George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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' this box, like the flying chest of the conjuror, possessed any
' supernatural properties of locomotion, is a point which I confess
' I am quite unable to determine ; but of this I am most credibly
' informed and I should hesitate long before I stated it to the
' House, if the statement did not rest upon the most unquestion-
' able authority that this extraordinary box contained a full

* Life, v. 217. t Second Series, x. 1275.


' uniform of a Spanish general of cavalry, together with a helmet
' of the most curious workmanship ; a helmet, allow rne to add,
' scarcely inferior in size to the celebrated helmet in the castle of
' Otranto (loud laughter). The idea of going to the relief of a
' fortress blockaded by sea and besieged by land, in a full suit of
c light horseman's equipments, was, perhaps, not strictly consonant
' to modem military operations. However, almost at this time,
' the arrival of the promised force of 10,000 men which never
' existed except on paper was hourly expected, and would have
' been most acceptable ; and when the gentleman and his box had
' made their appearance, the Cortes no doubt were overwhelmed
' with joy, and rubbed their hands with delight at the approach
' of the long-promised aid. That aid did not come : it came in
' the sense and in no other, which was described by the witty
1 Duke of Buckingham, whom the noble lord opposite reckoned
1 among his lineal ancestors ; when, in the play of The Rehearsal,
' there is a scene occupied with the designs of the two kings of
* Brentford, to whom one of their party entering says,

" The army's at the door, but in disguise,
Entreats a word of both your majesties."

' How the noble lord was received, or what effects he operated on
' the councils and affairs of the Cortes by his arrival, he (Mr.
' Canning) did not know. Things were at that juncture moving
' rapidly to their final issue. How far the noble lord conduced to
' the termination by throwing his weight into the sinking scale of
' the Cortes, was too nice a question for him just now to settle.
' But it must be evident, that by circumstances like those to which
' he had alluded, the government, if it wished to exercise common
' and necessary caution, was called upon, without any appeal from
' the French government, for disavowal. It was not for him to
' condemn the principles and motives which led the honourable
' gentleman to make that generous sacrifice of himself to the cause
' of Spain ; but what he urged was, that if they would have neu-
' trality on the part of the government, they must be content to
' be bound by the feelings, expressions, and determinations of
' government : nor ought they to expect to be allowed individually


' to carry on war against a government with which their own was
' in amity.'

There is not much in all this, as the reader perceives. The
heavy coach, the portentous box, the huge helmet, the light
horseman's equipments, the succour of the person, and the
weight in the sinking scale, are but the repetition of the first
witticism ; the humouring of a certain comical incongruity, visi-
bly suggested by Lord Nugent' s personal appearance, between
his desire to give help to the patriots, and the amount of help
he had given. But humour relies much upon manner, which,
preventing the effect of sameness in a repetition, keeps up in
the listener all the effects of novelty and surprise ; and there
can be no doubt that the House mightily enjoyed this laugh
against Lord Nugent. Wilberforce had gone to the debate
very unwell, his sons tell us, and not intending to remain, but
Canning enchained him. He returned home quite full of what
he had heard, and as he repeated the exquisite raillery to his
family, was again overpowered with laughter ' as he scarce
' ever was/ * Understanding all this, however, neither is it
difficult at the same time to understand and admit the higher
spirit in which Sir James Mackintosh rose immediately after
Canning had resumed his seat, and, after remarking that the
eloquent Secretary had, no doubt, been very facetious in
drawing a description of some part of the conduct of his noble
friend near him, reminded him and the House that he had
passed over other parts which were of a more serious kind,
and which redounded to Lord Nugent's honour, evincing as
they did those generous feelings which characterised every
action of his noble friend's life, and every sentiment of his
heart. ' The Right Honourable gentleman would not
' pronounce that the presence of his noble friend iii Spain had
'been either unseemly or unimportant, much less inglorious, if
' he considered that during his short residence in Cadiz, his

* Life, v. 217.


