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A Dialogue between Antony Poplar, Gent., and Doctor Neverout, touching the
conduct proper to be pursued at the present juncture ; in which sundry and important matters are discussed, and Antony's views of Conservative policy crplained.
NEVEROUT- Is it true that you are about to undertake the management of a periodical, to be conducted on Tory principles ?
NEVEROUT_So I heard ; and I scarcely believed it. But have you duly considered all the difficulties you will have to encounter, and the almost hopeless state of that prostrate party at present ? For my part, I think you might as well attempt, single handed, to raise the Royal George, as to restore the Tory party to the position which they occupied before the passing of the Reform Bill; and anything short of that will be but of little moment. It may retard, but it cannot avert the certain ruin that now impends over all our institutions.
POPLAR-I am fully aware of all our difficulties. Matters have, indeed, come to a fearful pass. But, there is this of good in our present position,--principle is brought, as it were, “ in discrimen rerum." And I feel that within me which shrinks more from a suspicion of insincerity or cowardice, than from any losses or dangers that may await upon a course of fearless and virtuous consistency. Besides, when things come to the worst, they are sure to mend. It is impossible that the people of this great empire can long remain under this great delusion ; and although, when they do recover, they may not be able to remedy the evil that has been done, it is impossible that they should not distinguish their friends from their enemies.
Neverout— Aye ; but until that change does take place, what is to become of such concerns as that which you are about to engage in? Think again, my dear friend. I advise you for your good. Just veer a little from what you call the right course at present, if it were only for the purpose of gaining and keeping a certain command over public opinion, which by and by you may be able to use for the public advantage. Believe me, without a little spice of inconsistency, a periodical can never maintain its ground.
Poplar—I would much rather lose ground by deserving to maintain it, than maintain, by deserving to lose it. I am, however, no vapourer, and desire to be judged by acts and not by professions. But I am not sure, that, even in an interested point of view, your advice is good. You are not wrong in supposing that those who can dexterously follow public opinion, must always profit more
than those who attempt to stem, or who aspire to lead it. But never could I hope to merit the praise of such ambi-dexterity as would qualify me for acting as bottle-holder to our revolutionary lsravos. My principles are a part of myself ; they have not been put on for one purpose, and therefore can not be put off for another.
NEVEROUT—Why you are as bad as old North. For him, too, I have a great regard, and would fain have him adopt my view of expediency ; but the crazy dotard would not hear reason.
Poplar— Nay, nay ; whatever you are pleased to say of myself, speak none but good words of old Christopher. I love him like a father : and it is inexpressibly consolatory to me that he, also, perseveres in his devotion to the good old cause. Hopeless I no longer consider it ; for, with such an auxiliary, it were sinful to despair. What I, in my weakness, cannot accomplish, he, in his might, may ; and we will both, you may depend upon it, do more for the recussitation of genuine Tory principles, and the reconstruction of an efficient Tory party, than levellers have as yet accomplished for the extinction of the one, or apostates for the destruction of the other.
NEVEROUT—Well, you will both yet rue the day, when you did not take my advice. I will have the melancholy consolation of witnessing your bitter but unavailing repentance.
Poplar— There is this difference between good principles and their opposite, that, even though ill success should attend the strenuous assertion of the former, it is not accompanied by any consciousness of self-reproach. You may, therefore, set it down as a truth, that, however events turn up, I will be spared at least the bitterness of repentance.
NEVEROUT-It is not, you well know, from any love to the whigs that I advise some little abatement of the hostility with which you have hitherto regarded them. But, it can, surely, be no disgrace to imitate the conduct of the King and the nobility. If they have stooped, from consciousness of inability to resist the present power and violence of the ochlocracy, it is not for such as you to stand erect in such a contest.
Poplar—I love the King. I respect the nobles : but I cannot very widely depart from that course which is most consistent with the dignity of the one, or the honour of the other, if I make the QUEEN my model at the present crisis. She has, I think, acted with as much lofty principle and wise moderation as ever distinguished a crowned head in circumstances of difficulty and danger. If, therefore, I follow her example, I can hardly transgress as a subject, and I am sure I shall be right as a man.
