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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 3


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Burke replied, observing that the tenderness of the opening and conclusion of Mr. Fox's speech was quite neutralised by the bitterness in the middle. He regretted deeply the events of that evening, which he feared would long be remembered by their enemies, to the prejudice of both; but he had been misrepresented, and not allowed to explain. He was charged with inconsistency because he had thought in 1780 the influence of the British crown should be limited, as if that was any reason that he should admire the French for reducing the influence of their crown to nothing at all. He had been desired to believe in the religious tolerance of the French at the moment that they had imposed the most intolerant tests on the clergy, and had literally deprived them of bread. Was it tolerance to drag sisters of charity, accustomed to discharge the highest offices of humanity in hospitals and by sick beds, into the streets and scourge them, because the priest from whom they received the sacrament had refused the test? The new constitution was not, as they would represent it, an experiment; it had been tried, and found productive only of evils. The French would go on from tyranny to tyranny, from oppression to oppression, until at last the whole system would terminate in the destruction of that miserable and deluded people.

Pitt concluded the debate by reminding the house of the extraordinary position in which it was placed. One right honourable gentleman, he said, had affirmed that it was irregular to treat of the affairs of France, and yet had gone at great length into discussion upon them; and two other speeches had followed on the same subject. He himself had all along been of opinion that Mr. Burke was quite in order, and that the country was highly indebted to him for having so ably and eloquently demonstrated the danger to be apprehended from French notions of government. He should be ready to support Mr. Burke on any occasion when this danger appeared operative in this country; and, for the present, he recommended that lord Sheffield's motion should be withdrawn, which was done.

On the 11th of May, when the house was again in committee on the Quebec bill, Fox took the opportunity, on the consideration of the clause relating to a council, to explain that his remarks on an aristocracy in a former debate had been misunderstood; that he considered it a principle never to be departed from in all our dominions; that it was necessary that the government should have a proper infusion of aristocracy to give it energy, spirit, and enterprise. He said much in praise of titles; and, in fact, it would appear that he had incurred such resentment from the aristocratic class, that he now went as far in that way as he had before in laudation of republicanism. He endeavoured to keep up a show of consistency by saying that he was so far a republican as to approve of governments where the respublica was the universal principle, and the people, as in our constitution, had considerable weight; but he advocated in Canada that the council should be all nominated by the king, or all hereditary. Surely a more unstatesmanlike proposition was never made. To give the king the nomination of the council, which was to be superior to the assembly, was to put all real power virtually in the crown; to make the members hereditary was to insure the worst abuses to which any government can be exposed. In no case did Fox ever appear to greater disadvantage, and Pitt sarcastically remarked that he was glad to hear this explanation, for certainly neither he nor any one had understood him in that sense on the evening of the 6th.

Burke rose to defend the clause, but quickly, like Fox, slid into the old topic of the French revolution. He said his opinions on this question had left him standing alone. He was banished from his old party, and too aged to seek another. He said that he felt deeply his situation; but he trusted the house would not consider him a bad man, and then, what he felt as a man, he would bear as a man. He trusted that what opposition he should meet with during the very short time he should continue a member of that house would be fair and open. His right honourable friend had abused his book, and charged him with abusing republics; but he had never abused republics as such, either ancient or modern. As to the government of France, it was no republic - it was an anomaly; he knew not by what name to call it, or by what words to describe it: -

"A shape,
If shape it might be called, that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be called, that shadow seemed,
For each seemed either; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,
And shook a dreadful dart: what seemed its head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on."

It was, he added, " a shapeless monster, born of hell and chaos." He expressed deep feeling at the application to him of the phrase, that " he knew not how to draw a bill of indictment against a whole people; " he knew not, indeed, how to draw any such bill; but he knew how to draw one against oppression, tyranny, and corruption. Having done his duty, he was not without consolation, though banished from his party. Though a gloomy solitude might reign around him, all was unclouded sunshine within.

