every effort to animate with a love of liberty and a determination to free their country from bondage. Phalaris, being informed of the proceedings of Zeno, ordered him to be arrested, and, calling the people together into the forum, he put the philosopher into the rank before their faces, and repeatedly called upon him to point out who among those around him had lent a favourable ear to his counsels? Zeno observed on this point the most obstinate silence, but turning to the citizens, he began to reproach them in such glowing teens with their abject submission to such a tyrant, that all at once they were filled with an impulse of indignation not to be repressed, and stoned the tyrant Phalaris on the very spot which he had designed for the martyrdom of a philosopher and friend of liberty.
Alexander the Great was about to pass sentence of death on a noted pirate, but previously asked him, 'Why cost thou trouble the seas?' 'Why,' rejoined the rover boldly 'dost thou trouble the whole world? I with one ship go in quest of solitary adventures and am therefore called pirate; thou with a great army warrest against nations, and therefore art called emperor. Sir, there is no difference betwixt us but in the name and means of doing mischief.' Alexander, so far from being displeased with the freedom of the culprit, was so impressed with the force of his appeal that he dismissed him unpunished.
A poor old woman had often in vain attempted to obtain the ear of Philip of Macedon to certain wrongs of which she complained. The king at last abruptly told her 'he was not at leisure to hear her.' 'No!' exclaimed she, 'then you are not at leisure to be king.' Philip was confounded; he pondered a moment in silence over her words, then desired her to proceed with her case, and ever after made it a rule to listen attentively to the applications of all who addressed him.
From the speech for peace which Livy makes Hannibal deliver to the senate of Carthage, he must, as Mr. Fox once observed, have been as eloquent a man as ever spoke. The figure which he made on that occasion was extraordinary. After all the warlike declarations he had made, he felt the singularity of his situation, and thus shortly expressed it, 'EGO Hannibal, peto pacem!'
Dr. Franklin, in his memoirs bears witness to the extraordinary effect which was produced by Mr. Whitfield's preaching in America, and relates an anecdote equally characteristic of the preacher and of himself. 'I happened,' says the doctor, 'to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver, and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector's dish gold and all. At this sermon there was also' one of our club, who, being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had by precaution emptied his pockets before he came from home; towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong inclination to give, and applied to a neighbour who stood near him to lend him some money for the purpose. The request was fortunately made to perhaps the only man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. His answer was, 'At any other time, friend Hodgkinson, I would lend to thee freely; but not now, for thee seems to be out of thy right senses."'
When L. Sylla beheld his army giving way before that of Archelaus, the General of Mithridates, he alighted from his horse, laid hold of an ensign, and rushing with it into the midst of his enemies, cried out: "Tis here, Roman soldiers, that I intend to die, but for your parts, when you shall be asked where it was that you left your general, remember to say it was on the field of Orchomemum.' The soldiers, roused by this speech, returned to their ranks, renewed the fight, and became the victors in that field from which they were about to flee with disgrace.
When Demetrius took Athens by assault, he found the inhabitants in extreme distress for want of corn. He called the principal citizens before him, and announced to them, in a speech full of humanity and conciliation that he had ordered a large supply of grain to be placed at their free disposal. In the course of speaking, he chanced to commit an error in grammar, on which one of the Athenians immediately corrected him, by pronouncing aloud the phrase as it ought to have been given. 'For the correction of this one solecism,' said he, 'I give, besides my former gift, five thousand measures of corn more.'
In a debate on the Alien Bill in 1792, Mr. Burke inveighed with considerable warmth against the principles of the French revolution, which not only went to overturn all government, but, as Atheism was the first fruits of French liberty, its natural effects would be to deprive man of all happiness in life, and of all consolation in death. He considered the Alien Bill as calculated to save the country; for although the number of suspicious aliens in the kingdom at this time might be small yet it should be remembered, that the horrible massacres of Paris in the preceding autumn, had been perpetrated by a body of men not exceeding two hundred. He averred that, at that very moment, three thousand daggers, of a peculiar construction, were manufacturing at Birmingham, under the orders of a certain individual. How many of these were intended for exportation, and how many were designed for home consumption, had not yet been ascertained. He then produced one of these daggers and threw it on the floor, exclaiming, 'These are the presents which France designs for you! By these she would propagate her freedom and fraternity! But mat heaven avert her principles from our minds' and her daggers from our hearts!'
The Orator of the Human Race.
In the early period of the French revolution, a Prussian of the name of Anacharsis Clootz rendered himself notorious for the boldness and violence of his invectives against all legitimate authority. He was called the 'Orator of the Human Race,' in consequence of his appearing at the bar of the National Assembly, accompanied by deputies from the various nations of the earth, who had chosen him for their speaker. This orator pronounced a most virulent harangue, expressive of a hope that the glorious example of France would be followed by all other states. Any other assembly of persons but the National Assembly of France, would have consigned this man either to the stocks as a drunkard, or to the madhouse as a lunatic; but, on the contrary, he was listened to with attention, and his harangue frequently interrupted by loud plaudits. M. de Fermont called their address the noblest homage which the assembly could possibly receive for their labours, and moved, that their request (to assist at the approaching federation) should be granted by acclamation;
Alexander Lameth seconded the motion made 'in favour of these generous strangers :' and the President Menou made Clootz a grave and serious answer, in which he informed him that the assembly would allow him and his brother deputies to assist at the ceremony of the federation, on condition that on their return to their respective countries, they would relate to their countrymen what they had seen.
M. de Boulainvilliers, who was that day at the assembly, observed among the deputation a negro who belonged to one of his friends.
'Ah, Azor!' said he to him, 'what are you come to cohere?' 'Heigh, Massa!' answered the negro, 'no, me do the African.'
It was discovered the next day that this deputation of all the nations of the earth, to the most august assembly of the universe, and which formed the train of the Baron de Clootz, was entirely composed of vagabonds and foreign servants, hired at twelve livres a head.
The secret was betrayed by an orthographical error. One of the vagabonds of the deputation went the next day to the Marquess de Biancourt, a member of the assembly, and asked to be paid his twelve livres. 'What do you mean by your twelve livres?' said M. de Biancourt: 'I do not know you, and how do I owe you anything?' 'Because, sir, it was I who did the Chaldean yesterday in the assembly; we were engaged at twelve livres a piece, and 1 was desired to come to you to be paid.' 'Indeed, Mr. Chaldean, you have been sent to a wrong person. I know nothing of the engagement you talk of, and I have nothing to do in the business.' M. de Biancourt made no secret of this visit, and the next day it got into several of the newspapers. The author of the farce was sought after, but never discovered, although it was suspected that the Duke de Liancourt was treasurer of the embassy; which, however, he constantly denied. Four years afterwards, Anacharsis Clootz, 'The Orator of the Human Race,' was guillotined along with Hebert, Chaumette, and several others.
In the course of a debate on a war with the French Republic in 1793, Lord Lauderdale said he was proud to rank Brissot among the list of his friends for his virtues and his talents. This avowal extorted- from Lord Loughborough, who had recently been appointed Chancellor, the sarcastic remark, that 'since friendships were founded on taste and sentiment, he did not doubt that Lord Lauderdale's friendships were always formed on correct principles. As there was a taste in pictures for objects in ruins, for desolated cities shattered palaces, and prostrated temples, so might there be a similar taste in moral and political questions. To some minds, a people m a state of insurrection might be a sublime object; and to a mind heated with such a view, a more quiet and orderly course of events might appear dull and insipid.'
Power of Elocution.
Hooke read some passages of his Roman History to Onslow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, who piqued himself upon his reading, and begged him to give his opinion of the work. The Speaker answered, as if in a passion, 'I cannot tell what to think of it it may be nonsense for anything I know since your manner of reading has bewitched me.'
The same must have been the case with the celebrated singer, Senesino; for those who lead no knowledge of the Italian language, nor the least relish for music, were fascinated with his recitations, his modulated tones, and his expressive gestures.
Mrs. Oldfield, whose excellent taste and discernment, and whose long acquaintance with the stage, rendered her well able to discriminate, used to say, 'the best school she had ever known, was hearing Rowe read her part in his tragedies.' And the late Isaac Hawkins Brown declared that he never felt the charms of Milton until he heard his exordium read by Sheridan.
Virgil pronounced his own verses with such an enticing sweetness and enchanting grace, that Julius Montanus, a poet who had often heard him, used to say, 'that he could steal Virgil's verses, if he could steal his voice expression, and gesture, for the same verses that sounded so rapturously when he read them, were not always excellent in the mouth of another.'
Pliny the Younger, writing to a friend, who entreated him carefully to examine whether a certain poem was worth publishing, says, 'that without opening it, he is sure it is beautiful from what he had heard him read: provided,' he adds, 'your pronunciation hath not imposed on me, for you do, indeed read with exquisite sweetness and art; yet I trust I am not so far led aside by my ears, that the charming cadence has entirely blunted the edge of my judgment.'
