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Memoirs of the Life of Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan Vol 2 by Thomas Moore

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Impeachment of Mr. Hastings.


Death of Mr. Sheridan's Father.--Verses by Mrs. Sheridan on the Death of
her Sister, Mrs. Tickell.


Illness of the King.--Regency.--Private Life of Mr. Sheridan.


French Revolution.--Mr. Burke.--His Breach with Mr. Sheridan.--Dissolution
of Parliament.--Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox.--Russian Armament.--Royal Scotch


Death of Mrs. Sheridan.


Drury-Lane Theatre.--Society of "The Friends of the People."--Madame de
Genlis.--War with France.--Whig Seceders.--Speeches in Parliament--Death
of Tickell.


Speech in Answer to Lord Mornington.--Coalition of the Whig Seceders with
Mr. Pitt.--Mr. Canning.--Evidence on the Trial of Horne Tooke.--The
"Glorious First of June."--Marriage of Mr. Sheridan.--Pamphlet of Mr.
Reeves--Debts of the Prince of Wales.--Shakspeare Manuscripts.--Trial of
Stone.--Mutiny at the Nore.--Secession of Mr. Fox from Parliament.


Play of "The Stranger."--Speeches in Parliament.--Pizarro.--Ministry of
Mr. Addington.--French Institute.--Negotiations with Mr. Kemble.


State of Parties.--Offer of a Place to Mr. T. Sheridan.--Receivership of
the Duchy of Cornwall bestowed upon Mr. Sheridan.--Return of Mr. Pitt to
Power.--Catholic Question.--Administration of Lord Grenville and Mr.
Fox.--Death of Mr. Fox.--Representation of Westminster.--Dismission of
the Ministry.--Theatrical Negotiation.--Spanish Question.--Letter to the


Destruction of the Theatre of Drury-Lane by Fire.--Mr. Whitbread--Plan
for a Third Theatre.--Illness of the King.--Regency.--Lord Grey and Lord
Grenville.--Conduct of Mr. Sheridan.--His Vindication of himself.


Affairs of the new Theatre.--Mr. Whitbread.--Negotiations with Lord Grey
and Lord Grenville.--Conduct of Mr. Sheridan relative to the
Household.--His Last Words in Parliament.--Failure at Stafford.
--Correspondence with Mr. Whitbread.--Lord Byron.--Distresses of
Sheridan.--Illness.--Death and Funeral.--General Remarks.




The motion of Mr. Burke on the 10th of May, 1787, "That Warren Hastings,
Esq., be impeached," having been carried without a division, Mr. Sheridan
was appointed one of the Managers, "to make good the Articles" of the
Impeachment, and, on the 3d of June in the following year, brought
forward the same Charge in Westminster Hall which he had already enforced
with such wonderful talent in the House of Commons.

To be called upon for a second great effort of eloquence, on a subject of
which all the facts and the bearings remained the same, was, it must be
acknowledged, no ordinary trial to even the most fertile genius; and Mr.
Fox, it is said, hopeless of any second flight ever rising to the grand
elevation of the first, advised that the former Speech should be, with
very little change, repeated. But such a plan, however welcome it might
be to the indolence of his friend, would have looked too like an
acknowledgment of exhaustion on the subject to be submitted to by one so
justly confident in the resources both of his reason and fancy.
Accordingly, he had the glory of again opening, in the very same field, a
new and abundant spring of eloquence, which, during four days, diffused
its enchantment among an assembly of the most illustrious persons of the
land, and of which Mr. Burke pronounced at its conclusion, that "of all
the various species of oratory, of every kind of eloquence that had been
heard, either in ancient or modern times; whatever the acuteness of the
bar, the dignity of the senate, or the morality of the pulpit could
furnish, had not been equal to what that House had that day heard in
Westminster Hall. No holy religionist, no man of any description as a
literary character, could have come up, in the one instance, to the pure
sentiments of morality, or in the other, to the variety of knowledge,
force of imagination, propriety and vivacity of allusion, beauty and
elegance of diction, and strength of expression, to which they had that
day listened. From poetry up to eloquence there was not a species of
composition of which a complete and perfect specimen might not have been
culled, from one part or the other of the speech to which he alluded, and
which, he was persuaded, had left too strong an impression on the minds
of that House to be easily obliterated."

As some atonement to the world for the loss of the Speech in the House of
Commons, this second master-piece of eloquence on the same subject has
been preserved to us in a Report, from the short-hand notes of Mr.
Gurney, which was for some time in the possession of the late Duke of
Norfolk, but was afterwards restored to Mr. Sheridan, and is now in my

In order to enable the reader fully to understand the extracts from this
Report which I am about to give, it will be necessary to detail briefly
the history of the transaction, on which the charge brought forward in
the Speech was founded.

Among the native Princes who, on the transfer of the sceptre of Tamerlane
to the East India Company, became tributaries or rather slaves to that
Honorable body, none seems to have been treated with more capricious
cruelty than Cheyte Sing, the Rajah of Benares. In defiance of a solemn
treaty, entered into between him and the government of Mr. Hastings, by
which it was stipulated that, besides his fixed tribute, no further
demands, of any kind, should be made upon him, new exactions were every
year enforced;--while the humble remonstrances of the Rajah against such
gross injustice were not only treated with slight, but punished by
arbitrary and enormous fines. Even the proffer of bribe succeeded only in
being accepted [Footnote: This was the transaction that formed one of the
principal grounds of the Seventh Charge brought forward in the House of
Commons by Mr. Sheridan. The suspicious circumstances attending this
present are thus summed up by Mr. Mill: "At first, perfect concealment of
the transaction--such measures, however, taken as may, if afterwards
necessary, appear to imply a design of future disclosure;--when
concealment becomes difficult and hazardous, then disclosure
made."--_History of British India_.]--the exactions which it was
intended to avert being continued as rigorously as before. At length, in
the year 1781, Mr. Hastings, who invariably, among the objects of his
government, placed the interests of Leadenhall Street first on the list,
and those of justice and humanity _longo intervallo_ after,--finding
the treasury of the Company in a very exhausted state, resolved to
sacrifice this unlucky Rajah to their replenishment; and having as a
preliminary step, imposed upon him a mulct of L500,000, set out
immediately for his capital, Benares, to compel the payment of it. Here,
after rejecting with insult the suppliant advances of the Prince, he put
him under arrest, and imprisoned him in his own palace. This violation of
the rights and the roof of their sovereign drove the people of the whole
province into a sudden burst of rebellion, of which Mr. Hastings himself
was near being the victim. The usual triumph, however, of might over
right ensued; the Rajah's castle was plundered of all its treasures, and
his mother, who had taken refuge in the fort, and only surrendered it on
the express stipulation that she and the other princesses should pass out
safe from the dishonor of search, was, in violation of this condition,
and at the base suggestion of Mr. Hastings himself, [Footnote: In his
letter to the Commanding Officer at Bidgegur. The following are the terms
in which he conveys the hint: "I apprehend that she will contrive to
defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being
suffered to retire _without examination_. But this is your
consideration, and not mine. I should be very sorry that your officers
and soldiers lost any part of the reward to which they are so well
entitled; but I cannot make any objection, as you must be the best judge
of the expediency of the _promised_ indulgence to the Rannee."]
rudely examined and despoiled of all her effects. The Governor-General,
however, in this one instance, incurred the full odium of iniquity
without reaping any of its reward. The treasures found in the castle of
the Rajah were inconsiderable, and the soldiers, who had shown themselves
so docile in receiving the lessons of plunder, were found inflexibly
obstinate in refusing to admit their instructor to a share. Disappointed,
therefore, in the primary object of his expedition, the Governor-General
looked round for some richer harvest of rapine, and the Begums of Oude
presented themselves as the most convenient victims. These Princesses,
the mother and grandmother of the reigning Nabob of Oude, had been left
by the late sovereign in possession of certain government-estates, or
jaghires, as well as of all the treasure that was in his hands at the
time of his death, and which the orientalized imaginations of the English
exaggerated to an enormous sum. The present Nabob had evidently looked
with an eye of cupidity on this wealth, and had been guilty of some acts
of extortion towards his female relatives, in consequence of which the
English government had interfered between them,--and had even guaranteed
to the mother of the Nabob the safe possession of her property, without
any further encroachment whatever. Guarantees and treaties, however, were
but cobwebs in the way of Mr. Hastings; and on his failure at Benares, he
lost no time in concluding an agreement with the Nabob, by which (in
consideration of certain measures of relief to his dominions) this Prince
was bound to plunder his mother and grandmother of all their property,
and place it at the disposal of the Governor-General. In order to give a
color of justice to this proceeding, it was [Footnote: "It was the
practice of Mr. Hastings (says Burke, in his fine speech on Mr. Pitt's
India Bill, March 22, 1786) to examine the country, and wherever he found
money to affix guilt. A more dreadful fault could not be alleged against
a native than that he was rich."] pretended that these Princesses had
taken advantage of the late insurrection at Benares, to excite a similar
spirit of revolt in Oude against the reigning Nabob and the English
government. As Law is but too often, in such cases, the ready accomplice
of Tyranny, the services of the Chief Justice, Sir Elijah Impey, were
called in to sustain the accusations; and the wretched mockery was
exhibited of a Judge travelling about in search of evidence, [Footnote:
This journey of the Chief Justice in search of evidence is thus happily
described by Sheridan in the Speech:--"When, on the 28th of November, he
was busied at Lucknow on that honorable business, and when, three days
after, he was found at Chunar, at the distance of 200 miles, still
searching for affidavits, and, like Hamlet's ghost, exclaiming, 'Swear,'
his progress on that occasion was so whimsically rapid, compared with the
gravity of his employ, that an observer would be tempted to quote again
from the same scene, 'Ha! Old Truepenny, canst thou mole so fast i' the
ground?' Here, however, the comparison ceased; for, when Sir Elijah made
his visit to Lucknow 'to whet the almost blunted purpose' of the Nabob,
his language was wholly different from that of the poet--for it would
have been totally against his purpose to have said,

Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught."] for the express purpose of proving a
charge, upon which judgment had been pronounced and punishment decreed

The Nabob himself, though sufficiently ready to make the wealth of those
venerable ladies occasionally minister to his wants, yet shrunk back,
with natural reluctance, from the summary task now imposed upon him; and
it was not till after repeated and peremptory remonstrances from Mr.
Hastings, that he could be induced to put himself at the head of a body
of English troops, and take possession, by unresisted force, of the town
and palace of these Princesses. As the treasure, however, was still
secure in the apartments of the women,--that circle, within which even the
spirit of English rapine did not venture,--an expedient was adopted to
get over this inconvenient delicacy. Two aged eunuchs of high rank and
distinction, the confidential agents of the Begums, were thrown into
prison, and subjected to a course of starvation and torture, by which it
was hoped that the feelings of their mistresses might be worked upon, and
a more speedy surrender of their treasure wrung from them. The plan
succeeded:--upwards of 500,000_l_. was procured to recruit the
finances of the Company; and thus, according to the usual course of
British power in India, rapacity but levied its contributions in one
quarter, to enable war to pursue its desolating career in another.

To crown all, one of the chief articles of the treaty, by which the Nabob
was reluctantly induced to concur in these atrocious measures, was, as
soon as the object had been gained, infringed by Mr. Hastings, who, in a
letter to his colleagues in the government, honestly confesses that the
concession of that article was only a fraudulent artifice of diplomacy,
and never intended to be carried into effect.

Such is an outline of the case, which, with all its aggravating details,
Mr. Sheridan had to state in these two memorable Speeches; and it was
certainly most fortunate for the display of his peculiar powers, that
this should be the Charge confided to his management. For, not only was
it the strongest, and susceptible of the highest charge of coloring, but
it had also the advantage of grouping together all the principal
delinquents of the trial, and affording a gradation of hue, from the
showy and prominent enormities of the Governor-General and Sir Elijah
Impey in the front of the picture, to the subordinate and half-tint
iniquity of the Middletons and Bristows in the back-ground.

