« ForrigeFortsæt »
they should have control over those who were elected to assist them? .... It did appear to him that the system of public education should be closely connected with the church of England as established by law. He stated this after mature consideration, and he was anxious to make the statement, becanse on a former occasion he did not go quite so far as he now did. He had then abstained from going so far, because he dreaded the opposition of the sectaries.'
In another passage of this curious speech he alludes to the high salaries of masters of grammar-schools upon ancient foundations, which he would not, if he had the power, by any means reduce, although contrasting so strangely with the bare existence allotted by his bill to the new schoolmasters. The disparity, he said, 'would be an advantage analogous to that which existed in the church. Many persons objected that in the church one individual should have £20,000 a year, while another laboured for £50 a year; but the good must be weighed with the bad, and this good would be found in the disparity of income, that by how much £20,000 was superior to £50, was the character improved and the class raised of the person who had £50, but who had a prospect of obtaining £20,000.'
We offer no opinion upon the wisdom or justice of the scheme of education proposed by Mr Brougham's measure, and illustrated by his speech. Many, very many sincere, estimable persons, we are quite aware, are of opinion that to the church, and to the church alone, as by law established, should the education of the people be confided. Many others, equally estimable and sincere, may, for aught we know, agree with Mr Brougham, that a splendidly-endowed hierarchy, in contrast with a wretchedly underpaid working clergy, is advantageous, and promotes the efficiency of humble, earnest, self-sacrificing pastors : that, in fact, according to the quotation from Burke, with which Mr Brougham enforced his proposition, the church raises her mitred head in palaces,' not to gratify and enrich the wearer of the mitre, the dweller in the palace—by no means; quite the reverse indeed—and solely for the sake of the poor curate vegetating upon £50 a year. We offer in this place, we repeat, no opinion upon the abstract truth, wisdom, and beauty of these dicta, but we do confidently affirm that they do not at all harmonise with the general idea entertained of Mr Brougham in his palmy and triumphant days; and for this amongst other reasons we think that he was from the first in a great degree misunderstood, and that his loss of popularity has been brought about, not so much because he has retrograded in liberality of sentiment, as because his former admirers have discovered their partial mistake.
There was ample excuse for the general error. In the year 1821 Mr John Ambrose Williams, the proprietor of the 'Durham Chronicle,' published an article in that paper upon the refusal of the Durham clergy to allow the church - bells to be tolled on occasion of the death of the murdered' queen, as she was frequently designated, which so offended those gentlemen that they caused a criminal information to be filed against Mr Williams for libel; and in 1822 the case came before a jury at Durham, Mr Scarlett, attorney-general for the palatinate, appearing for the prosecution. Mr Brougham was retained for the defence; and in a speech overflowing with the bitterest irony, regaled the public with quite another dissertation upon the advantages of a magnificently - endowed church
hierarchy from that which he had delivered in the House of Commons. The following passage cannot perhaps be equalled, certainly it cannot be surpassed, as à specimen of mocking persiflage :- His majesty,' said Mr Brougham, almost at the time I am now speaking, is about to make a progress through the northern provinces of this island, accompanied by certain of his chosen counsellors—a portion of men who enjoy unenvied, and in an equal degree, the admiration of other countries and the wonder of their own. In Scotland the prince will find much loyalty, great learning, and some splendour—the remains of a great monarchy and the institutions which made it flourish; but, strange as it may seem, and to many who hear me incredible, from one end of the country to the other there is no such a thing as a bishop-not such a thing to be found from the Tweed to John o'Groat's House; not a mitre, no; nor so much as a minor canon, or even a rural dean, so entirely rude and barbarous are they in Scotland. In such utter darkness do they sit that they support no cathedral, maintain no pluralists, suffer no non-residence; nay, the poor, benighted creatures are ignorant even of tithes! Not a sheep nor a lamb, nor a pig nor the value of a plough-penny, do the hapless mortals render from year's end to year's end. Piteous as their lot is, what makes it infinitely more touching is to witness the return of good for evil in the demeanour of this wretched race. Under all this cruel neglect of their spiritual concerns they are actually the most loyal, contented, moral, and religious people anywhere perhaps to be found in the world. Let us hope (many indeed there are not far off who will with unfeigned devotion pray) that his majesty may return safe from his excursion to such a countryan excursion most perilous to a certain portion of the church should the royal mind be infected with a taste for cheap establishments, a working clergy, and a pious congregation.'
