« PreviousContinue »
From the Edinburgh Review.
T. HI E SPEECHES OF
LORD BRO U G H A M. *
Many are the claims of Lord Brough- have been lawyers like Buller, and Holham upon the respect and gratitude of royd, and Bayley and Littledale, more his countrymen; and many are the titles versed in the technicalities of their craft by which he will be known to posterity. and the mysteries of special pleadingAs a philanthropist his name is imperisha- an abomination now well-nigh swept bly associated with those of Clarkson and away-few have been more profoundly Wilberforce in their efforts for the sup- imbued with the principles of the Common pression of the slave-trade, and he has Law. given the chief impulse to the great cause Rare, indeed, have been the examples of the Education of the people. As a of an intellect so vigorous and active. statesman, he has taken a leading part in His energy throughout life has been ascounseling and carrying some of the most tounding; and even now, at a period important political measures of the nine- which in other men would be called old teenth century. As an advocate whose age, it shows little sign of diminution or zeal for his client scorned consideration decay. Mentally, his eye is not dim, nor of personal advancement, he will be his natural strength abated; for he still known, if for nothing else, yet for his im- prosecutes the cause of Law Reform with mortal defense of Queen Caroline. As a an ardor which might put to shame the lawyer, his name is inscribed in the list of efforts of younger men; and year after Lord High Chancellors of England—and year he presses upon the Legislature meahe bounded to that lofty dignity from the sures of which the object is to simplify ranks of the Bar, without having previous the machinery, and lessen to the suitor the ly filled one of the subordinate law offices costs of our courts of justice. of the Crown. As a legislator, the coun- We do not intend to go over the wide try owes to his perseverance some of the field which a life so spent presents; but most important improvements in her civil we propose in the present article to conlaws, and we allude more especially to fine our attention to Lord Brougham as the radical changes that have been effect- an Orator. It is by his speeches that his ed in the law of Evidence. He is not influence was most felt in the generation only a great speaker, but an able writer, now fading from amongst us, and by them, as our own century of volumes will more than any thing else, his colossal re. testify; not only a politician, who has putation has been built. Although there fought like a gladiator for fifty years in is, unhappily, something evanescent in the arena of party strife, but a man of those great efforts of the human tongue letters, and a mathematician of no mean which have so often roused and ruled the attainments. We remember when it was passions and the intellect of the senate the fashion for those who can not conceive and the nation, their results belong to histhe possibility of excellence in more than tory, and Lord Brougham will leave no one department of knowledge, to sneer at monument behind him more worthy to be Lord Brougham as “no lawyer." But held in lasting remembrance than these this is best answered by the fact, that Orations. For he has labored to become in hardly a single instance were his judg- a master in his art, and we see in the arments in the Court of Chancery reversed rangement of his topics, the structure of on appeal by the House of Lords; and we his periods, and the choice of bis language, will venture to say, that although there the skill, and in its proper sense, the arti
fice, of the consummate rhetorician. * Speeches on Social and Political Subjects with able misapprehension scems to prevail, and
Upon the subject of Oratory a lamentHistorical Introductions. By HENRY LORD BROUGHAM, F.R.S. 2 vols. 12mo. London and Glasgow : we are not sorry to have an opportunity
of saying a few words about it. No one VOL XLIV.-NO. II.
can deny that eloquence at the Bar and | To such an extent is this heresy carried, in Parliament is just now at a low ebb. that it is actually considered a disparageIt is often positively painful to enter a ment-a thing almost to be ashamed ofcourt of justice and hear the addresses to to be suspected of preparing a speech which juries are condemned to listen, beforehand; and it is thought a recomfrom men who occupy the place where mendation of himself by an honorable once stood an Erskine and a Brougham. member when, on rising to address the No doubt there have been of late years House, he declares that on entering it he brilliant exceptions, but we do not hesitate had not the slightest intention of doing so. to say, that the general character of As if a man ever will or can speak well forensic oratory at the present day is far who takes no pains to make himself a probelow what might be expected from the ficient in the art, and who fancies that, education, the opportunities, and the intel- like Dogberry's reading and writing, oralectual vigor of the age.
