Page images

his love of work, kindly do all they can to please him, by dying and leaving him executor to their property, trustee to their children, etc. When he does such work we believe nobody knows: but he does it, and well; and of course gets plenty of it to do.

If you get a letter from Mr. Hume, you will find on the seal the word “ PERSEVERANCE.” Never was motto more truthful-more characteristic. The matter of the Monuments to the “ Scottish Martyrs” presents an admirable instance of this quality.

In 1794, when Mr. Pitt's administration attempted, by violent prosecutions, to suppress the popular desire for reform in Parliament, the convictions of Muir, Palmer, Gerrald, Shirving, and Marguerotte, and especially the vindictive and illegal sentence passed on them by the Edinburgh Court of Justiciary, excited a strong feeling of disapprobation. Mr. Hume was, at the time, a student in surgery at the university. Animated with the generous spirit of sympathy which was prevalent around him, he determined, whenever an opportunity offered, to raise a monument to those victims of authorised oppression. Years rolled on, and his absence in India ; his travels through Europe, Asia Minor, and Egypt; his Parliamentary duties; and a multiplicity of avocations, deferred the accomplishment of his purpose; but the recollection of the Scottish Political Martyrs was never obliterated from his memory; and, on the 20th of February, 1837, he presided at a public meeting, held at the “Crown and Anchor Tavern,” when it was resolved, “ that a subscription should be immediately entered into, for the purpose of commemorating their deeds and sufferings, by public monuments, in the capitals of Scotland and England.” After many difficulties, a site was obtained on the Calton Hill, for that of Edinburgh, where it was placed in the shape of an obelisk, ninety-two feet high, with commemorative inscription, in 1840. But still greater impediments being opposed to the object in London, it was not finally accomplished until 1852, by the erection of a granite monument, thirty-four feet high, near the entrance of Nunhead Cemetery, where it now stands conspicuous, an enduring monument of the Martyrs' sufferings; as well as of political oppression in times gone by ; and of Mr. Hume's inextinguishable perseverance.

It was once said of Mr. Hunie, that had he been sentenced, like Sysiphus, to roll a huge stone up hill everlastingly, he would certainly have done it; or perhaps, some fine morning, when everyone else was asleep, would have got rid of his charge by pitching it over on the other side. Had the torment of Ixion been awarded him, he certainly would have trundled away until he got out of sight and reach of his tormentors, or had worn the wheel to pieces by friction. “Punch” convulsed the town once with a happy caricature of “ Old Joe" strumming on the banjo of reform under Lord John Russell's window-the indomitable comic gravity of “Old Joe,” and the despairing look of the “ finality" Premier, were inconceivably ludicrous.

His courage and self-dependence are amazing-to stand up night after night in the House of Commons when Castlereagh was in the ascendant, and Canning's biting jibos were ready, constant and cutting, and declare in the face of the world, that the doings of a powerful ministry were iniquitous and disgraceful; to bear the hootings and howlings of a rabid after-dinner opposition in those times ; to read the scurrility that met him in the press, and to meet everywhere the basest insinuations against his character; to dare to call a spade a spade, and to denounce rascality to its face in an age when all the ability and disinterestedness of Sir Samuel Romilly failed to wrest from the legislature the concession that a man should not be hanged for stealing five shillings from the person to have done all this, at such a time and in such a place; and moreover to continue to do it, not now and then, when the blood was roused by some accident, but to do it night after night, week after week, year after year ; to be beaten again and again, to be laughed at, sneered at, sworn at--for in those days that was not rare--and still to persevere, with temper scarcely ever ruffled, with energy never relaxing and hope never failing,-is to us one of the most marvellous things of its kind that we have met in our studies of human character.

We cannot forbear telling an anecdote of Mr. Hume, illustrative of his remarkable self-possession and fearlessness; we believe that it has already been printed more than once, and, unlike most stories, it possesses the prosaic quality of being true. Mr. Hume was in a small packet off the coast of Scotland, when the weather became very boisterous; the master of the boat either got frightened or did not know his course, and certain destruction seemed to await the unfortunate passengers. Mr. Hume saw the dilemma ; demanded to see the captain's charts, which were freely given up to him, together with the entire control of the vessel ; ascertained the position of the vessel in a short time, altered her course; saved, probably, the lives of all on board-and, when all danger was past, went into the cabin, and, obtaining some paste, mended the captain's torn and neglected maps ? VOL. II.


This was reported many years ago by a young man who was on board at the time, and helped Mr. Hume to handle the paste-brush.