Mr. Burke, it appears, had at first reserved this grand part in the drama
of the Impeachment for himself; but, finding that Sheridan had also fixed
his mind upon it, he, without hesitation, resigned it into his hands;
thus proving the sincerity of his zeal in the cause, [Footnote: Of the
lengths to which this zeal could sometimes carry his fancy and language,
rather, perhaps, than his actual feelings, the following anecdote is a
remarkable proof. On one of the days of the trial, Lord ----, who was
then a boy, having been introduced by a relative into the Manager's box,
Burke said to him, "I am glad to see you here--I shall be still gladder
to see you there--(pointing to the Peers' seats) I hope you will be _in
at the death_--I should like to _blood_ you."] by sacrificing
even the vanity of talent to its success.

The following letters from him, relative to the Impeachment, will be read
with interest. The first is addressed to Mrs. Sheridan, and was written,
I think, early in the proceedings; the second is to Sheridan himself:--


"I am sure you will have the goodness to excuse the liberty I take with
you, when you consider the interest which I have and which the Public
have (the said Public being, at least, half an inch a taller person than
I am) in the use of Mr. Sheridan's abilities. I know that his mind is
seldom unemployed; but then, like all such great and vigorous minds, it
takes an eagle flight by itself, and we can hardly bring it to rustle
along the ground, with us birds of meaner wing, in coveys. I only beg
that you will prevail on Mr. Sheridan to be with us _this day_, at
half after three, in the Committee. Mr. Wombell, the Paymaster of Oude,
is to be examined there _to-day_. Oude is Mr. Sheridan's particular
province; and I do most seriously ask that he would favor us with his
assistance. What will come of the examination I know not; but, without
him, I do not expect a great deal from it; with him, I fancy we may get
out something material. Once more let me entreat your interest with Mr.
Sheridan and your forgiveness for being troublesome to you, and do me the
justice to believe me, with the most sincere respect,

"Madam, your most obedient

"and faithful humble Servant,

_"Thursday, 9 o'clock._



"You have only to wish to be excused to succeed in your wishes; for,
indeed, he must be a great enemy to himself who can consent, on account
of a momentary ill-humor, to keep himself at a distance from you.

"Well, all will turn out right,--and half of you, or a quarter, is worth
five other men. I think that this cause, which was originally yours, will
be recognized by you, and that you will again possess yourself of it. The
owner's mark is on it, and all our docking and cropping cannot hinder its
being known and cherished by its original master. My most humble respects
to Mrs. Sheridan. I am happy to find that she takes in good part the
liberty I presumed to take with her. Grey has done much and will do every
thing. It is a pity that he is not always toned to the full extent of his

"Most truly yours,



"I feel a little sickish at the approaching day. I have read much--too
much, perhaps,--and, in truth, am but poorly prepared. Many things, too,
have broken in upon me." [Footnote: For this letter, as well as some
other valuable communications, I am indebted to the kindness of Mr.
Burgess,--the Solicitor and friend of Sheridan during the last twenty
years of his life.]

Though a Report, however accurate, must always do injustice to that
effective kind of oratory which is intended rather to be heard than read,
and, though frequently, the passages that most roused and interested the
hearer, are those that seem afterwards the tritest and least animated to
the reader, [Footnote: The converse assertion is almost equally true. Mr.
Fox used to ask of a printed speech, "Does it read well?" and, if
answered in the affirmative, said, "Then it was a bad speech."] yet, with
all this disadvantage, the celebrated oration in question so well
sustains its reputation in the perusal, that it would be injustice,
having an authentic Report in my possession, not to produce some
specimens of its style and spirit.

In the course of his exordium, after dwelling upon the great importance
of the inquiry in which they were engaged, and disclaiming for himself
and his brother-managers any feeling of personal malice against the
defendant, or any motive but that of retrieving the honor of the British
name in India, and bringing down punishment upon those whose inhumanity
and injustice had disgraced it,--he thus proceeds to conciliate the Court
by a warm tribute to the purity of English justice:--

"However, when I have said this, I trust Your Lordships will not believe
that, because something is necessary to retrieve the British character,
we call for an example to be made, without due and solid proof of the
guilt of the person whom we pursue:--no, my Lords, we know well that it
is the glory of this Constitution, that not the general fame or character
of any man--not the weight or power of any prosecutor--no plea of moral
or political expediencey--not even the secret consciousness of guilt,
which may live in the bosom of the Judge, can justify any British Court
in passing any sentence, to touch a hair of the head, or an atom in any
respect, of the property, of the fame, of the liberty of the poorest or
meanest subject that breathes the air of this just and free land. We
know, my Lords, that there can be no legal guilt without legal proof, and
that the rule which defines the evidence is as much the law of the land
as that which creates the crime. It is upon that ground we mean to stand."

Among those ready equivocations and disavowals, to which Mr. Hastings had
recourse upon every emergency, and in which practice seems to have
rendered him as shameless as expert, the step which he took with regard
to his own defence during the trial was not the least remarkable for
promptness and audacity. He had, at the commencement of the prosecution,
delivered at the bar of the House of Commons, as his own, a written
refutation of the charges then pending against him in that House,
declaring at the same time, that "if truth could tend to convict him, he
was content to be, himself, the channel to convey it." Afterwards,
however, on finding that he had committed himself rather imprudently in
this defence, he came forward to disclaim it at the bar of the House of
Lords, and brought his friend Major Scott to prove that it had been drawn
up by Messrs. Shore, Middleton, &c. &c.--that he himself had not even
seen it, and therefore ought not to be held accountable for its contents.
In adverting to this extraordinary evasion, Mr. Sheridan thus shrewdly
and playfully exposes all the persons concerned in it:--

"Major Scott comes to your bar--describes the shortness of
time--represents Mr. Hastings as it were _contracting for_ a
character--putting his memory _into commission_--making
_departments_ for his conscience. A number of friends meet together,
and he, knowing (no doubt) that the accusation of the Commons had been
drawn up by a Committee, thought it necessary, as a point of punctilio,
to answer it by a Committee also. One furnishes the raw material of fact,
the second spins the argument, and the third twines up the conclusion;
while Mr. Hastings, with a master's eye, is cheering and looking over
this loom. He says to one, 'You have got my good faith in your
hands--_you_, my veracity to manage. Mr. Shore, I hope you will make
me a good financier--Mr. Middleton, you have my humanity in
commission.'--When it is done, he brings it to the House of Commons, and
says, 'I was equal to the task. I knew the difficulties, but I scorn
them: here is the truth, and if the truth will convict me, I am content
myself to be the channel of it.' His friends hold up their heads, and
say, 'What noble magnanimity! This must be the effect of conscious and
real innocence.' Well, it is so received, it is so argued upon,--but it
fails of its effect.

"Then says Mr. Hastings,--'That my defence! no, mere
journeyman-work,--good enough for the Commons, but not fit for Your
Lordships' consideration.' He then calls upon his Counsel to save
him:--'I fear none of my accusers' witnesses--I know some of them well--I
know the weakness of their memory, and the strength of their
attachment--I fear no testimony but my own--save me from the peril of my
own panegyric--preserve me from that, and I shall be safe.' Then is this
plea brought to Your Lordships' bar, and Major Scott gravely
asserts,--that Mr. Hastings did, at the bar of the House of Commons,
vouch for facts of which he was ignorant, and for arguments which he had
never read.

"After such an attempt, we certainly are left in doubt to decide, to
_which_ set of his friends Mr. Hastings is least obliged, those who
assisted him in making his defence, or those who advised him to deny it."

He thus describes the feelings of the people of the East with respect to
the unapproachable sanctity of their Zenanas:--

"It is too much, I am afraid, the case, that persons, used to European
manners, do not take up these sort of considerations at first with the
seriousness that is necessary. For Your Lordships cannot even learn the
right nature of those people's feelings and prejudices from any history
of other Mahometan countries,--not even from that of the Turks, for they
are a mean and degraded race in comparison with many of these great
families, who, inheriting from their Persian ancestors, preserve a purer
style of prejudice and a loftier superstition. Women there are not as in
Turkey--they neither go to the mosque nor to the bath--it is not the thin
veil alone that hides them--but in the inmost recesses of their Zenana
they are kept from public view by those reverenced and protected walls,
which, as Mr. Hastings and Sir Elijah Impey admit, are held sacred even
by the ruffian hand of war or by the more uncourteous hand of the law.
But, in this situation, they are not confined from a mean and selfish
policy of man--not from a coarse and sensual jealousy--enshrined rather
than immured, their habitation and retreat is a sanctuary, not a
prison--their jealousy is their own--a jealousy of their own honor, that
leads them to regard liberty as a degradation, and the gaze of even
admiring eyes as inexpiable pollution to the purity of their fame and the
sanctity of their honor.

"Such being the general opinion (or prejudices, let them be called) of
this country, Your Lordships will find, that whatever treasures were
given or lodged in a Zenana of this description must, upon the evidence
of the thing itself, be placed beyond the reach of resumption. To dispute
with the Counsel about the original right to those treasures--to talk of
a title to them by the Mahometan law!--their title to them is the title
of a Saint to the relics upon an altar, placed there by Piety, [Footnote:
This metaphor was rather roughly handled afterwards (1794) by Mr. Law,
one of the adverse Counsel, who asked, how could the Begum be considered
as "a Saint," or how were the camels, which formed part of the treasure,
to be "placed upon the altar?" Sheridan, in reply, said, "It was the
first time in his life he had ever heard of _special pleading_ on a
_metaphor_, or a _bill of indictment_ against a trope. But such
was the turn of the learned Counsel's mind, that, when he attempted to be
humorous, no jest could be found, and, when serious, no fact was
visible."] guarded by holy Superstition, and to be snatched from thence
only by Sacrilege."

In showing that the Nabob was driven to this robbery of his relatives by
other considerations than those of the pretended rebellion, which was
afterwards conjured up by Mr. Hastings to justify it, he says,--

"The fact is, that through all his defences--through all his various
false suggestions--through all these various rebellions and
disaffections, Mr. Hastings never once lets go this plea--of
extinguishable right in the Nabob. He constantly represents the seizing
the treasures as a resumption of a right which he could not part
with;--as if there were literally something in the Koran, that made it
criminal in a true Mussulman to keep his engagements with his relations,
and impious in a son to abstain from plundering his mother. I do gravely
assure your Lordships that there is no such doctrine in the Koran, and no
such principle makes a part in the civil or municipal jurisprudence of
that country. Even after these Princesses had been endeavoring to
dethrone the Nabob and to extirpate the English, the only plea the Nabob
ever makes, is his right under the Mahometan law; and the truth is, he
appears never to have heard any other reason, and I pledge myself to make
it appear to Your Lordships, however extraordinary it may be, that not
only had the Nabob never heard of the rebellion till the moment of
seizing the palace, but, still further, that he never heard of it at
all--that this extraordinary rebellion, which was as notorious as the
rebellion of 1745 in London, was carefully concealed from those two
parties--the Begums who plotted it, and the Nabob who was to be the
victim of it.

"The existence of this rebellion was not the secret, but the notoriety of
it was the secret; it was a rebellion which had for its object the
destruction of no human creature but those who planned it;--it was a
rebellion which, according to Mr. Middleton's expression, no man, either
horse or foot, ever marched to quell. The Chief Justice was the only man
who took the field against it,--the force against which it was raised,
instantly withdrew to give it elbow-room,--and, even then, it was a
rebellion which perversely showed itself in acts of hospitality to the
Nabob whom it was to dethrone, and to the English whom it was to
extirpate;--it was a rebellion plotted by two feeble old women, headed by
two eunuchs, and suppressed by an affidavit."