'noble friend had been instrumental in saving brave and
'unfortunate men, whose only crime was the love of their
' country, from the dungeons and scaffolds of an inexorable
' tyrant. In contributing to the rescue of such men, he had
' done what was worthy of himself and of his illustrious family,
' and he had supported becomingly the English character and
' name/

And so passed off the pleasant raillery of Mr. Canning.
That it had fallen with very small effect on Lord Nugent himself,
in so far as regarded his desire and resolve to give what help
he could to the oppressed, even by personal sacrifices, was
proved in the following year. The Greek cause, which
succeeded so closely to the Spanish in the sympathies of
Englishmen, had not a warmer or more active supporter,
and his presence in the Morea * testified his personal zeal in
its behalf.

* On the 24 Sept. 1824, one who has since obtained the highest rank in
the Diplomatic Service writes to Lord Nugent from Zante : ' I have had
' a long conversation with the Count de la Decimo, a Cephalonian of great
' credit, and in the closest communication with Mavrocordato and the
'present government. I explained to him the advantage which your
' lordship's presence must bring to those in Greece. This he seemed fully
' to understand, and was of a decided opinion that the condition attached
' to it would most cordially be complied with.

' Indeed, so much were your lordship's views in unison with the idea
' of those to whom you wished me to communicate them, that they
' conceive, as I understand, their chief wants to consist in what you demand,
' and there is a rumour that Mr. Blaquiere has orders thus to supply them.
' I therefore hope to procure a definitive and favourable answer at the seat
' of government, which I shall not fail immediately to forward, and
' Mr. Browne and myself anticipate with the greatest pleasure a meeting
' with your lordship in the Morea.

' Everything we hear is favourable to the Greeks. The government is more
' settled, and the chiefs more submissive to it than at any former time, the
' loan, from all accounts, has likewise been well employed, the best proofs
' of which are two splendid victories at Samos and Cos. All seems to
' invite your presence, and no one is more anxious for it, my lord, than

' Yours, very sincerely,

< ZANTE, Sept. 24th, 1824.'


In other prominent parliamentary questions, also, he con-
tinued to take the same part as of old. Since mention was
last made of his exertions in Parliament, he has been active in
resisting the proceedings against the Queen ; he has won the
confidence and thanks of Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Z. Macaulay
for a motion which he handled with much skill, on the
oppression of the negroes in Tobago ; * he has surprised
and propitiated t Jeremy Bentham by his eagerness in law
amendments ; he has supported every motion, in whatever
form submitted to the House, for Catholic Emancipation and
Parliamentary Reform; he has introduced, but failed to
pass, a bill for the safer independence of colonial judges;
he has joined in all humane efforts to obtain counsel for
prisoners, and to abate the extreme punishment for forgery ;
he has voted with every attempt to give greater freedom to
industry and commercial exchange; and he has argued
strongly for repeal of the Test Acts. It is extremely
difficult, looking back from even the limited vantage-ground
occupied by the people now, to believe that these, and fifty
other such questions, should have remained unsettled as
late as 1826. But so it was; and not one of those terse
sentences in which Sydney Smith has described the reign of i
squires, noodles, and jobbers in the first quarter of the *"
century, had yet lost its application. ' The Catholics were not

* A letter to Lord Nugent from Mr. Wilberforce, who was then at
Bath in very indifferent health, expresses his deep anxiety in the result of
the motion, his wish to be present at the debate, and his gratitude for
Lord Nugent's offer, if possible, to put it off for some few days.

t I use this word, because the sage and philosopher of Queen's-square
had' at first taken not so kindly to the Duke of Buckingham's brother. I
quote from a letter of his to Lord Nugent, dated at the close of 1824 : ' As
' to bad company, what I meant, and I certainly did as good as tell you,
' was, company opposite in character to everything I now hear of yours. For
' a man situated as you have been, how can he help himself? He caunot, '.'
' if he would, take himself out of the circle which gave him birth. As to \
' your solitude, instead of it I had figured to myself a house brimfull of
' company : of company of that sort with which in former days I got
' surfeited.'