Boisrobert, famous in his day as a story teller, and who had so happy a talent in this way, as to become the favourite of Cardinal Richelieu, when his friends advised him to publish, assured them that they would find nothing of that engaging agreeableness on paper, that he had the happy skill to spread over his living chit-chat; and that it was a mere cheat upon their ears.
'En recitant de vrai je fais merveilles; Je suis, mon ami, un grand dupeur d'oreilles.'
'The fool hath planted in his memory An army of good words.' MERCHANT OF VENICE.
Dr. Moore relates an amusing instance of oratorical art, which he once saw exhibited by a mountebank before the populace at St. Mark's Place, Venice 'Listen, gentlemen,' said he, 'let me crave your attention, ye beautiful and virtuous ladies, I have something equally affecting and wonderful to tell you; a strange and stupendous adventure which happened to a gallant knight.' Perceiving that this did not sufficiently interest his hearers, he exalted his voice calling out that this knight was 'uno cavalliero Christiano.' The audience seemed still a little fluctuating; when he succeeded in rivetting their attention, by telling them that this Christian knight was one of their own victorious countrymen, 'un' eroe Veneiano.' He then proceeded to relate, how the Venetian knight, going to join the Christian army to recover Christ's sepulchre from the infidels, lost his way, and wandered at length to a castle, in which a lady of transcendent beauty was kept prisoner by a gigantic Saracen; that the lady's shrieks reaching the ear of the knight, he hastened to her assistance, drew his flaming sword, and a dreadful
combat ensued, in which the knight performed prodigies of velour; till his foot unfortunately slipping in the blood which flowed on the pavement, he fell at the feet of the Saracen, who immediately seizing the advantage which chance gave him, raised his sword with all his might, and,' - here the orator's hat flew to the ground open to receive the contributions of the listeners, and he continued repeating, 'raised his sword over the head of the Christian knight - raised his bloody murderous hand to destroy your noble, valiant countryman.' But he proceeded no farther in his narrative, till all, who seemed interested in it, had thrown something into the hat; he then pocketed the money, and finished his story.
In the debate in the House of Lords in the year 1732, on a bill for having law proceedings in English instead of Latin, as formerly the Earl of flay moved an amendment, which was carried, 'That the proceedings in the Exchequer of Scotland be also wrote in a plain legible hand.' His lordship said, 'that in Scotland they had come to that pass, that writs which were to be executed by sheriffs, were wrote in characters so hard to be read, that the sheriffs knew nothing of the contents.' Lord Raymond said, 'if the bill passed. the law must likewise be translated into Welch.' On which the Duke of Argyle remarked, 'that he was glad to see that his lordship, perhaps as wise and learned as ever sat in that House, had nothing more to offer against the bill than a joke.'
A short time before this eminent judge's death, he went the Oxford circuit in the hottest part of one of the hottest summers that had ever been known. He was then so far advanced in years, as to be scarcely able to discharge the important duties of his office; and when the grand jury of Worcester attended for the charge, he addressed them as follows; 'Gentlemen, the weather is extremely hot, I am very old, and you are very well acquainted with what is your duty, 1 have no doubt but you will practice it.'
Doctor Thomas Hussey, the Catholic Bishop of Waterford, was a man of great genius, and of great eloquence. In a sermon which he preached on the small number of the elect, copying Massillon, he asked, 'whether, if the arch of Heaven were to open, and the Son of man, bursting from the mercy in which he is now enveloped, should stand in that chapel, and judge his hearers, it were quite certain, that three, or even two - nay, trembling for myself as well as for you is it quite certain that even one of us' exclaimed the doctor, in a voice of thunder,)' will be saved?' During the whole of this apostrophe, the audience was agonized. At the ultimate interrogation there was a general shriek, and some fell to the ground, 'This,' says Mr. Charles Butler, who was present at the sermon, and relates the anecdote, 'was the greatest triumph of eloquence I ever chanced to witness.' It has been truly remarked, that the preacher, having the invisible world on which to place his lever, has that - which Archimedes wanted, and may therefore move the visible diurnal sphere, and 'all that it inherits,' at his pleasure.
'A most rare speaker.
To nature none more bound - his framing such
That he may furnish and instruct great
It is yet the traditionary tale of the country that gave this great orator and lawyer birth, that almost in infancy, he was accustomed to declaim upon his native mountains, and repeat to the winds the most celebrated speeches of Demosthenes and Cicero, not only in their original text, but in his own translations of them.
Fame instantaneously announced his 'call to the bar,' and distinguished him as unrivaled in oratory, at an era too, when many followers of the profession were of the very highest eminence. Shortly after taking the gown, he was employed on an important occasion at the bar of the House of Commons, where he made so conspicuous a figure, that Sir Robert Walpole declared the merit of his speech to be so great, that it almost appeared to him to be an oration of Cicero. Mr. Pulteney instantly rose to complete the eulogium, by observing, that he not only could imagine the speech which had just been delivered was the composition of Cicero, but that the Roman orator had himself pronounced it. Thus, these two great men, who hated and opposed each other with so much rancour, united in this single instance, to compose one of the most excellent panegyrics which was ever pronounced.
Mansfield advanced to the dignities of the state by rapid strides. They were not bestowed by the caprice of party favour or affection; they were (as was said of Pliny) liberal dispensations of power, upon an object that knew how to add new lustre to that power by the rational exertion of his own.
As a speaker in the House of Lords, he was without a competitor. His language was eloquent and perspicuous, arranged with the happiest method, and applied with the utmost extent of human ingenuity; his images were often bold, and always just, but the more prevailing character of his eloquence was that of being flowing, soft, delightful, and affecting. Among his more rare qualifications, may be ranked the external graces of his person; the fire and vivacity of his looks, the delicious harmony of his voice, and that habitual fitness in all he said, which gave to his speeches more than the effect of the most laboured compositions. 'He was modest and unassuming: never descending to personal altercation, or even replying to personal reflections, except when they went to affect the integrity of his public character. When instances of the latter occurred, he evinced that he was not without a spirit to repel them, of this he gave a memorable proof, in the debate Oil Wilkes's outlawry, when, being accused of braving the popular opinion, he replied in the following noble strain of eloquence.
'If I have ever supported the king's measures, if I have ever afforded any assistance to government; if I have discharged my duty as a public or private officer, by endeavouring to preserve pure and perfect the principles of the constitution: maintaining unsullied the honour of the courts of justice; and by an upright administration of, to give due effect to, the laws; I have hitherto done it without any other gift or reward, than that most pleasing and most honourable one the conscientious conviction of doing what is right. I do not affect to scorn the opinion of mankind; I wish earnestly for popularity; but I will tell you how I will obtain it: I will have that popularity which follows, and not that which is run after. 'Tis not the applause of a day, 'tis not the huzzas of thousands, that can give a moment's satisfaction to a rational being: that man's mind must indeed, be a weak one, and his ambition of a most depraved sort, who can be captivated by such wretched allurements, or satisfied with such momentary gratifications. I say with the Roman orator, and can say it with as much truth as he did, " Ego hoc animo semper fui ut invidiam virtute partam, gloriam non infamiam putarem." But threats have been carried farther: personal violence has been denounced, unless public humour be complied with. I do not fear such threats, I don't believe there is any reason to fear them: it is not the genius of the worst of men, in the worst of times, to proceed to such shocking extremities, but if such an event should happen let it be so, even such an event might be productive of wholesome effects: such a' stroke might rouse the better part of the nation from their lethargic condition, to a state of activity, to assert and execute the law, and punish the daring and impious hands which had violated it and those who now supinely behold the danger which threatens all liberty from the most abandoned licentiousness, might by such an event be awakened to a sense of their situation, as drunken men are often shamed into sobriety. If the security of our persons and property, of all we hold dear or valuable, are to depend upon the caprice of a giddy multitude, or to be at the disposal of a mob, if in compliance with the humours and to appease the clamours of these, all civil and political institutions are to be disregarded or overthrown: a life somewhat more than sixty is not worth preserving at such a price, and he can never die too soon, who lays down his life in support and vindication of the policy, the government, and the constitution of his country.'
Lord Mansfield, as may readily be supposed, was an enemy to all intolerant laws, and in the case of Mr. Evans, who refused the office of sheriff on the plea of being a Dissenter, he distinguished himself much by his sound and forcible reasoning in favour of the Protestant Dissenters. 'There is nothing,' said his lordship, 'more unreasonable, more inconsistent with the rights of human nature, more contrary to the spirit and precepts of the Christian religion, more iniquitous and unjust, more impolitic, than persecution. My lords, it is against natural religion, revealed religion, and sound policy.' In speaking of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, as introductory to persecutions in France, his lordship said there was no necessity for that measure.
'The Jesuits needed only to have advised a similar plan, similar to what is contended for in the present case; make a law to render them incapable of office, make another to punish them for not serving it. If they accept, punish them, if they refuse, punish them, if they say yes, punish them, if they say no, punish them. My lords, this is a most exquisite dilemma, from which there is no escaping; it is a trap a man cannot get out of; it is as bad a prosecution as that of Procrustes - if they are too short, stretch them; if they are too long, lop them.'
