Obrazy na stronie

Mr. Huskisson as being highly qualified for the situation, which Mr. Dundas then offered, and he accepted early in 1793.

The stirring scenes which he had witnessed, and the great expansion of his mind, had unfitted him for following the example of the former members of his family, who had for so many years resided upon their own property; and he felt disinclined to the quiet life of a country gentleman. His father had been obliged to alienate a considerable part of his property, in order to make provision for his younger children (of wliom he left eight by his two marriages); and his eldest son inherited only the entailed property at Oxley, the adjoining lands and the advowson of the parish of Bushbury having been directed to be sold. This circumstance, combining with others, induced Mr. Huskisson to take measures for cutting off the entail, to sell his landed property, and to devote himself to official life.

Mr. Huskisson's talents had already won for him the esteem and approbation not only of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas, under whom he was employed, but also of many other distinguished men; and of Mr. Canding in particular, with whom he ever after maintained the most intimate union. In 1795 he was appointed Chief Clerk in the office of Mr. Dundas (the late Lord Melville,) then Secretary of State for the War Department, and in the following year he succeeded Sir Evan Nepean in the office of Under Secretary; and being found a valuable man of business, he was brought into Parliament, under the auspices of Mr. Pitt, for the borough of Morpeth, which place he continued to represent until the dissolution of Parliament in 1802.

About this period Mr. Huskisson was successively appointed Receiver-general of the Duchy of Lancaster, and a Commissioner of the Board of Trade.

On the 6th of April, 1799, Mr. Huskisson was married to Elizabeth-Mary, younger daughter of Admiral Mark Milbanke, a greatuncle of the present Sir John Peniston Milbanke, Bart., as also of the present Lord Viscount Melbourne and the dowager Lady Byron. Mrs. Huskisson survives her husband, without children.

In 1800, Mr. Huskisson purchased of Mr. Hayley the poet, and biographer of Cowper (with whom he had long been on terms of intimate friendship), his villa of Eartham, five miles from Chichester. “ This originally unextensive domain,” says the Rev. Mr. Dallaway, in his History of the Rape of Chichester," was embellished by its late owner in the simple and genuine taste of the ferme ornée, as first introduced into this country by Shenstone at the Leasowes. Mr. Huskisson has greatly enlarged the mansionhouse, in a style of accommodation and elegance; having likewise extended and made alterations in the immediate environs. The present estate includes about 300 acres.”

Mr. Huskisson remained in office as Under Secretary of the War Department until the breaking up of Mr. Pitt's adıninistration in 1801, when he resigned; Mr. Pitt having, in consideration of his valuable services, previously obtained for him the King's Sign Manual, dated the 17th of May, 1801, securing to him a pension of 12001. a year (contingent upon his not holding any office of that value), with a remainder of 6151. to Mrs. Huskisson, to commence from her husband's death.

At the general election in 1802, Mr. Huskisson was a candidate for Dover. After a severe contest of five days, he polled only 466 votes, while one of his competitors, Mr. Trevannion, had 666, and the other, Mr. Spencer Smith, 534. On this he declined proceeding further, and took leave of the inhabitants in a very handsome and conciliatory speech, which, in the accounts of the day, was stated to have called forth the approbation even of his opponents.

His place at Morpeth having been meanwhile filled by Mr. Ord, Mr. Huskisson remained out of Parliament until 1804, when the succession of the Hon. John Elliot to his father's peerage occasioned a vacant seat for the borough of Liskeard. After a contest with Thomas Sheridan, Esq. and a double return, Mr. Huskisson was by a committee declared duly elected, May 15. 1804.

On the very same day, Mr. Pitt returned to power; and soon after Mr. Huskisson was appointed one of the joint Secretaries to the Treasury, together with Mr. Sturges Bourne.

At the general election in 1806, he was re-elected for Liskeard.

During Mr. Fox's short administration, Mr. Huskisson was in Opposition; but he returned with Mr. Perceval, and resumed his Secretaryship, being elected to Parliament in 1807 for the borough of Harwich.

Through the first four or five years of Mr. Huskisson's parliamentary life, he spoke but little; though much that was detailed by Ministers, particularly on financial resources and supplies, was the result of his previous researches, especially after he became Chief Secretary of the Treasury. Whenever he did speak, he commanded attention, as well by the unaffected and manly simpli. city of his address, as by the clearness of his statements on subjects the most intricate and difficult. When, for instance, at the commencement of the Session of 1807, the Minister's arrangement with the Bank for managing the loan was censured by some of the acutest members of Opposition, especially Mr, Tierney and Lord


Henry Petty, Mr. Huskisson in very few words replied to their objections, and at once released Mr. Perceval from the perplexity in which they were involving him.

It would be difficult to find a statesman of eminence, and impose sible to find one of Mr. Huskisson's gifted and merited eminence, more frank than he was in acknowledgment when convicted of an error. A jocose writer remarks that “ Mr. Huskisson would as soon dance a minuet with an Austrian princess, as give up an opinion which he considered to be correct ;” but let the incorrectness of an opinion which he had most resolutely avowed be clearly made out, and no man in the world was more ready to relinquish it. . A sample of this temper was given in the year 1809; on a subject indeed of no great moment, yet sufficiently important to undergo a thorough investigation. Sir Francis Burdett complained that certain ground belonging to Chelsea Hospital was about to be leased to Colonel Gordon for building, which would “coop up" the infirmary to a degree injurious to its inmates. To this Mr. Huskisson answered that special provision was making in the lease to prevent this injury, which the large extent of the ground would amply allow. But a few days after Mr. Huskisson renewed the subject, and candidly remarked that, having since been on the spot, there appeared reason to apprehend that the. building would interfere with the comfort and convenience of the Hospital, and that the site was consequently removed.