The acceptance, or rather exaction, of the private present of L100,000 is
thus animadverted upon:

"My Lords, such was the distressed situation of the Nabob about a
twelvemonth before Mr. Hastings met him at Chunar. It was a twelvemonth,
I say, after this miserable scene--a mighty period in the progress of
British rapacity--it was (if the Counsel will) after some natural
calamities had aided the superior vigor of British violence and
rapacity--it was after the country had felt other calamities besides the
English--it was after the angry dispensations of Providence had, with a
progressive severity of chastisement, visited the land with a famine one
year, and with a Col. Hannay the next--it was after he, this Hannay, had
returned to retrace the steps of his former ravages--it was after he and
his voracious crew had come to plunder ruins which himself had made, and
to glean from desolation the little that famine had spared, or rapine
overlooked;--_then_ it was that this miserable bankrupt prince
marching through his country, besieged by the clamors of his starving
subjects, who cried to him for protection through their cages--meeting
the curses of some of his subjects, and the prayers of others--with
famine at his heels, and reproach following him,--then it was that this
Prince is represented as exercising this act of prodigal bounty to the
very man whom he here reproaches--to the very man whose policy had
extinguished his power, and whose creatures had desolated his country. To
talk of a free-will gift! it is audacious and ridiculous to name the
supposition. It was _not_ a free-will gift. What was it then? was it
a bribe? or was it extortion? I shall prove it was both--it was an act of
gross bribery and of rank extortion."

Again he thus adverts to this present:--

"The first thing he does is, to leave Calcutta, in order to go to the
relief of the distressed Nabob. The second thing, is to take 100,000_l_
from that distressed Nabob on account of the distressed Company. And the
third thing is to ask of the distressed Company this very same sum on
account of the distresses of Mr. Hastings. There never were three
distresses that seemed so little reconcilable with one another."

Anticipating the plea of state-necessity, which might possibly be set up
in defence of the measures of the Governor-General, he breaks out into
the following rhetorical passage:--

"State necessity! no, my Lords; that imperial tyrant, _State
Necessity_, is yet a generous despot,--bold is his demeanor, rapid his
decisions, and terrible his grasp. But what he does, my Lords, he dares
avow, and avowing, scorns any other justification, than the great motives
that placed the iron sceptre in his hand. But a quibbling, pilfering,
prevaricating State-Necessity, that tries to skulk behind the skirts of
Justice;--a State-Necessity that tries to steal a pitiful justification
from whispered accusations and fabricated rumors. No, my Lords, that is
no State Necessity;--tear off the mask, and you see coarse, vulgar
avarice,--you see speculation, lurking under the gaudy disguise, and
adding the guilt of libelling the public honor to its own private fraud.

"My Lords, I say this, because I am sure the Managers would make every
allowance that state-necessity could claim upon any great emergency. If
any great man in bearing the arms of this country;--if any Admiral,
bearing the vengeance and the glory of Britain to distant coasts, should
be compelled to some rash acts of violence, in order, perhaps, to give
food to those who are shedding their blood for Britain;--if any great
General, defending some fortress, barren itself, perhaps, but a pledge of
the pride, and, with the pride, of the power of Britain; if such a man
were to * * * while he himself was * * at the top, like an eagle besieged
in its imperial nest; [Footnote: The Reporter, at many of these passages,
seems to have thrown aside his pen in despair.]--would the Commons of
England come to accuse or to arraign such acts of state-necessity? No."

In describing that swarm of English pensioners and placemen, who were
still, in violation of the late purchased treaty, left to prey on the
finances of the Nabob, he says,--

"Here we find they were left, as heavy a weight upon the Nabob as
ever,--left there with as keen an appetite, though not so clamorous. They
were reclining on the roots and shades of that spacious tree, which their
predecessors had stripped branch and bough--watching with eager eyes the
first budding of a future prosperity, and of the opening harvest which
they considered as the prey of their perseverance and rapacity."

We have in the close of the following passage, a specimen of that lofty
style, in which, as if under the influence of Eastern associations,
almost all the Managers of this Trial occasionally indulged: [Footnote:
Much of this, however, is to be set down to the gratuitous bombast of the
Reporter. Mr. Fox, for instance, is made to say, "Yes, my Lords, happy is
it for the world, that the penetrating gaze of Providence searches after
man, and in the dark den where he has stifled the remonstrances of
conscience darts his compulsatory ray, that, bursting the secrecy of
guilt, drives the criminal frantic to confession and expiation."
_History of the Trial._--Even one of the Counsel, Mr. Dallas, is
represented as having caught this Oriental contagion, to such a degree as
to express himself in the following manner:--"We are now, however, (said
the Counsel,) advancing from the star-light of Circumstance to the
day-light of Discovery: the sun of Certainty is melting the darkness,
and--we are arrived at facts admitted by both parties!"]--

"I do not mean to say that Mr. Middleton had _direct_ instructions
from Mr. Hastings,--that he told him to go and give that fallacious
assurance to the Nabob,--that he had that order _under his hand_.
No, but in looking attentively over Mr. Middleton's correspondence, you
will find him say, upon a more important occasion, 'I don't expect your
public authority for this;--it is enough if you but _hint_ your
pleasure.' He knew him well; he could interpret every nod and motion of
that head; he understood the glances of that eye which sealed the
perdition of nations, and at whose throne Princes waited, in pale
expectation, for their fortune or their doom."

The following is one of those labored passages, of which the orator
himself was perhaps most proud, but in which the effort to be eloquent is
too visible, and the effect, accordingly, falls short of the pretension:--

"You see how Truth--empowered by that will which gives a giant's nerve to
an infant's arm--has burst the monstrous mass of fraud that has
endeavored to suppress it.--It calls now to Your Lordships, in the weak
but clear tone of that Cherub, Innocence, whose voice is more persuasive
than eloquence, more convincing than argument, whose look is
supplication, whose tone is conviction,--it calls upon you for redress,
it calls upon you for vengeance upon the oppressor, and points its
heaven-directed hand to the detested, but unrepenting author of its

His description of the desolation brought upon some provinces of Oude by
the misgovernment of Colonel Hannay, and of the insurrection at
Goruckpore against that officer in consequence, is, perhaps, the most
masterly portion of the whole speech:--

"If we could suppose a person to have come suddenly into the country
unacquainted with any circumstances that had passed since the days of
Sujah ul Dowlah, he would naturally ask--what cruel hand has wrought this
wide desolation, what barbarian foe has invaded the country, has
desolated its fields, depopulated its villages? He would ask, what
disputed succession, civil rage, or frenzy of the inhabitants, had
induced them to act in hostility to the words of God, and the beauteous
works of man? He would ask what religious zeal or frenzy had added to the
mad despair and horrors of war? The ruin is unlike any thing that appears
recorded in any age; it looks like neither the barbarities of men, nor
the judgments of vindictive heaven. There is a waste of desolation, as if
caused by fell destroyers, never meaning to return and making but a short
period of their rapacity. It looks as if some fabled monster had made its
passage through the country, whose pestiferous breath had blasted more
than its voracious appetite could devour."

"If there had been any men in the country, who had not their hearts and
souls so subdued by fear, as to refuse to speak the truth at all upon
such a subject, they would have told him, there had been no war since the
time of Sujah ul Dowlah,--tyrant, indeed, as he was, but then deeply
regretted by his subjects--that no hostile blow of any enemy had been
struck in that land--that there had been no disputed succession--no civil
war--no religious frenzy. But that these were the tokens of British
friendship, the marks left by the embraces of British allies--more
dreadful than the blows of the bitterest enemy. They would tell him that
these allies had converted a prince into a slave, to make him the
principal in the extortion upon his subjects;--that their rapacity
increased in proportion as the means of supplying their avarice
diminished; that they made the sovereign pay as if they had a right to an
increased price, because the labor of extortion and plunder increased. To
such causes, they would tell him, these calamities were owing.

"Need I refer Your Lordships to the strong testimony of Major Naylor when
he rescued Colonel Hannay from their hands--where you see that this
people, born to submission and bent to most abject subjection--that even
they, in whose meek hearts injury had never yet begot resentment, nor
even despair bred courage--that _their_ hatred, _their_
abhorrence of Colonel Hannay was such that they clung round him by
thousands and thousands;--that when Major Naylor rescued him, they
refused life from the hand that could rescue Hannay;--that they nourished
this desperate consolation, that by their death they should at least thin
the number of wretches who suffered by his devastation and extortion. He
says that, when he crossed the river, he found the poor wretches
quivering upon the parched banks of the polluted river, encouraging their
blood to flow, and consoling themselves with the thought, that it would
not sink into the earth, but rise to the common God of humanity, and cry
aloud for vengeance on their destroyers!--This warm description--which is
no declamation of mine, but founded in actual fact, and in fair, clear
proof before Your Lordships--speaks powerfully what the cause of these
oppressions were, and the perfect justness of those feelings that were
occasioned by them. And yet, my Lords, I am asked to prove _why_
these people arose in such concert:--'there must have been machinations,
forsooth, and the Begums' machinations, to produce all this!'--Why did
they rise!--Because they were people in human shape; because patience
under the detested tyranny of man is rebellion to the sovereignty of God;
because allegiance to that Power that gives us the _forms_ of men
commands us to maintain the _rights_ of men. And never yet was this
truth dismissed from the human heart--never in any time, in any
age--never in any clime, where rude man ever had any social feeling, or
where corrupt refinement had subdued all feelings,--never was this one
unextinguishable truth destroyed from the heart of man, placed, as it is,
in the core and centre of it by his Maker, that man was not made the
property of man; that human power is a trust for human benefit and that
when it is abused, revenge becomes justice, if not the bounden duty of
the injured! These, my Lords, were the causes why these people rose."

Another passage in the second day's speech is remarkable, as exhibiting a
sort of tourney of intellect between Sheridan and Burke, and in that
field of abstract speculation, which was the favorite arena of the
latter. Mr. Burke had, in opening the prosecution, remarked, that
prudence is a quality incompatible with vice, and can never be
effectively enlisted in its cause:--"I never (said he) knew a man who was
bad, fit for _service_ that was good. There is always some
disqualifying ingredient, mixing and spoiling the compound. The man seems
paralytic on that side, his muscles there have lost their very tone and
character--they cannot move. In short, the accomplishment of any thing
good is a physical impossibility for such a man. There is decrepitude as
well as distortion: he could not, if he would, is not more certain than
that he would not, if he could." To this sentiment the allusions in the
following passage refer:--

"I am perfectly convinced that there is one idea, which must arise in
Your Lordships' minds as a subject of wonder,--how a person of Mr.
Hastings' reputed abilities can furnish such matter of accusation against
himself. For, it must be admitted that never was there a person who seems
to go so rashly to work, with such an arrogant appearance of contempt for
all conclusions, that may be deduced from what he advances upon the
subject. When he seems most earnest and laborious to defend himself, it
appears as if he had but one idea uppermost in his mind--a determination
not to care what he says, provided he keeps clear of fact. He knows that
truth must convict him, and concludes, _a converso_, that falsehood
will acquit him; forgetting that there must be some connection, some
system, some co-operation, or, otherwise, his host of falsities fall
without an enemy, self-discomfited and destroyed. But of this he never
seems to have had the slightest apprehension. He falls to work, an
artificer of fraud, against all the rules of architecture;--he lays his
ornamental work first, and his massy foundation at the top of it; and
thus his whole building tumbles upon his head. Other people look well to
their ground, choose their position, and watch whether they are likely to
be surprised there; but he, as if in the ostentation of his heart, builds
upon a precipice, and encamps upon a mine, from choice. He seems to have
no one actuating principle, but a steady, persevering resolution not to
speak the truth or to tell the fact.

"It is impossible almost to treat conduct of this kind with perfect
seriousness; yet I am aware that it ought to be more seriously accounted
for--because I am sure it has been a sort of paradox, which must have
struck Your Lordships, how any person having so many motives to
conceal--having so many reasons to dread detection--should yet go to work
so clumsily upon the subject. It is possible, indeed, that it may raise
this doubt--whether such a person is of sound mind enough to be a proper
object of punishment; or at least it may give a kind of confused notion,
that the guilt cannot be of so deep and black a grain, over which such a
thin veil was thrown, and so little trouble taken to avoid detection. I
am aware that, to account for this seeming paradox, historians, poets,
and even philosophers--at least of ancient times--have adopted the
superstitious solution of the vulgar, and said that the gods deprive men
of reason whom they devote to destruction or to punishment. But to
unassuming or unprejudiced reason, there is no need to resort to any
supposed supernatural interference; for the solution will be found in the
eternal rules that formed the mind of man, and gave a quality and nature
to every passion that inhabits in it.