Those who cannot deny to Mr. Hume the qualities which we have already ascribed to him, are content to say that he is a man of no genius, no originality. He is not a commanding genius certainly, he never hits upon any startling or grand expressions or ideas, he is not a good speaker, and has none of those brilliant qualities which dazzle while they delight; but on the other hand let it be remembered that he had originality enough to give forth many novel opinions which have now been proved to be sound, and have been accepted by the public; and many of which, after having been laughed at for years, have been carried by acclamation. Let it be remembered that when he enunciated those ideas, no one stood by to help his weak intelligence he did not grasp his opinions on grand occasions, or in accordance with the views of a party, but he arrived at them by the simple act of testing everything that came before him, by the light of his own mind. This alone gives him a claim to a high intellectual position, and any one who has talked with him upon general matters, and noticed the facility with which he passes from one subject to another, and the vast amount of information that he possesses, will pause, if they be not prejudiced, before they characterize him as narrowminded. We believe had Mr. Hume turned his attention to any of the professions, he would have risen to eminence; had his mind been concentrated upon a smaller range of subjects, it would have exhibited an expansive grasp—as indeed he has always done, by seeing through the disguises, and going at once to the root of the matter in hand. This very fact gained him for a time the character of a visionary, and now that the world has caught him up, he is frequently ridiculed as a plodding one-idead man! Would that the world had had a few more of such, when Romilly and Mackintosh sat with Brougham, Tierney and Hume, on one side of the House, and Castlereagh, Vansittart, Canning and Dundas sat on the other !

It is idle to speculate upon what Mr. Hume might have been,-it is idle now to lament that he undertook more work than any human being could by any possibility get through

-though we may just stop to say that his sympathy is answerable for that, for he has not to this day learned to say no to a request for assistance-it is idle to note errors which have now and then been detected in the work of the bee by the drones who stood by doing nothing! But we may fairly say that the work has been most unequally divided, and that Mr. Hume, if he has earned a lower place in the roll of fame than he might have obtained had he consulted only his own comfort and dignity, deserves, by that very self-negation, a higher position in the gratitude of posterity!

The most common charge that is urged against him perhaps, is that he is parsimonious ;-this for several reasons must be fairly weighed. He is accused of being unnecessarily critical in small matters, in short to practise meanness rather than economy. How did he earn this character ? By denouncing a system of keeping the public accounts, which left peculation easy and without danger ; by exposing disgraceful waste of the money wrung from the hard toil of honest industry, and squandered in disgusting profligacy. By demanding that the rulers of a great nation should them. selves be above suspicion, and that elevated position should not be taken as an excuse for shameless dishonesty, he placed himself in the position of a man who goes amongst thieves and tells them to be honest, or into the abodes of infamy and denounces profligacy. He who refuses to follow the villainous habit of bribing a lazy scoundrel to do that which he is paid especially to do, or refuses to reward a lazy vagabond for not working at all, will earn from such gentry the name of a mean fellow-what wonder then that Mr. Hume escaped not?

Let us see what was the animus by which he was moved. He refused to sanction the taxing of the poor man's food; he refused to vote for an army or navy which he believed to be larger than necessary; he refused to vote unlimited supplies even to princes. He refused to increase the country's burdens for such purposes as these. He did not, however, refuse to vote money for the education of a neglected and reviled “mob,” he did not grudge the money that went to improve the health, the moral condition, the taste, or the recreation of the people; on the contrary, every proposal to vote money for such purpose met his warm and hearty support ;--and no man in England has originated so many of such propositions. The deduction of money from the unearned income of a profligate peer, a sinecure secretary, or a bloated doorkeeper, in order to increase the funds for the education and improvement of the people, may be parsimonious, but if we were driven to choose amongst words of similar termination, we should rather call it religious !

So much for Mr. Hume's public meanness! With his private affairs we have nothing to do : we have no wish, if we had the opportunity, to break into his house, as certain people, figuratively speaking, are guilty of. We dare say Mr. Hume does not leave his cash-box open on his table ; does not spend a fortune at the opera ; does not even take a nice quiet rubber on Sunday, or on any other day, at his club ;-he may even choose to wear a four-and-ninepenny hat and short boots, as he was once accused of doing, and certainly he does object to pay more than a shilling a mile even if his cabman asks him for it: or, quitting negatives, let us suppose that he is a little close in private matters— what then? Why he has been thirty-three years in parliament without accepting place ?-not without having had it offered to him; he has turned his house into an office ; he has at times engaged several clerks to help in his labours ; he has never been entirely without a secretary, a clerk, or some sort of paid assistance; he has spent a mint of money upon postages—sometimes under the old system, five pounds in one day; the printers' bills which he has paid would aniount to a nice round sum ; there has scarcely been a society to promote the welfare of the people that he has not subAcribed to, and handsomely-frequently taking the leading business, and, like an amateur actor, paying the largest sum because of the importance of the part; he has been the working agent of several colonies without any remuneration whatever for his services; he has got up more subscriptions for deserving misfortune than any other man in the world, and not only put his name down, but paid the subscription too, as rumour says has not been the invariable rule with charitable patrons ;-all this he has done : and although he has served on more committees in the House of Commons than any other man ever dreamed of; although he has been appointed, and has acted as a royal commissioner on innumerable occasions; although he has, for the purpose above-mentioned, drawn from his private purse for the benefit of the public, certainly one or two hundred a year, and probably a great deal more, for upwards of thirty years, he has never once received a single farthing of the public money from the time he entered parliament to the present day! Had Cresus acted in this manner, he might, almost, have worn a four-and-ninepenny hat without being considered stingy.

We have felt sometimes that it was inconsistent for a man who had done so much for the public not to be paid for his labour, and we used to hope for the day when the “whirligig of time” should make him Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps we were wrong; and it may be more

« PreviousContinue »