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ministry (Sir R. Peel's), many of his supporters having spoken favourably of the theory of free-trade. He thus assails his present friend, colleague, and chief, Mr. Gladstone, who occupied then the very office Bright fills now: I can assure him that his flimsy excuses will not avail him at the bar of public opinion. He knows what is right, and he refuses to do it, and whether the session be at its beginning or near its close, it is his duty to propose measures of relief to the commerce of the country. That this is not the time, is an excuse as untrue as it is insulting. When will the time come? when will monopoly resign its hold of the subsistence of the people ? Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? The Government knows what is right, the people demand it to be done, and the ministry who refuse to act incur a fearful responsibility.” When it got out that Peel could no longer withstand the rapidly swelling tide of public sentiment rolling in upon the parliament, demanding the removal of the detested bread tax, the country was astounded. The last convert at the time was the Duke of Wellington ; he yielded at the eleventh hour, when Peel threatened to resign and advise Her Majesty to send for Cobden. In the great debate which followed Bright took a conspicuous part. His speech is thus characterized : “He seemed animated to an unusual pitch of oratorical excellence. His periods were adroitly and sometimes elegantly turned; but, in addition to this, they alternately glittered with satire and thrilled with pathos.” We cannot deny our readers the pleasure of one paragraph from this splendid oration : “You say the premier is a traitor; it would ill become me to attempt his defence after the speech he delivered last night-a speech, I will venture to say, more powerful and more to be admired than any speech which has been delivered within the memory of any man in this house. I watched “ Bright is up," have sounded along the corridors and through the lobbies of St. Stephen's, men have rushed from committees, from business, or from dinner, to listen; and though they may have hated the sentiments delivered, and had little liking for the speaker himself, yet by the magic power of his genius they were compelled to hear him. And then, he knew and they knew that his every word would be heard all over the world. How few speeches will bear the test of cool critical perusal. How much that in the crush and excitement of a public meeting is cheered as oratory, when this examiner is applied is seen to be only clap-trap or pompous platitude. Now to this test Professor Rogers has brought the speeches of John Bright, and the result is, that apart from what is purely local and temporary, and their political complexion, they will retain a place among the productions of the greatest of orators. And more than this, these volumes credential Mr. Bright's claim to be a truly sagacious statesman. There is evidence in plenty of that mastery of political subjects, that breadth and comprehensiveness of view, that coolness of temper, that forecasting of events, and powers of eloquent enunciation, which are the accompaniments of true statesmanship. One thing is very marked; he never shifts his attitude. He knows nothing of the oscillation of uncertainty, or even doubt. His ground is well taken, and he bides calmly his time to see the world come round to him, and his opinions and principles take the throne and prevail. He often seems to look forward, like the seers in the olden times, and announces that the day of light and liberty is approaching. The witlings and wiseacres laugh in derision, and cover him with scorn and opprobrium, and say that his day will never dawn, but even as they speak the first glimmer of light falls upon their eye. Well may the lines of Keble be applied to him :

he went home last night, and for the first time I envied him his feelings. That speech has circulated by scores of thousands throughout this kingdom and throughout the world ; and wherever a man is to be found who loves justice, and wherever there is a labourer whom you have trampled underfoot, that speech will bring joy to the heart of one, and hope to the breast of the other. [When these generous words were uttered, Peel could not restrain his emotion, and unbidden tears sprang to his eyes.] You chose the right hon. baronet—why? Because he was the ablest man of your party. You always said so, and you will not deny it now. Why was he the ablesť ? Because he had profound attainments and great experience, and an honest regard for the good of his country. You placed him in office. When a man is in office, is he not the same man as when in opposition ?” &c. This speech raised Bright to a place among the chief orators and debaters of that great council, and ever since, when the words

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Thus in the darkest hour of the American war, when Gladstone announced that Jefferson Davis had created a nation, and Lord Russell said that the North was fighting for conquest, and the South for independence, and when all sides were for the South, Bright felt the rock beneath his feet, and saw the sinking quicksands his enemies were rushing into. In one of his speeches on the Irish Church, in the Commons, he reminds his hearers how often they had come round to the principles he had advocated, though they had been denounced as heretical, American, and revolutionary. But the lions in the way have turned out to be

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but hobgoblins, and that his upsetting the constitution had proved to be strengthening the constitution. “In my belief," he says, “the changes which have been made in our times are the glory of our times; I believe that our posterity will regard them as the natural and blessed fruits of the growth of intelligence, of the more comprehensive policy of this age.” (Cheers.*) Towards the end of this speech he says, “ Let us take this Irish State Church, not with a rude-I am against rudeness and rashness in legislative action—but still, with a resolute grasp; you will pluck up, if you adopt the policy we recommend, a weed which pollutes the air an hon. member, 'No,' and cheers.) But I will give the hon. gentleman consolation in the conclusion of my sentence. I say you will pluck up a weed that pollutes the air, but you will leave a true Protestant Church, which will hereafter be an ornament and grace to all those brought within the range of its influence."

We have seen it stated that Bright's oratory is not the offspring of genius, but the result of supreme capacity for taking pains.' In confirmation of this theory a story is given, which appears to us to be apocryphal, to this effect: A visitor to the parish church of Rochdale, not long ago, asked the sexton whether John Bright ever came there.