When Colonel Wardle, intoxicated with his partial triumph over the Duke of York, thrust himself into the foremost rank of radical reformers, and introduced his famous motion to save thes amount of the income tax by retrenchments in the army


navy, at the most expensive and first hopeful period of the war it fell to Mr. Huskisson's lot to reply to his statements, which he did ini a tone of mingled argument and satire, the force of which was felt through the House.

To those who could not discern the minuter variations and subdivisions of the House of Commons at this time, Mr. Huskisson appeared a complete ministerial partizan, ready on all occasions not only to vote with the Cabinet, but to strengthen its measures by his influence, eloquence, and reasoning. This, however, was by no means the case : he belonged to a party in the Ministry rather than to the Ministry generally: and, willing as he was to merge trifling peculiarities in combined efforts for the nation's good, he: sacrificed neither his integrity nor his independence; but, to preserve them, he was always willing to relinquish the honours and emoluments of office. Mr. Canning was for many years the

[blocks in formation]


ostensible, and recently the acknowledged, head of the party to which Mr. Huskisson belonged; and which first assumed a distinct political character at the close of the year 1809, when that distinguished statesman avowed his difference from Lord Castlereagh, and of consequence left the Ministry. Mr. Canning's friends, among whom was Mr. Huskisson, separated with him; and in subsequent debates it soon appeared that this third party existed in the House - agreeing with the Ministry upon questions of general policy, both foreign and domestic; but contending, with the Opposition, for the necessity of retrenchment in the public expenditure.

Because Mr. Huskisson so zealously opposed Colonel Wardle's wild scheme of retrenchment, he was thought to be averse lo economy in any shape; but he had soon an opportunity of showing his attachment to economical measures wisely chosen and prudently applied. We allude to the debate on the budget of 1810, when he urged the House to resist the addition which Mr. Perceval was proposing to make to the public burdens -- to consider the impossibility of long carrying on the war in this way -- and to examine whether a careful reduction of some millions might not be made without injury to the public credit, which he considered indispensable to the existence of the country. Aware that, being now out of office, his motives might be suspected, he anticipated the suspicion by this candid avowal :

“ Some persons may think the suggestions I have thrown out are the result of political feeling; and others may think that if I entertained these opinions formerly, I ought to have expressed them. The fact is, that I have always entertained them ; but when in office, I considered it my duty to state them only to my supe. riors, convinced as I am that the revision and retrenchment which appear to me so desirable can be beneficially effected by the Exe. cutive Government one."

It will be remembered that Mr. Huskisson had not yet belonged to the Cabinet, that his last and highest office was that of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in which he could scarcely do more than, as he observed, “ state his views to his superiors,” and advise 6 the Executive Government" to such measures as in his own judgment were both desirable and practicable. How far an individual, thus subordinately connected with the ministry, was bound by his principles to tell the House that his superiors would not listen to his advice, or by quitting his office to leave the decision of the matter to their discretion, is not for us to determine. The fact, however, is before us, that whatever official restraint was pre

viously laid on his lips in the House, he was no sooner delivered from it than he gave publicity to his plans, and pleaded for that retrenchment and economy which he had more privately laboured in vain to effect.

When it was proposed, in 1811, to vote six millions in Exchequer bills, for the purpose of relieving the mercantile and manu. facturing interests, Mr. Huskisson expressed strong doubts of the remedy being applicable to the case ; and by a detail of the circumstances of 1793 to which the friends of the measure appealed, and a comparison with those of the existing distress, he showed that the causes were altogether different and dissimilar.

Being placed on the “Bullion Committee,” Mr. Huskisson became one of its most prominent and active members ; and defended the principles in the Report of that Committee, in a pamphlet, entitled “ The Question concerning the Depreciation of our Currency stated and examined.” The importance of the subject, and the well known talents of the writer, combined to give so rapid a sale to this pamphlet, that it reached to a third edition within as many weeks. In his preface, Mr. Huskisson adverted to the clamour against the Bullion Report, which he represented as ill-founded, and as arising from wilful misrepresentation. He observed, that being one of the Members of the Committee by whom the Report was drawn up, being naturally desirous to vindicate what share he might be supposed to have in it; and having been pressed for some explanation of his opinions respecting the state of our currency and circulation, and of the grounds on which those opinions were founded; he had committed to paper the substance of them, in part before, and the remainder very soon after, the publication of the Report. After determining on the question of the actual depreciation of the currency in the affirmative, the principal object of this pamphlet was to vindicate the necessity of the recommendation in the Bullion Report ; namely, that the Bank should resume its payments in cash in two years. Mr. Huskisson answered, with great ability, all the objections that had been stated to that proposition. He declared that he foresaw no danger that could arise from carrying it into effect; but that, on the contrary, he was confident, with the repayment in gold, paper-currency would regain its former value, and all the evils of an excess of paper would be avoided. It was candidly admitted, even by one of the critics of that day who was not completely a convert to Mr. Huskisson's doctrine, “ that this elaborate work contained facts and reason. ings, without a previous knowledge and examination of which no man could be qualified to give an opinion on the subject.”

« PoprzedniaDalej »