The liberality of his lordship in matters of religion, and the part he took (though by no means conspicuous) in the bill for the relief of the Roman Catholics, brought on him the vengeance of the mob in the disgraceful riots of 1780. His house in Bloomsbury Square, with all its furniture, his books, his manuscripts, &c., was entirely consumed by fire. He bore this calamity with great equanimity, and once in the House of Lords made the following pathetic allusion to it, when giving his opinion on a legal question: - 'I speak not this from books, for books I have none.'
Jesuit of Maranham.
Of right and wrong he taught
Truths as refined as ever Athens heard
And (strange to tell) he practis'd what he
Mr. Southey, in his 'History of Brazil,' gives an account of a celebrated sermon preached against slavery at St. Luis, 1653, by Antonio Vieyra, the Jesuit, who, as a preacher, had been the delight and pride of the court of Lisbon. He took for his text the words of the Tempter: 'All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.' He began by dwelling upon the worth of the human soul, winning the attention of his hearers by his own peculiar manner. 'Yet,' said he, 'we value our souls so cheaply, that you know at what rate we sell them. We wonder that Judas should have sold his master and his soul for thirty pieces of silver; but how many are there who offer their own to the devil for less than fifteen, Christians, I am not NOW telling you that you ought not to sell your souls, for I know you must sell them. I only entreat that you would sell them by weight; weigh first what a soul is, weigh next what it is worth, and what it cost; and then sell it, and welcome! But in what scales is it to be weighed? Not in the scales of human judgment, no, for they are false. The children of men are deceitful upon the weights. But in what balance, then? You think I shall say in the balance of St. Michael the archangel, where souls are weighed. I do not require so much. Weigh them in the devil's own balance, and I shall be satisfied! Take the devil's balance in your hand; put the whole world in one scale, and a soul in the other, and you will find that your soul weighs more than the whole world, 'all this will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.' At how different a price, now,' Vieyra proceeded, 'does the devil purchase souls, from that which he formerly offered for them? I mean in this country. The devil has not a fair in the world where they go cheaper! In the gospel he offers all the kingdoms of the earth for a single soul, he does not require so large a purse to purchase all that are in Maranham. It is not necessary to offer worlds; it is not necessary to offer kingdoms; it is not necessary to offer cities, nor towns, nor villages; it is enough for the devil to point at a plantation, and a couple of Tapuyas, and down goes the man upon his knees to worship him. Oh, what a market! A negro for a soul, and the soul the blacker of the two! This negro shall be your slave for the few days that you may have to live, and your soul shall be my slave through all eternity, as long as God is God; this is the bargain which the devil makes with you.' After urging the abolition of slavery, he continued: 'But you will say to me, this people, this republic, this state, cannot be supported without Indians. Who is to bring us a pitcher of water, or a bundle of wood? Who is to plant our mandioc? Must our wives do it? Must our children do it? In the first place these are not the straits in which I would place you; but if necessity and conscience require it, then I reply, yes! and I repeat it, yes! you and your wives, and your children, ought to do it! We ought to support ourselves with our own hands; for better is it to be supported by the sweat of one's own brow, than by another's blood. O. ye riches of Maranham! What, if these mantles and cloaks were to be wrung? They would drop blood.'
The benevolent preacher then stated the plan of abolition; and after pointing out the temporal and spiritual benefits of such an arrangement, thus concluded: 'Let us give this victory to Christ, let US give this glory to God; let us give this triumph to Heaven; let us give this vexation to Hell; let us give this remedy to the country in which we live; let us give this honour to the Portuguese nation, let us give this example to Christendom, let us give this fame to the world! Let the world know, let the heretics and the heathens know that God was not deceived when he chose the Portuguese for conquerors and speakers of his holy name! Let the world know that there is still truth, that there is still the fear of God; that there IS a soul; that there is still a conscience; and that interest is not the absolute and universal lord of all 'Let the world know, that there are still those, who, for the love of God, and of their own salvations, will trample interest under foot! Lord Jesus, this is the mind, and this the resolution of these your faithful Catholics, from this day forth! There is no one here who has any other interest but that of serving you; there is no one here who desires any other advantage but that of loving you, there is no one here who has any other ambition but that of being eternally obedient and prostrate at your feet. Their property is at your feet; their interest is at your feet; their slaves are at your feet; their children are at your feet, their blood is at your feet; their life is at your feet; that you may do with it, and with all, whatever IS most comfortable to your holy law. Is it not thus, Christians? It is thus; I say thus, and promise thus to God in the name of all. Victory, then, on the part of Christ! victory, victory, over the strongest temptation of the devil!'
The whole of this extraordinary discourse was so lively, so striking, and addressed at once to their understandings and their passions, their interest and their vanity, that it produced all the immediate effort which Vieyra desired. Balthazar de Souza, the Capitam Mor, convened a meeting in the church-yard that same afternoon, and then called upon the preacher to propose formally the plan which he had recommended from the pulpit. It was universally approved; and in order to carry it into execution, two advocates were appointed, one for the slave holders, the other for the Indians A deed, expressing the consent of the people to this arrangement, was immediately drawn up in legal form, and signed by the Capitam Mor, as well as by all the chief inhabitants of the place
'He sits among men like a descended god.' CYMBELINE.
Edward Thurlow, the son of a manufacturer of the City of Norwich, like his great predecessors, Somers and Hardwicke, bursting from obscurity by the strength of his own genius, like them too overcame the obstacles of birth and fortune, and suddenly rose to the first honours of his profession. The powers of his mind expanding with his hopes, the high offices of Solicitor and Attorney-General, which bound the view of some men, seemed to him but as legal apprenticeships, imposed by custom, before he could attain to that dignity which was to give him precedence of every lay subject in the kingdom, not of the blood royal. The character of Chancellor Thurlow seemed to be developed in his countenance by an outline at once bold, haughty, and commanding. His manner as an orator was dignified; his periods were short, and kill of pith; his voice sonorous and impressive. Force, both in manner and expression, was his lordship's forte. His eloquence was bold, explicit, decisive, inflexible, he delivered his arguments in tones of thunder; confident and daring, he rushed, like Achilles, into the field, and dealt destruction around his adversaries, more by the strength of his arm, the deep tones of his voice, and the lightning of his eye, than by any peculiarity of genius, or elevated powers of oratory.
The most brilliant display of eloquence which his lordship is supposed ever to have made, was on the occasion of the Regency Question in 1788. He had a strong personal attachment to his sovereign: and this feeling seemed to impart to his usual vehemence a degree of sublimity to which it did not often approach. What could be more noble or affecting than his memorable exclamation, 'When I forsake my king in the hour of his distress, MAY MY GOD FORSAKE ME!
'Next to my king,' said his lordship, 'I reverence the Prince of Wales, nor do I believe that there is a peer in this assembly who entertains a higher opinion of his heart or head. I pray that the crown may, in succession, sit upon his brow as undisturbed and as ornamental as it has upon that of his father. I love him, and perchance he will not thank me for my love: but I want not thanks. In the step that I would this night encourage by my example, I inwardly feel that I am doing my duty; and am, however I may be represented, serving at the same time my prince. I am consulting not his temporary, but his lasting interest. I consider the Regency but as a secondary object, when I reflect on the Crown that shall be his hereafter. Though I should wish to possess his esteem, I will not aim at conciliating it, as some have done, by giving my countenance to the miserable endeavour which is now made.'
A 'Fierce Democracy.'
Sir Walter Ralegh in his History of the World, relates, that 'the people of Capua had promised to yield up the town to Hannibal, and to meet him on the way to it with so many of their nobility: but they were unable to maintain any such negociation without the advice of the senate, and the senate mainly opposed it. The people therefore were incensed against the senate, as having occasioned them to disappoint their new friend; and withal, since by their promise they had discovered themselves, they feared lest their own senate, together with the Romans, should hold them in a stricter subjection than before. This fear being ready to break into some outrage, an ambitious nobleman, called Pacuvius Calavius, made use of it to serve his own ambition thus. He discoursed unto the senate as they sat in council about these motions troubling their city, and said, 'that he himself had both married a Roman lady, and given his daughter in marriage to a Roman. But that the danger of forsaking the Roman party was not now the greatest, for that the people were violently bent to murder all the senate and after to join themselves with Hannibal who would countenance the fact, and save themselves harmless.' This he spoke as a man well known to be beloved by the people, and privy unto their designs. Having thoroughly terrified the senate, by laying open the danger hanging over them, he promised them, nevertheless, to deliver them all, and to set things in quiet, if they would freely put themselves into his hands, offering his oath (or any other assurance they should demand) for his faithful meaning. They all agreed. Then shutting up the court, and placing a guard of his own followers about it, that none might enter or issue forth without his leave, he called the people to assemble, and speaking as much evil of the senate as he knew they would be glad to hear, he told them, 'that these wicked governors were surprised by his policy, and all fast, ready to abide whet sentence they would lay upon them. Only thus much he advised them (as a thing which necessity required), that they should choose a new senate before they satisfied their anger upon the old.' So rehearsing to them the names of two or three senators, he asked what their judgment was of these 9 All cried out that they were worthy of death. 'Choose, thee,' said he, 'first of all, some new ones into their places.' Hereupon the multitude, unprovided for such an election, was silent, until at last some one or other ventured to name whom he thought fit.