Fox replied, that if Mr. Burke was separated from his party, it was his own act; and that the party would always be glad to receive him again. As to the democratic sentiments which Mr. Burke attributed to him, that did not belong to him, but that he regarded continual and extravagant praises of the British constitution as the fulsome panegyrics of Gonerel and Regan, and preferred to answer simply when questioned regarding the constitution with the younger daughter of Lear, that he loved it as he ought. After a few more observations from Mr. Burke and others, the subject dropped; and at the next meeting, the following day, the bill passed the committee. In the house of lords the bill also passed on the 30th, with some alterations. Still these alterations did not destroy the chief principles of the bill. Canada was divided into two provinces, the executive power remaining in the governor of both, appointed by the crown. There were two chambers of legislature - the upper called the council, to consist of not fewer than seven members in Upper Canada, and not fewer than fifteen in Lower Canada. These members were to be men of distinction or rank, and appointed for life. His majesty was empowered to give a right to a seat in the councils to persons of hereditary title. Thus these councils were made as much like the house of lords in England as the nature of the colony would admit. The lower assembly was to consist in the upper province of not fewer than sixteen members, and in the lower province of twice that number. They were all elective, and the qualification of voters was low. As population increased, the number of members in both provinces were to be increased. The council and assembly were to be called together at least once a-year. The most objectionable provision was, that in all future grants of land, one-seventh should be set apart for the protestant clergy. As a great majority of the population were catholics, this was certain to produce discontent; and both this and other parts of this act, in our time, have required extensive modifications.

With this debate terminated the friendship of Fox and Burke. Fox disclaimed any premeditated attack on Burke, but the severe things which he himself had said of his old friend, the contempt which he expressed for Burke's " Reflections on the French Revolution," and the private conversations which he invariably dragged into these public debates, give us less confidence in this assertion; whilst the co-operation of his party with him bore all the marks of a systematic assault. On the one side stood Fox, expressing much feeling and regret, but uttering the most cutting things, taunting Burke with his age and his enthusiastic temperament, and backed by a most violent and insulting crew; on the other side stood Burke, deserted by those, and they were numerous, who thought entirely with him. The whole force of our sympathy must, therefore, attach to the aged and great orator, and it is impossible not to stamp the proceeding of Fox as anything but generous. We are told that not a few expressed to Burke, in private, their agreement of opinion, and admiration of his conduct; but to make this expression of any value, it should have been open and bold. As it was, the great master who had taught the whole generation of politicians their principles, was left to stand alone in the conflict. He sustained his part nobly, and time was not long in fully justifying his accuracy of calculation, and his perfect prescience. All the results, however, which he declared inevitable were already rushing into open day, and the enamoured lovers of the French revolution were forced to hang their heads. In the meantime, the newspapers had poured on the head of Burke all their vials of abuse. On the very day on which the Quebec debates terminated, the Morning Chronicle, the great organ of the whigs, issued this paragraph: - "The great and firm body of the whigs of England, true to their principles, have decided on the dispute between Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke; and the former is declared to have maintained the pure doctrines by which they are bound together, and upon which they have invariably acted. The consequence is that Mr. Burke retires from parliament." They were not contented with this premature announcement; they charged him with pecuniary corruption and political apostasy, and described his life, one of honour and generosity, as a long series of basenesses. Nothing could be more unmanly and disgraceful than the behaviour of the majority of the whigs in this affair.

Whilst these violent dissensions had sprung up from the French revolution, Wilberforce and his coadjutors had been active in their exertions to abolish the slave trade. Thomas Clarkson, now devoted heart and soul to this object, was, with Dr. Dickson, sent out by the parent anti-slavery society through the country, to call into life provincial societies and committees, and found themselves zealously supported and warmly welcomed by philanthropists, and especially by the Society of Friends. They circulated the evidence taken before the house of commons' committee, and made a great impression. On the other hand, the French revolution proved as antagonistic to the cause of the abolitionists as it had to the friendship of Burke and Fox. The dreadful insurrection in St. Domingo was attributed to the formation of the society in Paris of Les Amis des Noirs, and many otherwise enlightened men took the alarm, lest similar scenes should be the result of the doctrines of the abolitionists in our West Indian colonies. Few persons could be found willing to entertain the idea of immediate abolition of the trade in slaves; and even Dr. Parr, though a great whig and adherent of Fox, declared that these Utopian schemes of liberty to blacks were alarming to serious men.