NEVEROUT—But you see the storm she has brought about her ears. Poplar—I do. And I see, also, how serenely she has risen above it. I mistake, greatly, if the truculency of her denouncers, have not already produced a salutary effect upon the mind of the Sovereign, as I am sure it has upon many, who were, previously, but too favourable to revolution. We are not yet, thank heaven, so utterly democratic—so hopelessly Frenchified, as not to feel horror-struck at regicide insinuations. And the reckless malignity of her unmanly persecutors may thus counteract their worst designs, and prove, in the end, the safety of the monarchy.
NEVEROUT-The safety of the monarchy, under the domination of a reformed parliament! Alas! my friend, if others are wicked, you are visionary. Who does not see that all the constitutional safeguards of our monarchy have passed away ? Monarchy is, at this moment, tolerated rather than established amongst
The king is either endured as a cipher, or made use of as a tool ; and when he ceases to be a stepping-stone, you will see how long he will be suffered to be a stumbling-block in the way of his revolutionary masters. No, Antony. If I saw the least hope, by a strenuous assertion of Conservative principle, to stay, or even to mitigate the present evils, I would be the last man in the world to advise you to abandon your old colours. But I cannot so far deceive myself. You might do much for the ancient institutions of the country, if you had only to contend against their natural enemies ; but, it is impossible to save them when their natural enemies are reinforced by those who ought to be their natural friends ;-when you have to contend not only with the whole tribe of infidels
and democrats, but, with the whole influence of the aristocracy and of the crown.' Therefore, my good friend, be warned in time. Do not let your chivalry prevail against your common sense. You cannot pretend to be more devoted to the monarchy than the King ; or more ready to uphold the aristocracy, than the nobles; and if they are willing to surrender at discretion to their implacable enemies, is it for you to deliver them out of their hands ?
POPLAR-I have looked calmly upon the present posture of our affairs, and it is not without its bright as well as its dark side. The King has, as you say, unfortunately, given all the aid in his power to the worst enemies of the monarchy; and if what he has done was done with a clear foresight of its natural consequences, our case were almost hopeless. But it was not so. He neither foresaw the mischiefs of the course he was advised to pursue, nor rightly estimated the motives of his advisers. There is reason to believe that his eyes have, latterly, been opened, and that he is only held to his present policy by the tyrannous nature of the circumstances by which he is surrounded.
NEVEROUT—Aye; "there's the rub.' He has taken the plunge down the precipice, and he cannot now, by merely wishing it, regain the vantage ground which he abandoned. Besides, the party on whom, if he were true to himself, he might have relied, has been overthrown. They may be, literally, said to have * been scattered and Peeled;" their rout commenced in twentynine, and was completed by the passing of the reform bill. Upon what, therefore, can you calculate, when you express a hope that any effectual stand can now be made against the enemies of social order?
POPLAR~Upon this, that the Conservative party, though defeated, have not been destroyed; and their defeat has been owing, not so much to want of power, as to want of union. They were rendered supine by the very consciousness of their power, and by their too contemptuous conviction of the weakness and the worthlessness of their enemies. The party still exists in unbroken strength, and it is to be hoped, has gained wisdom by experience. They are, in point of fact, the only body worthy the name of a great party in the empire. Leaders they wanted, that is certain. Had any appeared worthy the great cause in which they are embarked, it would, ere now, have been eminently triumphant. But, it is also certain that such a want cannot much longer be felt by such a party. The worth and the intellect of the country are on their side ; and if it be true that the crisis creates the man, the cause of truth and justice must soon be worthily championed.
NEVEROUT—By the by, you, I think, approve of the conduct of the Duke on the late occasion, and disapprove of that of Sir R. Peel. Indeed I myself think it was somewhat ridiculous to hear the latter gentleman praise, as he did, the former for his willingness to take office, and yet refuse to follow his example. I should have thought, that, what was sauce for the goose, was sauce for the gander.
POPLAR-My opinion upon that subject remains unaltered. Had the Duke been seconded as he should have been, he would have saved the country.
