Speech to the Electors of Trinity College, Dublin
Gentlemen,—The honour that has been done me by being put in nomination for one of your representatives by the very respectable person who spoke last, at the same time that it demands my warmest acknowledgments, renders it necessary for me to say a few words. I am well aware to how judicious and distinguishing an audience I now address myself; I am fully sensible how much the arduousness of my situation is increased by the necessity I am under of speaking on the most difficult and ungrateful of all subjects—oneself. But there are some situations where silence would be criminal.
It was thrown out, gentlemen, early last summer, when I first took the liberty of proposing myself to your consideration, that I was nephew to Mr. A. M., and therefore an improper person to represent this learned body. Perhaps it might be a sufficient answer answer to this electioneering artifice to say, that the character of that man should not seem very obnoxious to reproach, to whom the principal objection is that he is connected with as wise and able, and certainly as disinterested a man as any in this kingdom. But, gentlemen, though this short and decisive answer might be sufficient, I will not rest this matter here. I beg leave, with your permission, to consider this objection in all its parts.
Whatever failings this great man may have, no one can say that he has not acted on principle. No man perhaps ever supported administration so disinterestedly, or got so few favours from Government either for himself or his connexions. This indeed is so notorious, and the corruption and venality of the times are such, that men although they evidently see it is the fact are unwilling to believe it, and resort to the most improbable and chimerical suppositions in order to account for it. The persons too, who arraign the conduct of this great statesman, forget that it is necessary that the administration of affairs should be carried on by some persons or other; and that the gravity and moderation of this gentleman has often been of use to restrain the impetuous corruption of other men.
The enemies of this gentleman forget that the seat of a lord-lieutenant of the kingdom is besieged by men whose ready venality often outruns the wishes of Government; who, in addition to great present emolument, grasp at future and numerous reversions; who, not content with the highest offices in their own line, invade the offices of other men, thrust themselves into every department, civil, military, and ecclesiastical, and into stations for which the whole tenor of their lives and studies has rendered them wholly unqualified; who accumulate place upon place, and sinecure upon sinecure; who are so eager to obtain the wages of the day before the day is well passed over their heads, that they have emphatically and not improperly been styled ready-money voters; men that nothing is too arbitrary or illegal for them to varnish by their eloquence or support by their vote; men who are resolved at any rate to aggrandize themselves, and care not how soon they subvert the constitution of their country if they can but erect the fabric of their own fortunes on its ruins.
While our governors are surrounded by such men, surely, gentlemen, a wise and moderate and disinterested counsellor must be of some use to restrain their vicious ardour, and to prevent their headlong prostitution from subverting our liberties at a stroke. But however this may be, and though I have said thus much in justification of this distinguished character, I beg not to be misunderstood. I by no means insinuate that his conduct in supporting administration in general is such as I would myself follow. So far from it, gentlemen, that had I even been brought into Parliament by his interest, I should nevertheless have considered myself the trustee of the people, and perhaps there is no man that would have taken a more dedicated part than I should have done against that side which he generally espouses.
Gentlemen, I might call upon my worthy friend who has been put into nomination before me—whose truth and integrity are only surpassed by his abilities; I might call upon another gentleman, the greatest orator in this or perhaps any other kingdom—men whose testimony and approbation would set a seal upon any character; I could call upon these and many others with whom I have lived in intimacy to bear witness, that there are few persons who were not in Parliament that measures of governement for these same years past, particularly during the late unconstitutional administration of Lord Townshend. A man's zeal, gentlemen, must not always be measured by his situation; and persons moving even in an humble and private sphere of life like myself, have it sometimes in their power to molest an arbitrary administration.
But, gentlemen, I will go to the bottom of this objection, and will take it for granted that those who have thrown it out mean to insinuate that I was a dependant on another, and therefore not a proper object of your choice. And if this were the case, I would readily allow the force of the objection, and yield up all pretentions to your favour. But, gentlemen, this is as false as the rest; for a few months ago I obtained, at too high a price indeed, an honourable independence; not shall any motive upon earth induce me to forfeit that independence.
If, gentlemen, I shall be thought worthy to represent this learned University on the foundation of which I had once the honour to be placed, I shall consider myself as the friend neither to this man nor to that—attached neither to this party nor the other. I shall consider no tie, no relation, but that relation which subsists between the electors and the elected. I shall consider myself as a friend to nothing but the liberty and the constitution of my country, to the support of which I shall devote my life and abilities, while in every part of my conduct I shall endeavour to approve myself no unprofitable and, I will be bold to say, no unfaithful representative.
I have a thousand apologies to make, gentlemen, for having taken up so much of your time. I hope that the necessity of explaining a matter which might have been misconstrued and misunderstood, will plead my excuse.