And when did irreverence indulge in more bitter jibing than the eulogist of the state establishment permitted himself in the following sentences ?* If there is any part of England in which an ample licence ought to more especially be admitted in discussing such matters, I say without hesitation it is in this very bishopric where, in the nineteenth century, you live under a palatine prince-the Lord of Durham; where the endowment of the hierarchy, I may not call it enormous, but I trust I shall be permitted without offence to term it splendid; where the establishment, I dare not whisper proves grinding to the people, but I will rather say is an incalculable, inscrutable blessing, only it is prodigiously large; showered down in a profusion somewhat overpowering, and laying the inhabitants under a load of obligation overwhelming by its weight.'
This irritating sarcasm could not have been necessary for the defence of Mr Brougham's client. It would rather insure a conviction from a Durham special jury, and a heavy sentence, if the judge had been as hotly zealous for the establishment as the counsel for the defendant shewed himself in his speech on the abortive Education Bill. In fact, John Ambrose Williams was found guilty, but owing to a technical defect in the proceedings he was never called up to receive judgment. We do not quote these widely - opposite speeches with any view to raise the cuckoocry of inconsistency against Mr Brougham. All wise men are necessarily inconsistent men—always with the exception of these highly- favoured persons who have enjoyed the inestimable privilege of being born wise. Congenital wisdom and experience are, few will deny, rare gifts, deficiency in which may indeed be a misfortune, but can scarcely be deemed a crime; we therefore merely reproduce the passages we have transcribed, as examples of the rhetorical exaggeration which has induced so many persons to doubt the honesty and purity of Lord Brougham's motives. The pendulum's centre of gravity is the mean of its oscillations; and we have no doubt that both when dilating upon the great blessing, in a national sense, of a splendidly-endowed hierarchy and an indigent, working ministry, and triumphantly contrasting the assumed apostolical simplicity of the Scottish kirk with the gorgeous English state establishment, Mr Brougham was truly and sincerely the friend of a modestly yet amply-endowed church; and in contending for a monopoly of education being secured to the orthodox clergy, intended merely that liberty of education should only be so far trammelled as to insure that infidelity or atheism should not be promulgated at the expense of a Christian community. But men of the world, busy in their vocations, have no time to reconcile such apparent contradictions, and hence have rashly concluded that Lord Brougham has been chiefly anxious to shew how admirably, and with what force and verve, he can argue either side of a question, however complicated, difficult, or abstruse it may be. Hence want of confidence in the reality of his convictions, followed by coldness and distrust.
During the proceedings against Queen Caroline, Mr Canning, who had previously declared that he would be no party to the prosecution about to be instituted against a lady whom he had known as the life, grace, and ornament of society,' went over, on a well-paid special embassy, to Lisbon. What he effected, or for what public purpose he proceeded thither, is only known to persons having access to the archives of the Foreign Office. His appointment to this lucrative mission kept him at all events out of the turmoil of party-politics till the grave had closed over Mr Brougham's illustrious client. Subsequently Mr Canning was about to proceed to India as governor-general, when the death, by his own hand, of Lord Castlereagh opened the way to his re-entry of the cabinet as secretary of state for foreign affairs. Mr Canning had always been a strenuous advocate of Catholic emancipation, but it was now rumoured that he had taken office with a secret understanding to abandon the question in substance while he continued to sustain it in words.' This charge was, it is now well known from Lord Eldon's published correspondence, true of the right honourable gentleman when, in 1827, he obtained the premiership, but whether the same corrupt understanding existed when he entered the Liverpool cabinet as foreign secretary we have no positive means of judging. Mr Brougham at all events believed so; and in the course of his speech, on the 17th April 1823, in advocacy of the Catholic claims, accused Mr Canning of the most monstrous truckling for the purpose of obtaining office that the whole history of political tergiversation could present.' As these words passed the oratoris lips, Mr Canning started to his feet, and exclaimed in a clear, sonorous voice : 'I rise to say that this is false!' A dead silence of some duration ensued; then mutual friends interposed; the good offices and authority of Mr Speaker were
invoked and exercised; and, finally, the offensive words on both sides were declared to have been uttered in a parliamentary sense only, and were therefore without meaning or significance. The papers of the following day remarked approvingly upon the magnanimity displayed by the two gentlemen, who were seen, not long after the painful occurrence, to shake hands in the lobby of the House, with a resigned acquiescence in the peaceful termination of the quarrel quite touching.