The men so named were generally disliked by the whole assembly, either for some fault baseness, or deficiency, or else because they were unknown, and therefore held unworthy. The difficulty of this new election appearing more and more, while more were yet to be chosen (the fittest men to be substituted having been named among the first, and not thought fit enough!, Pacuvius entreated, and easily prevailed with the people, that the present senate might be spared in hopes of amendment hereafter (which doubtless would be): having thus obtained pardon for all offenses past. Henceforth, not only the people, as in former times, honour Pacuvius, and esteemed him their patron, but the senators also were governed by him, as a person to whom they acknowledged themselves indebted for the safety of their lives.
The Venetian dialect, in which all pleadings in Venice are carried on, is very unfavourable to elocution; and the manner of the pleaders is so uncivilized, that they appear more like furious demoniacs, than men endeavouring by sound reason to convince the judges and the audience of the justice of their client's cause.
Mr. Sharp, who travelled in Italy about fifty years ago, thus describes Venetian pleading. 'Every advocate mounts into a small pulpit, a little elevated above the audience where he opens his harangue with some gentleness, but does not long contain himself within those limits; his voice soon cracks, and what is very remarkable, the beginning of most sentences, while he is under any agitation, and seeming enthusiasm in pleading, is at a pitch above his natural voice, so as to occasion a wonderful discord; then if he means to be very emphatical, he strikes the pulpit with his hands five or six times together as quick as thought, stamping at the same time, so as to make the great room resound with this species of oratory; at length, in the fury of his argument, he descends from the pulpit, runs about pleading upon the floor, returns in a violent passion back again to the pulpit, thwacks it with his hands more than at first, and continues in this rage running up and down the pulpit several times, until he has finished his harangue. They seem to be in continual danger of dropping their wigs from their heads; and it sometimes happens. The audience smile now and then at this extravagant behaviour. There may be some few who speak with more dignity; but the advocates I saw were all men of eminence in their profession.'
Eloquence of Silence.
Ambassadors were sent to Rome from the cities of Greece, to complain of the injuries done them by Philip, King of Macedon, and when the affair was discussed in the senate betwixt Demetrius the son of Philip, and the ambassadors, Demetrius was so overcome with the truth of their representations, that he could make no defence, but - blushed exceedingly. The senate, less moved by the eloquence of the ambassadors, than by the still more eloquent silence of Demetrius, dismissed the complaint.
Some old soldiers going to be shot for a breach of discipline, as passing by Marshal Turenne, pointed to the scars on their faces and breasts. What speech could come to this It had the desired effect. The marshal instantly stayed the execution, and gave the men a free pardon.
On a discussion in the Irish Parliament of a bill to limit the amount of pensions, Sir Boyle Roche, who opposed the bill, said, 'He would not stop the fountain of royal favour, but let it flow freely, spontaneously, and abundantly, as Holywell in Wales, that turns so many mills.' Mr. Curran, in reply, observed sarcastically, 'that he began to see a great deal of argument in what the learned baronet had said; that the crown by extending its charity, its liberality, its profusion, was doubtless laying a foundation [or the independence of Parliament, since hereafter, instead of orators or patriots accounting for their conduct to such mean unworthy persons as freeholders, they would learn, as they ought to despise them, and would by so doing have this security for their independence, that while any man in the kingdom had a shilling, they would not want one.' Assuming a more serious tone, Mr. C. eloquently observed 'this polyglot of wealth, this museum of curiosities, the pension list, embraces every link in the human chain, every description of men, women, and children, from the exalted excellence of a Hawke or a Rodney, to the debased situation of a lady who humbleth herself that she may be exalted. But the lessons it inculcates form its greatest perfection. It teacheth that sloth and vice may eat that bread which virtue and honesty may starve for, after they have earned it. It teaches the idle and dissolute to look up for that support which they are too proud to stoop and earn. It directs the minds of men to an entire reliance on the ruling power of the state, who feeds the ravens of the royal aviary, that cry continually for food. It teaches them to imitate those saints on the pension list, who are like the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet are arrayed like Solomon in all his glory. In fine, it teaches men a lesson which indeed they might have learned from Epictetus; that it is sometimes good not to be over virtuous. It shows that in proportion as our distresses increase, the munificence of the crown increases; that in proportion as our clothes are-rent, the royal mantle is extended over us.'
Earl of Peterborough.
The Earl of Peterborough, who Swift says shone
'in all climates like a star
In senates bold, and fierce in war,'
was once surrounded by a mob in his way from the House of Lords, who took him for the Duke of Marlborough, then very unpopular; the earl with great presence of mind said, 'I will convince you I am not the duke, in the first place, I have but five guineas in my pocket; and secondly, here they are, much at your service.' He threw his purse among them, and walked home, amid the acclamations of the populace.
Sir Richard Pepper Arden.
'And strange to tell! in nature's spite, provoke Hot Arden once to blunder on a joke.'
CRITICISMS ON THE ROLLIAD.
The miracle of a jest from Sir Richard Pepper Arden, happened on the occasion of some resolutions having passed the House of Commons, between the hours of six and seven in the morning; for which reason, Sir Pepper, then attorneygeneral, facetiously contended, 'that they were entitled to no respect, as the house was then at sixes and sevens.' Any approximation to wit in debate, being perfectly unusual with this gentleman, she sagacious author of the Criticisms on the Rolliad, very properly distinguishes this memorable attempt by the same kind of admiration with which poets commonly mention some great prodigy; as, for instance, of a cow speaking, Pecudes que locutae infandum.
Bench and Bar - their Duties.
In the famous trial of the Dean of St. Asaph, Mr. Erskine put a question to the jury, relative to the meaning of their verdict. Mr. Justice Buller objected to its propriety. The counsel reiterated his question, and demanded an answer. The judge again interposed his authority in these emphatic words: 'Sit down, Mr. Erskine, know your duty, or I shall be obliged to make you know it.' Mr. Erskine with equal warmth replied, 'I know my duty as well as your lordship knows your duty. I stand here as the advocate of a fellow citizen, and I will not sit down.' The judge was silent, and the advocate persisted in his question.
Ludovicus Sforza sent an ambassador to the Genoese, to demand of them a large sum by way of tribute. The Genoese conducted the ambassador into a garden, and pointing out to him the herb basil, desired him to take some of that weak herb and smell it. He did so and told them it smelt very sweet. They then requested that he would press and rub it betwixt his fingers, and smell it again. He did so. 'But now,' saith he, 'it is most nauseous.' 'In like manner,' said the Genoese 'if the prince deals graciously and mercifully with us, he will oblige us to all cheerfulness and readiness in his service, but if he shall proceed to grind and oppress us, he will then find the bitter and troublesome effects of it.'
Camerarius relates the following pleasant story: 'As I was sitting,' said he, 'with some senators of Bruges, before the gate of the Senate House, a certain beggar presented himself to us, who with sighs and tears, and lamentable gestures, expressed to us his miserable poverty; saying withal, that 'he had about him a private disorder, which shame prevented him from discovering to the eyes of men.' We all pitying the case of the poor man, gave him each of us something, and he departed; one amongst us sent his servant after him, with command to inquire of him what his private infirmity might be, which he was so loth to discover? The servant overtook him, and desired of him that satisfaction; and having diligently viewed his face, breast, arms, &c., and finding all his limbs in good plight, "I see nothing," said he, "whereof you have any such reason to complain.'! "Alas!" said the beggar, "the disease that afflicts me is far different from what you conceive of, and is such as you cannot see, it is an evil that hath crept over my whole body; it is passed through the very veins and marrow of me in such a manner, that there is no one member of my body that is able to do any work, this disease is by some called idleness and sloth." The servant hearing this, left him in anger, and returned to us with this account of him, which after we had well laughed at we sent to make further inquiries about this singular beggar; but he had withdrawn himself.'
Bonaventure des Periers, in his Works, relates the following anecdote. 'A student at law, who studied at Poitiers, had tolerably improved himself in cases of equity; not that he was overburthened with learning, but his chief deficiency was a want of assurance and confidence to display his knowledge. His father passing by Poitiers, recommended him to read aloud, and to render his memory more prompt by a continued exercise. To obey the injunction of his father, he determined to read at the ministry (the hall of the school of equity). In order to obtain a certain assurance, he went every day into a garden, which was a very secret spot, being at a distance from any house, and where there grew a great number of fine large cabbages. Thus for a long time as he pursued his studies, he went to repeat his lesson to these cabbages, addressing them by the title of gentlemen, and dealing out his sentences, as if he had composed them to an audience of scholars at a lecture. After having prepared himself thus for a fortnight or three weeks, he began to think it was high time to take the chair. Imagining that he should be able to harangue scholars as well as he had before done his cabbages, he comes forward; begins his oration; but before he had said a dozen words, he remained dumb, and became so confused, that he knew not where he was, so that all he could bring out was - " Domine, ego bene video quad non estis caules;" that is to say, for there are some who will have everything in plain English, " Gentlemen, I now clearly see you are not cabbages." In the garden he could conceive the cabbages to be scholars; but in the chair, he could not conceive the scholars to be cabbages.'
