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My dear Bladno," said I, one day, after it had been settled that we should all three go down to Brighton for two months; "I am very sorry to say that my father has written to me insisting that I should start to-morrow for the Continent!"
Why, what's the fun of this?" said Bladno, whose every thought turned upon me, and Betsey, and Brighton-and who spat after speaking of a Frenchman.
"Why," said I, "my father writes very peremptorily; he says that as the elections begin so soon, and there is no chance of my getting into the next Parliament, I must begin my travels immediately, so as to return in time to look out for another opportunity."
"A seat in Parliament! what, do you want a seat in Parliament ?" "Not I, at least not now; upon the whole I'd rather travel, only it did annoy me to miss a party we had arranged so pleasantly." "What if I were to give you a seat ?" said my friend, smiling half suspiciously.
"You, Bladno! you are the last man in the world I'd accept a favour from a favour from a friend! no no! After all, too, it is perhaps as well for me to travel."
"Nonsense, come to Brighton, and by God I'll return you to Parliament; d-n me, if I don't."
"But my politics
"Oh, never mind politics; we shall agree, I dare say.”
Thus I went to Brighton instead of to Dover, and was very shortly afterwards M. P. for the borough of
"I am here," said I, at last, as I looked round the long desiderated benches, on one of which, after anxious inquiry as to which was the least compromising, I prepared to seat myself: "I am here,—now let me hear, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. Let me catch the tone-initiate myself into the mystery and the taste-of yonder important personages, by whose fiat my fate is to be decided; and above all, let me carefully weigh the power of the contending parties, and since I have no pledges or principles to embarrass me, trust the full instinct of my nature in discovering the side which is likely to be the strongest. I was very soon convinced that the Whigs, honest and liberal, yet prudent and aristocratic men-politicians who professed to rule without corrupt influence, and who were not disposed to pander to courtly favour, were the least likely to obtain office, and the most certain of speedily losing-if they did obtain it.
The extreme Radicals might succeed in a revolution, but that was a desperate and distant chance; and then one could hardly be such a fool as to side with those wicked and dangerous persons, one's natural enemies as it were, who professed to cut away pensions and curtail places; in short, to take the bread out of one's mouth. Still there were many shades in Toryism: this was a serious matter to consider about.
A letter, however, from my father, and some grave cogitations of my own, convinced me that no person can commence his career too illiberally.
My maiden speech, therefore, was an anti-Catholic one: it was ready, confident, and well delivered; but its peculiar merit was its
moderation-the earnest desire it showed to liberate my Catholic brethren, and the difficulty I felt in reconciling myself to those State reasons, which, however, I was convinced, under present circumstances, ought to predominate. The success was decided; for the Minister congratulated me, and a rival collegian whispered in my ear that I owed all my advantages to my voice.
My next effort was against the education of the people—there I could not be wrong. If those fellows knew what we were about, a pretty kick-up there 'd be. "Why, Sir, such knowledge cannot exist compatibly with the peace of the country-the Church, the Aristocracy, would be in peril." This was a lucky hit, and the following morning I was asked whether I'd accept the agency of a Colony? I had now a very fair place of 6007. a year, and little or nothing to do with it. As to the Colony for which I was concerned, I knew no more of it than of the "flying island." But laying down a good broad principle, I declared every petitioner against grievances, as well as every advocate for change, a seditious and untractable person, and assumed as a fact that the government of Sir Matthew was, both in its fiscal and legislative enactments, the most perfect that prudence, that wisdom, that integrity could suggest. I should have been, however, a very sorry wretch if I had remained satisfied with so paltry an appointment. A place in the India Board was vacant, and to that I lifted the soaring eye of my ambition. But Parliament was on the eve of dissolution-I had offended Lord Bladno, who, for the last three years, had been continually murmuring against my change and my ingratitude.
It is true I had neglected him, but not my constituents: they consisted of a mayor and twelve resident burgesses, over whom his Lordship had an influence, partly arising from property, partly from the long habit of a family connexion. This influence had been formerly sustained by a number of non-resident voters, gentlemen in the county, &c. who could overpower the grocers, linendrapers, and lawyers, if they happened to be obstreperous. These persons, however, had died off. Among the twelve resident burgesses then there was a parson, who had been gained by my speech on the Catholic Question; a butcher also, with twelve sons, one of whom I had got into the Custom-house, as a token of the preferment awaiting the eleven others. The attorney's wife called me a sweet man; for I had promised her an introduction into the best society, whenever she came to London; and the heart of the Mayor, a caustic old timber-merchant, was gained by a jar of Lord -'s best snuff.