Nay,” was the reply," he never comes now, but I can recollect the time when he wor but a lad, and he used to go there and mak' speeches again church-rates. I've seen him speaking from one o'th' gravestones; he could'nt speak much, and he used to read his speeches from a paper.” And so this critic concludes from (1) his being unable to speak much when a lad, and (2) from his use of notes at the time, that he is a talented man, but not an orator of genius. In their maiden efforts the greatest men have been subjects of nervous trepidation, and Burke, Canning, Cobden, and Robert Hall have confessed to this haunting weakness after years of practice; and Bright himself said, three years ago, that he was always happier the morning after a meeting than before it. Let our kind reader peruse repeatedly, as we have done, Bright's great speech in the Commons in 1866, in answer to Lowe's anti-Reform speech, much of which must have been created at the time, as it arose from the exigencies of the debate, and see the spontaneous clothing of impassioned thought, proving him to possess the creative and combining power in rare perfection. believe there has been prolonged and earnest cultivation, assiduous

* We have to complain against the editing of these speeches, that those marks usually inserted by reporters to indicate the effect of the speech upon the audiences are left out. We regret that “conventional dignity" has in this case destroyed the animation and lessened greatly the interest in reading these books, making them appear more like essays than speeches. Were our reporters to do this there would be a general outcry. When these significant parentheses appear, the selections are from our own collection of

the speeches.

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study and self-discipline; that his terse propriety of phrase is the result of great care, but this is not inconsistent with native and inborn genius. In the case of the great sons of genius–Burke, Canning, and Sheridan-there are the marks of cultivation and labour, and yet no one attributes their gifts wholly to culture. There was no greater mechanic of speech than the last-named, and yet he was the darling child of genius. No mere taking of pains could give birth to a John Bright. Besides, we caught this same critic napping ; for, in the next issue of the journal, Bright was made to be one of the quartette of orators of genius in the Commons -Gladstone, Disraeli, Lowe, and Bright.

However these volumes may effect Mr. Bright's fame as a statesman, they will become one of the few standard classics of English oratory. Professor Rogers very truly says: “It seems likely that the course of events in this country will lead those who may desire to possess influence in the conduct of public affairs to study the art of public speaking. If so, nothing which can be found in English literature will aid the aspirant after the great faculty more than the careful study and reiterated perusal of the speeches contained in these volumes. Let a student try to use Burke's speeches as an instrument of such education, and the likelihood is he will become turgid where his master is grand, and in seeking to elevate his style to Burke's he may vitiate it; while Bright's simple grandeur is just that which will give light and help to the student, who modestly aspires to be effective where his “model is superb.” We have sought with curious care to find any

66 fine” language, and mongrel Greek, or bastard Latin in these speeches, but we cannot; a truly wonderful use is made of simple massive Saxon. It is such a relief to get from the pinchbeck English, the varnish and tinsel of spouters and leader-writers, to the strong, nervous, homely language of these speeches. Wonderfully combined with the familiarity of allusion, rugged sense, and homely phrase, there is the greatest dignity and faultless elevation. The desert often brightens into beauty and abundant fruitage by the exercise of his rich imagination. Of course, as it is one of the functions of the orator to deal with the emotions, he should be an adept in the use of that wondrous instrument, the human heart. He should be able to touch its subtlest chords and rouse it into vebemence, to kindle the fires of passion, ride calmly upon a storm of invective, appeal, scorn, or declamation, as well as to be tender, and melt into tears. This Mr. Bright does to perfection ; and the constant impression is that he does not labour to get his indignation up to boiling point. He does not exhaust himself for effect. The effort he seems to make is to suppress and keep down his humour, scorn, or indignation. When we have heard or read other excellent speakers, we have been impressed with the thought that they had exhausted themselves, had strained their powers to great tension ; but here the rein is vigorously used, not the spur. Had he allowed himself, his exuberant powers would have yielded much more, but the effect would have been spoiled, and the end of the speech frustrated. He is always perfect master of his thoughts and feelings. Amidst stormy opposition, or deafening cheers, when strong excitement seizes and overmasters everyone, he, in danger of being most moved, stands calm and perfectly possessed, speaking with deliberation and wondrous force. His wrath is never petty and personal. It is the wrath of the understanding, not hate, or spiteful anger. His potent voice is lifted against the tyrannous impost, or unjust exclusion; the selfishness and meannesses of ruling or dominant powers.

He is thoroughly penetrated with political morality and a lofty love of humanity. His mind is steeped in great resentments, and filled with lively pictures of suffering and wrong, and it has been the object of his life, irrespective of party ties, to remove the cause of suffering, and redress the evil. Some have spoken of Bright's genius as lying exclusively on the side of the pathetic. But such observers have failed to perceive, mixed wonderfully and inexplicably with his deep sympathy, that there is the opposite quality of humour, generally quiet, as humour is, but sometimes verging towards the grotesque and droll, never used for mere laughter or amusement, but cutting and severe. This mixture or contrast of opposite qualities we do not remember in any orator, and only in Thackeray and Dickens as writers. We can recall instances in their works most tender and pathetic, but before the tear has well flown some humourous stroke or droll view of something counteracts the emotion, and the face broadens into a smile. Many such examples are found in these speeches; take this one : During the American war the trade of Lancashire was stagnated by the failure of the supply of cotton. An attempt was made to keep some of the mills partially at work with Indian cotton, known as Surat, which to work was most difficult and distressing. A minister one Sunday morning was praying that merciful heaven would cause a plentiful supply of cotton to come, when a man in the congregation, a cotton spinner, cried out, “ Yes, Lord, but not Surat ?" We remember

! the electric effect of this incident as related by Mr. Bright. Another example of the same grim sort of humour was found in his allusions to the leading ministers, in his celebrated speech in the parliament during the Russian war. In his opposition to this war he was sustained by some of the foremost men in the country. The debate was upon the enrolling of the Foreign Legion. The terrible crop of disasters from the Crimea was beginning to appear, and a tale of distress was rending the hearts and homes of England.


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