Слике страница
PDF
ePub

sures, had a moral, or even a legal right to reveal? Did he encourage the court of Petersburgh to urge new and unjust demands, or furnish them with new and mischievous reasons, to enforce those upon which they had previously insisted ? Did he only, as a private individual, point out in conversation to the ministers of Russia, such views of the subject in dispute as made peace more desirable to them than war? Did he by mere suggestions turn their attention towards conciliatory and reasonable terms, which the pride or the anger of the contending parties had caused them to overlook, and which if proposed by one of them were likely to be adopted by the other, after temperate and immediate discussions between the courts of St. Peterburgh and St. James's ? Did he presume to answer for the parliamentary support of that very party with whom Mr. Fox had studiously avoided all direct and even indirect communication upon the subject? Or, did he merely communicate the sentiments and wishes of himself, and a few other individuals? Was he contented with mentioning Mr. Fox's name, and producing his cypher for something which the accuser of Mr. Fox has not explained by any circumstantial detail whatsoever, nor by any other specific pro perty, than that in Mr. Burke's opinion the deed was almost treason, nor by any other visible effect, than that it frustrated some unknown objects, which the King's ambassador was endeavouring to attain ?

The fact, of whatever kind it may have been, is said to have come within the knowledge of administration. But foul as may have been the channel through which intelligence was conveyed to them, could that circumstance diminish the illegality of the transaction? Or did the intelligence itself throw such doubts upon the whole that ministers with all the advantages of official situation, and all the suggestions of crown lawyers, were at a loss to find any one political expedient, for turning it to any one political account : απλούν το δίκαιον, ράδιον το αληθές, Bpaxus o é meyxos.*. If for prudential, or any other reasons, they did not choose to make the offenders amenable to law, would they have been tardy to assist in lowering the parliamentary and the popular importance of a man who had not only disappointed them in Russia, but, with a charge of treason hanging over his head, had ventured to oppose them about the affairs of France? If their own proceedings had been perfectly right, was it not their interest, as well as their duty, somehow or other to convince the public that Mr. Fox's conduct was entirely and unpardonably wrong? Was their delicacy to Mr. Fox so very great, or their confidence in Mr. Burke so very little, that they would have refused to furnish the latter with information, when he was labouring in their cause, and when the odium of employing it, if odium was to be expected rather than praise, would have fallen upon Mr. Burke, not upon themselves ? In point of fact, then, ministers, who were acquainted with the whole truth, and who possessed the very amplest powers of proclaiming it with authority, and supporting it by evidence, at

* Vid. Orat. Lycurg. contra Leocrat. p. 162. Reiske edit.

tempted nothing decisive for the purpose of punishment, and even alleged nothing distinct for the purpose of crimination. But what are we to think of Mr. Burke, who knew probably much less than ministers knew, and yet has said much more than persons better informed upon the subject, and more interested in it, were pleased to say

The accusation is produced by Mr. Burke in 1796. The crime must have been committed several years before—when, I ask, and how, did Mr. Burke discover that crime? Why did he keep back so important a discovery upon our negociations with Russia, till Mr. Fox had displeased him by his politics on the affairs of France ? Did Mr. Burke, or did he not, continue to act in parliament with Mr. Fox after the discovery had been made? Would he have been justified in keeping up any party connexion with a man whom he had strong reason only to suspect of such guilt, as is laid to his charge in the following words: “This proceeding of Mr. Fox,” say he,“ does not (as I conceive) amount to absolute high treason. Russia, though on bad terms, not having been then declaredly at war with this kingdom. But such a proceeding is, in law, not very remote from that offence, and is undoubtedly a most unconstitutional act, and a high treasonable misdemeanour.”

It will be long before, upon the mere strength of Mr. Burke's representation, I shall suffer myself to consider Mr. Adair as a spy, or Mr. Fox as a traitor. But such imputations were well calculated to prepare the minds of Mr. Burke's readers for believing

other charges, which are afterwards brought forward.

In page 30, he accuses Mr. Fox of moving resolutions “tending to confirin the horrible tyranny and robbery of the French, and having for their drift the sacrifice of our own domestic dignity and safety, and the independency of Europe, to the support of the strange mixture of anarchy and tyranny prevailing in France, and called by Mr. Fox and his party, a government,”

In page 52, he says, that “under a specious appearance, not unfrequently put on by men of unscrupulous ambition, that of tenderness and compassion to the poor, Mr. Fox did his best to appeal to the meanest and most ignorant of the people on the merits of the war."

In page 59, he says, that “ it would be shameful for any man above the vulgar, to shew so blind a partiality even to his own country, as Mr. Fox appeared on all occasions in the system of that year, to have shewn to France, and that if he had been minister, and proceeded on the principles laid down by himself, in Mr. Burke's belief there is little doubt that he would have been considered as the most criminal statesman that ever lived in this country.”

In page 61, Mr. Fox is likened to Petion, and Brissot, because he “ studiously confined his horror and reprobation to the massacres of the second of September, but passed over those of the tenth of Augnst; and like the Brissotine faction condemned, not the deposition, or the proposed exile, or the

proposed perpetual imprisonment, but only the murder of the king."

I disdain to enter into any formal refutation of these charges. But I am at a loss to conceive how any man who, according to Mr. Burke's statement, countenanced the horrible tyranny and robbery of the French-who was more partial to a foreign country, than any enlightened man ought to be to his own—who acted under the specious pretences put on by men of unscrupulous ambition-who was indifferent to the massacre of the tenth of August, and the barbarous indignities offered to the French monarch before his murder, could, in Mr. Burke's estimation, “be a man born to be loved." Had so many years elapsed before Mr. Burke could discover that he had been the partisan and the friend of a Cataline? For of Catiline we read, “ Quis clarioribus viris quodam tempore jucundior? quis civis meliorum partium aliquando? quis tetrior hostis huic civitati ?” * In page

59, Mr. Burke “thinks it possible that Mr. Fox would act and think quite in a different way, if he were in office. To be sure,” says he, “ some persons might try to excuse Mr. Fox, by pleading in his favour a total indifference to principle, but this (says Mr. Burke) I will not suppose : one may think better of Mr. Fox, and that from better, or from worse motives, he might change his mind on acquiring the favour of the crown.” This concession is followed by pretty broad hints, that such a change was to be expected very faintly, and

* Cic. Orat. pro M. Coelio, par. 3.

« ПретходнаНастави »