"An Honorable friend of mine, who is now, I believe, near me,--a
gentleman, to whom I never can on any occasion refer without feelings of
respect, and, on this subject, without feelings of the most grateful
homage;--a gentleman, whose abilities upon this occasion, as upon some
former ones, happily for the glory of the age in which we live, are not
entrusted merely to the perishable eloquence of the day, but will live to
be the admiration of that hour when all of us are mute, and most of us
forgotten;--that Honorable gentleman has told you that Prudence, the
first of virtues, never can be used in the cause of vice. If, reluctant
and diffident, I might take such a liberty, I should express a doubt,
whether experience, observation, or history, will warrant us in fully
assenting to this observation. It is a noble and a lovely sentiment, my
Lords, worthy the mind of him who uttered it, worthy that proud disdain,
that generous scorn of the means and instruments of vice, which virtue
and genius must ever feel. But I should doubt whether we can read the
history of a Philip of Macedon, a Caesar, or a Cromwell, without
confessing, that there have been evil purposes, baneful to the peace and
to the rights of men, conducted--if I may not say, with prudence or with
wisdom--yet with awful craft and most successful and commanding subtlety.
If, however, I might make a distinction, I should say that it is the
proud attempt to mix a _variety_ of lordly crimes, that unsettles
the prudence of the mind, and breeds this distraction of the brain.

"_One_ master-passion, domineering in the breast, may win the
faculties of the understanding to advance its purpose, and to direct to
that object every thing that thought or human knowledge can effect; but,
to succeed, it must maintain a solitary despotism in the mind;--each
rival profligacy must stand aloof, or wait in abject vassalage upon its
throne. For, the Power, that has not forbad the entrance of evil passions
into man's mind, has, at least, forbad their union;--if they meet they
defeat their object, and their conquest, or their attempt at it, is
tumult. Turn to the Virtues--how different the decree! Formed to connect,
to blend, to associate, and to cooperate; bearing the same course, with
kindred energies and harmonious sympathy, each perfect in its own lovely
sphere, each moving in its wider or more contracted orbit, with
different, but concentering, powers, guided by the same influence of
reason, and endeavoring at the same blessed end--the happiness of the
individual, the harmony of the species, and the glory of the Creator. In
the Vices, on the other hand, it is the discord that insures the
defeat--each clamors to be heard in its own barbarous language; each
claims the exclusive cunning of the brain; each thwarts and reproaches
the other; and even while their fell rage assails with common hate the
peace and virtue of the world, the civil war among their own tumultuous
legions defeats the purpose of the foul conspiracy. These are the Furies
of the mind, my Lords, that unsettle the understanding; these are the
Furies, that destroy the virtue, Prudence,--while the distracted brain
and shivered intellect proclaim the tumult that is within, and bear their
testimonies, from the mouth of God himself, to the foul condition of the

The part of the Speech which occupied the Third Day (and which was
interrupted by the sudden indisposition of Mr. Sheridan) consists chiefly
of comments upon the affidavits taken before Sir Elijah Impey,--in which
the irrelevance and inconsistency of these documents is shrewdly exposed,
and the dryness of detail, inseparable from such a task, enlivened by
those light touches of conversational humor, and all that by-play of
eloquence of which Mr. Sheridan was such a consummate master. But it was
on the Fourth Day of the oration that he rose into his most ambitious
flights, and produced some of those dazzling bursts of declamation, of
which the traditional fame is most vividly preserved. Among the audience
of that day was Gibbon, and the mention of his name in the following
passage not only produced its effect at the moment, but, as connected
with literary anecdote, will make the passage itself long memorable.
Politics are of the day, but literature is of all time--and, though it
was in the power of the orator, in his brief moment of triumph, to throw
a lustre over the historian by a passing epithet, [Footnote: Gibbon
himself thought it an event worthy of record in his Memoirs. "Before my
departure from England (he says) I was present at the august spectacle of
Mr. Hastings's Trial in Westminster Hall. It was not my province to
absolve or condemn the Governor of India, but Mr. Sheridan's eloquence
demanded my applause, nor could I hear without emotion the personal
compliment which he paid me in the presence of the British nation. From
this display of genius, which blazed four successive days," &c &c.] the
name of the latter will, at the long run, pay back the honor with
interest. Having reprobated the violence and perfidy of the
Governor-General, in forcing the Nabob to plunder his own relatives and
friends, he adds:--

"I do say, that if you search the history of the world, you will not find
an act of tyranny and fraud to surpass this; if you read all past
histories, peruse the Annals of Tacitus, read the luminous page of
Gibbon, and all the ancient and modern writers, that have searched into
the depravity of former ages to draw a lesson for the present, you will
not find an act of treacherous, deliberate, cool cruelty that could
exceed this."

On being asked by some honest brother Whig, at the conclusion of the
Speech, how he came to compliment Gibbon with the epithet "luminous,"
Sheridan answered in a half whisper, "I said '_vo_luminous.'"

It is well known that the simile of the vulture and the lamb, which
occurs in the address of Rolla to the Peruvians, had been previously
employed by Mr. Sheridan, in this speech; and it showed a degree of
indifference to criticism,--which criticism, it must be owned, not
unfrequently deserves,--to reproduce before the public an image, so
notorious both from its application and its success. But, called upon, as
he was, to levy, for the use of that Drama, a hasty conscription of
phrases and images, all of a certain altitude and pomp, this veteran
simile, he thought, might be pressed into the service among the rest. The
passage of the Speech in which it occurs is left imperfect in the

"This is the character of all the protection ever afforded to the allies
of Britain under the government of Mr. Hastings. They send their troops
to drain the produce of industry, to seize all the treasures, wealth, and
prosperity of the country, and then they call it Protection!--it is the
protection of the vulture to the lamb. * * *"

The following is his celebrated delineation of Filial Affection, to which
reference is more frequently made than to any other part of the
Speech;--though the gross inaccuracy of the printed Report has done its
utmost to belie the reputation of the original passage, or rather has
substituted a changeling to inherit its fame.

"When I see in many of these letters the infirmities of age made a
subject of mockery and ridicule; when I see the feelings of a son treated
by Mr. Middleton as puerile and contemptible; when I see an order given
by Mr. Hastings to harden that son's heart, to choke the struggling
nature in his bosom; when I see them pointing to the son's name, and to
his standard while marching to oppress the mother, as to a banner that
gives dignity, that gives a holy sanction and a reverence to their
enterprise; when I see and hear these things done--when I hear them
brought into three deliberate Defences set up against the Charges of the
Commons--my Lords, I own I grow puzzled and confounded, and almost begin
to doubt whether, where such a defence can be offered, it may not be

"And yet, my Lords, how can I support the claim of filial love by
argument--much less the affection of a son to a mother--where love loses
its awe, and veneration is mixed with tenderness? What can I say upon
such a subject, what can I do but repeat the ready truths which, with the
quick impulse of the mind, must spring to the lips of every man on such a
theme? Filial love! the morality of instinct, the sacrament of nature and
duty--or rather let me say it is miscalled a duty, for it flows from the
heart without effort, and is its delight, its indulgence, its enjoyment.
It is guided, not by the slow dictates of reason; it awaits not
encouragement from reflection or from thought; it asks no aid of memory;
it is an innate, but active, consciousness of having been the object of a
thousand tender solicitudes, a thousand waking watchful cares, of meek
anxiety and patient sacrifices unremarked and unrequited by the object.
It is a gratitude founded upon a conviction of obligations, not
remembered, but the more binding because not remembered,--because
conferred before the tender reason could acknowledge, or the infant
memory record them--a gratitude and affection, which no circumstances
should subdue, and which few can strengthen; a gratitude, in which even
injury from the object, though it may blend regret, should never breed
resentment; an affection which can be increased only by the decay of
those to whom we owe it, and which is then most fervent when the
tremulous voice of age, resistless in its feebleness, inquires for the
natural protector of its cold decline.

"If these are the general sentiments of man, what must be their
depravity, what must be their degeneracy, who can blot out and erase from
the bosom the virtue that is deepest rooted in the human heart, and
twined within the cords of life itself--aliens from nature, apostates
from humanity! And yet, if there is a crime more fell, more foul--if
there is any thing worse than a wilful persecutor of his mother--it is to
see a deliberate, reasoning instigator and abettor to the deed:--this it
is that shocks, disgusts, and appals the mind more than the other--to
view, not a wilful parricide, but a parricide by compulsion, a miserable
wretch, not actuated by the stubborn evils of his own worthless heart,
not driven by the fury of his own distracted brain, but lending his
sacrilegious hand, without any malice of his own, to answer the abandoned
purposes of the human fiends that have subdued his will!--To condemn
crimes like these, we need not talk of laws or of human rules--their
foulness, their deformity does not depend upon local constitutions, upon
human institutes or religious creeds:--they are crimes--and the persons
who perpetrate them are monsters who violate the primitive condition,
upon which the earth was given to man--they are guilty by the general
verdict of human kind."

In some of the sarcasms we are reminded of the quaint contrasts of his
dramatic style. Thus:--

"I must also do credit to them whenever I see any thing like lenity in
Mr. Middleton or his agent:--they do seem to admit here, that it was not
worth while to commit a massacre for the discount of a small note of
hand, and to put two thousand women and children to death, in order to
procure prompt payment."

Of the length to which the language of crimination was carried, as well
by Mr. Sheridan as by Mr. Burke, one example, out of many, will suffice.
It cannot fail, however, to be remarked that, while the denunciations and
invectives of Burke are filled throughout with a passionate earnestness,
which leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the hate and anger professed
by him,--in Sheridan, whose nature was of a much gentler cast, the
vehemence is evidently more in the words than in the feeling, the tone of
indignation is theatrical and assumed, and the brightness of the flash
seems to be more considered than the destructiveness of the fire:--

"It is this circumstance of deliberation and consciousness of his
guilt--it is this that inflames the minds of those who watch his
transactions, and roots out all pity for a person who could act under
such an influence. We conceive of such tyrants as Caligula and Nero, bred
up to tyranny and oppression, having had no equals to control them--no
moment for reflection--we conceive that, if it could have been possible
to seize the guilty profligates for a moment, you might bring conviction
to their hearts and repentance to their minds. But when you see a cool,
reasoning, deliberate tyrant--one who was not born and bred to
arrogance,--who has been nursed in a mercantile line--who has been used
to look round among his fellow-subjects--to transact business with his
equals--to account for conduct to his master, and, by that wise system of
the Company, to detail all his transactions--who never could fly one
moment from himself, but must be obliged every night to sit down and hold
up a glass to his own soul--who could never be blind to his deformity,
and who must have brought his conscience not only to connive at but to
approve of it--_this_ it is that distinguishes it from the worst
cruelties, the worst enormities of those, who, born to tyranny, and
finding no superior, no adviser, have gone to the last presumption that
there were none above to control them hereafter. This is a circumstance
that aggravates the whole of the guilt of the unfortunate gentleman we
are now arraigning at your bar."

We now come to the Peroration, in which, skilfully and without appearance
of design, it is contrived that the same sort of appeal to the purity of
British justice, with which the oration opened, should, like the
repetition of a solemn strain of music, recur at its close,--leaving in
the minds of the Judges a composed and concentrated feeling of the great
public duty they had to perform, in deciding upon the arraignment of
guilt brought before them. The Court of Directors, it appeared, had
ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the Begums, with a view to the
restitution of their property, if it should appear that the charges
against them were unfounded; but to this proceeding Mr. Hastings
objected, on the ground that the Begums themselves had not called for
such interference in their favor, and that it was inconsistent with the
"Majesty of Justice" to condescend to volunteer her services. The pompous
and Jesuitical style in which this singular doctrine [Footnote: "If
nothing (says Mr. Mill) remained to stain the reputation of Mr. Hastings
but the principles avowed in this singular pleading, his character, among
the friends of justice, would be sufficiently determined."] is expressed,
in a letter addressed by the Governor-general to Mr. Macpherson, is thus
ingeniously turned to account by the orator, in winding up his masterly
statement to a close:--

'And now before I come to the last magnificent paragraph, let me call the
attention of those who, possibly, think themselves capable of judging of
the dignity and character of justice in this country;--let me call the
attention of those who, arrogantly perhaps, presume that they understand
what the features, what the duties of justice are here and in India;--let
them learn a lesson from this great statesman, this enlarged, this
liberal philosopher:--'I hope I shall not depart from the simplicity of
official language, in saying that the Majesty of Justice ought to be
approached with solicitation, not descend to provoke or invite it, much
less to debase itself by the suggestion of wrongs and the promise of
redress, with the denunciation of punishment before trial, and even
before accusation.' This is the exhortation which Mr. Hastings makes to
his counsel. This is the character which he gives of British justice.

