Previous Index Next
Page 96
(previous) (Page 000096) (next)
 
90 LORD CLIVE.

of the Commons. They had indeed no great temptation to do
wrong. They would have been very bad judges of an accusa-

' tion brought against Jenkinson or against Wilkes. But the

question respecting Clive was not a party question; and the
House accordingly acted with the good sense and good feeling
which may always be expected from an assembly of English
gentlemen, not blinded by faction.

The equitable and temperate proceedings of the British
Parliament were set off to the greatest advantage by a foil.
The wretched government of Lewis the Fifteenth had murdered,
directly or indirectly, almost every Frenchman who had served
his country with distinction in the East. Labourdonnais was
flung into the Bastile, and, after years of suffering, left it only
to die. Dupleix, stripped of his immense fortune, and broken-
hearted by humiliating attendance in -antechambers, sank into
an obscure grave. Lally was dragged to the common place of
execution with a gag between his lips. The Commons of
England, on the other hand, treated their living captain with
that discriminating justice which is seldom shown except to the
dead. They laid down sound general principles; they deli-
cately pointed out where he had deviated from those principles;
and they tempered the gentle censure with liberal eulogy.
The contrast struck Voltaire, always partial to England, and
always eager to expose the abuses of the Parliaments of France.
Indeed he seems, at this time, to have meditated a history of
the conquest of Bengal. He mentioned his design to Dr. Moore
when that amusing writer visited him at Ferney. \Vedder-
burne took great interest in the matter, and pressed Clive to
furnish materials. Had the plan been carried into execution,
we have no doubt that Voltaire would have produced a book
containing much lively and picturesque narrative, many just
and humane sentiments poignantly expressed, many grotesque
blunders, many sneers at the Mosaic chronology, much scandal
about the Catholic missionaries, and much sublime theo-phi-

Previous Index Next