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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 2

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Accordingly, on the 6th of May, when the chairman of the committee put the question, that the Quebec Bill be read paragraph by paragraph, Burke rose, and determined to have a fair hearing on the question of the French revolution. He introduced the subject very adroitly by remarking that they were about to appoint a legislature for a distant people, and thus to affirm a legal authority for the exercise of this high power. The first question was, did they possess such power? A body of rights, called the Rights of Man, imported from a neighbouring country, had been maintained by some in this kingdom as paramount to all other rights. A principal article of this new code was, " That all men are by nature free, are equal in respect of all rights, and continue so in society." If that doctrine were admitted, then the house had nothing to do but to recommend to the Canadians to choose a constitution for themselves. But what constitution should they choose - the British, the American, or the French? A part of the Canadians were of French origin; should they, therefore, recommend the French constitution to them? - a constitution avowedly founded on the Rights of Man. They had better first examine what were the results of this constitution, as already introduced into the new world, into the West Indian colonies of France herself. These colonies, notwithstanding these disastrous wars, were most happy and flourishing, until they heard of the Rights of Man. This Pandora's box, replete with every mortal evil, seemed to fly open, hell itself to yawn, and every demon of mischief to overspread the face of the earth. Blacks ran against whites, and against each other, in murderous hostility; subordination was destroyed, the bonds of society were torn asunder, and every man seemed to thirst for the blood of his neighbour:

"Black spirits and white,
Blue spirits and grey,
Mingle, mingle, mingle,
Mingle while they may."

All was toil and trouble, blood and discord, from the moment this doctrine was promulgated; and he verily believed that, wherever the Rights of Man were preached, such ever had been, and ever would be, the consequence. Troops were sent out; but, strongly imbued with the system of the Rights of Man, they had made themselves parties in the rebellion. Ought this example to induce us to send to our colonies, as had lately been recommended in that house, a cargo of the Rights of Man? Much better had they send them a cargo of infected cotton from Marseilles.

He then drew a frightful picture of the effects of the revolution in France itself as a scene to be contemplated, not with approbation, but with horror, as involving every principle to be detested, and pregnant with every consequence to be dreaded and abominated. Notwithstanding the boastful pretensions of the framers of the new constitution, after sitting nearly two years, he said, they had done nothing; but had contented themselves with enjoying the democratic satisfaction of heaping every disgrace on fallen royalty. They had a king such as they wished - a king who was no king - over whom the marquis De la Fayette, chief gaoler of Paris, mounted guard. The royal prisoner, having wished to taste the freshness of the country air, had obtained a day rule to take a journey about five miles from Paris. But scarcely had he left the city, before his suspicious governors, recollecting that a temporary release from confinement might afford him the means of escape, sent a tumultuous rabble after him, who, surrounding his carriage, commanded him to stop, while one of his grenadiers, belonging to his faithful and brave body-guard, presented a bayonet to the breast of the fore horse.

Then there were loud cries of " Order!" and " Question!" and Mr. Baker declared that the argument of Mr. Burke was calculated to involve the house in unnecessary altercation, and perhaps with the government of another nation. Fox said his right honourable friend could scarcely be said to be out of order, for it seemed to be a day of privilege, when any gentleman might stand up, and take any topic, and abuse any government, whether it had reference to the point in question or not; that not a word had been said of the French revolution, yet he had risen and abused it. He might just as well have abused that of China or Hindustan. This taunt came with a very ill grace from Fox, who had himself introduced this extraneous topic into the debates on this very bill, and seized that very occasion to attack Burke's opinions in his absence. Burke replied with great indignation, and said that nothing could so much resemble the national assembly as that house; for M. Cazales could never utter a single sentence without a roar. Here Michael Angelo Taylor again called Burke to order, declaring that this was a debate on the Quebec Bill, and not on the English or French constitution. Burke again attempted to speak, but was again called to order by Mr. St. John, amid wilder cries of "Question! " and "Chair!" Burke complained of the injustice of hearing arguments against him, and not allowing him a reply; but lord Sheffield moved that dissertations or transactions in France are not regular or orderly on the question before the house. Pitt observed that though he himself had abstained from all allusions to the constitution of France, he could not consider it out of order, when a constitution for Canada was in discussion, to take into notice the constitution of France, America, or England; but Fox, in a long speech, supported the motion of Lord Sheffield. He said this was rendered necessary by the irregular conduct of his right honourable friend, who had insisted on bringing before the house matters in no way connected with the bill under discussion. But this was most unfair in Fox, who had committed the original offence in this way, and had provoked this answer. Fox added, that this course of argument seemed to confirm the insinuation urged in a former debate, that he himself maintained republican opinions as applicable to the British constitution. No such arguments had ever been employed by him, nor were fairly deducible from any speech of his. On the French revolution, indeed, the opinions of himself and Mr. Burke were as wide as the poles asunder. In his opinion, the French revolution was one of the most glorious events in the history of mankind; but he meant to praise the revolution only, and not the present French constitution, which he thought required to be improved by experience, and accommodated to circumstances. At all events, the arbitrary system was done away with, and the new system had the good of the people for its object.