In 1825 Mr Brougham was elected lord rector of the university of Glasgow, beating Sir Walter Scott by one vote—that of Sir James Mackintosh. The inaugural discourse was written, the author states, during the business of the northern circuit. There is nothing in it which might not have been so written by a much less gifted man than Mr Brougham. Its chief aim was to impress upon the students the infinite superiority of classical learning, as the erudition embalmed in the dead languages is termed, over all other as a means of disciplining the intellect and forming the taste of the scholar. This assumption, which time—the generally slow but infallible solver of ingenious fallacies—is now rapidly disposing of, is made to include the art of poetry. "The great things of poetry and eloquence,' says Mr Brougham, ' have been done by men who cultivated the mighty exemplars of Athenian genius with daily and with nightly devotion. This is nothing like the truth as regards English, Scottish, and American poetry and eloquence. Emerson forcibly remarks upon the absurdity of insisting that the mind of the country should be directed in its best years on studies which lead to nothing. Greek and Latin, it appears from him, went suddenly out of fashion with the shrewd students of America; and 'to the astonishment of all, the self-made men took even ground at once with the oldest of the regular graduates, and in a few months the most conservative circles of Boston and New York had quite forgotten who of their gownsmen was college - bred and who was not.' This is perhaps an overstatement of the objections to the dead-language idolism which has so long, for many easily-appreciable reasons, prevailed; but as regards 'poetry' there can be no question of the incorrectness of Mr Brougham's dictum. Indeed in another sentence of the inaugural discourse we have a hesitating admission of its fallacy. 'Among poets,' he says, 'there is hardly an exception to this rule, unless may be so deemed Shakspeare - an exception to all rules.' A very significant exception, it must be admitted ; and Burns ! how could a Scotsman forget the decisive exception which Burns presents to this pretended rule? Take from AngloSaxon poetry and eloquence all which has been written and uttered by men who knew 'little Latin and less Greek,' and you might in very truth cry "Ichabod, Ichabod—the glory is departed !' The discourse has the following vigorous passage, in the practical verity of which we should be happy to believe :— The great truth has finally gone forth to all the ends of the earth, that man shall no longer render an account to man for his belief, which he can no more control than he can the height of his stature or the colour of his hair.' Mr Brougham's assertion of the superiority of literary pursuits to all others—especially over those of ambitious, worldly men—might have produced more effect on the students if the practice of the moralist had been in harmony with his precepts. "To me,' exclaims the lord rector—' to me, calmly revolving these things, such pursuits
seem far more noble objects of ambition than any upon which the vulgar herd of busy men lavish prodigal their restless exertions.' This is a venerable saying, but its truth is not so incontestable as its age. With all deference to the eloquent orator, that pursuit is the most noble which is the most useful to humanity, not that which is most pleasant or selfhonouring; and it may not be doubted that in the busy walks of ambitious life there are means and opportunities of usefulness as manifold and great 'as can be found in studious leisure and retirement. Work, useful work, is always noble, of whatever kind it be, the sole difference being that the capability of useful literary exertion is confined to comparatively few persons; but the nobleness of the work is to be measured by the spirit and motive of the worker, not by the rarity of the power which is brought to the task. To shut one's self up in bookish seclusion from the world in order to gratify a love of study for its own sake is anything but noble, resulting as it clearly must from the hermit-spirit, than which nothing can be more entirely, thoroughly selfish; for is it not prompted by a desire to escape from the duties, anxieties, and cares of active life to the selfhugging quietude and safety of a solitary, unsympathising joy? Taken as a whole, the inaugural discourse must, we think, be pronounced inferior to orations by other lord rectors, and of course to what Mr Brougham, had he given himself more time; might unquestionably have himself produced.
The parliamentary life of Mr Brougham till 1830 was one of brilliant and useful exertion. Champion of Roman Catholic emancipation, friend of the slave, denouncer of the Holy Alliance, his fearless and mighty advocacy of freedom and the rights of conscience stirred and elated the national heart with remarkable power and effect. Who will forget that heard the following denunciation of the despotic league which had just put down liberty in the Italian and Iberian peningulas ?-and who can think without pain and mortification that the Henry Brougham who, on the 4th February 1823, so eloquently denounced and defied the oppressors of the continent, is the Lord Brougham who, a quarter of a century later, cheered on Austria and Russia to their evil work, praised the noble conduct of the Austrian captains,' and mocked the efforts of the rebellious clubs of Milan ?' 'It is not,' said Mr Brougham—it is not against freedom on the Ebro or freedom on the Mincio they make war: it is against freedom—against freedom wherever it is to be found—freedom by whomsoever enjoyed—freedom by whatever means achieved, by whatever institutions secured. Freedom is the object of their implacable hate. For its destruction they are ready to exhaust every resource of force and fraud. All the blessings which it bestows, all the establishments in which it is embodied, the monuments that are raised to it, and the miracles that are wrought by it, they hate with the malignity of demons, who tremble while they are compelled to adore, for they quiver by instinct at the sound of its
And let us not deceive ourselves: these despots can have but little liking towards this nation and its institutions ; more especially our parliament and press. As long as England remains unenslaved, as long as the parliament continues a free and open tribunal, to which the oppressed of all nations under the sun can appeal against their oppressors, however mighty and exalted, so long will England be the object of their hate, and of machinations sometimes carried on covertly, sometimes openly, but