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Such are the more obvious topics to which the history of this era will lead you. The intrigues of different parties on the fall of Sir Robert, and afterwards; the rebellion of 1745; the two great wars; the peace in 1748, and the peace in 1763.
We have Coxe, Dodington, Lord Waldegrave; we have the common magazines and the histories to refer to; from the year 1758 the Annual Register. But I have already intimated that when we look for parliamentary debates, our mortification is extreme. No names so great as those of Lord Hardwicke, Lord Talbot, Lord Mansfield, Mr. Pitt. The latter commanded by his eloquence the attention of the House of Commons, the affections of his countrymen; and at last that eloquence enabled him (according to the phrase then current) to take the cabinet by storm. Yet it is not till all these wonders had been accomplished, and till the breaking out of the disputes with America, that the debates afford us any adequate specimens to enable us to comprehend his extraordinary powers. Of the silver-tongued Murray there is still less; but in the course of the four volumes of Debrett's Debates, from the year 1743 to 1768, a few speeches and imperfect debates appear, which should be read not only on account of the speakers, but the subjects. The debate on Lord Hardwicke's clause to be added to the Treason Bill in 1745 ; the corresponding debate in the commons, more particularly a debate in the commons on a motion for annual parliaments, in January 1745, which was only lost by a majority of thirty-two (viz. one hundred and forty-five to one hundred and thirteen); Lord Hardwicke's speech on bis Bill for abolishing the heritable Jurisdictions in Scotland; debates on the Mutiny Bills; the reasons that were urged for the Bill to naturalize foreign Protestants; the discussions that arose on the subject of a national militia; on the Marriage Act; the debate on the Jew Bill, and on its repeal; the debate, or rather Mr. Pitt's speech on the peace of 1763; the proceedings in the case of Wilkes; the motion and debate on general warrants.
These are parts of Debrett's four volumes that will more particularly furnish you with general principles and materials for reflection.
The legislature, on the whole, seems to have been growing
more liberal and tolerant as the century advanced; the public to have been far behind them.
Of the Pelham administration less can now be known than could have been expected. The best account of their measures and views may be collected from Smollet, who was at least a cotemporary historian and a man of talents.
With some slight exceptions, they always showed themselves friendly to the principles of mild government. They were toleraut, peaceful, prudent; they had the merit of respecting public opinion; and though they were not fitted to advance the prosperity of their country by any exertions of political genius, they were not blind to such opportunities as fairly presented themselves. They were quietists, but meant well ; they were disinterested, did good service to the House of Hanover, and their administration is honourably remembered; but Mr. Pelham unfortunately died in 1754, and the duke, his brother, was deprived of his assistance when it was more than ever indispensable to him. The scene was becoming stormy, and great difficulties were to be encountered ; the duke, therefore, and his adherents gave way to Mr. Pitt, and very properly assisted with their votes the minister who disdained their counsels.
The administration of this minister of the people, the first Mr. Pitt, is now known only by the conquests which he either achieved or planned. What passed in the houses of parliament has not come down to us; it was probably of little importance. Opposition was silenced not only by a sort of union of parties, but by the popularity of Mr. Pitt and the successes of the war. The secretary, as it has been said, with one hand wielded the democracy of England, and with the other smote the House of Bourbon. The monarch himself, George II., seems at last to have become a convert to his merits, and to have joined, however late, in the applauses of the public. The monarch, however, George II., died; and this great minister, on the accession of his present majesty, George III., to the throne, soon felt the ground, as he said, tottering under him. On the first opportunity he was displaced, and Europe, that had only seen two successful war ministers during the century, Marlborough and Mr. Pitt, alike in their fame, and alike in their fall, must have thought that in our extraordinary island the surest method of losing office was to display the talents that deserve it; and that to fill St. James's with murmurs and dissatisfaction, it was only necessary to make the world resound with the triumphs of our arms.