tory comes by nature. The speaker must Nor is the state of things much better learn his craft as much as a painter or in the House of Commons. We do not sculptor, or musician ; although, like them of course expect that a country gentleman also, he must have from nature some should be a good speaker because he has special aptitude for his vocation. If comcarried the county ; nor that merchants mon-sense did not tell us this, the great or railway directors should study Demos- examples of antiquity would prove it. thenes in their counting-houses, and come Every school-boy knows the enormous forth as orators as soon as they have been pains that Demosthenes and Cicero took returned for a borough; but how few of to qualify themselves for the task of adthe practiced debaters of the Ilouse ever dressing their fellow.citizens; and that rise to any thing which approaches to the some of the most celebrated orations that name of oratory, how few are able to have come down to us from Athens and realize the idea of one whom Cicero de Rome were written for delivery, but scribes: qui jure non solum disertus sed actually never spoken at all.* Very difetiam eloquens dici possit! It has indeed ferent from the common practice has been, been the custom of late to decry oratori- if we mistake not, Lord 'Brougham's corcal powers, as tending rather to dazzle ception of the work of the future orator. and mislead than instruct and edify ; and He has furnished abundant evidence of to praise the dull dry harangue of the his familiarity with the classic models. plodding man of business, who crams He has shown his veneration for Demos. down the throat of his audience a heap thenes by translating the Chersonese of statistical facts, and then wonders to Oration and the great Oration on the find them gaping or asleep, rather than Crown; and on more than one occasion the brilliant speech of the accomplished he is said to have committed to writing orator, who enlivens his subject with the beforehand the finest parts of his own sallies of wit, and adorns it with the speeches. If this be true, we honor him graces of imagery. But this kind of lan- the more for the homage he has paid to guage proceeds more from mortified the eternal rule, that without such “imincapacity than approving judgment. probus labor,” excellence in any art is Hobbes defined a republic to be an aristo- denied to man. And he has had his recracy of orators, interrupted at times by ward. He stands confessedly in the front the monarchy of a single orator; and in rank of English orators, and he won his a country like this, where the very high. spurs at a time when the conflict was with est rewards and the proudest position are giants. the prizes open to successful eloquence, At the present moment it will hardly it may well be matter of wonder that the be contested that the standard of oratory number of competitors is so small in the is far higher in the House of Lords than race where “that immortal garland is to in the other House of Parliament; and if be won, not without dust and heat." And what is the reason of this ? It
* This subject has been illustrated by Lord arises, we believe, chiefly from the fact Brougham himself, with his usual felicity, in some that men will not believe that Oratory is of his former contributions to this Journal
, espean art, and that excellence in this, as in and French Orators, vow republished in the seventh every other art, can only be attained by volume of the Glasgow edition of his works, and in labor and by the study of the best models. his “Dissertation on the Eloquence of the Ancients." any one were asked to point out the best With an athletic frame Lord Brougham speakers in that august body, he would possesses a mental organization singularly name without hesitation, Lord Brougham, robust; and his style of speaking is cast Lord Lyndhurst, the Earl of Derby, and in a corresponding mould. It is the furthe Earl of Ellenborough. We hope that thest possible removed from the exercibefore long Lord Macaulay will be added tatio domestica et umbratilis, and is rather to the list, but he has not yet made a dis- that which rushes medium in agmen, in play of his great oratorical powers in the pulverem, in clamorem, in castra, atque assembly to which he has been elevated, in aciem forensem. The following pasand which by his presence he adorns. Of sage breathes not only the force of the Lord Lyndhurst's power as a debater it is orator, but the character of the man. It impossible to speak too highly. But is from his speech in the House of Lords although at times, and in some passages, in 1838, on the emancipation of Negro his speeches may be called eloquent, they apprentices : want the rushing force—the declamatory vehemence—which is an essential element “I have read with astonishment, and I repel of oratory. Admirable in logic, compre- with scorn, the insinuation that I had acted the hensive in statement, and faultless' in part of an advocate, and that some of my state
ments were colored to serve a cause. How dares diction, Lord Lyndburst commands the attention of all who listen to him. But skúlking under a fictitious name, to launch his
any man so to accuse me? How dares any one, he appeals more to the reason than the slanderous imputations from his covert ? I feelings or the passions of his audience, come forward in my own person. I make the and seeks to convince rather than to per- charge in the face of day. I drag the criminal suade. His discourse flows on like the to trial. I openly call down justice on his head. waters of some calm majestic river unruf- I defy his attacks. I defy his defenders. I fied by the wind; but we hear nothing of challenge investigation. How dares any conthe dash of the torrent or the roar of the speaking from a brief, and misrepresenting the
cealed adversary to charge me as an advocate cataract; there are no startling apostro- facts to serve a purpose ? But the absurdity of phes, nor soul-stirring appeals, which, in this charge even outstrips its malice." the proud consciousness of his argumentative
power, he seems almost to disdain. Lord Brougham's voice is not musical; Certainly this can not be said of Lord at times, in its higher tones, it is harsh Derby, who, with a command of language and hoarse, and sounds like the scream of as perfect as Lord Lyndhurst's, has a fire the northern eagleswooping down upon its and a brilliancy peculiarly his own; but prey; but he possesses the art of moduwe should be disposed to place Lord lating it with admirable effect, and bis Ellenborough at least on an equality with elocution is not less cultivated than his either of these eminent speakers, since he diction. His power over the English lancombines the exquisite precision of lan- guage is wonderful. It was said of him guage of the one, with the force and on one occasion that he made it bend animation of the other.
