Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and his company. He often took part in debate, and for many years he continued to show all the fire and energy of his earlier days. But of late he had almost entirely dropped out of politics. Happily for him the Social Science Association was formed, and he acted for a long time as its principal guide, philosopher, and friend. He made speeches at its meetings, presided at many of its banquets, and sometimes showed that he could still command the resources of a massive eloquence. His social science had a curious air of unreality about it. It seemed as if it had been hastily put together out of that Penny Cyclopædia in which at one time he had so much concern. The men of the younger general tion looked at him with interest and wonder; they found it hard to realize the fact that only a few years before he was one of the most conspicuous and energetic figures in political agitation. Now he seemed oddly like some dethroned king who occupies his leisure in botanical studies; some once famous commander, long out of harness, who amuses himself with learning the flute. There were perhaps some who forgot Brougham the great reformer altogether, and only thought of Brougham the patron and orator of the Social Science Association. He passed his time between Cannes which he may be said to have discovered, and London. At one time he had had the idea of actually becoming a citizen of France, being of opinion that it would set a good example for the brotherhood of peoples if he were to show how a man could be a French and an English citizen at the same moment. He had outlived nearly all his early friends and foes. Melbourne, Grey, Durham, Campbell, Lyndhurst, had passed away. The death of Lyndhurst had been a great grief to him. It is said that in his failing, later years he often directed his coachman to drive him to Lord Lyndhurst's house, as if his old friend and gossip were still among the living. At last Brougham began to give unmistakable signs of vanishing intelligence. His appearances in public

were mournful exhibitions. He sometimes sat at a dinner party and talked loudly to himself of something which had no concern with the time, the place, or the company. His death created but a mere momentary thrill of emotion in England. He had made bitter enemies and cherished strong hatreds in his active years; and, like all men who have strong hatreds, he had warm affections too. But the close friends and the bitter enemies were gone alike; had “passed like snow, long, long ago, with the time of the Barmecides;" and the agitation about the Irish Church was scarcely interrupted for a moment by the news of his death. Brougham's writings are not read now. No one turns to his speechesthose speeches that once set England aflame. His philosophy, his learning, his science, his Greek, were all so curiously superficial, that it is no wonder if enemies sometimes declared them to be mere sham. As the memoirs of his contemporaries begin to be published we receive more and more evidence of the prodigious vanity which made Brougham believe that no one could do anything so well in any department as he could do everything in every department. The Edinburgh Review he appears to have regarded as a means by which he was to display the genius and acquirements, and others were to puff the speeches of Henry Brougham. A strange sight was seen one day at a meeting of the Social Science Association, when Lord Brougham, then on the eve of his complete intellectuai decline, introduced to the company a man so old that he seemed to belong to an elder world altogether; & man with a wasted, wrinkled, wizard like face, who wore a black silk skull cap and a gaberdine. This was Robert Owen, and it was Owen's last appearance in public. He died a few days after in his ninetieth year. Brougham at that time was ten years younger, and he introduced Owen with all the respectful and almost filial carefulness which sturdy youth might show to sinking age. For the moment it would almost seem as if the self

conceit which made Brougham believe himself a great critic and a great Greek scholar, had made him also believe that for him time was nothing, and that he was still a young man.

[graphic]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

SEVENTY years before Mr.

Gladstone's accession to the office of First Lord of the Treasury, Fox had enunciated the principle that Ireland ought to be governed by Irish ideas. “I would have the Irish Government,” said Fox, in 1797, "regulated by Irish notions and Irish prejudices; and I firmly believe, according to an Irish expression, that the more she is under Irish government, the more she will be bound to English interests." Now for the first time a great statesman at the head of an English Government was about to make an effort at the practical realization of Fox's principle. At all other times even the most considerate of English minis. ters had only thought of doing good to Ireland after the Eng. lish notion of what was good. The highest idea of statesmanship went no farther than that of giving Ireland what were called equal laws with England. What England had and liked must be the best for Ireland. Such was the position assumed with quiet, sincere complacency in the course of many a parliamentary debate. What more, it was asked, can Ireland want? Has she not equal laws with England ? We have a State Church; she has a State Church. She has the same land laws that are found to suit England, or, at least, that are found to suit the landlord class in England. What can England do for her more than to give her the same legislation that England herself enjoys? Now, for the first

time, the man at the head of an English Government was equal to an acknowledgment of what cne might have thought the simple and elementary fact in politics-that the system which is a blessing to one country may be a curse to its neighbor. That which is called equality of system is sometimes only such equality as that illustrated by the two often quoted yet very appropriate example of Procrustes's bed. Ireland had been stretched upon that bed for centuries, often with the best possible intentions on the part of some wellmeaning political Procrustes, who could not for the life of him see why she should not like to be lengthened or shortened, pulled this way or that, in order to bring her into seeming harmony with the habitudes and the constitutional systems of England.

The parliament which was called together in the close of 1868 was known to have before it this great task of endeavoring to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas. Mr. Gladstone had proclaimed this person himself. He had made it known that he would endeavor to deal with Ireland's three great difficulties; the State Church, the tenure of land, and the system of national education. Men's minds were wrought up to the enterprise. The country was in a temper to try heroic remedies. The public were tired of government which merely tinkered at legislation, putting in a little patch here, and stopping up for the moment a little hole there. Perhaps, therefore, there was a certain disappointment as the general character of the new Parliament began to be understood. The eminent men on whom all eyes turned in the old Parliament were to be seen of all eyes the new. It was clear that Mr. Gladstone would be master of the situation. Bnt there did not seem anything particularly hero-like in the general aspect of the new House ! Commons. Its composition was very much the same as that of the old. Vast sums of money had been spent upon the elections. Riclı men were, as before, in immense pre

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »