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shame that it would bring on the University, if such a name as that of Sheridan should be " clam subductum" from the list. The two masters, however, were immovable; and nothing remained but to give Sheridan intimation of their intended opposition, so as to enable him to decline the honour of having his name proposed. On his appearance, afterwards, in the theatre, a burst of acclamation broke forth, with a general cry of, “ Mr. Sheridan among the doctors-Sheridan among the doctors;" in compliance with which he was passed to the seat occupied by the honorary graduates, and sat, in unrobed distinction, among them, during the whole of the ceremonial. Few occurrences of a public nature ever gave him more pleasure than this reception.
At the close of the year 1810, the malady with which the king had been thrice before afflicted, returned; and, after the usual adjournments of Parliament, it was found necessary to establish a regency. On the question of the second adjournment, Mr. Sheridan took a line directly opposed to that of his party, and voted with the majority. That in this step he did not act from any previous concert with the prince appears from the following letter, addressed by him to his Royal Highness on the subject, and containing particulars which will prepare the mind of the reader to judge more clearly of the events that followed :
“ I felt infinite satisfaction when I was apprised that your Royal Highness had been far from disapproving the line of conduct I had presumed to pursue, on the last question of adjournment in the House of Commons. Indeed, I never had a moment's doubt but that your Royal Highness would give me credit that I was actuated on that, as I shall on every other occasion through my existence, by no possible motive but the most sincere and unmixed desire to look to your Royal Highness's honour and true interest, as the objects of my political life-directed, as I am sure your efforts will ever be, to the essential interests of the country and the constitution. To this
line of conduct I am prompted by every motive of personal gratitude, and confirmed by every opportunity, which peculiar circumstances and long experience have afforded me, of judging of your heart and understanding—to the superior excellence of which (beyond all, I believe, that ever stood in your rank and high relation to society), I fear not to advance my humble testimony, because I scruple not to say for myself, that I am no flatterer, and that I never found that to become one was the road to your real regard.
“ I state thus much because it has been under the influence of these feelings that I have not felt myself warranted (without any previous communication with your Royal Highness) to follow implicitly the dictates of others, in whom, however they may be my superiors in many qualities, I can subscribe to no superiority as to devoted attachment and duteous affection to your Royal Highness, or in that practical knowledge of the public mind and character, upon which alone must be built that popular and personal estimation of your Royal Highness, so necessary to your future happiness and glory, and to the prosperity of the nation you are destined to rule over.
“On these grounds, I saw no policy or consistency in unnecessarily giving a general sanction to the examination of the physicians before the Council, and then attempting, on the question of adjournment, to hold that examination as nought. On these grounds, I have ventured to doubt the wisdom or propriety of any endeavour (if any such endeavour has been made) to induce your Royal Highness, during so critical a moment, to stir an inch from the strong reserved post you had chosen, or give the slightest public demonstration of any future intended political preference; convinced as I was that the rule of conduct you had prescribed to yourself was precisely that which was gaining you the general heart, and rendering it impracticable for any quarter to succeed in annexing unworthy conditions to that most difficult situation which you were probably so soon to be called on to accept. “ I may, sir, have been guilty of error of judgment in both
these respects, differing, as I fear I have done, from those whom I am bound so highly to respect; but, at the same time, I deem itno presumption to say that, until better instructed, I feel a strong confidence in the justness of my own view of the subject; and simply because of this I am sure that the decisions of that judgment, be they sound or mistaken, have not, at least, been rashly taken up, but were founded on deliberate zeal for your service and glory, unmixed, I will confidently say, with any one selfish object or political purpose of my own."
The same limitations and restrictions that Mr. Pitt proposed in 1789, were, upon the same principles, adopted by the present minister : nor did the opposition differ otherwise from their former line of argument, than by omitting altogether that claim of right for the prince, which Mr. Fox had, in the proceedings of 1789, asserted. To the surprise of the public (who expected, perhaps, rather than wished, that the coalesced party, of which Lord Grey and Lord Grenville were the chiefs, should succeed to power), Mr. Perceval and his colleagues were informed by the regent that it was his intention to continue them still in office.