Graces of Speech.
'Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant
More learned than their ears.'
Demosthenes having once harangued the people very unsuccessfully, hastened home with his head covered, and in much chagrin. Meeting with Satyrus, the tragedian, he complained bitterly to him, that though he laboured more than all other orators, and had greatly impaired his health by it, yet he could not please the people: but that drunkards, mariners, end' other illiterate persons, were wholly in possession of the popular ear. 'You say true,' answered Satyrus; 'but I shall soon remove the cause, if you will repeat me some verses of Euripides or Sophocles without book.' Demosthenes did so, and Satyrus repeated the verses after him, but with such variety of expression and aptness of gesture, that Demosthenes scarcely knew them to be the same. The lesson was not lost, Demosthenes saw what a vast accession of power was added to an oration, by action and elocution, and thenceforth considered all declamation vain where these qualities were neglected.
The Athenians were the most refined of all the Greeks; they possessed a more cultivated delicacy in the polite arts, and an exquisite taste for eloquence. The excellent orators who rose amongst them, had familiarized them with the most perfect beauties of composition. So accustomed were their minds to suffer nothing but what was pure, elegant, and finished that those who had to speak in public, looked upon the lowest of the people as so many critics of what they were going to say. But if the genius of this people had become so delicate by the attic eloquence of their orators, the native haughtiness of the Greeks was much increased by the servile adulation paid to them in the forum; so that it required a wonderful dexterity to stretch the empire of persuasion over men who would always be treated like masters.
The establishment of the singular law of Ostracism, which was occasioned by the tyranny of Pisistratus, caused all those whose great merit and high reputation gave umbrage to the citizens, to be banished for ten years. Thus runs the sentence of this famous law: 'Let no one of us excel the others, and if there should be found one of this description, let him go and excel elsewhere.' This law in its commencement was executed with so much rigour, that Aristides, who was surnamed the Just and who had performed many actions for tee glory of his country, was condemned to banishment, and although this severity had greatly abated of its rigour under Alcibiades, and was abolished in the course of time, there remained in the manners and minds of the Athenians, a great jealousy of those who had distinguished themselves by some extraordinary merit; and a vigorous severity toward their orators, which. constrained them to be very circumspect. The rules they had imposed on them, went so far as to prohibit their displaying ornaments too elaborate, which might disguise their real sentiments; images and motions, capable of affecting and softening their auditors; for they regarded the first as false lights that might mislead their reason; and the latter, as attempts to encroach on their liberty by swaying their passions. It is to this we may attribute that coldness and austerity which pervade the discourses of these orators, and which rather proceeded from the restraint laid on them, than from the qualities of their genius. To succeed with the Athenians, it became necessary to appear to respect them, to Ratter and to censure them at the same time; a policy which Demosthenes, who well knew this people, applied with great success.
Philip alla the Athenian Orators.
Philip of Macedon was wont to say, 'that he was much beholden to the Athenian orators; since by the slanderous and opprobrious manner in which they spoke of him [e.g. that he was a barbarian, an usurper, a cheat; perfidious, perjured, depraved; a companion of rascals, mountebanks, &c. ], they were the means of making him a better man, both in word and deed. For,' added he, 'I every day do my best endeavour, as well in my sayings and doings, to prove them liars.'
It would have been well, had Philip always acted up to this encomium on himself. After the battle of Cheronoea, he indulged his joy for the victory by getting drunk, dancing all night, and going from rank to rank, calling his prisoners names. Demades, one of them, with the same decent freedom, told Philip that he acted the part of Thersites, rather than that of Agamemnon. Philip was delighted with the smartness of the repartee, and for the sake of this bon mot, dismissed the prisoners without ransom.
Freedom of Speech.
After Timoleon, the Corinthian, had freed the Sicilians and Syracusans from the tyrants that oppressed them, one Demenetus, a busy demagogue, had the boldness in public assembly of the people, to charge Timoleon with several acts of misconduct whilst general of the army. Timoleon contented himself with making this admirable answer: 'That he thanked the gods for granting him that thing which he had so often requested of them in his prayers: which was, that he might once see the Syracusans have full power and liberty lo say what they pleased.' The people were enchanted; and the slanderer retired m confusion.
There are some persons who may think, that 'Dulness is sacred in a sound divine,' kind that the most rigid austerity of manner should always be preserved in the pulpit. There has, however, been a species of preachers, who, while they enlightened and instructed their auditors by their moral observations, and by teaching the great truths of Christianity, have done it by comparisons the most simple, and have even sometimes descended to amuse with their jokes.
In our own day, and in this metropolis, there is one minister, whose piety and zeal in the cause of religion is unquestionable; but who often enlivens his discourse bye witticism. There are very few who have not heard of the Reverend Rowland Hill's preaching a charity sermon at Wapping, which he commenced by saying, 'I come to preach to sinners - to great sinners - yea, to Wapping sinners.
France has produced several entertaining preachers, among whom was Andre Boulanger, better known by the name of little Father Andre, who died about the middle of the seventeenth century. His character has been variously drawn. He is by some represented as a kind of buffoon in the pulpit; but others more judiciously observe, that he only indulged his natural genius, and uttered humorous and lively things, to keep the attention of his audience awake. 'He told many a bold truth,' says the author of Guerre des Auters, anciens et modernes, 'that sent bishops to their dioceses, and made many a coquette blush. He possessed the art of biting when he smiled, and more ably combated vice by his ingenious satire, than by those vague apostrophes which no one takes to himself. While others were straining their minds to catch at sublime thoughts, which no one understood, he lowered his talents to the most humble situations, and to the minusest things.'
Father Andre in one of his sermons compared the four doctors of the Latin church, to the four kings of cards. 'St. Augustine,' said he, 'is the king of hearts, for his great charity, St. Ambrose is the king of clubs (trefle) by the flowers of his eloquence; St. Gregory is the king of diamonds, for his strict regularity, and St. Jerome is the king of spades (pique) for his piquant style.'
The Duke of Orleans once dared Father Andre to employ any ridiculous expression about him, this, however, our good father did very adroitly. He addressed him thus: Foin de vous monseigneur, Foin de moi, Foin de tous les auditeurs. He saved himself, by taking for his text the 7th verse of the 10th chapter of Isaiah, where it is said, all the people are grass - Foin in French signifying hay, and being also an interjection, fie upon!
Merolla, a Roman Catholic Missionary to the Congo, found much difficulty in prevailing on the negro women to abandon some superstitious rites of their own religion, on the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin he preached a sermon on the subject to the converts, in which, after expatiating on the criminality of their practices, and particularly the injury they offered to the immaculate mother of the Saviour, he suddenly drew up a curtain, and exhibited an image of the Virgin, having a dagger stuck to its heart, with blood flowing copiously from the wound. The poor creatures fell into transports of grief at this dismal spectacle, and promised obedience to all the good father's instructions.
A Base Brief Honourably Refused.
The Emperor Severus, when dying, recommended his two sons to the protection of Papinianus, a lawyer, equally eminent for his integrity and eloquence. The impious Caracalla having embrued his hands in the blood of his brother Geta, solicited Papinianus to extenuate the matter to the senate and people. 'No, sir,' replied the worthy man. 'It is more easy to commit a fratricide, than to justify it.' Caracalla, incensed at this manly denial, caused the head of his incorruptible guardian to be cut off.
Sir Samuel Romilly.
The speech of this eminent and humane lawyer on the Slave Trade Abolition Bill, was received with such distinguished applause, that the delivery of one passage was followed by three distinct cheers. Towards the conclusion, he introduced a most brilliant apostrophe, in which he drew a comparative estimate of the labours and enjoyments of the original propounder of that bill, and the late despot of France.
