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the occasional and necessarily meagre sketches of members and spectators. Still the eloquence of Chatham formed an epoch in the annals of the art. No one familiar with the public and private memoirs of that period can doubt that he was the most effective speaker of modern times. But what was the secret of that efficiency? We contemplate with vain regret the scantiness of his remains, and the few materials we have for satisfying our curiosity. Yet even in these we find passages which give us a vivid sense of his ability ; passages of more than Demosthenian fire, which must live as long as the language in which they were uttered. Still there is nothing to justify us in the belief that his speeches ever exhibited that broad, luminous, philosophical range of thought, which we find often in Cicero, and almost always in Burke. There can be no doubt that he was greatly indebted to his manner. In his exterior he lacked nothing which nature could give. We are told that he was in look and action, both graceful and dignified ; but that dignity was the predominant feature. His countenance was wonderfully expressive. His eye, when directed in anger or scorn, had a penetrating and insufferable brightness, which most men found as difficult to meet, as they would to have gazed at the cloudless sun. His voice had great sweetness, power and variety of intonation, and was employed through its whole range, from the lowest whisper, distinctly audible, to its highest point of loudness and key, when it filled and electrified the house. His diction was simple and select, and he spared no pains to chasten and enrich it. Add now, to these advantages, his energy and weight of character, the universal impression of his immense talents, produced by his vigorous and successful administration, even more than by his oratorical efforts ; and we may have some faint conception of what Chatham was, and shall wonder less, that “rebuked by the presence of higher qualities” pride and wealth, and rank, and power, quailed beneath the lightnings of his eye, and the thunders of his voice.
To our countrymen the fame of Chatham has always been dear. They had contributed to the triumphs and felt the benefits of his ministerial career. And when, at length, other counsels prevailed; when those colonies which he had fostered with a father's care became the objects of stepmotherly oppression ; his mighty voice was still raised in
their behalf. His was indeed a great and fortunate name; and we scarcely know that other which we would put in its place, in those beautiful and well-known words of his pious countryman :
“'Tis praise enough
Ere the orb of Pitt went down another luminary had risen, which was destined at length to fill the skies and brighten earth with its prolific radiance. That Edmund Burke is by far the greatest name in the annals of modern eloquence, and in some important respects in those of all eloquence, is a position which few probably will controvert.
Had the claims of Burke rested only on that sort of merit which we have just conceded to Lord Chatham ; had he left no other, or no more enduring memorials of his mind than Chatham left, his reputation would scarcely have survived to our time. He certainly was not remarkable for his powers of delivery. It was not by a commanding person, a flashing eye, or voice of thunder, that he gained his triumphs. Neither was his the gladiatorial skill of a great debater. In most of these particulars he was indeed respectable ; but they are not the foundation of his fame ;-a fame which, though long since severed from all these artificial aids, has continued to grow and to spread.
" The blaze of eloquence Set with its sun; but still it left behind The enduring produce of immortal mind.”
To great natural endowments this distinguished man added the stores of a profound and varied erudition. His imagination was brilliant and excursive. His taste was intuitively quick and correct. But the learning of Burke was not, like that of many, an inert and cumbrous load, It was something which he always carried with ease, and wielded with dexterity. At one time it was the rattling quiver of Apollo, from which he drew many a feathered shaft; at another, it was a battle-axe in his hands which would cleave the tough. est skull.
Equally remarkable was the character of his imagination. This power with him was no wild sprite, playing fantastic tricks only to amuse and dazzle ; but the handmaid of reason—a creature as useful as she was beautiful. The ornament with which his diction abounds rarely fails to illustrate and to strengthen his argument. It is this which gives vivacity and richness to his style, without impairing its strength; a trait by which he is distinguished, and which he never sacrificed to less effective qualities. This property in Burke has not the severe simplicity of the Grecian master, nor the grace and flow of the great Roman model. It is rather a medium between the two; inferior in some respects, and in some superior to both. But the distinguishing excellence of Burke consists, undoubtedly, in the profound and comprehensive views which he brings to the discussion of his subjects. He seemed to be gifted with a deeper insight into the nature and tendencies of measures and events, than is allotted to common men. In his speeches and writings we are constantly meeting with general principles. Political science in his hands is no longer narrow and technical-a doctrine of mere expedients-for literature and philosophy, the testimony of experience and the teachings of common sense, all conspire to enhance its dignity, and to enforce its lessons.
