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I THANKyou, my Lord Provost-gentlemen, I thank you from my heart for this great honour. * I may, I hope, extend my thanks further—extend them to that constituent body, of which I believe you are, upon this occasion, the expositors—and which has received me here in a manner which has made animpression never to be effaced from my mind. [Alluding to the box containing the document, verifying his admission as a freeman, he continued:] That box, my lord, I shall prize as long as I live, and when I am gone, it will be appreciated by those who are dearest to me, as a proof that, in the course of an active and chequered life, both political and literary, I succeeded in gaining the esteem and good will of the people of one of the greatest and most enlightened cities in the British empire. My political life, my lord, has closed. The feelings which contention and rivalry naturally called forth, and from which I do not pretend to have been exempted, have had time to cool down. I can look now upon the events in which I bore a part, as calmly, I think, as on the events of the past century, I can do that justice now to honourable opponents which perhaps in moments of conflict I might have refused to them. I believe I can judge as impartially of my own career, as I can judge of the career of another man. I acknowledge great errors and deficiencies, but I have nothing to acknowledge inconsistent with rectitude of intention and independence of spirit. My conscience bears me this testimony, that I have honestly desired the happiness, the prosperity, and the greatness of my country; that my course, right or wrong, was never determined by any selfish or sordid motive, and that, in troubled times and through many vicissitudes offortune, in power and out of power, through popularity and unpopularity, I have been faithful to one set of opinions, and to one set of friends. I see no reason to doubt that these friends were well chosen, or that these opinions were in the main correct. The path of duty appeared to me to be between two dangerous extremes—extremes which I shall call equally dangerous, seeing that each of them inevitably conducts society to the other. I cannot accuse myself of having over deviated—far towards either. I cannot accuse myself of having ever been untrue. either to the cause of civil or religious liberty, or to the cause of property and law. I reflect with pleasure that I bore a partin some of those reforms which corrected great abuses, and removed just discontents. I reflect with equal pleasure, that I never stooped to the part of a
* The tender of the freedom of the city of Glasgow.
SPEECH - on RETIRING FROM POLITICAL LIFE.
IMARch 22, 1849.
demagogue, and never feared to confront what seemed to me to be an unreasonable clamour. I never in time of distressincited my countrymen to demand of any government, to which I was opposed, miracles—that which I well knew no government could perform; nor did I seek even the redress of grievances, which it was the duty of a government to redress, by any other than strictly peaceful and legal means. Such were the principles upon which I acted, and such would have been my principles still. The events which have lately changed the face of Europe, have only confirmed my views of what public duty requires. These events are full of important lessons, both to the governors and the governed; and he learns only half the
lesson they ought to teach, who sees in them
only a warning against tyranny on the one hand, and anarchy on the other. The great lesson which these events teach us is that ty. ranny and anarchy are inseparably connected; that each is the parent, and each is the offspring of the other. The lesson which they teach is this—that old institutions have no more deadly enemy than the bigot who refuses to adjust them to a new state of society; nor do they teach us less clearly this lesson, that the sovereignty of the mob leads by no long or circuitous path to the sovereignty of the sword. I bless God that my country has escaped both these errors. Those statemen who, eighteen years before, proposed to transfer to this great city and to cities like this, a political power which but belonged to hamlets which contained only a few scores of inhabitants, or to old walls with no inhabitants at all—these statesmen, and I may include myself among them, were then called anarchists and revolutionists; but let those who so called us, now say whether we are not the true and the far-sighted friends of order? Let those who so called us, now say how would they have wished to encounter the tempest of the last spring with the abuses of Old Sarum and Gutton to defend—with Glasgow only represented in name, and Manchester and Leeds not even in name. We then were not only the true friends of liberty, but the true friends of order; and in the same manner aided by all the vigorous exertions by which the government (aided by patriotic magistrates and honest men) put down, a year ago, those mnranders who wished to subvert all society— these exertions, I say, were of inestimable service, not only to the cause of order, but also to the cause of true liberty. But I am now speaking the sentiments of a private man. I have quitted politics–Louitted them without one feeling of resentment, without one feeling of regret, and betook myself to pursuits for which my temper and my tastes, I believe, fitted me better. I would not willingly believe that in ceasing to be a politician I relinquish altogether the power of rendering any service to my country. I hope it may still be in my power to teach lessons which may be profitable to those who still remain on the busy stage which I have left. I hope that it may still be in my power so faithfully, without fear or malignity, to represent the merits and failts of hostile sects and factions, as to teach a common lesson of charity to all. I hope it will be in my power to inspire, at least, some of my countrymen with love and reverence for those free and noble institutions to which Britain
owes her greatness, and from which, I trust, she is not destined soon to descend. I shall now, encouraged by your approbation, resume, with alacrity, a task, under the magnitude and importance of which I have sometimes felt my mind ready to sink. I thank you again, most cordially, for your kindness, I value, as it deserves, the honour of being enrolled in your number. I have seen with delight and with pride, the extent, the grandeur, the beauty, and the opulence of this noble city—a city which I may now call mine. With every wish for the prosperity, the peace, and the honour of our fair and majestic Glasgow, I now bid you, my kind friends and fellow-citizens, a most respectful farewell.