He was not less energetic in his remarks on the treaty of France in 1811, which tolerated the slave trade for five years. When Mr. Homer moved for papers relating to the subject, Sir Samuel rose, and made a very eloquent speech, from which we make the following extract:
'That the British nation should be parties to a treaty, by which a traffic in human beings is sanctioned, is alone a sufficient cause of reproach; but to feel the whole extent of the disgrace which this treaty brings upon us, it is necessary to consider what the real nature of the traffic is. The above trade is, indeed nowhere mentioned, but with some epithet, which expresses the horror which it inspires. It is described as inhuman, sanguinary, detestable, or by some other vague and general terms of reprobation, but such terms can convey but a very inadequate notion of the real horrors of this trade, to those nations which are happily strangers to it in practice. But in this country, it is in no such imperfect and indefinite mode, that this horrible traffic, this foul reproach to civilized society, is known. What the trade really is, we have fully ascertained. We have, as it were, reckoned up and taken the exact dimensions of all the miseries and agonies it inflicts. What might seem to others to be the heightenings and amplifications of eloquence; we, alas! know to be plain facts incontestably proved. We have made ourselves acquainted with the trade in its manifold, complicated, and yet unexaggerated horrors. We have dared to scrutinize minutely into every part of it. We have by long and patient examination of numerous witnesses, traced in the very heart of Africa the superstition and barbarism in the darkness of which its natives are all enveloped, to this powerful cause. On those shores which have intercourse with Europeans, we have almost with our own eyes beheld wasted fields, and mined villages, and flying inhabitants, which with certainty denote that slave ships are hovering on the coast. We have even descended in the holds of the ships, and have had the courage to survey, and to drag forth to open day, the chained and crowded victims, writhing with agony, or wasting with disease during the protracted miseries of the middle passage. We have traced up to this, as their source, all those habitual severities and cruelties, and that constant contempt of human life, and human misery, which distinguish the West Indian from every other species of slavery; and it is this trade, thus known to us in the full extent of its abominations, this system of fraud and oppression, and rapine, and cruelty, and murder, examined into, understood, scrutinized, and exposed, and execrated, to which the noble lord has, by the treaty, given the sanction of the British name, a treaty which, so far as it respects the slave trade, is repugnant to justice and humanity disgraceful to the British character, and offensive in the sight of God.'
Frederic the Great.
Previous to the battle of Lutzen, in which eighty thousand Austrians were defeated by thirty-six thousand Prussians, commanded by Frederic the Great, this monarch ordered all his officers to attend him, and thus addressed them: 'To-morrow I intend giving the enemy battle; and as it will decide who are to be the future masters of Silesia, I expect every one of you will in the strictest manner do his duty. If any one of you is a coward, let him step forward before he makes others as cowardly as himself; let him step forward I say, and he shall immediately receive his discharge without ceremony or reproach. I see there is none among you who does not possess true heroism and will not display it in defence of his king, of his country, and of himself. I shall be in the front and in the rear: shall fly from wing to wing; no company will escape my notice, and whoever I then find doing his duty, upon him will I heap honour and favour.'
Greater cruelty was perhaps never exercised than by the Europeans to the negroes of Surinam. Stedman relates that nothing was more common than for aid negroes to be broken on the wheel, and young ones burnt alive; and yet the fortitude with which they suffered, was equal to that of the most ardent patriot, or enthusiastic martyr. One of the fugitive, or revolted, slaves, being brought before his judges, who had condemned him previous to hearing what he had to say in his defence, requested to be heard for a few minutes before he was sent to execution, when leave being granted, he thus addressed them:
'I was born in Africa; while defending the person of my prince in battle, I was taken prisoner, and sold as a slave on the Coast of Guinea. One of our countrymen, who sits among my judges, purchased me. Having been cruelly treated by his overseer, I deserted, and went to join the rebels in the woods. There also I was condemned to become the slave of their chief, Bonas, who treated me with still more cruelty than the whites, which obliged me to desert a second time, determined to fly from the human species for ever and to pass the rest of my life innocently and alone in the woods. I had lived two years in this manner, a prey to the greatest hardships, and the most dreadful anxiety, merely attached to life by the hope of once more seeing my beloved family, who are perhaps starving, owing to my absence. Two years of misery had thus passed, when I was discovered by the rangers, taken, and brought before this tribunal, which now knows the wretched history of my life.'
This speech was pronounced with the greatest moderation, and by one of the finest negroes in the colony. His master, who, as he had remarked, was one of his judges, unmoved by the pathetic and eloquent appeal, made him this atrocious laconic reply: 'Rascal, it is of little consequence to us to know what you have been saying; but the torture shall make you confess crimes as black as yourself, as well as those of your detestable accomplices.' At these words, the negro, whose veins seemed to swell with indignation and contempt, retorted: 'These hands,' stretching them forth, 'have made tigers tremble, yet you dare to threaten me with that despicable instrument! No, I despise all the torments which you can invent, as well as the wretch who is about to inflict them.' On saying these words, he threw himself on the instrument, where he suffered the most dreadful tortures without uttering a syllable.
The Gift of Tongues.
Clemens Alexandrinus states it to have been customary in the synagogues of Alexandria, and other Mediterranean seaports, to say the public prayers in three different languages, Syriac, Greek, and Latin, for the accommodation of foreign traders and sailors. Each sentence was repeated in each language, before the next sentence was begun; as if we were to deliver the Lord's Prayer thus: 'Our father, who art in heaven: Notre pere, qui est au cieux. Unser-vater, der du in himmel hist.' 'Hallowed be thy name.' 'Sanctifie soit ton nom; Geheilinet werde dein nahme;' &c. The habit, skill, facility, or faculty of making these macaronic prayers was called the gift of tongues. It was justly said to be bestowed by the religious or holy spirit, because the requisite labour of acquirement was incurred for a holy or religious purpose. They still say of a student of theology in the Presbyterian schools, that he has an excellent gift of prayer, when he has learned to pray extempore with eloquence.
Time and Eternity.
When Archbishop Leighton was minister of a parish in Scotland, this question was asked of the ministers at their provincial meeting - 'If they preached the duties of the times?' When it was found that Mr. L. did not, and he was blamed for the omission, he answered:-
'If all the brethren have preached on the times, may not one poor brother be suffered to preach on eternity? May ministers preach on the subject of eternity, and hearers hear in the view of that great and momentous concern.'
Mr. Sheridan, speaking in condemnation of the proposed tax on perfumery, enumerated the articles of lavender, milk of roses, &c. and said, 'that the commissioners, in distinguishing the various particulars of taxation under this denomination, must be gifted by nature with noses as acute as pointers.' He then concluded an erratic, but at the same time a most entertaining speech, with applying to the House of Commons the following lines from Pope's Rape of the Lock:
'Our humble province is to tend the fair,
Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care;
To save the powder from too rude a gale,
Nor let the imprison'd essences exhale.'
Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury.
This prelate was so remarkable for his power of memory, that he could readily repeat anything that he had penned, after once reading it. It was his practice never to begin committing his sermons to heart, till the church bells began to ring; and so firmly did he retain what he learned, that he used to say, that before a thousand auditors, shouting or fighting all the while, he could deliver whatever he had provided to speak.
Kirwan, Dean of Killaloe.
Few orators of eminence have appeared among the English divines, though many of them have been pious and learned. One appeared in Ireland a few years ago, who, to use the emphatical expression of Mr. Grattan, 'broke in upon the slumbers of the pulpit.' We need scarcely say, that we allude to Dr. Kirwan, Dean of Killaloe. That he was a great orator, the manner in which he was attended sufficiently evinced. Persons crowded to hear, who on no other occasion appeared within the walls of a church, men of the world who had other pursuits, and men of profession, physicians, lawyers, and actors; in short, all, to whom eloquence of the highest order had any charms. The pressure of the crowds was immense, guards were obliged to be stationed without, to keep off from the largest churches the overflowing curiosity which could not contribute adequately to the great charities for which he generally preached. The sums collected on these occasions, exceeded anything ever before known. In one instance, such was the magical impression he produced, that many persons, ladies particularly after contributing all the money they had upon them, threw their vetches, rings, and other valuable ornaments, into the plate, which next day they redeemed with money The produce of this unequalled triumph of oratory was indeed munificent; no less a sum than twelve hundred pounds!
After the death of Charles VI the Spanish ambassador, Don Pedro Rouguillo, at his first audience of the new king, James VI., being requested to state freely his opinion of the state of affairs in England, his excellency told James, 'That he saw several priests about his majesty, who would importune him to alter the established religion in England, but prayed him not to hearken to their advice, lest his majesty should repent of it when it was too late.' The king being a good deal displeased with this counsel, asked the ambassador with some zeal, 'whether it was not customary in Spain to advise with their confessors?' 'Yes sir,' replied the ambassador, 'we do so, and that's the reason our affairs succeed so ill.'
The Earl of Rochester.
This nobleman, whose brilliant wit and talents rendered him so distinguished in the court of Charles II., and who, during a temporary disgrace with his sovereign, made himself a mighty favourite with the lower orders, by his exhibition under the mask of an Italian mountebank on Tower Hill, felt so much diffidence in the House of Lords, that he was never able to address them. It is said, that having frequently attended, he once essayed to make a speech, but was so embarrassed that he was unable to proceed. 'My lords,' said he, 'I rise this time - my lords, I divide my discourse into four branches.' Here he faltered for some time; at length he was able to add, 'My lords, if ever I rise again in this house, I give you leave to cut me off, root and branch, for ever.' He then sat down, to the astonishment of all present.
