TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE EDINBURGH DINNER TO EARL GREY.
Ir is the custom on the Continent, when a Minister retires or is dismissed from office, for I is friends to offer him their sympathy and condolence; and Madame DE STAEL somewhere expresses her astonishment at the discovery that a British statesman would deem himself grossly insulted, were any one to treat him as a disgraced or unfortunate person bemuse he had resigned his place. Indeed it would seem, that in England a Minister never stands so high in the regard of his countrymen, as immediately after his retirement from office. Time-servers and sycophants of course conduct themselves differently ; but it is the character of inde- pendent Englishmen to reserve their outpourings of gratitude and respect fur the Minister who has put off his power.
4, They shun his zenith, court his mild decline."
Never was this honourable trait in the national character more finely exemplified, than in the Edinburgh dinner to Earl Grey. In no other European country, certainly, would three thousand persons have assembled for the purpose of testifying their esteem and gratitude to an aged senator, who had "not fallen, but descended from power," without even the slightest chance of re- suming it at any future period. To shallow observers, it may appear unaccountably capricious, that the same parties who a few weeks ago animadverted in terms
of severity on the policy and proceedings of Earl GREY, should
now, as if by common consent, merge all their displeasure and disappointment in the desire to praise and celebrate his virtues and public services. But Englishmen are accustomed to weigh
the character of a public man with strict justice, and to keep a watchful eye on the course lie takes while in power. However useful or honest a statesman may have been, they will not permit
him, on the strength of past services, to swerve with impunity from the path of duty. They soon detect and expose his aberra- tions; and as long as he has the power to do both good and mischief, they will admit no excuse for his leaning to the latter. Once, however, let the curtain fall on his public life, and they are prepared to estimate his merits and demerits fairly and candidly ; and when they find the preponderance to be decidedly on the side of the former,—when they feel convinced of the manly honesty,
the straightforward integrity, of his general conduct and prin- ciples,—they are eager to forget and forgive small failings and errors. Each man says to himself, "Non ego paucis ofendar meals."
Earl GREY'S character and public life have in the main been such as both his countrymen and himself can look back upon with satisfaction ; and he must be a very bitter and narrow-minded
partisan indeed, whatever his politics may happen to be, who grudges the glorious tribute of affectionate regard and admiration
which the late Premier has received in Scotland. Lord GREY
was true to himself and his reputation throughout. From his first crossing the Border at Coldstream, to his last speech at the Edinburgh dinner, lie was never once betrayed into an incon- sistent, an undignified, or a vainglorious expression. He had no shuttlings to gloss over or reconcile, no apologies to make, no in- trigues to foster, no unfounded pretensions to bolster up : he felt that he had gone beyond rather than fallen short of the expec- tations he had held out, and had nothing to reproach himself with ; for his faults were not of that kind which a person of Earl GREY'S habits of thought and aristccratic feelings would acknowledge to be any faults at all. His very defects, therefore, contributed to render his whole demeanour and style of address simple, dignified, and manly. Should the crowning triumph at Edinburgh be the last scene of his political life, we should call it a most worthy con- summation.
Very different was the exhibition of the versatile, restless, am- bitious, and ruanceuvering Chancellor. His whole progress through the country justified the anticipations we formed a month ago, before his plan was developed or his route advertised in the news- . papers.* His policy, which he doubtless thinks very profound and sagacious, is transparent to the meanest capacity. Is it not, to ingratiate himself with the King, against the time when Cabinet. making or mending shall again be wanted—as at once the most devoted of servants, and the most popular, and therefore the most powerful, of public men? He aims at being thought with the
tribe of placehunters, a great favourite at Court ; with the King and courtiers, a prodigious favourite of the People. Like a true Vicar of Bray, it would appear that he is ready to go with whatever party or combination of parties may be on the ascendant. Thus, he accommodates his oratory to the mood of his various audiences, ar according to what lie supposes to be their mood. He was boldly Conservative at Inverness, a good deal more Whiggish at Aber- deen, and pretty nearly Radical at Dundee. At Edinburgh; lie wriggled between the different political parties, professing respect for all. Here we see the marked 'distinction between the Chan- cellor and Earl GREY : the latter was just the same at Coldstream, Kelso, Dalkeith, and Edinburgh.
Notwithstanding the evident elaboration of Lord Baoronkm's principal speech on the 15th, it cannot be considered as a very happy one. The desire not to be considered as merely the second attraction, but to divide the empire with Caesar—to lay hold of some 'of Earl GREYS laurels—e as too glaring. Then he appears to have over-estimated the Conservatism and undervalued the Liberality • See Spectator of August gad; article "Lord Brougham iu the Provinces." of his audience ; for Lord DURHAM lair)* b ire av a: the :oatilre feeling from him.
The speech of Lord DURHAM was one of which he may indeed be proud. It must be remembered that he was immediately sur- rounded by zealous Whigs, partisans el' the Ministry, and per- sonal friends of the Chancellor. It required, therefure,.no small share of cool and resolute courage to administer the dignified, searching, and most felicitious reproof to Lord BROUGHAM, which is contained in the closing passages of his speech. The Chan- cellor wisely abstained 4rom any attempt at answering it : he winced under the infliction, but his spirit quailed before that of a straightforward, plain-dealing man. It is to the credit of the meeting, that the wise, independent, and statesmanlike views of Lord DURHAM, elicited for more hearty admiration, than the ela- borate eloquence and studied but deceitful periods of a greater orator. If we are not deceived, Lord DURHAM'S influenei in the country will be vastly augmented by his noble. bearing at this dinner.
Mr. ABERCROMBY, Mr. ELLICE, and Sir JOHN HOHHOUSR also, but more especially the latter, did themselves credit by their decided adoption of Lord Duen.%m's sentiments, and virtual re- pudiation of Lord BROUGHAM'S. They answered Lord DUR- HAM'S appeal with a readiness that must have convinced the Chan- cellor, that he bad misapprehended the tone, not only of the meeting, but of some at least of his colleagues.