Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

XLIX.

1798.

CHAP. retained these accomplishments undiminished throughout

his whole eventful career, and attained such skill in them as raised him to the very highest rank as a scholar in the age of Porson and Parr. When he entered on active life, his talents for business soon introduced him to the notice of government; but his predilection was so strongly evinced from the first for Oriental affairs, that nature appeared to have expressly formed him for the command of the East. At an age when most of his contemporaries were acquainted with the affairs of India only through the uncertain medium of distant report, or the casual hints of private conversation, he was fully master of the politics of Hindostan, and had already formed those clear and luminous views of the condition and situation of our power there, which enabled him, from the very outset of his career, to direct with so steady a hand the complicated mazes of Indian diplomacy. He had for several years been an active member of the Board of Control, then under the able direction of Lord Melville, and had acquired, from his remarkable proficiency in the subject, a large share in the confidence of government. But it was not in any of the public offices, it was not from the inspiration of Leadenhall Street, that he drew the enlarged and statesmanlike views which from the first characterised his Eastern administration. It was in the solitude of study that the knowledge was obtained ; it was from the sages and historians of antiquity that the spirit was inhaled ; it was in the fire of his own genius that the light was found.*

Atque avulsa dolens nudatis lilia parmis
Gallia, et infracti toties testantur Iberi
Virtutem patrum, et generis molimina nostri.
At nec adhuc sacra libertas, neque vividus ardor,
Anglicos intra fines et pristina regna,
Tam prorsus periere; manet, manet illa juventa,
Vis animi, et flammæ scintilla relicta prioris,
Quæ jam fulminco Gallorum marte superbas
Frangat opes, nostrisque minantes arccat agris."

PEARCE's Life of Wellesley, i. 14.
* Lord Wellesley, like many other men of energetic and refined minds, was

The maxims on which Marquess Wellesley acted in the CHAP.

XLIX. East, were identical with those which Napoleon perceived

1798. to be indispensable to his existence in Europe, and which

12. in former times had given the Romans the empire of the Character of world. He at once discerned that the British sway in administra

tion, India was founded entirely on opinion ; that twenty or thirty thousand Europeans, scattered among a hundred millions of Asiatics, must have acquired their supremacy by fascinating the mind; that this moral sway could be maintained only by fidelity to engagement, and fearlessness in conduct; and that, in such circumstances, the most prudent course was generally the most audacious. Disregarding, therefore, entirely that temporising policy which the government at home had taken such pains to impress upon its Asiatic viceroys, which Cornwallis had triumphed over only by disregarding, and Sir John Shore had obeyed only to destroy, he resolved, at all hazards, to maintain the British faith inviolate, to strike terror into his enemies by the vigour of his measures, and secure victory by never of a highly romantic turn. Early in life, shortly after he left Eton, he had gone down to the neighbourhood of the New Forest to study, and there met with a young and beautiful lady, the daughter of a gentleman in the neighbourhood, for whom he conceived a strong attachment, which, as may easily be believed, was returned. She soon after went to Paris, whither he followed her; but her death there put a period to their friendship. Sixty years afterwards, after he had been governor-general of India, and foreign minister in England, he returned an old man to the same spot. There he used to drive out in the morning to the well-known scenes, and, leaving the carriage and servant at a distance, visit alone the trees, the paths, the turf banks hallowed by such associations. “Who,” says Bulwer,

that the mind is not influenced by the scene, the place, where we first dwelt with the beloved one ? Every object there is hallowed by associations which the place only can recall. The past by which it is haunted seems to prescribe a like constancy for the future. If a thought less kind, less trustful, has entered in, the sight of a tree beneath which a vow has been exchanged, a tear kissed away, recalls again the hours of the first divine illusion." But the novelist did not contemplate such constancy in a statesman of eighty, after sixty years' separation, and India saved, Napoleon conquered, in the interim. So much does the strength of attachment in men of heroic minds in real life exceed all that romance has figured. These interesting particulars were communicated to me by my esteemed friend, Mr Montgomery Martin, Lord Wellesley's private secretary. Lord Wellesley's habits in the intervening period were occasionally very different, and at times he was the slave of irregular passion ; but all acquainted with human nature know how frequently in the close of life the mind reverts to the recollections and feelings of youth.

can say

XLIX.

1798.

13.

was characterised.