But what, Fox asked, had all this to do with the question before them? Were he to differ from his right honourable friend on points of history, on the constitution of Athens or of Rome, was it necessary to discuss those things in that house? Were he to praise the conduct of the elder Brutus, or to say that the expulsion of the Tarquins was a noble act, would it be fair to argue that he wished to establish a consular government in this country? If he repeated the eulogium of Cicero on the killing of Csesar, was it then to be inferred that he carried about with him a knife for the purpose of assassinating some great man or orator? He said that, when a proper time arrived for the discussion of French subjects, he should be ready to discuss the point; but that, if Mr. Burke were to make dissertations on the French revolution out of all order, he should quit the house. He then sneered at Burke's work on that subject; but afterwards, as if recollecting himself, he paid his old friend high compliments, calling him his master, who had taught him everything that he knew in politics. But he immediately after compared Burke's conduct on the American revolution with his conduct on the French. He said he and his right honourable friend had rejoiced together over the successes of Washington, and had sympathised, almost in tears, on the fall of Montgomery. At that time he had learned from his right honourable friend that the revolt of a whole nation must have a deep provocation; and, at that time, he had heard him say that we could not draw a bill of indictment against a whole people; but now he was sorry to find that he had drawn such a bill of indictment, and had crowded it with all the technical epithets which disgraced our statute-books, as false, malicious, wicked, by the instigation of the devil, &c. For himself, he continued to rejoice that France had founded her constitution on the very principles on which the British constitution was founded; and that no book which his right honourable friend could write, no word which he could utter, would ever induce him to abandon his opinion.

Burke, however much he might be agitated, rose, in a grave and outwardly calm manner, to reply. Though, he observed, he had been called so frequently to order, he had listened without interruption to, perhaps, the most disorderly speech ever delivered in that house. His public conduct, words, and writings, had not only been misrepresented and arraigned in the severest terms, but confidential conversations had been unfairly brought forward for the purpose of proving his political inconsistency. Such was the kindness which he received from one whom he always considered as his warmest friend, but who, after more than two-and-twenty years' intimacy, had thus attacked him, and, whilst attacking him, had professed great tenderness towards him. He could not find much tenderness in the fact of being charged with having written and spoken without information, and without the support of evidence. On the subject of the French revolution, however, he was ready to meet that right honourable gentleman, however uninformed he might be supposed to be, hand to hand and foot to foot, in a temperate discussion, though he could not produce all his proofs; for, in the present boasted condition of happy France, he might expose the relators to the fashionable summary justice of the lanterne. But this, it seemed, was not the whole ground of quarrel. He was accused of attempting to misrepresent what Mr. Fox had advanced on a former day, during his own absence. Now, the fact was that Mr. Fox had called on him, and he had stated to him fully and fairly what he meant to say in that house, and this was previous to the last debate on the Quebec bill. The right honourable gentleman had at the time disagreed with him in opinion, but had entered into no quarrel with him. So far from this, they had walked down to the house together, and Mr. Fox had appeared more confidential than usual, mentioning private political circumstances, to which he should not then allude; but he had, after that conversation, felt it absolutely necessary to speak out on this subject. He felt this to be more imperative, because that right honourable gentleman was, on all occasions, extolling the French constitution as " the most glorious edifice of liberty which had ever yet been erected on the foundation of human integrity." He wished to warn the house and country of the danger to this kingdom from that quarter.

Were there not, he asked, political clubs in every quarter, meeting and voting resolutions of an alarming tendency? Did they not correspond with each other in every part of the kingdom, and also with foreign countries? Were there not unitarian, socinian, and other dissenting ministers, preaching from their pulpits doctrines incompatible with the British constitution? Did they not celebrate the anniversaries of the most outrageous French transactions? - deeds that, so far from tending to liberty, tended inevitably to tyranny, oppression, injustice, and anarchy? Did they not circulate, at the same time, everywhere the most infamous libels on our own constitution?

Whilst Burke was saying this, Fox rose and quitted the house. It was merely to get some refreshment; but it was imagined that he was carrying out his threat of quitting the place whenever Burke spoke on this subject, and thirty of his party moved as if about to follow him. Burke then remarked that the right honourable gentleman had been supported by a corps of well-disciplined troops, obedient to the word of command; and that he had, when he himself was fatigued with the skirmishes of order, brought down not only these light troops, but the heavy artillery of his own judgment, eloquence, and abilities, to crush him by a censure upon his whole life, conduct, and opinions. Mr. Grey called him to order, as such imputations were irregular; but Burke refused to apologise, and proceeded. He then reviewed the many scenes and debates in which Fox and himself had acted, as well as those on which they had differed, especially their difference of opinion on the Royal Marriage Act; but no difference of opinion had ever before affected their friendship. He alluded to his own long services and his grey hairs, and said that it was certainly an indiscretion, at his time of life, to provoke enemies, or induce his friends to desert him; but that, if his firm and steady adherence to the British constitution placed him in that dilemma, he would risk all, and, as public duty required, with his last breath exclaim, " Fly from the French constitution!"

Here Fox, who had returned from the coffee-room, whispered that there was no loss of friends; that there could be no loss of friendship between them; but Burke said - " Yes, there was a loss of friends: he knew the penalty of his conduct; he had done his duty at the price of his friends - there was an end of their friendship." He then addressed himself to the two great leaders of the house- - Pitt and Fox - and entreated them that, however much they might differ on other subjects, to unite in defending the constitution, and guarding it against these new theories. He then, carried away by his enthusiasm, made a grand apostrophe to the Deity, declaring that to his infinite perfection alone must be left the full knowledge of new things; for us there could be no guide so safe as experience, and he moved an amendment, in conclusion, on lord Sheffield's motion.

It was some time before Fox could answer; he was completely overcome by his emotion; and it was only after a free flow of tears that he could proceed. He then said: Painful as it was to listen to such sentiments as those just delivered by one to whom he owed so many obligations, he could never forget that, when little more than a boy, he had been in the habit of receiving instructions and favours from his right honourable friend. Their friendship had grown with their life; it had continued for upwards of five- and-twenty years; and he hoped, notwithstanding what had happened that day, that his right honourable friend would think on past times, and would give him credit for not intending anything unkind. It was quite true that they had before now differed on many subjects, without lessening their friendship, and why should they not now differ on the French revolution without a severance of friendship? He could not help feeling that the conduct of his right honourable friend tended to fix upon him the charge of republican principles, whereas he was far from entertaining such principles. His friend had heaped very ignominious terms upon him that day. Here Burke said aloud, he did not recollect having used such terms; and Fox promptly observed, that if his friend did not recollect those epithets - if they are out of his mind, then they were for ever out of his mind, too; they were obliterated and forgotten. He then denied that there was any marshalling of a party on this subject; that not one gentleman who had risen to call his right honourable friend to order had done it by his desire; on the contrary, he had entreated his friends not to interrupt him. After dwelling for some time again on the merits of the French revolution, he once more lamented the breach in their unanimity of his friend and himself, and said he would keep out of the way of his right honourable friend till he had time to reflect and think differently, and that their common friends might bring them together again; that he would endeavour to discuss the question on some future day, with all calmness, if his friend wished, but for the present he had said all that he desired to say.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 2

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