' emancipated ; the Corporation and Test Acts were unrepealed ;
' the Game Laws were horribly oppressive ; steel traps and
' spring guns were set all over the country ; Prisoners tried for
' their lives could have no counsel ; Lord Eldon and the Court
'of Chancery pressed heavily upon mankind; Libel was
'punished by the most cruel and vindictive imprisonments;
' the principles of Political Economy were little understood ; the
' laws of Debt and of Conspiracy were upon the worst possible
'footing; the enormous wickedness of the Slave Trade was
' tolerated ; ' and to the correction of all these, and many
other evils then fully flourishing, which the talents of good
and able men were devoted to lessening or removing, Lord
Nugent applied whatever energy, influence, or ability he could

The claims with which he presented himself for the fourth
time to the electors of Aylesbury, at the general election of
1826, have been placed on record by Sir James Mackintosh.
With the latter he had now long been on terms of intimacy,
induced by congeniality of tastes as well as agreement in
opinion ; and the letters between them show with what kindly
affection Mackintosh repaid the eager admiration his character

* Sydney Smith will also tell us what was the ordinary penalty of
assailing such wrongs and abuses while yet their upholders basked in
the full sunshine of court favour and support. ' Not only was there no pay,
' but there were many stripes. It is always considered as a piece of imper- j
' tinence in England, if a man of less than two or three thousand a-year 3
'has any opinions at all upon important subjects; and in addition he was 1
' sure at that time to be assailed with all the Billingsgate of the French '
' Revolution Jacobin, Leveller, Atheist, Deist, Socinian, Incendiary,
' Regicide, were the gentlest appellations used ; and the man who breathed
' a syllable against the senseless bigotry of the two Georges, or hinted at
' the abominable tyranny and persecution exercised upon Catholic Ireland,
'was shunned as unfit for the relations of social life. Not a murmur
' against any abuse was permitted ; to say a word against the suitorcide
' delays of the Court of Chancery, or the cruel punishments of the Game
' Laws, or against any abuse which a rich man inflicted, or a poor man
' suffered, was treason against the Plvusiocracy, and was bitterly and steadily
' resented. Lord Grey had not then taken off the bearing rein from the
' English people.'


had inspired in Lord Nugent. Visits were frequently inter-
changed between Mardocks and Lilies ; and I have heard the
survivor say that he had been witness more than once, in
social intercourse, to what Sydney Smith has so nobly described
in Mackintosh, when, after remarking in proof of his genuine
love of human happiness, that whatever might assuage the
angry passions and arrange the conflicting interests of nations,
that whatever could promote peace, increase knowledge,
diminish crime, and encourage industry, that whatever could
exalt human character and enlarge human understanding,
struck at once at his heart and roused all his faculties, he
adds, ( I have seen him in a moment when this spirit came
1 upon him" like a great ship of war, cut his cable, and spread
' his enormous canvass, and launch into a wide sea of reasoning
1 eloquence/ * Lord Nugent would say, that nothing so
happily as this expressed what he remembered of the contrast
which vivid moments in the eloquence of Mackintosh presented,
to the ordinary heaviness and massive immobility of his

Sir James Mackintosh's letter on Lord Nugent' s parlia-
mentary services, which is dated the 6th of July 1826, was
elicited by an invitation sent to him to attend the dinner at
Aylesbury, in celebration of Lord Nugent's return without the
expenditure of a shilling, after a very severe contest in which
every available ministerial as well as family influence had been
exerted against him. Mackintosh was ill at the time, and unable
to leave home ; but he was very deeply impressed by the result
of the election as an example to the other electors of the
kingdom, and hence this letter to the chairman of the meeting.
' They have set the example/ he said of his ' former neighbours '
at Aylesbury,

' Of a popular election exempt from disorder and expense, from

* Life of Mackintosh by his Son, ii. 504. ' I drew the highest prize in the
' lottery ' says Wilberforce, describing a dinner at the Duke of Gloucester's ;
' I sat by Sir J. Mackintosh.' Life of Wilberforce by his Sons, v. 213.

