Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Catholic Association made his fame coëxtensive with the empire. The result of his services has been recorded. To apply to himself what he so graphically said of Grattan, " The people of Ireland saw the pinnacles of the Establishment shattered by the lightning of his eloquence.” The Emancipation bill opened to him the doors of Parliament. He entered its hall in 1831, heralded by a reputation surpassing that with which most orators have been content to leave that field of their triumphs. It is the highest proof of the solidity of his reputation, that in this new arena he increased the brilliancy of his fame, being a marked exception to the rule, that orators who have become famous at the bar, or the hustings, or on the platform, have failed to meet the public expectation on encountering the severer tests of the House of Commons.

Several years ago I heard Mr. Shiel deliver a speech in Parliament, and I retain a vivid impression of his powers. He seemed the very embodiment of all that was gorgeous and beautiful in the arts of rhetoric and oratory. His sentences rushed forth with the velocity of a mountain torrent, while for an hour and a half he poured down upon the House a ceaseless shower of metaphor, simile, declamation, and appeal, lighted with the brilliant flashes of wit, and mingled with the glittering hail of sarcasm. He belongs not to the best school of oratory, but is master of that in which he was trained. There is no rant or fustian in his speeches, for they are eminently intellectual. Though polished in the extreme, they are pure ore, and sparkle with real gems. His ornaments are lavishly put on, but are never selected from the tinsel and mock diamond mine. His defect is, that he too much discards logic, and revels in rhetoric. In discussing even an appropriation bill, his figures are drawn less from the annual budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than from the perennial springs of Helicon. He aims to reach the heart, not through the reason, but the reason and the heart through the imagination. While his oratory lacks the logical power and majestic strength which bear aloft the poetic imagery and affluent illustration of Choate, it partakes largely of those embellishments that give brilliancy and grace to the eloquence of our distinguished countryman. He is no more like Brougham or Webster, than a dashing charge of Murat at the head of his cavalry is like a steady fire from a park of artillery.

As a specimen of his oratory, I subjoin an extract from one of his speeches. In 1837, Lord Lyndhurst declared, in the Upper House, that the Irish were “aliens in blood and religion.” Shortly after, Mr. Shiel thus repelled the charge in the Commons. Lord L. was a listener.

“Where was Arthur, Duke of Wellington, when those words were uttered ? Methinks he should have started up to disclaim them.

* The battles, sieges, fortunes that he passed'

ought to have come back upon him. He ought to have remembered that, from the earliest achievement in which he displayed that military genius which has placed him foremost in the annals of modern warfare, down to that last and surpassing combat which has made his name imperishable—from Assaye to Waterloo—the Irish soldiers, with whom your armies were filled, were the inseparable auxiliaries to the glory with which his unparalleled successes have been crowned. Whose were the athletic arms that drove your bayonets at Vimiera through the phalanxes that never reeled in the shock of war before ? What desperate valor climbed the steeps and filled the moats of Badajos? All, all his victories should have rushed and crowded back upon his memory: Vimiera, Badajos, Salamanca, Abuera, Toulouse—and, last of all, the great

Tell me, for you were there-I appeal to the gallant soldier before me, (pointing to Sir Henry Hardinge,) who bears, I know, a generous heart in an intrepid breast-tell me, for you must needs remember, on that day when the destinies of mankind were trembling in the balance; while death fell in showers upon them; when the artillery of France, leveled with the precision of the most deadly science, played upon them; when her legions, incited by the voice, inspired by the example of their mighty leader, rushed again and again to the contest; tell me if for an instant, when to hesitate for an instant was to be lost, the aliens' blanched ? And when, at length, the moment for the last decisive movement had arrived; when the valor, so long wisely checked, was at last let loose ; when, with words familiar but immortal, the great captain exclaimed, 'Up, lads, and at them !!—tell me if Catholic Ireland with less heroic valor than the natives of your own glorious isle precipitated herself upon the foe! The blood of England, Scotland, Ireland, flowed in the same stream, on the

est.