At the day of election (fixed and arranged as usual), Lord Bladno's candidates were proposed-and no opposition of course expectedwhen the butcher, who by dint of lecturing his numerous family had acquired no contemptible share of eloquence, proposed, in a set speech, that the two former members (one of whom was still Lord Bladno's), should be again returned; six hands to four were raised in favour of this proposition-two of the burgesses, (tenants, and in arrears of rent,) were accidentally absent.
The question was then put in due form-and the Hon. G. Spitfire, and Benj. Supple, Esq. declared duly elected. This pleasing intelligence was conveyed to me at the house of a friend in the neighbour
hood. Always careful to preserve appearances, I wrote immediately, as it had been agreed upon, to my friend the Mayor, stating the pain it gave me to have supplanted my friend Lord Bladno's candidate, in whose favour I would most willingly retire. My answer, declaring I might retire if I pleased, but that the Corporation were determined in that case to name Squire Sober (Bladno's particular aversion), together with a copy of the letter I had written, were forwarded to Bladno House, with a note expressing my deep regret at what had occurred, of which I certainly should not avail myself, but for the conviction that my nomination would be more agreeable than Mr. Sober's.
To have beaten a Whig Lord in his own borough was no trifling triumph with my political friends; and shortly afterwards having, "from the force of necessity," changed my opinions on the Catholic Questions, in compliment to Mr. Canning, I received, as an exchange of compli ments, the situation I had been desiring.
I now continued, in the receipt of 1500l. a year, during a variety of changes, to fill my situation in Parliament with honour to myself and advantage to my country. Mr. Canning, Lord Goderich, the Duke of Wellington, were all very able men, and it was a great pleasure to me (considering, if I had done otherwise, my office must have been relinquished) to support them. Thus it was until the 1st of May, 1830. The Rev. Dr. Supple on that day breathed his last, and left me, his sole surviving and disconsolate son, 30,000l. (how my dear parent got such a sum I can hardly say) in hard money. His widow, my mother, he recommended to my filial care, and I immediately settled a pension of 807. a year upon her, which was very handsome, since I found her out a boarding-house (in a damp and marshy country to be sure-but then she's not subject to the ague), where she could have fire and candles included, for 407.
My large capital now opened to me the most inspiring hopes. "If," said I, "I could purchase the whole property of the borough of ——, and thus have lawyer, butcher, and timber-merchant in my sure dependance-then the other member named by me-with my talents, I should be a person of no inconsiderable consequence." Bladno, who was heartily sick of the whole concern, and had just quarrelled with his cousin, Capt. Spitfire, for certain familiarities with Miss Betsey, was quite willing to come to terms, and, by dint of much artifice and cunning, for a few of the fools hardly liked to sell what they called their independence-I bought up, with my 30,000l. the whole borough, and what was more, let out my first seat for 1500l. per annum. Two seats in Parliament-30007. a year, and great expectations, I flattered myself that I was in the fair way of founding the family of the Supples.
It would be difficult to paint the ecstacy that danced in my heart when the news arrived of the French Revolution; I fondly gloated over the horrors that would take place there-the guillotine, (splendid contrivance) in the Place de Grêve!-and then the fears that would paralyze John Bull-the dread of Robespierre and Danton-perhaps a second twenty years' war, and another Mr. Pitt! Besides I had all the immortal Burke by heart-what splendid material for firstrate speeches! In short every thing was exactly what I wished it; and I amused myself in preparing, against the opening of Parliament,
such discourses as would be wanted in favour of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, and the recurrence to the worthy Lord Castlereagh's memorable "Acts."
The first thing that astounded, and indeed showed me the frightful and insane state of the country, was the division on the Civil List. I called, however, the next morning on Palmerston and the Grants, and quarrelled with C, who, notwithstanding, is a capital fellow, just after my own heart, for asking me to write a song in "John Bull" against the new Administration. However it would not do-those Whigs, for once, were not to be humbugged, and my 1500l. a year was obliged to be surrendered. Still there was hope-that Reform Question was a trap which could hardly fail to catch them. Too great a measure would lose them the House-too small a one would kick them out of the favour of the public. I consoled myself, practised attitudes before my glass, and resolved to crush the d- -d fellows on the first opportunity.
But who can imagine my horror, my ineffable horror and disgust, when on that awful night, never to be forgotten, little Lord John lisped away my 30,000l. and the Borough of without any more regard for me, or for Burke, or the vested rights of our ancient Constitution, than a Brobdignagian would have had in stamping on a Lilliputian. Thank God, H. Twiss gave it him well; and we all of us laughed heartily, though rather on the wrong side of our mouths.