* * * * *

"But I will ask Your Lordships, do you approve this representation? Do
you feel that this is the true image of Justice? Is this the character of
British justice? Are these her features? Is this her countenance? Is this
her gait or her mien? No, I think even now I hear you calling upon me to
turn from this vile libel, this base caricature, this Indian pagod,
formed by the hand of guilty and knavish tyranny, to dupe the heart of
ignorance,--to turn from this deformed idol to the true Majesty of
Justice here. _Here_, indeed, I see a different form, enthroned by
the sovereign hand of Freedom,--awful without severity--commanding
without pride--vigilant and active without restlessness or
suspicion--searching and inquisitive without meanness or debasement--not
arrogantly scorning to stoop to the voice of afflicted innocence, and in
its loveliest attitude when bending to uplift the suppliant at its feet.

"It is by the majesty, by the form of that Justice, that I do conjure and
implore Your Lordships to give your minds to this great business; that I
exhort you to look, not so much to words, which may be denied or quibbled
away, but to the plain facts,--to weigh and consider the testimony in
your own minds: we know the result must be inevitable. Let the truth
appear and our cause is gained. It is this, I conjure Your Lordships, for
your own honor, for the honor of the nation, for the honor of human
nature, now entrusted to your care,--it is this duty that the Commons of
England, speaking through us, claims at your hands.

"They exhort you to it by every thing that calls sublimely upon the heart
of man, by the Majesty of that Justice which this bold man has libelled,
by the wide fame of your own tribunal, by the sacred pledge by which you
swear in the solemn hour of decision, knowing that that decision will
then bring you the highest reward that ever blessed the heart of man, the
consciousness of having done the greatest act of mercy for the world,
that the earth has ever yet received from any hand but Heaven.--My Lords,
I have done."

Though I have selected some of the most remarkable passages of this
Speech, [Footnote: I had selected many more, but must confess that they
appeared to me, when in print, so little worthy of the reputation of the
Speech, that I thought it would be, on the whole, more prudent to omit
them. Even of the passages, here cited, I speak rather from my
imagination of what they must have been, than from my actual feeling of
what they are. The character, given of such Reports, by Lord
Loughborough, is, no doubt, but too just. On a motion made by Lord
Stanhope, (April 29, 1794), that the short-hand writers, employed on
Hastings's trial, should be summoned to the bar of the House, to read
their minutes, Lord Loughborough, in the course of his observations on
the motion, said, "God forbid that ever their Lordships should call on
the short-hand writers to publish their notes; for, of all people,
short-hand writers were ever the farthest from correctness, and there
were no man's words they ever heard that they again returned. They were
in general ignorant, as acting mechanically; and by not considering the
antecedent, and catching the sound, and not the sense, they perverted the
sense of the speaker, and made him appear as ignorant as themselves."] it
would be unfair to judge of it even from these specimens. A Report,
_verbatim_, of any effective speech must always appear diffuse and
ungraceful in the perusal. The very repetitions, the redundancy, the
accumulation of epithets which gave force and momentum in the career of
delivery, but weaken and encumber the march of the style, when read.
There is, indeed, the same sort of difference between a faithful
short-hand Report, and those abridged and polished records which Burke
has left us of his speeches, as there is between a cast taken directly
from the face, (where every line is accurately preserved, but all the
blemishes and excrescences are in rigid preservation also,) and a model,
over which the correcting hand has passed, and all that was minute or
superfluous is generalized and softened away.

Neither was it in such rhetorical passages as abound, perhaps, rather
lavishly, in this Speech, that the chief strength of Mr. Sheridan's
talent lay. Good sense and wit were the great weapons of his
oratory--shrewdness in detecting the weak points of an adversary, and
infinite powers of raillery in exposing it. These were faculties which he
possessed in a greater degree than any of his contemporaries; and so well
did he himself know the stronghold of his powers, that it was but rarely,
after this display in Westminster Hall, that he was tempted to leave it
for the higher flights of oratory, or to wander after Sense into that
region of metaphor, where too often, like Angelica in the enchanted
palace of Atlante, she is sought for in vain. [Footnote: Curran used to
say laughingly, "When I can't talk sense, I talk metaphor."] His
attempts, indeed, at the florid or figurative style, whether in his
speeches or his writings, were seldom very successful. That luxuriance of
fancy, which in Burke was natural and indigenous, was in him rather a
forced and exotic growth. It is a remarkable proof of this difference
between them, that while, in the memorandums of speeches left behind by
Burke, we find, that the points of argument and business were those which
he prepared, trusting to the ever ready wardrobe of his fancy for their
adornment,--in Mr. Sheridan's notes it is chiefly the decorative
passages, that are worked up beforehand to their full polish; while on
the resources of his good sense, ingenuity, and temper, he seems to have
relied for the management of his reasonings and facts. Hence naturally it
arises that the images of Burke, being called up on the instant, like
spirits, to perform the bidding of his argument, minister to it
throughout, with an almost coordinate agency; while the figurative
fancies of Sheridan, already prepared for the occasion, and brought forth
to adorn, not assist, the business of the discourse, resemble rather
those sprites which the magicians used to keep inclosed in phials, to be
produced for a momentary enchantment, and then shut up again.

In truth, the similes and illustrations of Burke form such an intimate,
and often essential, part of his reasoning, that if the whole strength of
the Samson does not lie in those luxuriant locks, it would at least be
considerably diminished by their loss. Whereas, in the Speech of Mr.
Sheridan, which we have just been considering, there is hardly one of the
rhetorical ornaments that might not be detached, without, in any great
degree, injuring the force of the general statement. Another consequence
of this difference between them is observable in their respective modes
of transition, from what may be called the _business_ of a speech
its more generalized and rhetorical parts. When Sheridan rises, his
elevation is not sufficiently prepared; he starts abruptly and at once
from the level of his statement, and sinks down into it again with the
same suddenness. But Burke, whose imagination never allows even business
to subside into mere prose, sustains a pitch throughout which accustoms
the mind to wonder, and, while it prepares us to accompany him in his
boldest flights, makes us, even when he walks, still feel that he has

"_Meme quand l'oiseau marche, on sent qu'il a des ailes._"

The sincerity of the praises bestowed by Burke on the Speech of his
brother Manager has sometimes been questioned, but upon no sufficient
grounds. His zeal for the success of the Impeachment, no doubt, had a
considerable share in the enthusiasm, with which this great effort in its
favor filled him. It may be granted, too, that, in admiring the
apostrophes that variegate this speech, he was, in some degree, enamored
of a reflection of himself;

"_Cunctaque miratur, quibus est mirabilis ipse._"

He sees reflected there, in fainter light.
All that combines to make himself so bright.

But whatever mixture of other motives there may have been in the feeling,
it is certain that his admiration of the Speech was real and unbounded.
He is said to have exclaimed to Mr. Fox, during the delivery of some
passages of it, "There,--that is the true style;--something between
poetry and prose, and better than either." The severer taste of Mr. Fox
dissented, as might be expected, from this remark. He replied, that "he
thought such a mixture was for the advantage of neither--as producing
poetic prose, or, still worse, prosaic poetry." It was, indeed, the
opinion of Mr. Fox, that the impression made upon Burke by these somewhat
too theatrical tirades is observable in the change that subsequently took
place in his own style of writing; and that the florid and less chastened
taste which some persons discover in his later productions, may all be
traced to the example of this speech. However this may be, or whether
there is really much difference, as to taste, between the youthful and
sparkling vision of the Queen of France in 1792, and the interview
between the Angel and Lord Bathurst in 1775, it is surely a most unjust
disparagement of the eloquence of Burke, to apply to it, at any time of
his life, the epithet "flowery,"--a designation only applicable to that
ordinary ambition of style, whose chief display, by necessity, consists
of ornament without thought, and pomp without substance. A succession of
bright images, clothed in simple, transparent language,--even when, as in
Burke, they "crowd upon the aching sense" too dazzlingly,--should never
be confounded with that mere verbal opulence of style, which mistakes the
glare of words for the glitter of ideas, and, like the Helen of the
sculptor Lysippus, makes finery supply the place of beauty. The
figurative definition of eloquence in the Book of Proverbs--"Apples of
gold in a net-work of silver"--is peculiarly applicable to that
enshrinement of rich, solid thoughts in clear and shining language, which
is the triumph of the imaginative class of writers and orators,--while,
perhaps, the net-work, _without_ the gold inclosed, is a type
equally significant of what is called "flowery" eloquence.

It is also, I think, a mistake, however flattering to my country, to call
the School of Oratory, to which Burke belongs, _Irish_. That
Irishmen are naturally more gifted with those stores of fancy, from which
the illumination of this high order of the art must be supplied, the
names of Burke, Grattan, Sheridan, Curran, Canning, and Plunkett,
abundantly testify. Yet had Lord Chatham, before any of these great
speakers were heard, led the way, in the same animated and figured strain
of oratory; [Footnote: His few noble sentences on the privilege of the
poor man's cottage are universally known. There is also his fanciful
allusion to the confluence of the Saone and Rhone, the traditional
reports of which vary, both as to the exact terms in which it was
expressed, and the persons to whom he applied it. Even Lord Orford does
not seem to have ascertained the latter point. To these may be added the
following specimen:--"I don't inquire from what quarter the wind cometh,
but whither it goeth; and, if any measure that comes from the Right
Honorable Gentleman tends to the public good, my bark is ready." Of a
different kind is that grand passage,--"America, they tell me, has
resisted--I rejoice to hear it,"--which Mr. Grattan used to pronounce
finer than anything in Demosthenes.] while another Englishman, Lord
Bacon, by making Fancy the hand-maid of Philosophy, had long since set an
example of that union of the imaginative and the solid, which, both in
writing and in speaking, forms the characteristic distinction of this

The Speech of Mr. Sheridan in Westminster Hall, though so much inferior
in the opinion of Mr. Fox and others, to that which he had delivered on
the same subject in the House of Commons, seems to have produced, at the
time, even a more lively and general sensation;--possibly from the nature
and numerousness of the assembly before which it was spoken, and which
counted among its multitude a number of that sex, whose lips are in
general found to be the most rapid conductors of fame.

But there was _one_ of this sex, more immediately interested in his
glory, who seems to have felt it as women alone can feel. "I have delayed
writing," says Mrs. Sheridan, in a letter to her sister-in-law, dated
four days after the termination of the Speech, "till I could gratify
myself and you by sending you the news of our dear Dick's triumph!--of
_our_ triumph I may call it; for surely, no one, in the slightest
degree connected with him, but must feel proud and happy. It is
impossible, my dear woman, to convey to you the delight, the
astonishment, the adoration, he has excited in the breasts of every class
of people! Every party-prejudice has been overcome by a display of
genius, eloquence and goodness, which no one with any thing like a heart
about them, could have listened to without being the wiser and the better
for the rest of their lives. What must _my_ feelings be!--you can
only imagine. To tell you the truth, it is with some difficulty that I
can 'let down my mind,' as Mr. Burke said afterwards, to talk or think on
any other subject. But pleasure, too exquisite, becomes pain, and I am at
this moment suffering for the delightful anxieties of last week."