When the chill morning dawned, their dead lay cold and stark together. In the same deep pit their bodies were deposited. The green spring is now breaking on their commingled dust. The dew falls from heaven upon their union in the grave. Partakers in every peril, in the glory shall we not participate? And shall we be told, as a requital, , that we are estranged from the noble country for whose salvation our life-blood was poured out ?"

same field.

Though approaching the verge of good taste, conceive of the present effect of such an outburst gushing from the lips of Shiel, the perspiration standing in drops on his knotted locks, his eye kindled with Milesian fire, every feature of his expressive countenance instinct with passion, every limb of his small but symmetrical frame trembling with emotion, his shrill but musical voice barbing every emphatic word !

Since he entered Parliament, Mr. Shiel has acted with the liberal Whigs, has held office under Lord John Russell, and generally declined the lead of Mr. O'Connell. He stood aloof from the Repeal agitation, though he defended O'Connell, when on trial for Conspiracy some four years ago, with the ability and eloquence of his brightest days.

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM-CARTWRIGHT.

147

CHAPTER XIV.

Movements toward Parliamentary Reform-John Cartwright-The

Father of Parliamentary Reform-His Account of the Trials of Hardy and Tooke-Lord Byron's Eulogium of him—His Opinions of the Slave Trade--The First English Advocate of the Ballot-His Conviction for Conspiracy–His Labors for Grecian and Mexican Independence--William Cobbett-IIis Character, Opinions, and Services—His Style of Writing–His Great Influence with the Middling and Lower Orders of England—Sir Francis Burdett—His Labors for Reform-His Recantation.

Grant to the people of England universal suffrage and equal Parliamentary representation, and all other reforms will ultimately follow. The present century has taught the masses and the statesmen of that country, that, to wield influence over its Government, it is not necessary to occupy official stations. I am about to note some occurrences in the life of one who taught and illustrated the truth, that power and place are not synonymous terms—one who exerted much sway over public affairs for fifty years, one whose services were wholly of a popular character, he never having held office. I allude to JOHN CARTWRIGHT. His name is appropriately introduced previous to noticing the passage of the Reform Bill, for, no man did more than he to create a public opinion which demanded that great measure. By universal consent he was called “ THE FATHER OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM."

Mr. Cartwright was born in 1740. He entered the navy as a midshipman, saw a great deal of hard fighting, reached the post of first lieutenant, became distinguished for his science and

[ocr errors]

skill in the sorvice, and at the age of thirty-four abandoned the seas, and turned his mind to politics. In 1774, he published Letters on American Independence, addressed to the House of Commons, in which he took radical ground in favor of the rights of the Colonies. “It is a capital error,” says he,“ in the reasonings of most writers on this subject, (the rights of man,) that they consider the liberty of mankind in the same light as an estate or chattel, and go about to prove or disapprove the right to it, by grants, usage, or municipal statutes. It is not among moldy parchments that we are to look for it; it is the immediate gift of God; it is not derived from any one, but it is original in every one." Here we have the pioneer idza of our own Declaration of Independence, uttered by an unknown Englishman two years before that immortal paper saw the light. In 1776, an event occurred which put Major Cartwright's principles (he had been appointed major in the Nottinghamshire militia) to a severe test.

He was always proud of the navy, and ambitious of promotion in the service. Lord Howe, who had witnessed his courage and skill, having taken command of the fleet to act against the American Colonies, urged Cartwright to take a captaincy of a line-of-battle ship. He was then paying his addresses to a lady of high family, whose friends would consent to her accepting his hand if he would accede to the proposal of Lord Howe. He declined, thereby losing the favor both of Mars and Hymen. This led to an acquaintance with the gallant Lord Effingham, an officer of the army, who proved himself a genuine nobleman by resigning his commission rather than act against the rebels."?

Cartwright now (1776) commenced the work to which he devoted the remaining years of his laborious and useful lifeParliamentary Reform. At the outset, he took the ground now occupied by the Chartists. In his first two pamphletsand they were the earliest English productions on reform in the House of Commons-he maintained that equal representation, universal suffrage, and annual elections, were rights inherent

« ZurückWeiter »