The lecture that you have just heard was written more than twenty years ago, with such assistance as was then within my reach; but I can now refer the student to more ample information, which has lately appeared, chiefly derived from the indefatigable labours of the late Archdeacon Coxe, to whom all readers of history are so deeply indebted. In the year 1829 were published his Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, a posthumous work, drawn up under circumstances which add a sentiment of melancholy tenderness to the respectful gratitude with which this most valuable writer must ever be regarded.
Such sentiments will be confirmed by a very sensible article in the Quarterly Review for October, 1833, where the merits of the author and the man are properly stated, neither of which, as it had always struck me while I have been a reader of history, were sufficiently estimated by the public.
I have now then only to refer the student to the work I have just mentioned, and to request that he will depend on this regular and authentic account of an important period in our annals, not only while he wishes to know the transactions that belong to it, but the characters of the ministers and parliamentary leaders by which it was distinguished. In no other way can he derive a proper idea of the merits of Mr. Pelham, Lord Hardwicke, and above all, of the Duke of Newcastle, whose vanity and some defects of character exposed him to the ridicule of wits and satirists, and have hitherto obscured (but need no longer obscure) his real merits both as a statesman and a man. He was neither without his talents nor his virtues, as the public at present suppose.
I must guard you against the historical publications of the celebrated Horace Walpole. Look for entertainment in them, if you please, and you will not be disappointed; but give him not your confidence: indeed you will soon see from his lively and epigrammatic style of invective that he cannot deserve it.
Finally, I must mention to you that a very full and entertaining account of the rebellion in 1745 was drawn up by Mr. Chambers of Edinburgh, and now makes two very interesting volumes in Constable's Miscellany.
Highlanders. The work of Mrs. Grant might, with great advantage, be compressed into half its present size. What is told, is not told in a manner sufficiently simple, nor is there enough told. Mrs. Grant pours out the sentiments and images of a warm heart and ardent mind, till they overpower the reader and lose their effect. Too favourable an idea of the work, though a work of merit, would be formed from the Edinburgh Review.
The points to be observed in the character of the Highlanders seem to be, according to this account by Mrs. Grant, their national spirit, language, habits, poetry, traditions, genealogies, their attachment to their chief, and their superstitions.
That they are warlike, musical, poetical, tender, melancholy, enthusiastic, superstitious, religious; that they are patriotic, excluded themselves and excluding others, connecting and associating themselves familiarly with death and with the immaterial world, seeing those they loved in the clouds in dreams and in visions, skilled in the art of conversation from the necessity of living with each other, unfit for manufactures, highly moral, careful not to make imprudent marriages, courteous, and, in a word, exhibiting all the virtues that result from living in the presence of each other.
October, 1839. I may recommend to others, what I have just had so much pleasure in reading myself, the History lately published by Lord Mahon. All that need now be known of the era, to which we have been adverting, from the peace of Utrecht to that of Aix-la-Chapelle, will be there found. It is on every account to be hoped, that his lordship will continue his historical labours.
PRUSSIA AND MARIA THERESA.
E have been now long occupied with the English
history. I did not wish to break through the different links by which the different parts are connected together; but in the mean time we have entirely turned away from the continent, and even from France. To the French history I will advert immediately; but in the mean time I will call your attention to the continent. While reading the works of Mr. Coxe, you will have been continually summoned away in this manner, and I can no longer forbear adopting the same course.
The truth is, that our progress has long since brought us within the view of a personage so celebrated during the last half century, that for the present I must leave the histories both of France and of England, and I must endeavour to furnish you with proper materials for the appreciation of the striking events with which he was connected, and of his own very extraordinary talents and character; I allude to the King of Prussia.
I must in the first place observe, that as France and England were actively engaged in hostilities with each other, as they took a part in the politics of Europe, and were connected with the great wars in which the King of Prussia was engaged; some general view must be obtained of those hostilities and of those politics, that their relation to the measures of this military sovereign may be understood. As a preparative, therefore, to this subject of Prussia, I must propose some short general history; and I therefore mention, as adequate to this particular purpose, the History of Belsham-his reign of George II.
With respect to the King of Prussia, the great features of bis life are,