It is a most happy combination when the wife of a man of genius unites
intellect enough to appreciate the talents of her husband, with the
quick, feminine sensibility, that can thus passionately feel his success.
Pliny tells us, that his Calpurnia, whenever he pleaded an important
cause, had messengers ready to report to her every murmur of applause
that he received; and the poet Statius, in alluding to his own victories
at the Albanian Games, mentions the "breathless kisses," with which his
wife, Claudia, used to cover the triumphal garlands he brought home. Mrs.
Sheridan may well take her place beside these Roman wives;--and she had
another resemblance to one of them, which was no less womanly and
attractive. Not only did Calpurnia sympathize with the glory of her
husband abroad, but she could also, like Mrs. Sheridan, add a charm to
his talents at home, by setting his verses to music and singing them to
her harp,--"with no instructor," adds Pliny, "but Love, who is, after
all, the best master."

This letter of Mrs. Sheridan thus proceeds:--"You were perhaps alarmed by
the account of S.'s illness in the papers; but I have the pleasure to
assure you he is now perfectly well, and I hope by next week we shall be
quietly settled in the country, and suffered to repose, in every sense of
the word; for indeed we have, both of us, been in a constant state of
agitation, of one kind or other, for some time back.

"I am very glad to hear your father continues so well. Surely he must
feel happy and proud of such a son. I take it for granted you see the
newspapers: I assure you the accounts in them are not exaggerated, and
only echo the exclamation of admiration that is in every body's mouth. I
make no excuse for dwelling on this subject: I know you will not find it
tedious. God bless you--I am an invalid at present, and not able to write
long letters."

The agitation and want of repose, which Mrs. Sheridan here complains of,
arose not only from the anxiety which she so deeply felt, for the success
of this great public effort of her husband, but from the share which she
herself had taken, in the labor and attention necessary to prepare him
for it. The mind of Sheridan being, from the circumstances of his
education and life, but scantily informed upon all subjects for which
reading is necessary, required, of course, considerable training and
feeding, before it could venture to grapple with any new or important
task. He has been known to say frankly to his political friends, when
invited to take part in some question that depended upon authorities,
"You know I'm an ignoramus--but here I am--instruct me and I'll do my
best." It is said that the stock of numerical lore, upon which he
ventured to set up as the Aristarchus of Mr. Pitt's financial plans, was
the result of three weeks' hard study of arithmetic, to which he doomed
himself, in the early part of his Parliamentary career, on the chance of
being appointed, some time or other, Chancellor of the Exchequer. For
financial display it must be owned that this was rather a crude
preparation. But there are other subjects of oratory, on which the
outpourings of information, newly acquired, may have a freshness and
vivacity which it would be vain to expect, in the communication of
knowledge that has lain long in the mind, and lost in circumstantial
spirit what it has gained in general mellowness. They, indeed, who have
been regularly disciplined in learning, may be not only too familiar with
what they know to communicate it with much liveliness to others, but too
apt also to rely upon the resources of the memory, and upon those cold
outlines which it retains of knowledge whose details are faded. The
natural consequence of all this is that persons, the best furnished with
general information, are often the most vague and unimpressive on
particular subjects; while, on the contrary, an uninstructed man of
genius, like Sheridan, who approaches a topic of importance for the first
time, has not only the stimulus of ambition and curiosity to aid him in
mastering its details, but the novelty of first impressions to brighten
his general views of it--and, with a fancy thus freshly excited, himself,
is most sure to touch and rouse the imaginations of others.

This was particularly the situation of Mr. Sheridan with respect to the
history of Indian affairs; and there remain among his papers numerous
proofs of the labor which his preparation for this arduous task cost not
only himself but Mrs. Sheridan. Among others, there is a large pamphlet
of Mr. Hastings, consisting of more than two hundred pages, copied out
neatly in her writing, with some assistance from another female hand. The
industry, indeed, of all around him was put in requisition for this great
occasion--some, busy with the pen and scissors, making extracts--some
pasting and stitching his scattered memorandums in their places. So that
there was hardly a single member of the family that could not boast of
having contributed his share, to the mechanical construction of this
speech. The pride of its success was, of course, equally participated;
and Edwards, a favorite servant of Mr. Sheridan, who lived with him many
years, was long celebrated for his professed imitation of the manner in
which his master delivered (what seems to have struck Edwards as the
finest part of the speech) his closing words, "My Lords, I have done!"

The impeachment of Warren Hastings is one of those pageants in the drama
of public life, which show how fleeting are the labors and triumphs of
politicians--"what shadows they are, and what shadows they pursue." When
we consider the importance which the great actors in that scene attached
to it,--the grandeur with which their eloquence invested the cause, as
one in which the liberties and rights of the whole human race were
interested,--and then think how all that splendid array of Law and of
talent has dwindled away, in the view of most persons at present, into an
unworthy and harassing persecution of a meritorious and successful
statesman;--how those passionate appeals to justice, those vehement
denunciations of crime, which made the halls of Westminster and St.
Stephen's ring with their echoes, are now coldly judged, through the
medium of disfiguring Reports, and regarded, at the best, but as
rhetorical effusions, indebted to temper for their warmth, and to fancy
for their details;--while so little was the reputation of the delinquent
himself even scorched by the bolts of eloquence thus launched at him,
that a subsequent House of Commons thought themselves honored by his
presence, and welcomed him with such cheers [Footnote: When called as a
witness before the House, in 1813, on the subject of the renewal of the
East India Company's Charter.] as should reward only the friends and
benefactors of freedom;--when we reflect on this thankless result of so
much labor and talent, it seems wonderful that there should still be
found high and gifted spirits, to waste themselves away in such temporary
struggles, and, like that spendthrift of genius, Sheridan, to
_discount_ their immortality, for the payment of fame in hand which
these triumphs of the day secure to them.

For this direction, however, which the current of opinion has taken, with
regard to Mr. Hastings and his eloquent accusers, there are many very
obvious reasons to be assigned. Success, as I have already remarked, was
the dazzling talisman, which he waved in the eyes of his adversaries from
the first, and which his friends have made use of to throw a splendor
over his tyranny and injustice ever since. [Footnote: In the important
article of Finance, however, for which he made so many sacrifices of
humanity, even the justification of success was wanting to his measures.
The following is the account given by the Select Committee of the House
of Commons in 1810, of the state in which India was left by his
administration:--"The revenues had been absorbed; the pay and allowances
of both the civil and military branches of the service were greatly in
arrear; the credit of the Company was extremely depressed; and, added to
all, the whole system had fallen into such irregularity and confusion,
that the real state of affairs could not be _ascertained_ till the
conclusion of the year 1785-6."--_Third Report_.] Too often in the
moral logic of this world, it matters but little what the premises of
conduct may be, so the conclusion but turns out showy and prosperous.
There is also, it must be owned, among the English, (as perhaps, among
all free people,) a strong taste for the arbitrary, when they themselves
are not to be the victims of it, which invariably secures to such
accomplished despotisms, as that of Lord Strafford in Ireland, and
Hastings in India, even a larger share of their admiration than they are,
themselves, always willing to allow.

The rhetorical exaggerations, in which the Managers of the prosecution
indulged,--Mr. Sheridan, from imagination, luxuriating in its own
display, and Burke from the same cause, added to his overpowering
autocracy of temper--were but too much calculated to throw suspicion on
the cause in which they were employed, and to produce a reaction in favor
of the person whom they were meant to overwhelm. "_Rogo vos,
Judices_,"--Mr. Hastings might well have said,--"_si iste disertus
est, ideo me damnari oportet?_" [Footnote: Seneca, Controvers. lib.
iii. c. 19.]

There are also, without doubt, considerable allowances to be made, for
the difficult situations in which Mr. Hastings was placed, and those
impulses to wrong which acted upon him from all sides--allowances which
will have more or less weight with the judgment, according as it may be
more or less fastidiously disposed, in letting excuses for rapine and
oppression pass muster. The incessant and urgent demands of the Directors
upon him for money may palliate, perhaps, the violence of those methods
which he took to procure it for them; and the obstruction to his policy
which would have arisen from a strict observance of Treaties, may be
admitted, by the same gentle casuistry, as an apology for his frequent
infractions of them.

Another consideration to be taken into account, in our estimate of the
character of Mr. Hastings as a ruler, is that strong light of publicity,
which the practice in India of carrying on the business of government by
written documents threw on all the machinery of his measures,
deliberative as well as executive. These Minutes, indeed, form a record
of fluctuation and inconsistency--not only on the part of the
Governor-General, but of all the members of the government--a sort of
weather-cock diary of opinions and principles, shifting with the
interests or convenience of the moment, [Footnote: Instances of this, on
the part of Mr. Hastings, are numberless. In remarking upon his corrupt
transfer of the management of the Nabob's household in 1778, the
Directors say, "It is with equal surprise and concern that we observe
this request introduced, and the Nabob's ostensible rights so solemnly
asserted at this period by our Governor-General; because, on a late
occasion, to serve a very different purpose, he has not scrupled to
declare it as visible as the light of the sun, that the Nabob is a mere
pageant, and without even the shadow of authority." On another
transaction in 1781, Mr. Mill remarks:--"It is a curious moral spectacle
to compare the minutes and letters of the Governor-General, when, at the
beginning of the year 1780, maintaining the propriety of condemning the
Nabob to sustain the whole of the burden imposed upon him, and his
minutes and letters maintaining the propriety of relieving him from those
burthens in 1781. The arguments and facts adduced on the one occasion, as
well as the conclusion, are a flat contradiction to those exhibited on
the other."] which entirely takes away our respect even for success, when
issuing out of such a chaos of self-contradiction and shuffling. It
cannot be denied, however, that such a system of exposure--submitted, as
it was in this case, to a still further scrutiny, under the bold,
denuding hands of a Burke and a Sheridan--was a test to which the
councils of few rulers could with impunity be brought. Where, indeed, is
the statesman that could bear to have his obliquities thus chronicled? or
where is the Cabinet that would not shrink from such an inroad of light
into its recesses?

The undefined nature, too, of that power which the Company exercised in
India, and the uncertain state of the Law, vibrating between the English
and the Hindoo codes, left such tempting openings for injustice as it was
hardly possible to resist. With no public opinion to warn off authority
from encroachment, and with the precedents set up by former rulers all
pointing the wrong way, it would have been difficult, perhaps, for even
more moderate men than Hastings, not occasionally to break bounds and go
continually astray.

To all these considerations in his favor is to be added the apparently
triumphant fact, that his government was popular among the natives of
India, and that his name is still remembered by them with gratitude and

Allowing Mr. Hastings, however, the full advantage of these and other
strong pleas in his defence, it is yet impossible, for any real lover of
justice and humanity, to read the plainest and least exaggerated history
of his government, [Footnote: Nothing can be more partial and misleading
than the coloring given to these transactions by Mr. Nicholls and other
apologists of Hastings. For the view which I have myself taken of the
whole case I am chiefly indebted to the able History of British India by
Mr. Mill--whose industrious research and clear analytical statements make
him the most valuable authority that can be consulted on the subject.

The mood of mind in which Mr. Nicholls listened to the proceedings of the
Impeachment may be judged from the following declaration, which he has
had the courage to promulgate to the public:--"On this Charge (the Begum
Charge) Mr. Sheridan made a speech, which both sides of the House
professed greatly to admire--for Mr. Pitt now openly approved of the
Impeachment. _I will acknowledge, that I did not admire this speech of
Mr. Sheridan."_] without feeling deep indignation excited at almost
every page of it. His predecessors had, it is true, been guilty of wrongs
as glaring--the treachery of Lord Clive to Omichund in 1757, and the
abandonment of Ramnarain to Meer Causim under the administration of Mr.
Vansittart, are stains upon the British character which no talents or
glory can do away. There are precedents, indeed, to be found, through the
annals of our Indian empire, for the formation of the most perfect code
of tyranny, in every department, legislative, judicial, and executive,
that ever entered into the dreams of intoxicated power. But, while the
practice of Mr. Hastings was, at least, as tyrannical as that of his
predecessors, the principles upon which he founded that practice were
still more odious and unpardonable. In his manner, indeed, of defending
himself he is his own worst accuser--as there is no outrage of power, no
violation of faith, that might not be justified by the versatile and
ambidextrous doctrines, the lessons of deceit and rules of rapine, which
he so ably illustrated by his measures, and has so shamelessly recorded
with his pen.