under him. We do not assert that the But great as these men are in debate, word chosen is not sometimes too strong. none of them can be said to rank as ora- We will not affirm that he does not some. tors with Lord Brougham. If we were times sin against a fastidious taste. We obliged to characterize his oratory by a can not deny that in ransacking his mesingle word, it would be Energy—the mory for epithets and synonyms--or perAelvórns of the Greeks. Cicero tells us that haps we should see polyonyms—he brings often when he rose to speak he trembled up some that are too vehement, and that in every limb. We doubt whether this in his description of persons and measures ever happened to Lord Brougham. But there is too much tendency to exaggerate. the Roman orator had by nature a weak But his vocabulary is inexhaustible, and and nervous constitution, and this may his faults are those of amplitude of power. account for the timidity of a character He runs riot in the exuberance of which, although on a memorable occa- strength. His periods are often declamasion he could thunder forth-Contempsi tory, but there are no platitudes; and Catilina gladios, non pertimescam tuos without declamation, in its proper sense, --caused him, in the strife of contending there is no oratory. It would be easy to factions, painfully to oscillate between his point out in Demosthenes—still easier in regard for Pompey and his fear of Cæsar. I Cicero — passages which, to the colder
feelings of our western clime, seem over- , Russia to be more monstrous, more insolent, strained and hyperbolical. But the and more prodigiously beyond endurance than criterion is this: How did they act upon
the rest." the crowds that listened? Did they, or did they not, stir up from its innermost
So also speaking of the conduct of the depths the soul of the auditory? For it Whigs on the Bedchamber question in must never be forgotten that the great
1839end of oratory is to persuade, and by
“This is the novel, the uncouth, the portencarrying captive the passions, to attack tous, the monstrous description of our free and through them the citadel of reason. It popular constitution, which the Whig Governwill be found, on a careful study of Lord ment of 1839 has given to the Reformed ParliaBrougham's speeches, that the declama- ment of England." tion almost always assists the argument; it advances, so to speak, the action of the That careful preparation of an elaborate drama, and never, as is the case when it speech does not unfit an orator for unprebecomes mere tinsel or bombast in the meditated and effective reply, has been hands of inferior men, impedes and en- shown by Lord Brougham in some of his cumbers it. He is fond of iterating an finest displays. We will mention one reidea, and clothing it in every imaginable markable example. It is the speech deform of words-piling Ossa on Pelion- livered by him on the instant without a and making each sentence rise in the scale moment's notice, in answer to the charges of impressiveness. Some of his periods brought by the late Sir Robert (then Mr.) may be too long, and there is. a danger Peel, in 1819, against the Education Comlest the attention of the hearer-or per- mittee, of which Mr. Brougham had been haps we ought now to say the reader-chairman. It is a masterly effort, full of should flag while pausing for the climax the keenest sarcasm and most cutting of the sentence; but there is no false point-and from a note at the end we grammar r~no anacoluthon-no confusion learn that its preservation is owing to the of metaphor, and out of the longest sen- accident of a barrister who took an intertence or succession of sentences, he winds est in the subject, happening to be in the himself with unerring accuracy.
gallery of the House of Commons; for
-that on the administration of justice in this debate took place, had refrained from Ireland in 1839, when defending himself reporting Mr. Brougham's speeches in from the charge of violence and undue consequence, as it is said, of some offense severity made against him by Lord Mel- given by him to a reporter in the form of bourne—“No man is a judge of the exact words used in referring to him.” The folforce and weight of his own expressions.” lowing passage from this reply is a good Probably Lord Brougham has at times illustration of the speaker's peculiar style been hardly conscious of the force of the heaping sentence upon sentence, and projectile he has launched from his lips in stretching his topic until the tension bethe ardor of debate. He reminds us of comes almost too great to be borne. Polyphemus hurling rocks as if he were a boy flinging pebbles. Thus, speaking “But if I do not now satisfy all who hear in 1823 of the Notes of Russia, Prussia, me that the Committee were right, that this and Austria, with reference to the state House was right, and the Right Honorable of Spain in 1822–3, he said
Gentleman wrong—if I do not succeed in prov
ing to the heart's content of every one man of “I will venture to say that to produce any that the Right Honorable Gentleman is utterly
common candor and ordinary understanding, thing more preposterous, more absurd, more extravagant, better calculated to excite à min- wrong in all his charges--wrong from the be
ginning to the end of his labored oration-if I gled feeling of disgust and derision, would do not in a few minutes and by referring to a baffle any chancery or state paper office in few plain matters, strip that performance of all Europe.”