The share taken by Sheridan in the transaction that led to this decision, is one of those passages of his political life upon which the criticism of his own party has been most severely exercised. As there exists, however, a paper drawn up by him, containing a satisfactory defence of his conduct on this occasion, I should ill discharge my duty towards his memory were I to deprive him of the advantage of a statement on which he appears to have relied so confidently for his vindication.
But, first, in order fully to understand the whole course of fcelings and circumstances, by which not only Sheridan, but his royal master (for their cause is, in a great degree, identified), were, for some time past, predisposed towards the line of conduct which they now pursued, it will be necessary to recur to a few antecedent events.
By the death of Mr. Fox, the chief
personal tie that connected the heir-apparent with the party of that statesman was broken. The political identity of the party itself had, even before that event, been, in a great degree, disturbed, by a coalition against which Sheridan had always most strongly protested, and to which the prince, there is every reason to believe, was by no means friendly. Immediately after the death of Mr. Fox, the prince made known his intentions of withdrawing from all personal interference in politics; and, though still continuing his sanction to the remaining ministry, expressed himself as no longer desirous of being considered a “party man."* During the short time that these ministers continued in office, the understanding between them and the prince was by no means of that cordial and confidential kind which had been invariably maintained during the lifetime of Mr. Fox. On the contrary, the impression on the mind of his Royal Highness, as well as on those of his immediate friends in the ministry, Lord Moira and Mr. Sheridan, was, that a cold neglect had succeeded to the confidence with which they had hitherto been treated; and that neither in their opinions nor feelings were they any longer sufficiently consulted or considered. The very measure by which the ministers ultimately lost their places, was, it appears, one of those which the prince neither conceived himself to have been sufficiently consulted upon before its adoption, nor approved of afterwards.
Such were the gradual loosenings of a bond which at no time had promised much permanence; and such the train of feelings and circumstances which (combining with certain prejudices in the royal mind against one of the chief leaders of the party) prepared the way for that result by which the
• This is the phrase used by the prince himself, in a letter addressed to a noble lord (not long after the dismissal of the Grenville ministry), for the purpose of vindicating his own character from some imputations cast upon it, in consequence of an interview which he had lately had with the king. This important exposition of the feelings of his Royal Highness, which, more than anything, throws light upon his subsequent conduct, was drawn up by Sheridan.
public was surprised in 1811, and the private details of which I shall now, as briefly as possible, relate.
As soon as the bill for regulating the office of regent had passed the two Houses, the prince, who, till then, had maintained a strict reserve with respect to his intentions, signified, through Mr. Adam, his pleasure that Lord Grenville should wait upon him. He then, in the most gracious manner, expressed to that noble lord his wish that he should, in conjunction with Lord Grey, prepare the answer which his Royal Highness was, in a few days, to return to the address of the Houses. The same confidential task was entrusted also to Lord Moira, with an expressed desire that he should consult with Lord Grey and Lord Grenville on the subject. But this co-operation, as I understand, was declined by them.
One of the embarrassing consequences of coalitions non appeared. The recorded opinions of Lord Grenville on the regency question differed wholly and in principle, not only from those of his coadjutor in this task, but from those of the prince himself, whose sentiments he was called upon to interpret. In this difficulty, the only alternative that remained was so to neutralize the terms of the answer upon the great point of difference, as to preserve the consistency of the royal speaker, without at the same time compromising that of his adviser, It required, of course, no small art and aelicacy thus to throw into the shade that distinctive opinion of Whiggisin, which Burke had clothed in his imperishable language in 1789, and which Fox had solemnly bequeathed to the part, when
“in his upward fight He left his mantle there."*
The answer drawn up did not, it must be confessed, surmount this difficulty very skilfully. The assertion of the prince's consistency was confined to two meagre sentences, in the first of which his Royal Highness was made to say:-