Nothing but an early and deep initiation in the corrupting school of
Indian politics could have produced the facility with which, as occasion
required, he could belie his own recorded assertions, turn hostilely
round upon his own expressed opinions, disclaim the proxies which he
himself had delegated, and, in short, get rid of all the inconveniences
of personal identity, by never acknowledging himself to be bound by any
engagement or opinion which himself had formed. To select the worst
features of his Administration is no very easy task; but the calculating
cruelty with which he abetted the extermination of the Rohillas--his
unjust and precipitate execution of Nuncomar, who had stood forth as his
accuser, and, therefore, became his victim,--his violent aggression upon
the Raja of Benares, and that combination of public and private rapacity,
which is exhibited in the details of his conduct to the royal family of
Oude;--these are acts, proved by the testimony of himself and his
accomplices, from the disgrace of which no formal acquittal upon points
of law can absolve him, and whose guilt the allowances of charity may
extenuate, but never can remove. That the perpetrator of such deeds
should have been popular among the natives of India only proves how low
was the standard of justice, to which the entire tenor of our policy had
accustomed them;--but that a ruler of this character should be held up to
admiration in England, is one of those anomalies with which England, more
than any other nation, abounds, and only inclines us to wonder that the
true worship of Liberty should so long have continued to flourish in a
country, where such heresies to her sacred cause are found.

I have dwelt so long upon the circumstances and nature of this Trial, not
only on account of the conspicuous place which it occupies in the
fore-ground of Mr. Sheridan's life, but because of that general interest
which an observer of our Institutions must take in it, from the clearness
with which it brought into view some of their best and worst features.
While, on one side, we perceive the weight of the popular scale, in the
lead taken, upon an occasion of such solemnity and importance, by two
persons brought forward from the middle ranks of society into the very
van of political distinction and influence, on the other hand, in the
sympathy and favor extended by the Court to the practical assertor of
despotic principles, we trace the prevalence of that feeling, which,
since the commencement of the late King's reign, has made the Throne the
rallying point of all that are unfriendly to the cause of freedom. Again,
in considering the conduct of the Crown Lawyers during the Trial--the
narrow and irrational rules of evidence which they sought to
establish--the unconstitutional control assumed by the Judges, over the
decisions of the tribunal before which the cause was tried, and the
refusal to communicate the reasons upon which those decisions were
founded--above all, too, the legal opinions expressed on the great
question relative to the abatement of an Impeachment by Dissolution, in
which almost the whole body of lawyers [Footnote: Among the rest, Lord
Erskine, who allowed his profession, on this occasion, to stand in the
light of his judgment. "As to a Nisi-prius lawyer (said Burke) giving an
opinion on the duration of an Impeachment--as well might a rabbit, that
breeds six times a year, pretend to know any thing of the gestation of an
elephant."] took the wrong, the pedantic, and the unstatesmanlike side of
the question,--while in all these indications of the spirit of that
profession, and of its propensity to tie down the giant Truth, with its
small threads of technicality and precedent, we perceive the danger to be
apprehended from the interference of such a spirit in politics, on the
other side, arrayed against these petty tactics of the Forum, we see the
broad banner of Constitutional Law, upheld alike by a Fox and a Pitt, a
Sheridan and a Dundas, and find truth and good sense taking refuge from
the equivocations of lawyers, in such consoling documents as the Report
upon the Abuses of the Trial by Burke--a document which, if ever a reform
of the English law should be attempted, will stand as a great guiding
light to the adventurers in that heroic enterprise.

It has been frequently asserted, that on the evening of Mr. Sheridan's
grand display in the House of Commons, The School for Scandal and the
Duenna were acted at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, and thus three great
audiences were at the same moment amused, agitated, and, as it were,
wielded by the intellect of one man. As this triple triumph of
talent--this manifestation of the power of Genius to multiply itself,
like an Indian god--was, in the instance of Sheridan, not only possible,
but within the scope of a very easy arrangement, it is to be lamented
that no such coincidence did actually take place, and that the ability to
have achieved the miracle is all that can be with truth attributed to
him. From a careful examination of the play-bills of the different
theatres during this period, I have ascertained, with regret, that
neither on the evening of the speech in the House of Commons, nor on any
of the days of the oration in Westminster Hall, was there, either at
Covent-Garden, Drury-Lane, or Haymarket theatres, any piece whatever of
Mr. Sheridan's acted.

The following passages of a letter from Miss Sheridan to her sister in
Ireland, written while on a visit with her brother in London, though
referring to a later period of the Trial, may without impropriety be
inserted here:--

"Just as I received your letter yesterday, I was setting out for the
Trial with Mrs. Crewe and Mrs. Dixon. I was fortunate in my day, as I
heard all the principal speakers--Mr. Burke I admired the least--Mr. Fox
very much indeed. The subject in itself was not particularly interesting,
as the debate turned merely on a point of law, but the earnestness of his
manner and the amazing precision with which he conveys his ideas is truly
delightful. And last, not least, I heard my brother! I cannot express to
you the sensation of pleasure and pride that filled my heart at the
moment he rose. Had I never seen him or heard his name before, I should
have conceived him the first man among them at once. There is a dignity
and grace in his countenance and deportment, very striking--at the same
time that one cannot trace the smallest degree of conscious superiority
in his manner. His voice, too, appeared to me extremely fine. The speech
itself was not much calculated to display the talents of an orator, as of
course it related only to dry matter. You may suppose I am not so lavish
of praises before indifferent persons, but I am sure you will acquit me
of partiality in what I have said. When they left the Hall we walked
about some time, and were joined by several of the managers--among the
rest by Mr. Burke, whom we set down at his own house. They seem now to
have better hopes of the business than they have had for some time; as
the point urged with so much force and apparent success relates to very
material evidence which the Lords have refused to hear, but which, once
produced, must prove strongly against Mr. Hastings; and, from what passed
yesterday, they think their Lordships must yield.--We sat in the King's
box," &c.



In the summer of this year the father of Mr. Sheridan died. He had been
recommended to try the air of Lisbon for his health, and had left Dublin
for that purpose, accompanied by his younger daughter. But the rapid
increase of his malady prevented him from proceeding farther than
Margate, where he died about the beginning of August, attended in his
last moments by his son Richard.

We have seen with what harshness, to use no stronger term, Mr. Sheridan
was for many years treated by his father, and how persevering and
affectionate were the efforts, in spite of many capricious repulses, that
he made to be restored to forgiveness and favor. In his happiest moments,
both of love and fame, the thought of being excluded from the paternal
roof came across him with a chill that seemed to sadden all his triumph.
[Footnote: See the letter written by him immediately after his marriage,
vol. i. page 80, and the anecdote in page 111, same vol.] When it is
considered, too, that the father, to whom he felt thus amiably, had never
distinguished him by any particular kindness but, on the contrary, had
always shown a marked preference for the disposition and abilities of his
brother Charles--it is impossible not to acknowledge, in such true filial
affection, a proof that talent was not the only ornament of Sheridan, and
that, however unfavorable to moral culture was the life that he led,
Nature, in forming his mind, had implanted there virtue, as well as

Of the tender attention which he paid to his father on his death-bed, I
am enabled to lay before the reader no less a testimony than the letters
written at the time by Miss Sheridan, who, as I have already said,
accompanied the old gentleman from Ireland, and now shared with her
brother the task of comforting his last moments. And here,--it is
difficult even for contempt to keep down the indignation, that one cannot
but feel at those slanderers, under the name of biographers, who calling
in malice to the aid of their ignorance, have not scrupled to assert that
the father of Sheridan died unattended by any of his nearest
relatives!--Such are ever the marks that Dulness leaves behind, in its
Gothic irruptions into the sanctuary of departed Genius--defacing what it
cannot understand, polluting what it has not the soul to reverence, and
taking revenge for its own darkness, by the wanton profanation of all
that is sacred in the eyes of others.

Immediately on the death of their father, Sheridan removed his sister to
Deepden--a seat of the Duke of Norfolk in Surrey, which His Grace had
lately lent him--and then returned, himself, to Margate, to pay the last
tribute to his father's remains. The letters of Miss Sheridan are
addressed to her elder sister in Ireland, and the first which I shall
give entire, was written a day or two after her arrival at Deepden.


"_Dibden, August 18._

"Though you have ever been uppermost in my thoughts, yet it has not been
in my power to write since the few lines I sent from Margate. I hope this
will find you, in some degree, recovered from the shock you must have
experienced from the late melancholy event. I trust to your own piety and
the tenderness of your worthy husband, for procuring you such a degree of
calmness of mind as may secure your health from injury. In the midst of
what I have suffered I have been thankful that you did not share a scene
of distress which you could not have relieved. I have supported myself,
but I am sure, had we been together, we should have suffered more.

"With regard to my brother's kindness, I can scarcely express to you how
great it has been. He saw my father while he was still sensible, and
never quitted him till the awful moment was past--I will not now dwell on
particulars. My mind is not sufficiently recovered to enter on the
subject, and you could only be distressed by it. He returns soon to
Margate to pay the last duties in the manner desired by my father. His
feelings have been severely tried, and earnestly I pray he may not suffer
from that cause, or from the fatigue he has endured. His tenderness to me
I never can forget. I had so little claim on him, that I still feel a
degree of surprise mixed with my gratitude. Mrs. Sheridan's reception of
me was truly affectionate. They leave me to myself now as much as I
please, as I had gone through so much fatigue of body and mind that I
require some rest. I have not, as you may suppose, looked much beyond the
present hour, but I begin to be more composed. I could now enjoy your
society, and I wish for it hourly. I should think I may hope to see you
sooner in England than you had intended; but you will write to me very
soon, and let me know everything that concerns you. I know not whether
you will feel like me a melancholy pleasure in the reflection that my
father received the last kind offices from my brother Richard, [Footnote:
In a letter, from which I have given an extract in the early part of this
volume, written by the elder sister of Sheridan a short time after his
death, in referring to the differences that existed between him and his
father, she says--"and yet it was that son, and not the object of his
partial fondness, who at last closed his eyes." It generally happens that
the injustice of such partialities is revenged by the ingratitude of
those who are the objects of them; and the present instance, as there is
but too much reason to believe, was not altogether an exception to the
remark.] whose conduct on this occasion must convince every one of the
goodness of his heart and the truth of his filial affection. One more
reflection of consolation is, that nothing was omitted that could have
prolonged his life or eased his latter hours. God bless and preserve you,
my dear love. I shall soon write more to you, but shall for a short time
suspend my journal, as still too many painful thoughts will crowd upon me
to suffer me to regain such a frame of mind as I should wish when I write
to you.

"Ever affectionately your


In another letter, dated a few days after, she gives an account of the
domestic life of Mrs. Sheridan, which, like everything that is related of
that most interesting woman, excites a feeling towards her memory, little
short of love.


"_Dibden, Friday, 22._

"I shall endeavor to resume my journal, though my anxiety to hear from
you occupies my mind in a way that unfits me for writing. I have been
here almost a week in perfect quiet. While there was company in the
house, I stayed in my room, and since my brother's leaving us to go to
Margate, I have sat at times with Mrs. Sheridan, who is kind and
considerate; so that I have entire liberty. Her poor sister's [Footnote:
Mrs. Tickell.] children are all with her. The girl gives her constant
employment, and seems to profit by being under so good an instructor.
Their father was here for some days, but I did not see him. Last night
Mrs. S. showed me a picture of Mrs. Tickell, which she wears round her
neck. The thing was misrepresented to you;--it was not done after her
death, but a short time before it. The sketch was taken while she slept,
by a painter at Bristol. This Mrs. Sheridan got copied by Cosway, who has
softened down the traces of illness in such a way that the picture
conveys no gloomy idea. It represents her in a sweet sleep; which must
have been soothing to her friend, after seeing her for a length of time
in a state of constant suffering.

"My brother left us Wednesday morning, and we do not expect him to return
for some days. He meant only to stay at Margate long enough to attend the
last melancholy office, which it was my poor father's express desire
should be performed in whatever parish he died.