Then came that division; and a majority of one. That our constitution that my thirty thousand pounds-that the whole fortune of the Supples should have depended on one miserable individual ! And now hardly had General G given me hopes, when followed the dreadful dissolution! Well might our dear Duke say, "Who is silly Billy now?" as the guns fired! I confess honestly that I should have despaired, but the vices of the age and our noble subscription (by-the-by, what became of that subscription?)-reassured me. Those pledges on the hustings, however, played the devil with us. I pass over the frightful divisions which succeeded one after the other in so Republican a House of Commons. At last we got the execrable Bill among our excellent friends the Bishops. -Alas! their pious patriotism will have been exerted in vain! But here's a burning, there's a riot-we may be saved yet. Do, my good friends, be frightened; all these things are caused by that wicked, impious Reform Bill; they are really-so is the cholera! "Hiatus valde deflendus."
Sunday morning, December 18th.-The division, death and destruction! the division two to one against us. The poor dear-dear constitution! My 30,000%.! Is there but one step from the Capitol to the Tarpeian Rock-from a Borough-monger to a beggar! My Lords, I again appeal to you!-be once more firm and resolute! VirtueMorality-Public Happiness-and the Borough of Schedule A!
are all in
A LETTER TO THE EDITORS OF THE NEW MONTHLY
RELATIVE TO MR. CANNING'S FOREIGN POLICY.
'Stapleton's Political Life of Canning."-" Foreign Policy of England."-
GENTLEMEN:-Although, in the observations which I am about to address to you on the subject of Mr. Canning's Foreign Policy, I may make some remarks at variance with your own political principles, yet such is my opinion of your readiness to serve the cause of truth, that I confidently hope you will insert this letter, and thereby give your readers an opportunity of judging on a somewhat important question respecting the Foreign Policy of this country, which has been discussed at great length in the pages of one of your contemporaries.*
The point at issue relates to the character of that policy, when respectively under the guidance of Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning. Mr. Stapleton, the private secretary of the latter, (who has lately published the "Political Life of Mr. Canning,") maintains that a fundamental difference existed between the principles of these two statesmen. The Reviewer argues that there was nearly an exact similarity between them.
Mr. Stapleton's work treats chiefly of the last five years of Mr. Canning's existence, during which he enjoyed a greater share of political power than at any other period of his life. The work is founded on copies of official documents, left at Mr. Canning's decease in the hands of his widow and executrix, who placed them in Mr. Stapleton's hands for the purpose of his work.
At the time when this work was commenced, it was the fashion to deny that Mr. Canning had any system of policy—that is, "a scheme of policy regulated by fixed principles of action, and operating to produce definite and foreseen results;" and it was also repeatedly asserted, that his measures, far from being parts of one comprehensive whole, were determined solely by the peculiar circumstances of each particular case. It was further maintained by those men of little minds, whose narrow grasp of intellect rendered them unable to take an enlarged view of any subject, that it is the part of a wise statesman to decide every question, as it may arise, without reference to any general principle. To expose the fallacy of such reasoning, by explaining Mr. Canning's system, is evidently one of the main objects of Mr. Stapleton's work; and it seems difficult to conceive how this object could have been honestly and effectually accomplished without touching upon the measures of Mr. Canning's immediate predecessor, Lord Castlereagh. It appears, however, that, in the Reviewer's opinion, Mr. Stapleton ought to have concealed his real sentiments with respect to Lord Castlereagh, since his "taste "I is called in question for speaking somewhat disparagingly of that Minister's proceedings. What a notion does this convey to us of the principles of some statesmen! As if the truths of history were the proper concern of a master of the ceremonies!
The substance of the work is, however, stated almost correctly in the Review; and since the summary has likewise the merit of brevity, the words may be quoted :
"It is said that England, during Lord Castlereagh's administration, was a party assisting, if not contracting, to a league of sovereigns for the suppression of liberal and popular institutions, under the name of the Holy Alliance that Mr. Canning, when Secretary for Foreign Affairs, disconnected England from this alliance, and gave her powerful support to the cause of liberty in Europe; that the Duke of Wellington and Lord Aberdeen returned to the illiberal policy of Lord Castlereagh."§
To make this statement in perfect conformity with Mr. Stapleton's book, it is only necessary to alter the words printed in italics as follows: and aided the
Foreign Quarterly Review, No. XVI. pages 391 and following.
+ Stapleton, Vol. I. page 474.
Foreign Quarterly Review, page 401.