claim to credit—if I do not show him to be
mistaken in his facts, out in his dates, at fault And again
in his law, ignorant of all parliamentary prece
dent and practice, grossly uninformed, perhaps .“ Monstrous and insolent and utterly unbear- misinformed, upon the whole question which in able as all of them are, I consider that of an evil hour he has undertaken to handle, with
no better help than the practical knowledge and this charge, and above all, before whom do they discretion of those who have urged him on to urge it? Others may accuse her—others may the assault, while they showed only a vicarious blame her for going abroad-others may tell prodigality of their own persons—then I will tales of the consequences of living among Italconsent to suffer—what shall I say?-to en- ians, and of not associating with the women of dure whatever punishment the Right Honor- her country or of her adopted country; but it able Gentleman may think fit to inflict upon is not your Lordships that have any right to me and my colleagues-even the weight of his say so. It is not you, my Lords, that can fing censure—which will assuredly in his estimation this stone at Her Majesty. You are the last be fully equal to our demerits, how great so persons in the world-you who now presume ever they may be. But I venture to hope that to judge her, are the last persons in the world the House, mercifully regarding my situation so to charge her; for you are the witnesses while such a judgment is suspending, will allow whom she must call to vindicate her from that me, ere the awful decree goes forth, to avert, if charge. You are the last persons who can so it be possible, from our devoted heads a fate so charge her; for you being her witnesses, have overwhelming.”
been the instigators of that only admitted
crime. While she was here she courteously Sarcastic irony, of which only a light opened the doors of her palace to the families of touch appears in the latter part of the your Lordships. She graciously condescended above extract, is a favorite weapon of to mix herself in the habits of most familiar life Lord Brougham. Sometimes he has in with those virtuous and distinguished persons. dulged in it even to the verge of indiscre other views opened—when that power was to
... But when changes took place—when tion; as, for instance, in the following. be retained which she had been made the instrupassage, from his speech in defense of ment of grasping-when that lust of power and Queen Caroline, addressed, be it remem- place was to be continued its gratification, to bered, to the House of Lords, who were the first gratification of which she had been sitting in judgment upon her fate. But made the victim—then her doors were opened he doubtless knew how far he might ven- in vain; then that society of the Peeresses of ture to go in upbraiding while he affected England was withholden from her ; then she to praise.
was reduced to the alternative, humiliating indeed . . . either to acknowledge that you had deserted her
or to leave the coun“This was when he was examined on the Tuesday. On the Friday, with the interval of try and have recourse to other society inferior
to yours.” two days—and your Lordships, for reasons best known to yourselves, but which must have been bottomed on justice guided by wisdom-wis
Our limits will not allow us to attempt dom never more seen or better evidenced than an analysis of this celebrated speech, and in varying the course of conduct and adapting indeed, it is too well known to need that to new circumstances the actions we perform- we should do so. All who have read it wisdom which will not, if it be perfect in its must have stamped upon their memories kind and absolute in its degree, ever sustain the way in which Mr. Brougham shattered any loss by the deviation — for this reason alone, in order that injustice might not be done the evidence in support of the bill, and the (for what in one case may be injurious to a de- irresistible force with which he insisted fendant, may be expected mainly to assist a de- upon its rejection, not only on account of fendant in another,)—your Lordships, not with the worthlessness of the witnesses who a view to injure the Queen-your Lordships, were called, but the absence of the witnesswith a view to farther, not to frustrate the ends
es who were not. In anticipation of the of justice allowed the evidence to be printed, taunt which might be expected from which afforded to the witnesses, if they wished
those who would
their it, means of mending and improving upon
say that he might call testimony."
the latter himself, he burst forth: And this reminds us of another passage "And if you do not call them'-in the name in the same speech, where, flinging irony of justice, what? Say !—Say !~ For shame, in aside, he with unparalleled boldness charg- this temple—this highest temple of justice, to ed the Peers of England, before whom he have her most sacred rights so profaned, that I stood as the advocate of the Queen, with am to be condemned in the plenitude of proof, having themselves, by their own conduct, if guilt is; that I am to be condemned, unless i forced her to associate abroad with per- sway in all Courts of Justice, that I am innocent
run counter to the presumption which bears sons beneath her, and thus incur the de- until I am proved guilty; and that my case is to gradation of which she was then accused. be considered as utterly ruined, unless I call my
adversary's witnesses! Oh! most monstrous ! “But who," he asked, " are they that bring most incredible! My Lords! my Lords! if you