NEVEROUT—What! By consenting to carry the reform bill ? By becoming the mere cats-paw of the Whigs? By doing that very work for which he denounced his political opponents as traitors ?
Poplar-No. If he was limited to the passing of precisely the present bill, and exactly in its present shape, without modification or addition, he should have eschewed a seat in the Cabinet with as much caution as he ever avoided a false position in the field. But I cannot believe that he would have been so hampered. The bill might have been essentially modified ; and additions might have been made to it by which its most vicious tendencies would be corrected.
NEVEROUT—But you forget how deeply the Duke was pledged against all reform ; how loudly he contended for the absolute perfection of the former system.
POPLAR—No, I do not. The Duke might have, consistently, maintained that no change was better than any change ; and yet, when change was inevitable, consented to, or even co-operated in that which was less, in order to prevent or to mitigate that which would be more dangerous. He might, indeed, have acted like Coriolanus ; and banished, from his regards, those who had banished him
from their councils ; suffering them to eat the bitter fruits of their own devices. But it was, surely, a nobler part, to be ready to stand between them and the destructive consequences of their own measures, even by consenting, for a season, to bear a portion of that iniquitous responsibility which they had incurred by unsettling the ancient foundations of the constitution.
NEVEROUT-But I doubt, even if he were seconded as he desired, whether he could have accomplished all that he intended. Had he conceded some little reform when he was in power, and when the mania was in its infancy, he would not now have to deplore the sweeping changes, which must, eventually, overturn all our ancient institutions.
Poplar—There I differ from you. Had the Duke conceded what has been contemptuously designated “a bit by bit” reform, he would have conceded the whole principle of the question, and it would have been idle to dispute about the details. He would be compelled, thenceforth, to appear in the discreditable position of one who pronounced sentence of condemnation against a certain system as corrupt, and yet, maintained it from motives of political expediency. No ; had he been seconded, as he ought to have been, in the stand which he made against the beginnings of those evils, the fearful progress of which we have witnessed, they would, in all likelihood, have been averted. And seconded he would have been, with all the might and main of the Conservative party, had he not alienated the best, although not the wisest portion of them, by his conduct in twentynine. But these are by-gones, to which it is either idle or mischievous now to allude, except for the purpose of allaying the heart-burnings, and reproducing a cordial union amongst those, upon whose concert depends the only chance of salvation for the country.
NeveroUr—But they will not be united ; they will not again act togetherat least upon any system which would render their acting together important. They are divided into clubs and knots, each of which has its own little object, which it pursues without any reference to the general interests of such a Conservative policy as could alone take us out of our present difficulties. Peel is wedded to his own peculiar view of the currency question ; Sir R. Vivian, to his antipathy to the modern doctrine of free trade; Sudler to his ultra-anti-Malthusianism ; and Captain Gordon thinks that nothing will be done, until the measure of twentynine is rescinded, and the country blessed with what he calls a system of scriptural education. When a party is thus split into sects, each of which claims a preponderating influence for its own peculiar tenets, what good can it accomplish ? None whatever. Therefore I would have you abandon it; or, at least, not so completely identify yourself with it, as that its errors, or its mispolicy may prove your ruin.
POPLAR-I am not insensible to the evil of divisions, such as still exist amongst the Conservative party ; but I have taken my position after due deliberation, and am resolved to abide the issue. Undoubtedly, as yet, a perfect unanimity of actuating principle is wanting; but that is all that is wanting, to render the present opposition the most formidable, both in a moral and political point of view, that ever appeared in Parliament. The misfortune is, that our able men are suspected not to be honest; and our honest men are known not to be able ; that is, to possess the ability requisite for managing the concerns of a great empire. The blight which has fallen upon the character of the one, has encouraged the other to aspire to a position which they are not naturally qualified to occupy ;-and thus, a struggle has arisen between the efforts of honest incompetency to attain, and the reluctance of damaged worth and ability to relinquish, the leadership of a great party.
One such mind as that of * Burke or of Pitt would set all to rights. But where, alas! is it to be found !
