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power came to the wretched populace, it was not to be wondered at, however much it might be regretted, that they should act without those feelings of justice and humanity of which they had been stripped by the principles and practices of their governors.”
IN ANSWER TO LORD MORNINGTON.
(This is the only speech which Sheridan himself corrected for publication. Lord Mornington had spoken of the various atrocities committed in France, and Sheridan replies.)
“But what was the sum of all that he had told the House ? that great and dreadful enormities had been committed, at which the heart shuddered, and which not merely wounded every feeling of humanity, but disgusted and sickened the soul. All this was most true; but what did all this prove? What, but that eternal and unalterable truth which had always presented itself to his mind, in whatever way he had viewed the subject, namely, that a longestablished despotism so far degraded and debased human nature, as to render its subjects, on the first recovery of their rights, unfit for the exercise of them. But never had he, nor would he meet but with reprobation that mode of argument which went, in fact, to establish, as an inference from this truth, that those who had been long slaves, ought, therefore, to remain so for ever! No; the lesson ought to be, he would again re peat, a tenfold horror of that despotic form of government, which had so profaned and changed the nature of civilized man, and a still more jealous apprehension of any system tending to withhold the rights and liberties of our fellow-creatures. Such a form of government might be considered as twice cursed; while it existed, it was solely responsible for the miseries and calamities of its subjects; and should a day of retribution come, and the tyranny be destroyed, it was equally to be charged with all the enormities which the folly or frenzy of those who overturned it should commit.
“But the madness of the French people was not confined to their proceedings within their own country; we, and all the Powers of Europe, had to dread it. True; but was inot this also to be accounted for? Wild and unsettled their state of mind
necessarily upon the events which had thrown such power so suddenly into their hands, the surrounding States had goaded them into still
savage state of madness, fury, and desperation. We had unsettled their reason, and then reviled their insanity; we drove them to the extremities that produced the evils we arraigned; we baited them like wild beasts, until at length we made them so. The conspiracy of Pilnitz, and the brutal threats of the royal abettors of that plot against the rights of nations and of men, had, in truth, to answer for all the additional misery, horrors,
and iniquity which had since disgraced and incensed humanity. Such has been your conduct towards France, that you have created the passions which you persecute; you mark a nation to be cut off from the world; you covenant for their extermination; you swear to hunt them in their inmost recesses; you load them with every species of execration; and you now come forth with whining declamations on the horror of their turning upon you with the fury which you inspired.”
After alluding to a quotation which Lord Mornington liad made from Condorcet, asserting that “Revolutions are always the work of the minority,” Sheridan says in a spirited man
"If this be true, it certainly is a most ominous thing for the enemies of reforin in England; for, if it holds true, of necessity, that the minority still prevails, in national contests, it must be a consequence that the smaller the minority the more certain must be the success. In what a dreadful situation, then, must the noble lord be and all the alarmists! for never surely, was a minority so small, so thin in number, as the present. Conscious, however, that M. Condorcet was mistaken in our object, I am glad to find that we are terrible in proportion as we are few; I rejoice that the liberality of secession which has thinned our ranks has only served to make us more formidable. The alarmists will hear this with new apprehensions; they will no doubt return to us with a view to diminish our force, and encumber us with their alliance in order to reduce us to insignificance."
About this time, it was apparent that the great Whig seceders were about to yield to the invitation of Mr. Pitt and the strong persuasion of Burke, join the administration and accept office. Sheridan was naturally indignant. Lord Mornington had contrasted the privations and sacrifices demanded by the Minister of Finance from the French with those required of the English nation. In reply Sheridan says:
“The noble lord need not remind us that there is no great danger of our Chancellor of the Exchequer making any such experiment. I can more easily fancy another sort of speech for our prudent minister. I can more easily conceive him modestly comparing himself and his own measures with the character and conduct of his rival, and saying, 'Do I demand of you, wealthy citizens, to lend your hoards to Government without interest? On the contrary, when I shall come to propose a loan, there is not a man of you to whom I shall not hold out at least a job in every part of the subscription, and an usurious profit upon every pound you devote to the necessities of your country. Do I demand of you, my fellowplacemen and brother-pensioners, that you should sacrifice any part of your stipends to