* * * * *


"Dick is still in town, and we do not expect him for some time. Mrs.
Sheridan seems now quite reconciled to these little absences, which she
knows are unavoidable. I never saw any one so constant in employing every
moment of her time, and to that I attribute, in a great measure, the
recovery of her health and spirits. The education of her niece, her
music, books, and work, occupy every minute of the day. After dinner, the
children, who call her "Mamma-aunt," spend some time with us, and her
manner to them is truly delightful. The girl, you know, is the eldest.
The eldest boy is about five years old, very like his father, but
extremely gentle in his manners. The youngest is past three. The whole
set then retire to the music-room. As yet I cannot enjoy their
parties;--a song from Mrs. Sheridan affected me last night in a most
painful manner. I shall not try the experiment soon again. Mrs. S. blamed
herself for putting me to the trial, and, after tea, got a book, which
she read to us till supper. This, I find, is the general way of passing
the evening.

"They are now at their music, and I have retired to add a few lines. This
day has been more gloomy than we have been for some days past;--it is the
first day of our getting into mourning. All the servants in deep mourning
made a melancholy appearance, and I found it very difficult to sit out
the dinner. But as I have dined below since there has been only Mrs.
Sheridan and Miss Linley here, I would not suffer a circumstance, to
which I must accustom myself, to break in on their comfort."

These children, to whom Mrs. Sheridan thus wholly devoted herself, and
continued to do so for the remainder of her life, had lost their mother,
Mrs. Tickell, in the year 1787, by the same complaint that afterwards
proved fatal to their aunt. The passionate attachment of Mrs. Sheridan to
this sister, and the deep grief with which she mourned her loss, are
expressed in a poem of her own so touchingly, that, to those who love the
language of real feeling, I need not apologize for their introduction
here. Poetry, in general, is but a cold interpreter of sorrow; and the
more it displays its skill, as an art, the less is it likely to do
justice to nature. In writing these verses, however, the workmanship was
forgotten in the subject; and the critic, to feel them as he ought,
should forget his own craft in reading them.

"_Written in the Spring of the Year 1788._

"The hours and days pass on;--sweet Spring returns,
And whispers comfort to the heart that mourns:
But not to mine, whose dear and cherish'd grief
Asks for indulgence, but ne'er hopes relief.
For, ah, can changing seasons e'er restore
The lov'd companion I must still deplore?
Shall all the wisdom of the world combin'd
Erase thy image, Mary, from my mind,
Or bid me hope from others to receive
The fond affection thou alone could'st give?
Ah, no, my best belov'd, thou still shalt be
My friend, my sister, all the world to me.

"With tender woe sad memory woos back time,
And paints the scenes when youth was in its prime;
The craggy hill, where rocks, with wild flow'rs crown'd,
Burst from the hazle copse or verdant ground;
Where sportive nature every form assumes,
And, gaily lavish, wastes a thousand blooms;
Where oft we heard the echoing hills repeat
Our untaught strains and rural ditties sweet,
Till purpling clouds proclaimed the closing day,
While distant streams detain'd the parting ray.
Then on some mossy stone we'd sit us down,
And watch the changing sky and shadows brown,
That swiftly glided o'er the mead below,
Or in some fancied form descended slow.
How oft, well pleas'd each other to adorn,
We stripped the blossoms from the fragrant thorn,
Or caught the violet where, in humble bed,
Asham'd its own sweets it hung its head.
But, oh, what rapture Mary's eyes would speak,
Through her dark hair how rosy glow'd her cheek,
If, in her playful search, she saw appear
The first-blown cowslip of the opening year.
Thy gales, oh Spring, then whisper'd life and joy;--
Now mem'ry wakes thy pleasures to destroy,
And all thy beauties serve but to renew
Regrets too keen for reason to subdue.
Ah me! while tender recollections rise,
The ready tears obscure my sadden'd eyes,
And, while surrounding objects they conceal,
_Her_ form belov'd the trembling drops reveal.

"Sometimes the lovely, blooming girl I view.
My youth's companion, friend for ever true,
Whose looks, the sweet expressions of her heart
So gaily innocent, so void of art,
With soft attraction whisper'd blessings drew
From all who stopp'd, her beauteous face to view.
Then in the dear domestic scene I mourn,
And weep past pleasures never to return!
There, where each gentle virtue lov'd to rest.
In the pure mansion of my Mary's breast,
The days of social happiness are o'er,
The voice of harmony is heard no more;
No more her graceful tenderness shall prove
The wife's fond duty or the parent's love.
Those eyes, which brighten'd with maternal pride,
As her sweet infants wanton'd by her side,
'Twas my sad fate to see for ever close
On life, on love, the world, and all its woes;
To watch the slow disease, with hopeless care,
And veil in painful smiles my heart's despair;
To see her droop, with restless languor weak,
While fatal beauty mantled in her cheek,
Like fresh flow'rs springing from some mouldering clay,
Cherish'd by death, and blooming from decay.
Yet, tho' oppress'd by ever-varying pain,
The gentle sufferer scarcely would complain,
Hid every sigh, each trembling doubt reprov'd,
To spare a pang to those fond hearts she lov'd.
And often, in short intervals of ease,
Her kind and cheerful spirit strove to please;
Whilst we, alas, unable to refuse
The sad delight we were so soon to lose,
Treasur'd each word, each kind expression claim'd,--
''Twas me she look'd at,'--'it was me she nam'd.'
Thus fondly soothing grief, too great to bear,
With mournful eagerness and jealous care.

"But soon, alas, from hearts with sorrow worn
E'en this last comfort was for ever torn:
That mind, the seat of wisdom, genius, taste.
The cruel hand of sickness now laid waste;
Subdued with pain, it shar'd the common lot.
All, all its lovely energies forgot!
The husband, parent, sister, knelt in vain,
One recollecting look alone to gain:
The shades of night her beaming eyes obscur'd,
And Nature, vanquished, no sharp pain endur'd;
Calm and serene--till the last trembling breath
Wafted an angel from the bed of death!

"Oh, if the soul, releas'd from mortal cares,
Views the sad scene, the voice of mourning hears,
Then, dearest saint, didst thou thy heav'n forego,
Lingering on earth in pity to our woe.
'Twas thy kind influence sooth'd our minds to peace.
And bade our vain and selfish murmurs cease;
'Twas thy soft smile, that gave the worshipp'd clay
Of thy bright essence one celestial ray,
Making e'en death so beautiful, that we,
Gazing on it, forgot our misery.
Then--pleasing thought!--ere to the realms of light
Thy franchis'd spirit took its happy flight,
With fond regard, perhaps, thou saw'st me bend
O'er the cold relics of my heart's best friend,
And heard'st me swear, while her dear hand I prest.
And tears of agony bedew'd my breast,
For her lov'd sake to act the mother's part,
And take her darling infants to my heart,
With tenderest care their youthful minds improve,
And guard her treasure with protecting love.
Once more look down, blest creature, and behold
These arms the precious innocence enfold;
Assist my erring nature to fulfil
The sacred trust, and ward off every ill!
And, oh, let _her_, who is my dearest care,
Thy blest regard and heavenly influence share;
Teach me to form her pure and artless mind,
Like thine, as true, as innocent, as kind,--
That when some future day my hopes shall bless,
And every voice her virtue shall confess,
When my fond heart delighted hears her praise,
As with unconscious loveliness she strays,
'Such,' let me say, with tears of joy the while,
'Such was the softness of my Mary's smile;
Such was _her_ youth, so blithe, so rosy sweet,
And such _her_ mind, unpractis'd in deceit;
With artless elegance, unstudied grace,
Thus did _she_ gain in every heart a place!'

"Then, while the dear remembrance I behold,
Time shall steal on, nor tell me I am old,
Till, nature wearied, each fond duty o'er,
I join my Angel Friend--to part no more!"

To the conduct of Mr. Sheridan, during the last moments of his father, a
further testimony has been kindly communicated to me by Mr. Jarvis, a
medical gentleman of Margate, who attended Mr. Thomas Sheridan on that
occasion, and whose interesting communication I shall here give in his
own words:--

"On the 10th of August, 1788, I was first called on to visit Mr.
Sheridan, who was then fast declining at his lodgings in this place,
where he was in the care of his daughter. On the next day Mr. R. B.
Sheridan arrived here from town, having brought with him Dr. Morris, of
Parliament street. I was in the bedroom with Mr. Sheridan when the son
arrived, and witnessed an interview in which the father showed himself to
be strongly impressed by his son's attention, saying with considerable
emotion, 'Oh Dick, I give you a great deal of trouble!' and seeming to
imply by his manner, that his son had been less to blame than himself,
for any previous want of cordiality between them.

"On my making my last call for the evening, Mr. R. B. Sheridan, with
delicacy, but much earnestness, expressed his fear that the nurse in
attendance on his father, might not be so competent as myself to the
requisite attentions, and his hope that I would consent to remain in the
room for a few of the first hours of the night; as he himself, having
been travelling the preceding night, required some short repose. I
complied with his request, and remained at the father's bed-side till
relieved by the son, about three o'clock in the morning:--he then
insisted on taking my place. From this time he never quitted the house
till his father's death; on the day after which he wrote me a letter, now
before me, of which the annexed is an exact copy:


'_Friday Morning_,

'I wished to see you this morning before I went, to thank you for your
attention and trouble. You will be so good to give the account to Mr.
Thompson, who will settle it; and I must further beg your acceptance of
the inclosed from myself.

'I am, Sir,

'Your obedient Servant,


'I have explained to Dr. Morris (who has informed me that you will
recommend a proper person), that it is my desire to have the hearse, and
the manner of coming to town, as respectful as possible.'

"The inclosure, referred to in this letter, was a bank-note of ten
pounds,--a most liberal remuneration. Mr. R. B. Sheridan left Margate,
intending that his father should be buried in London; but he there
ascertained that it had been his father's expressed wish that he should
be buried in the parish next to that in which he should happen to die. He
then, consequently, returned to Margate, accompanied by his
brother-in-law, Mr. Tickell, with whom and Mr. Thompson and myself, he
followed his father's remains to the burial-place, which was not in
Margate church-yard, but in the north aisle of the church of St. Peter's."

Mr. Jarvis, the writer of the letter from which I have given this
extract, had once, as he informs me, the intention of having a cenotaph
raised, to the memory of Mr. Sheridan's father, in the church of Margate.
[Footnote: Though this idea was relinquished, it appears that a friend of
Mr. Jarvis, with a zeal for the memory of talent highly honorable to him,
has recently caused a monument to Mr. Thomas Sheridan to be raised in the
church of St. Peter.] With this view he applied to Dr. Parr for an
Inscription, and the following is the tribute to his old friend with
which that learned and kind-hearted man supplied him:--

"This monument, A. D. 1824, was, by subscription, erected to the memory
of Thomas Sheridan, Esq., who died in the neighboring parish of St. John,
August 14, 1788, in the 69th year of his age, and, according to his own
request, was there buried. He was grandson to Dr. Thomas Sheridan, the
brother of Dr. William, a conscientious non-juror, who, in 1691, was
deprived of the Bishopric of Kilmore. He was the son of Dr. Thomas
Sheridan, a profound scholar and eminent schoolmaster, intimately
connected with Dean Swift and other illustrious writers in the reign of
Queen Anne. He was husband to the ingenious and amiable author of Sidney
Biddulph and several dramatic pieces favorably received. He was father of
the celebrated orator and dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He had
been the schoolfellow, and, through life, was the companion, of the
amiable Archbishop Markham. He was the friend of the learned Dr. Sumner,
master of Harrow School, and the well-known Dr. Parr. He took his first
academical degree in the University of Dublin, about 1736. He was honored
by the University of Oxford with the degree of A. M. in 1758, and in 1759
he obtained the same distinction at Cambridge. He, for many years,
presided over the theatre of Dublin; and, at Drury Lane, he in public
estimation stood next to David Garrick. In the literary world he was
distinguished by numerous and useful writings on the pronunciation of the

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