Wilberforce was earnestly entreated to reconsider his plan; he was assured that immediate abolition would not pass the commons, nor even gradual abolition the lords. Wilberforce, however, could not be deterred from bringing on the question. On the 18th of April, he moved for leave to bring in a bill to prevent the introduction of any more slaves into our colonies. Besides showing the cruelties practised in the collection and transmission of negroes, he brought forward evidence to prove that, so far from this trade being, as had been represented before the committee of the commons, the nursery of British seamen, it was their grave. He showed that of twelve thousand two hundred and sixty-three men employed in it, two thousand six hundred and forty-five had been lost in twelve months. This was calculated to produce far more effect than the destruction of hundreds of thousands of negroes, inasmuch as profit and loss is a more telling argument with a commercial public than mere humanity. Wilberforce added, that even had the facts been different, had this trade really been a beneficial one as regarded mere political economy, there was a smell of blood about it that all the perfumes of Arabia could not disguise. He was ably supported by Fox and Pitt; but, on this occasion, the prime minister could not command his large majority; the motion was lost by one hundred and sixty-three against eighty-eight.

During the session, however, a bill was passed sanctioning the establishment of a company which had been formed several years before, for trading to the new settlement of Sierra Leone, on the coast of Africa. In 1787 this settlement was begun by philanthropists, to show that colonial productions could be obtained without the labour of slaves, and to introduce civilisation into that continent through the means of commerce carried on by educated blacks. In that year four hundred and seventy negroes, then living in a state of destitution in London, were removed to it. In 1790 their number was increased by one thousand one hundred and ninety-eight other negroes from Nova Scotia, who could not flourish in so severe a climate. Since then many similar additions have been made to its black population. Ten years after the introduction of the blacks from Nova Scotia, five hundred and fifty Maroons were brought from Jamaica, and in 1819 a black regiment, disbanded in the West Indies, was added. The capability of the production of cotton, coffee, sugar, &c., in this settlement was fully demonstrated; but no spot could have been selected more fatal to the health of Europeans. It is a region of deep-sunk rivers and morasses, which, in that sultry climate, are pregnant with death to the white man.

During this session, also, an important bill was passed for the relief of Roman catholics. The bill was introduced by Mr. Mitford and seconded by Mr. Wyndham. Mr. Mitford showed that the enactments still in force against them occupied, by mere recital of their penalties, seventy pages of " Burn's Ecclesiastical Law." Priests were still guilty of high treason and liable to death for endeavouring to convert people to the tenets they deemed essential to salvation; and the laity were liable to heavy penalties for not going to church, and for hearing mass at their own chapels. The bill was supported by Pitt and Fox, and by lord Rawdon, and by the archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Moore), and by Dr. Horsley, bishop of St. David's. It passed. By this act all the severe restrictions and penalties were removed from those Roman catholics who would comply with its requisitions, to appear at one of the courts of Westminster, or at a quarter sessions, and make and subscribe a declaration that they professed the Roman catholic religion, and also an oath exactly similar to that required by the statute of 1778. On this declaration and oath being duly made, they were enabled to profess and perform the offices of their religion, to keep schools, to exercise parochial or other offices in person or by deputy, and the ministers of that religion were exempt from serving on juries and from parochial offices. Their congregations were protected from disturbance; but their priests were restrained from officiating in places consecrated to the burial of protestants, and from wearing their habits, except in their own places of worship. They were also restrained from establishing religious orders; and the endowment of schools and colleges was still to be deemed unlawful. No person could in future be summoned to take the oath of supremacy and the declaration against substantiation; nor were Roman catholics who had qualified removable from London and Westminster, or punishable for coming into the presence or palace of the king or queen. They were no longer obliged to register their names and estates, or enrol their deeds and wills; and every Roman catholic who had duly qualified might act as barrister, attorney, or notary.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 3

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