CHAP. despairing, and being always worthy of it. He recollected

the words of Cato—“Quanto vos attentiores agetis, tanto illis animus infirmior erit ; si paullulum modo vos languere viderint, jam omnes feroces aderunt."*

But vigour and resolution are not alone capable of Statesman- achieving success, though they are generally essential by which it towards it : wisdom in combination, foresight in council,

prudence in preparation, are also indispensable ; and it was in the union of these invaluable qualities with the courage of the hero and the heart of the patriot, that Marquess Wellesley was unrivalled. Boldly assuming the lead, he kept it without difficulty, because he was felt to be the first; ardently devoted to his country, he inspired a portion of the sacred fire into all his followers ; t discerning in the estimation of character, he selected from the many men in his service the most gifted ; penetrated with the most lofty as well as the soundest views, he communicated his own statesmanlike principles both to the direction of the councils and the guidance of the armies of India. In vigour of resolution, moral courage, diplomatic ability, and military combination, he was the first of British statesmen, even in the days of Pitt and Fox. Never, perhaps, in so short a time, was such a change produced on the character of public administration, the vigour of national councils, or the success of national arms, as by his Eastern rule. He found them vacillating, he left them decided ; he found the public service weakened by corruption, he left it teeming with energy; he found the East India Company striving only to defend their possessions on the coast, he left them

*" The more vigorous you are, the more panic-struck will they become ; if they see you, even for a very little, hesitate in your course, they will all with fierce assaults be upon you.”

+“So entirely devoted am I,” said Lord Wellesley, “ to the indispensable duty of providing a large force in the field and an efficient system of alliance, that my estimate of character, and my sentiments of respect and even of affection, in this country, are regulated absolutely by the degree of zeal and alacrity which I find in those who are to assist me in this great struggle. Nor can I conceive a more firm foundation, or a more honourable bond of friend

14.

Lord Mel

seated on the throne of Aurengzebe. So vast a change, CHAP.

XLIX. effected in a few years, is one of the most remarkable instances which history affords of the impress which a

1798. lofty character can communicate to the sphere of its influence; and, like the corresponding and simultaneous elevation of France under the guidance of Napoleon, may tend to modify the ideas which philosophic minds are apt to entertain of the entire government of human affairs by general causes, and to make us suspect that, in working out its mysterious designs, Providence not unfrequently makes use of the agency of individual greatness.

Another statesman, possessed of less brilliant but still important qualities, presided over the direction of Indian Character of affairs in this country during the most momentous period ville

. of Lord Wellesley's government, and had long contributed essentially, by the enlarged and statesmanlike views with which he himself was impressed, to train the mind of the future ruler of the East to those great conceptions which from the very first distinguished his administration. HENRY DUNDAS, afterwards LORD VISCOUNT MELVILLE, was descended from the house of Arniston, in Scotlanda family which, since the Revolution, had enjoyed a large share of the legal honours and offices in that countryand had early risen, alike from his talents and his connections, to the office of Lord Advocate. But his force of mind and ambition impelled him into a more elevated career. In 1776, he entered parliament as member for his native county, Mid-Lothian, and from that time, for the next twenty-five years, he enjoyed, to a greater degree than any other person, the confidence and friendship of Mr Pitt. In 1792, he was promoted to the imship, than a common share in the labours, difficulties, and honour of defending and saving so valuable a part of the British empire. This is the nature of the connection which I seek with your Lordship, and these are the sentiments which render me so averse to those men who appear negligent, or reluctant, or irresolute in a conjuncture which ought to extinguish all partialities, all private resentments and affections, and unite and animate all talents and exertions in one common cause.”—MARQUESS WELLESLEY to LORD CLIVE, Governor of Madras, 14th Nov. 1798—WELLESLEY's Despatches, 344.

XLIX.

1798.

15.

mation on Indian affairs.

CHAP. portant situation of President of the Board of Control,

and from that period down to Mr Pitt's retirement in 1800, had the almost exclusive direction of Eastern affairs. When that great man resumed the helm in 1804, he was made First Lord of the Admiralty, and by his indefatigable energy soon restored the navy from the state of decay into which it had fallen under the shortsighted parsimony of the Addington administration : so that the same statesman enjoyed the rare distinction of framing the policy which produced Lord Wellesley's triumphs in India, and launching the fleets which extinguished the navy of France amidst the shoals of Trafalgar.

Lord Melville's talents were of a high order ; but they His great

were of the solid and useful rather than the brilliant and

and vast infor attractive kind. A powerful debater from strength of

intellect and vigour of thought, he overcame by these qualities the disadvantages of a northern accent, a deficiency in imaginative or oratorical qualities, and the prejudices against his country, which were general in England, till the genius of Sir Walter Scott, and the increasing intercourse between the two nations, converted it into a sometimes indulgent partiality. But if he could not rival Fox or Sheridan in the fire of genius or graces of eloquence, he excelled them in many sterling qualities which constitute a great statesman; and the want of which is too often, to its grievous loss, thought to be compensated in Great Britain by the more showy but inferior accomplishments which command and seduce a popular assembly. To vast powers of application, he united a sound judgment and a retentive memory; the native force of his mind made him seize at once the strong points of a subject, while his prodigious information enabled him thoroughly to master its details. Nowhere is to be found a more comprehensive and statesmanlike series of instructions than is presented in his Indian correspondence : it has been declared by an equally compe

« IndietroContinua »