When the ferocious Robespierre had obtained the ascendancy in France, he waged open war against letters, and seemed desirous of annihilating every vestige of learning, and the fine arts, which had so long adorned his I country. Day after day, men of letters were marked out as victims to the oppression of this tyrant: and at length Florian was arrested. his alleged crime was that of an intimacy with the nobility; his real one, that of having prefixed to his name some verses in praise of the queen, with which his judges-reproached him. The news of Florian's arrest resounded throughout Paris, and deeply afflicted every friend of humanity. Boissy d'Anglas, who had long been intimate with Florian, dared openly to declare himself his advocate and friend, and at the risk of his own life. continued incessantly his application to the committee of public safety for his release: but the celebrated Mercier went still further; no sooner did he hear of the arrest of Florian, than he instantly set out for Paris, and braving every danger, immediately on his arrival, he rushed into the very bosom of the committee of general safety, and in the midst of that most powerful body, in an elevated tone of voice, and with an eloquence that to men not destitute of all feeling, would have been irresistible, demanded the liberation of his friend. 'On whose account,, he was asked, 'do you speak in favour of a cidevant, of an enemy to the public?' 'On my own account,' replied Mercier, with that noble dignity which a mean or a guilty conscience can never assume. 'In the name of literature,' continued he, 'I come to demand justice. If Florian he actually guilty; If, indeed, he shall be convicted of treason against his country, inflict on him the punishment he merits; but if, on the contrary, his innocence can be proved to you; if instead of his supposed crimes, you shall discover in him only virtues, then at least promise me to release him from captivity, and to restore to society a peaceful and virtuous citizen!' 'Virtuous!' exclaimed a loud rough voice, in the midst of a general murmur of tumult 'impossible! The man who could compose verses in praise of the queen, cannot be otherwise than the enemy of his country, and in every respect a dangerous character.' Mercier was obliged to retire, but the death of the tyrant soon liberated his friend Florian.
The Slave Trade.
In one of the last dicussions on the slave trade, Sir Charles Pole said, 'while he deprecated the motion (for the abolition), he rejoiced that it had been brought forward thus early, because it showed the cloven foot which had been attempted to be concealed.' To this remark Mr. Sheridan very spiritedly replied. 'An honourable baronet,' said he 'has talked of a cloven foot; I plead guilty to that cloven foot: but this I will say, that the man who expresses pleasure at the hope of seeing so large a portion of the human race freed from the shackles of tyranny, rather displays the pinions of an angel, than the cloven foot of a demon.' He then entered into a view of the slavery of the West Indies, which was unlike all other slavery, and thus concluded: 'A Mr. Barclay, to his eternal honour be it spoken, who had himself been a slave owner in Jamaica, and who regretting that he had been so, on a bequest of slaves being made to him, emancipated them; caused them to be conveyed to Pennsylvania, where they were properly instructed, and where their subsequent exemplary conduct was the general theme of admiration. With this-fact before him, should he be told that he must give up all hope of abolishing slavery? No: he would never give it up, but exclaim in the words of the poet,
'I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To carry me, to fan me when I sleep,
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
That sinews bought and sold have ever earn'd.'
The benchers of Lincoln's Inn some years ago passed a bye-law, excluding gentlemen who wrote for the newspapers from their society. This illiberal proceeding was brought under the consideration of the House of Commons, by a petition from a gentleman against whom it operated; and there it met with such unmingled condemnation, that the benchers were shortly afterwards induced to rescind the obnoxious resolution.
In the discussion to which the subject gave rise, Mr. Sheridan observed, 'Much illiberal calumny had been cast upon these gentlemen (the reporters), which it was time should now be fully confuted. He had to state then that there were amongst those who reported the debates of that house, no less than twenty three graduates of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, and Edinburgh; those gentlemen were all in their progress to honourable professions; and there was no possible course better than that which they had adopted, for the improvement of their minds, and the acquisition of political experience. They had adopted this course from an honest and honourable impulse; and had to boast the association of many great names, who rose from poverty to reputation. This had been long the employment, and indeed chief means of subsistence, of Dr. Johnson and Mr. Burke. Such were the men at whose depression this legal byelaw aimed! Never was there a more illiberal and base attack on literary talent; he could find no parallel to it in the History of England, except one indeed, in the reign of Henry IV., which went to exclude lawyers from sitting in parliament. At this, as might be expected, the body who now sought to proscribe others, was mightily offended, they branded the parliament with the epithet of indoctum; and Lord Coke had even the hardihood Lo declare from the bench, that there never was a good law made therein. It was impossible to imagine a single reason for the enactment of the bye-law complained of. It was a subversion of the liberty and respectability of the press; a most unjust individual proscription; a violation of the best principles of our constitution. For,' concluded Mr. Sheridan, 'it is the glory of English law, that it sanctions no proscriptions, nor does it acknowledge any office in the State, which the honourable ambitious industry even of the most humble may not obtain.'
Mr. Stephen followed Mr. Sheridan in a very manly speech. He declared that he had been a member of Lincoln's Inn for thirty-five years, but that he had not the most remote connexion with the framing of the obnoxious bye-law alluded to; he thought it a most illiberal and unjust proscription; a scandal rather to its authors than its objects. 'I will put a case, said Mr. Stephen; 'I will suppose a young man of education and of talent contending with pecuniary difficulties - difficulties not proceeding from vice, but from family misfortunes. I will suppose him honestly meeting his obstructions with honourable industry, and exercising his talents by reporting the debates of this House in order to attain a profession. Where, I ask, is the degradation of such an employment? Who would be so meanly cruel as to deprive him of it? The case, sir, which I have now supposed, was thirty years ago my own!'
Sir John Anstruther was also a member of Lincoln's Inn, but reprobated the bye-law referred to. Obnoxious as it was, however, it was a curious fact, that it originated with an individual who had been particular loud in his professions of regard for the liberty of the press. Mr. Henry Clifford (of O. P. notoriety) was its father!
Mr. Erskine, in defending a client under prosecution for a libel, quoted a sentence or two from a printed book; he was hastily interrupted by the late Justice Buller, who said it was no defence of one libel, to quote another and a worse libel in support of it.' Mr. Erskine immediately turned to the jury, and said, 'You hear, gentlemen, the observation of his lordship, and from that observation, I maintain that you must acquit my client. His lordship says, that the work under prosecution is not so libellous as the quotation I have just read. Now, gentlemen, that quotation is from a work universally allowed to be classical authority, on the character of the British government. It is from the pen of the immortal Locke. Shall we condemn a writer who is declared not to go the length of that great and good man?'
The gift of extemporaneous versifying seems confined to the south of Europe. It is indeed unwillingly credited elsewhere; and yet there is nothing more common in Italy than to see, during the carnival, two masks meet, defy, challenge, and attack each other in verse; and answer, stanza for stanza, to the same air, with a vivacity, dialogue, melody, and accompaniment, which to those who have not witnessed it, is almost inconceivable. In the large towns of Italy it would not be easy to find a polished company in which one of the guests is not capable of giving pleasure by the exercise of his art. Even the idle vulgar have their professional improvisator), as well as the more elegant votaries of the muse among the nobility. These exercise their art in squares and marketplaces. In a few moments a circle is collected round the wandering Homer, who delivers in about an hour as much poetry, as will suffice to keep him from hunger for the next two or three days, and such a virtuoso is the more reckless of futurity, because he is sure to find, whenever he wishes, another audience at the next square.
In general, these songs have not much poetical merit, but they are often rich in naive expressions and pointed ridicule; and as to the most common Italian, poetical propriety is not wholly unknown, for they all read their celebrated poets, and commit much of their works to memory; so most of their artificial extemporaneous productions bear commonly some marks of regularity and precision.
Some examples there are, however, of improvisatori, who, uniting great delicacy of mind and taste to very superior talents, and from much exercise haying acquired a singular facility, have shown themselves capable of producing unpremeditated verse, which would not only bear perusal, but even the ordeal of the severest criticism. Such, among others, was the famed Corilla, and the Abbe Lorenzo of Verona, spoken of by Betinelli; and such also is Francisco Gianni of Rome, who is at present (1807) famous, and has carried this art to such a height of perfection, as it rarely, if ever, attained before, as his printed improvisi sufficiently prove.
There is another species of improvista, or impromptu, which, though more nearly allied to art than to eloquence, often partakes of the latter, it is the extempore comedy. The plot called Scenario, consisting merely of the scenes enumerated, with the characters indicated, is first written out; it is then suspended at the back of the stage, and from the mere inspection, the actors come forward to perform, the dialogue entirely depending on their own genius: The inspiration of national genius could alone produce this phenomenon; and these extempore comedies are indeed indigenous to the soil of Italy, a land of improvisatori, who have kept up from the time of their old masters, the Romans, the same fervid fancy. The ancient Atellanae Fabulae, or Attelan Farces, originated at Atella, a town in the neighbourhood of ancient Naples; and these, too, were extempore interludes, or, as Livy terms them, Exodita.
The great painter, Salvator Rosa, had a strong passion for performing in these extempore comedies; and was famous for his character of a Calabrian Clown, whose original he had probably often studied amidst that mountainous scenery in which his pencil delighted.