d 2



' the domineering ascendant of a few, and from the slightest sus-
' picion of corruption- Among them the suffrages of the People
' have neither been disturbed, nor enslaved, nor dishonoured.
' No purse-proud stranger can boast of having bought their votes.
1 Without attacking the just influence of property, they have exer-
' cised their own judgment on public men; they have calmly and
c firmly asserted its independence. By returning their member
' without expense, they have deprived great wealth of that mono-
' poly which it may otherwise exercise against the most tried
' integrity, and the most eminent capacity for public service. I do
* not know that an electoral body can render a greater benefit to
' the community than by an example which thus strongly recom-
' mends the most popular institutions of a free government to the
' approbation of all mankind. The electors of Aylesbury have
1 bestowed on Lord Nugent the purest honour and the only
' becoming reward which Constituents can confer on an honest
' Representative. It has not been bestowed without long experience
' and abundant time for deliberation. They have had sixteen years
1 to observe and consider his parliamentary conduct, before they
' pronounced this their deliberate approbation of it. They have
c approved in him the advocate of a reduced military force, of
' economy in public expense, of liberty in discussing public mea-
' sures, the enemy of slavery, the friend of that right to worship
' God according to the dictates of their conscience without in cur -
' ring any legal inconvenience, which the sincere follower of every
' religious community ought to consider as the most valuable and
' sacred of the rights of mankind. The result of the General
' Election now affords them the satisfaction of knowing, that zeal
' for religious liberty comprehending every communion and excepting
' no opinion, is not considered as an objection to candidates for
' seats in Parliament, by the greater and better part of the electors
1 of England. They see also that other liberal principles of foreign
' policy and domestic legislation, to the promotion of which Lord
' Nugent and his friends trust that they have contributed by efforts
' at the moment apparently unavailing, are now adopted by those
' of his Majesty's ministers who give most lustre and vigour to
' the government. He will persevere in his efforts to support


1 liberal principles, whoever may be their advocates ; to lessen the
' burden and shorten the duration of laws against liberty, when he
c cannot defeat them ; to complete the removal of restraints on
' industry ; to restore freedom in the exchange of its produce, with
' a due regard to established interests ; and by rendering religious
' liberty co-extensive with the principle of doing unto others as
' we would that they should do unto us, to justify the tolerant
' spirit of the Protestant religion, as well as to provide for the
' peace and safety of the British empire. It is always an advantage
' that Constituents should be familiarly acquainted with the ordinary
1 and daily life of their Representative, which throws the clearest
c light on the true springs of every part of his conduct. In the
' present instance, the electors of Aylesbury derive from that
' familiar acquaintance the means of appreciating the conduct of
' Lord Nugent at those moments when his duty was rendered
' painful by a struggle with feeling, and are well assured that in
' those circumstances (which may now be adverted to without
' pain to any party) his determination arose not from lukewarmness
' in his affections, but from the strength of his public principles.'

From no authority entitled to higher respect could such
testimony have fallen, and never was a better merited or more
honourable tribute paid. But a very few years were now to
pass before the great change of 1830, and in the interval, it
may well be supposed, Lord Nugent's exertions to promote
the liberal cause in Parliament underwent no abatement. He
gave a sincere though qualified support to the Ministries of
Canning and Lord Goderich, exulted in the repeal of the Test
Acts, and went again into settled opposition when the
Wellington Ministry unwisely declared itself against Emancipa-
tion and Reform. And if, as a speaker, he held his ground less
firmly in the favour of the House than might at one time have
been expected, if in the greater party contests he never
attained any marked distinction, his influence was really
considerable on the silent advance of important questions,
especially of all that concerned the conscience, or affected in
uny way great social and human interests. His mere manner



of speaking, when bent upon oratorical effect, was in truth not
good. At such times there was a certain clumsiness of
elaboration, both in his arrangement and delivery of a speech,
which did indifferent justice to the clear honesty of purpose,
the manly abilities, the excellent common-sense understanding,
which, on less formal occasions, seldom failed of their effect in
that assembly of which Bobus Smith so happily said that it
has more good taste than any man in it.