Burke was the orator and teacher not of a day—not of a single nation, or his own age merely. His political and practical wisdom was based on the immutable foundation of truth and right. He had read, with intuitive eye and tenacious memory, the page of human nature, the book of Providence, and the library of universal history. To these sterling qualities of mind, he added unquestioned honesty of purpose, and a philanthropic heart. Who could be better fitted, or entitled to become the instructer of his race? And such he has become. To his works, as to an exhaustless storehouse of principles and reasoning, do the statesmen of England and America resort. And thither will they no doubt resort, until a greater than Burke shall appear among the Commons of Britain or in the halls of Congress.
But Mr. Burke may be said to have belonged to a Triumvirate of eloquence—the greatest, unquestionably, that ever divided among them the empire of mind. Mr. Fox, although a much younger man, entered on his Parliamentary career, nearly at the same time with Burke. For a while he was willing to rank as his disciple and follower ; but in a few years his growing abilities-his great skill in debate-- the charm of his disposition and manners-and his superior political connexions, gave him the ascendency, and made him the acknowledged leader of the opposition ranks. When some twelve years later the youthful Pitt appeared upon the scene, he found those great inen in full possession of the stage. The ease and suddenness with which he vaulted to the first place of honor and power, is well known. That he should succeed against such competition, was the strongest proof of talent he could give. At the age of twentythree years, he had vanquished an opposing majority in the House of Commons, led by Fox and Sheridan and Burke had won the nation to his side--and was wielding the desti. nies of the British empire.
" See ! with united wonder, cried
The experienced and the sage,
With all the skill of age!
Proclaim him born to sway”.
And bear the palm away.” The oratory of Fox and Pitt was very unlike that of the great Triumvir already described. Their scene of glory was the arena of debate. Theirs was the skill and power acquired by the breaking of lances, by the parrying and giving of blows, in many a “passage of arms.” More dexterous or powerful combatants never engaged in political warfare : a warfare maintained by them with scarce an intermission, for more than twenty years. The question of their comparative greatness it would be difficult to settle, but we can easily perceive that they were very unlike. Fox was persuasive, impetuous, powerful. To strong argument, and vehement appeal, he could add the lighter but of. ten more effective weapons of ridicule and wit. Before his rushing charge, nothing, for the moment, could stand. But he was often incautious, and generally lacked that higher power, which is necessary to turn even victory to account. His antagonist had far more dignity, vigilance and prudence. He could never be thrown from his guard. He was lofty and fluent, but not impassioned ; sarcastic, but not witty. The conflict of these rival statesmen was often that of Roderick Dhu and Snowdown's knight. The giant strength and fiery valor of the highland chief are wasted on the air.
But “Fitz James' blade is sword and shield.” Even the personal qualities of the two men, influenced probably in some degree the judgments, which were formed of their eloquence. Who can doubt that Mr. Fox would have been even more admired, and trusted, and beloved, if to his winning manners, and brilliant powers, he had added the virtuous circumspection of his illustrious rival.
Associated with Burke and Fox, in their long career of opposition, was the renowned, unhappy Sheridan. If not, as he has been called, " the worthy rival,” he might doubtless in many respects have been the rival
"Of the wondrous three, Whose words were sparks of immortality." Sheridan had not the classical attainments, nor the political and general information of his great contemporaries. He could not generalize with Burke, nor debate with Pitt and Fox. But his flow of wit was inexhaustible. On great occasions, and with sufficient preparation, he could put forth the highest powers of oratory. A richer tribute was perhaps never paid to eloquence, than was universally accorded to him after his great speech on the Begum charge in the trial of Hastings;
"In whose acclaim the loftiest voices vied,
The praised, the proud, who made his praise their pride.” Ah! what availed those coruscations of wit and eloquence, but to cast a melancholy splendor around his tarnished fame! Ah ! why did he rise to such heights of renown, only to fall with wider ruin !
More than a quarter of a century has elapsed since the tongues of Burke, and Fox, and Pitt, became silent in death. But on none of their successors does the mantle of their high commission seem to have fallen. England has had, indeed, and still has, able statesmen, respectable orators. Grattan was ardent and patriotic ; Wilberforce was as pleasing as he was good ; Canning was classical, witty, and felicitous ; Mackintosh was sage and dignified, and Brougham is learned, logical, and sarcastic. But though we might go on still farther in our enumeration, we must still assert in regard to them all, as was said of King David's thirty captains,-none of them “attain unto the first three.”
SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. I. 11
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