Riccoboni has discussed the curious subject of extempore comedy with equal modesty and feeling. He says, that 'an actor of this description, always supposing an actor of genius, is more vividly affected, than one who has coldly got his part by rote. But figure, memory, voice, and even sensibility, are not sufficient for the actor all'improvista; he must be in the habit of cultivating the imagination, pouring forth the flow of expression, anti prompt in those flashes which instantaneously vibrate in the plaudits of the audience.'
To such excellence has this art been carried by Louis Riccoboni, and his wife Flaminia, that it was suspected that they did not act all' improvista, from the facility and eloquence of their dialogue, and a clamour was raised in the literary circles, who had long been jealous of the fascinations which attracted the public to the Italian theatre. It was said that the Riccobonis were imposing on the public credulity, and that their pretended extempore comedies were preconcerted scenes To terminate this civil war between the rival theatres, La Motte offered to sketch a plot in five acts, and the Italians were challenged to perform it. This defiance was instantly accepted. On the morning of the representation
Louis Riccoboni detailed the story to his troop, hung up the Scenario in its usual place, and the whole company were ready at the drawing of the curtain. The plot given in by La Motte was performed to admiration, and all Paris witnessed the triumph. La Motte afterwards composed this very comedy, L'Amante Difficile, for the French theatre, yet still the extempore one at the Italian theatre remained a more permanent favourite; and the public were delighted by seeing the same piece perpetually offering novelties, and changing its character at the fancy of the actors.
This eminent Jesuit, who flourished in the seventeenth century, was one of the most eminent preachers in an age when pulpit eloquence was in its meridian. He appeared to be a prophet. His manner was irresistible full of fire, intelligence, and force, and perfectly original. The Abbe Iraild tells us, that several old men still shuddered at the recollection of the expression which he employed in an apostrophe to the God of Vengeance, 'Evaginare gladinum tuum.' 'Draw forth thy glaive or sword.'
Corilla was the Arbodian name given to the celebrated improvisatrice, Maria Maddalena Morelli Fernandex, of Pistoia, who was honoured at Rome with the laurel crown 16th February, 1776, in the same manner as Petrarch and Tasso had been of old. The fertility and readiness-with which this accomplished female instantly produced, when required, the most elegant verses on whatever subject, and in whatever measure, was altogether marvellous. In the examination which she underwent before the Arcadian Academy of Rome, and which continued for three successive days, there was scarcely a subject in philosophy or literature, on which she did not display her poetical powers to the satisfaction and astonishment of all present. The audience comprehended all the principal personages, clergy, literati, and foreigners, then resident at Rome; among the latter was the late Duke of Gloucester.
This renowned lady was a musician as well as a poetess. She sang her own verses to simple tunes, with a sweet voice and a good taste.
Lord Bacon, in his Enquiry on the Pacification of the Church, asks whether it was not requisite to renew that good service which was practiced in the Church of England some years and afterwards put down, against the advice and opinion of one of the greatest and gravest prelates of the land, which was commonly called prophesying, and was this: 'The ministers within a precinct did meet upon a week day in some principal town, where there was some ancient grave minister that was president, and an auditory admitted of gentlemen, or other persons of leisure. Then every minister successively, beginning with the youngest did handle one and the same part of scripture spending severally some quarter of an hour or better, and in the whole some two hours, and so the exercise being begun and concluded with prayer, and the president giving a text for the next meeting, the assembly was dissolved, and this was as I take it a fortnight's exercise, which, in my opinion, was the best way to frame and train up preachers to handle the word of God as it ought to be handled that hath been practiced. For we see orators have their declamations; lawyers have their merits; logicians their sophisms; and every practice of science hath an exercise of erudition and imitation before men to the life - only preaching, which is the worthiest, and wherein it is more dangerous to do amiss, wanteth an introduction, and is ventured and rushed upon at first.'
The French Chamber of Deputies possesses many excellent speakers; yet what passes cannot properly be called a discussion. The members, when they intend to speak, are obliged to inscribe their names on a list, for or against the question in discussion; the order in which they are to speak, cannot be inserted; they must go to the tribune in the succession in which their names are marked. Not one word are they permitted to articulate in their place; if they think proper to speak, they must leave their seat, march to the tribune, ascend the steps, and when they have reached their pulpit, the glow of feeling has, perhaps, been chilled on the way, the sentiment is evaporated; the ideas are dispersed; the energies of the mind have sunk under the ceremonial; and he who eagerly claimed a right to speak, finds at last that he has nothing to say.
There are, however, some deputies, who believe the country would be in danger, if they failed to transmit to the public the mass of their legislative opinions They appear at the tribune with a manuscript of tremendous size in their hand; their head bent upon the paper, their spectacles placed on their nose: and with a predetermination not to spare the chamber one single page, although the discussion is perhaps nearly closed; and they are not of the class of speakers who find new arguments when the old are exhausted. The assembly sometimes, unable to endure any more, call to their honourable colleague to pass over a few leaves of the manuscript; but the next morning that very member is called un orateur, in all the journals; and his constituents are not apprized, that the assembly considered him as taking a cruel advantage in his harangue of their constitutional obligation to listen.
A methodist preacher once observing that several of his congregation had fallen asleep, suddenly exclaimed with a loud voice, 'A fire! a fire!' 'Where? where?' cried his auditors, whom he had roused from their slumbers. 'In the place of punishment,' added the preacher, 'for those who sleep under the ministry of the holy gospel.'
Another preacher of a different persuasion, more remarkable for drowsy preachers, finding himself in the same unpleasant situation with his auditory, or more literally speaking, dormitory, suddenly stopped in his discourse, and addressing himself in a whispering tone to a number of noisy children in the gallery, 'Silence, silence, children,' said he; 'if you keep up such a noise you will wake all the old folks below.'
In a debate on attachments in the Irish House of Commons, in 1785, Mr. Curran rose to speak against them; and perceiving Mr. Fitzgibbon, the attorney-general (afterwards Lord Clare), had fallen asleep on his seat, he thus commenced:- 'I hope I may say a few words on this great subject, without disturbing the sleep of any right honourable member; and yet perhaps I ought rather to envy than blame the tranquillity of the right honourable gentleman. I do not feel myself so happily tempered as to be lulled to repose by the storms that shake the land. If they invited any to rest, that rest ought not to be lavished on the guilty spirit.'
Although Mr. Curran appears here to have commenced hostilities, it should be mentioned that he was apprised of Mr. Fitzgibbon's having given out in the ministerial circles that he would take an opportunity during the debate in which he knew that Mr. Curran would take a part, of putting down the young patriot. The Duchess of Rutland, and all the ladies of the castle, were present in the gallery to witness what Mr. Curran called, in the course of the debate, 'this exhibition by command.'
When Mr. Curran sat down, Mr. Fitzgibbon, provoked by the expressions he had used, and by the general tenor of his observations, replied with much personality, and among other things, denominated Mr. Curran a 'puny babbler.' Mr. C. retorted by the following description of his opponent. 'I am not a man whose respect in person and character depends upon the importance of his office: I am not a young man who thrusts himself into the foreground of a picture, which ought to be occupied by a better figure; I am not one who replies with invective when sinking under the weight of argument; I am not a man who denies the necessity of parliamentary reform at the time that he approves of its expediency, by reviling his own constituents, the parish clerk, the sexton, and the grave-digger; and if there be any man who can apply what I am not, to himself, I leave him to think of it in the committee, and contemplate upon it when he goes home.'
The result of this night's debate was a duel between Mr. Curran and Mr. Fitzgibbon; after exchanging shots they separated, but confirmed in their feeling of mutual aversion.
At the assizes at Cork, Curran had once just entered upon his case, and stated the facts to the jury. He then, with his usual impressiveness and pathos, appealed to their feelings, and was concluding the whole with this sentence: 'Thus, gentlemen, I trust I have made the innocence of that persecuted man as clear to you as' - at that instant the sun, which had hitherto been overclouded shot its ray into the court-house, 'as clear to you,' continued he, 'as yonder sunbeam, which now bursts in among us, and supplies me with its splendid illustration.'
'Hear him but reason in divinity,
And all admiring with an inward wish,
You would desire the king were made a preacher.'
The reputation for eloquence which this celebrated preacher very early acquired, reaching the ears of Louis XIV., his majesty sent for him to preach the Advent sermon, in 1670, which he did with such success that he was retained for many years after as a preacher at court. He was called 'The king of preachers, and the preacher to kings;' and Louis himself said that he would rather hear the repetitions of Bourdaloue, than the novelties of another. With a collected air, Bourdaloue had little action, he kept his eyes generally half closed, and penetrated the hearts of the people by the sound of a voice uniform and solemn. On one occasion he turned the peculiarity of his external aspect to very memorable advantage. After depicting in soul-awakening terms a sinner of the first magnitude, he suddenly opened his eyes, and casting them full on the king, who sat opposite to him, he added, in a voice of thunder, 'Thou art the man.' The effect was magical, confounding. When he had finished his discourse, he immediately went, and throwing himself at the feet of his sovereign 'Sire,' said he, 'behold at your feet one who is the most devoted of your servants; but punish him not, that in the pulpit he can own no other master than the King of kings.'