NEVEROUT-Come, come, this is too bad. Burke was an eloquent writer, and I mean not now to dispute whether his peculiar views were right or wrong ; but surely you must allow that his authority is not very great at present. Look at any of the Journals which influence extensively public opinion, and see the contempt with which he is treated.
POPLAR—Aye. But there is a species of contempt which only ratifies the worth and the excellence of the party against whom it is directed. There are those in politics as well as in religion “who hate the light, and will not come
into the light, lest their deeds should be reproved." You will scarcely deny that some of your leading journalists are of this class ; and, if that be so, it is not wonderful that they can neither speak nor write of Mr. Burke with temper. They inherit the spirit and the principles of their progenitors of the French school ; and Burke was the great providential instrument by whom the designs of these arch-innovators were first detected, and exposed to the
gaze of indignant Europe. He it was, by whom the delusions were dissipated, under the cover of which they had not unreasonably,calculated that they might proceed successfully in their work of disorganization and demolition, until one stone was not left upon another in the edifice of civil society. He it was, whose comprehensive mind exposed the narrowness, whose extensive reading and enlarged experience demonstrated the empyricism, whose penetrating intellect detected the sophistry, whose keen and cutting sarcasm, whose biting irony chastised and ridiculed the ribald insolence, the brutal ignorance, the gross and unredeemed vulgarity of that race of pseudo-patriots, who rode, for a season, so triumphantly, upon the passions of a misguided and infuriate populace ; and whose lofty eloquence, (a voice from the shrine where reason and conscience maintained a joint supremacy ; either interpenetrating and informing the other, and both becoming a living soul,) proclaimed, “ with most miraculous organ,” the deep damnation of those godless and anti-social principles, which inflicted, successively, anarchy and des. potism on France, and more than half-accomplished the subjugation and the ruin of Europe. Is it, therefore, any wonder, that the name of Edmund Burke should inspire with dread and hatred the reckless and the profligate, to the remotest generations ? They cannot forget the word of power, which they were constrained to obey ; the master spirit by whose might their weak devices were confounded; the genius at whose rebuke they “fed howling ;"—and, while every year is adding to the honours of the mighty dead; while the number of those who derive instruction from his life, and imbibe wisdom from his pages, is gradually increasing; while time, by his sure though tardy influence, is softening the bitterness of that party rancour, which obstructed, though it could not counteract, his usefulness, and wounded his peace, though it could not injure his reputation; wbile such re the trophies which encircle his venerable name, and are accumulating upon his honoured sepulchre, there are not wanting occasional outbreaks of that fiendish malignity which he ever scorned to propitiate, by any tame or qualified reprobation of its practices, and which can as little forgive as forget the light that was let in upon its misdeeds, and the mighty overthrow which it experienced, when he rose the vindicator of outraged religion and insulted reason. Yes. The old purveyors to the carcass butchers of France, the base panderers to the tyranny of Buonaparte, the enemies of religion, of order, of honour, and of good faith, may be permitted to utter curses even as loud as they are deep, against the great apostle of legitimate government, and regulated freedom ;-for they but enhance and perpetuate his triumph, by perpetuating something like a faint resemblance of the monster over whom it was achieved ; and give a deeper cordiality, and confer a kind of devotional thankfulness upon the acclamations of the wise and good, by feelingly convincing them, and, as it were, bringing them within actual ken of the incurable folly, and the consummate wickedness of the faction, whose efforts would, at that time, have been as successful as they were diabolical, if the genius and virtue of the illustrious Irishman did not stand before them in the way ; and, like a hero in celestial panoply, sentinel our time-hallowed constitution.
NEVEROUT— Your theme seems to have inspired you. But, eloquent Sir, to what purpose? What revolution failed to accomplish then, reform is likely to effect now. We were preserved from the aggression of wickedness, only to fall victims to the prescriptions of ignorance. The most that Burke could do, was to stave off the destruction which impended in his day, and which, I fear, is now about to break upon us.
POPLAR-Do not be a prophet of evil. We may yet be saved. I see, as plainly as you do, the dangers which lie before us and around us ; and if others could see them as we do, all would be well. If there existed amongst us even one such mind as that of Burke, before three months you would see a party in