Concurrently with his work in Parliament, too, he indulged
not a few pursuits of literature; and of the shrewdly rea-
soned, able, and eloquently written pamphlets which Lord
Nugent at various times contributed to the illustration or
enforcement of those public questions in which he took an
active interest, mention, however brief, should not be omitted.
There were few more ready pamphleteers, and in this way he
did much to promote, by a series of telling and timely argu-
ments, the success of the Test Acts Repeal, the Catholic
Question,* Parliamentary Reform, Law Reform, and several
branches of administrative improvement. He wrote also some
Spanish songs t which had a certain popularity, at the time
when public sympathies went strongly with the patriots ; he

* In the year before this question was finally settled, Lord Nugent
visited Ireland, when O'Connell seized the occasion, claiming him as an
Irishman, to invite him to the hospitalities of Derrynane. ' I shall feel
' honoured and pleased to see you in this my mountain hut, where I am
' like the American Squatter endeavouring to make good the settlement.
' The American and I differ, however, in this He cuts down trees to
' improve the land, / am endeavouring to rear them for utility and orna-
' ment. Amongst these mountains you, my lord, will expect little of those
' accommodations which in a London life are matters of course we
' endeavour to make compensation by the cordiality with which we treat
' the stranger and what stranger can bring such claims on our kindliest
' feelings as your lordship ] '

f In Moore's Diary will be found occasional mention of these songs.
I quote one entry of the 24th August 1825. ' Went to meet Lord Nugent
' at the Athenaeum. Brought in his words to Spanish songs ; rather pretty.
' Amused me a little to think of Lord George, the young man about town
' ( Vide Twopenny Post Bag), consulting me friendlily on the subject of his
' poetry.' Diary, iv. 308.


published, amid the discussions affecting religious liberty and
the rights of conscience in the year 1829, an historical and
critical essay on Oxford and Locke ; and from this date to the
close of his life, contributed many papers to the passing
publications of the time, generally entertaining in their
character. Among them might be found, though rarely, a
grave piece of criticism, more often a capital story told in
pointed and humorous verse. Lord Nugent wrote excellent
nonsense, which not many people can do.

The first public mention of his being engaged upon a
Memoir of Hampden was made in the Gentleman's Magazine,
in the summer of 1828. From this it appeared that he had
taken advantage of some repairs going on in the pavement of
the chancel of Hampden Church, to obtain Lord Buckingham-
shire's permission for such possible identification of the patriot's
remains, supposed to be deposited there, as might clear up the
question of the kind of hurt by which he died. The late
Chief Justice of England, then Mr. Common Serjeant Denman,
was present with' Lord Nugent when the attempt was made,
and entertained always afterwards the strong belief that they
had gazed on what had been Hampden ; * but the incident is
not dwelt upon here, because the contrary persuasion came to
be held by Lord Nugent, as I believe more correctly. t No
allusion to it appeared in the Memoir, but that version of the
patriot's manner of death was silently adopted which the

* In a letter of Lord Penman's, hereafter to be quoted, written in
1842 in answer to an invitation from Lord Nugent to be present at the
inauguration of a monument to Hampden on the spot where he is supposed
to have fallen in Chalgrave field, this expression occurs : ' Yours usque ad
' inferos, I cannot resist your company in attempting to give just honour
' to the great patriot, whose very identical body I am sure we saw.'

t ' I certainly did see ' says Lord Nugent, in a letter to the late
Mr. Murray, 'in 1828, while the pavement of the chancel of Hampden
' Church was undergoing repair, a skeleton, which I have many reasons for
' believing was not John Hampdeu's, but that of some gentleman, or lady,
' who probably died a quiet death in bed, certainly with 110 wound in the
' wrist.'


alleged discovery, as described in the Magazine, if really made
with that result,* must have shown to be untrue. Of the
book itself, which first appeared in November, 1831, the
reader has the means of judgment before him ; nor will he need
to be told how such a subject had suggested itself to Lord
Nugent. The scenes in which the patriot's youth was passed,
which saw the power and popularity of his manhood, and
witnessed the glory of his death, were the same that had
been also familiar to Lord Nugent from his boyhood ; nor
was the hero less commended to his biographer, by the opinions
and the cause for which he died. The biography was in all
respects a labour of love with Lord Nugent, and its reception
justified his expectations. I will quote what was said of it by

* I ought to add, however, that this description turned out to be any-
thing but correct. The point stated to be in dispute was, whether the

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 4 of 45)