« ZurückWeiter »
and agreement"-no such "running down of competitors" (for one and the same call would be given to all competitors)—no such self-fixation" of one man alone" in power," and by means peculiar to himself.
"And after all" (continues he, as above)" and after all, when an ambitious man had run down his competitors by a fallacious show of disinterestedness, and fixed himself in power by that means, what security is there that he would not change his course, and claim as an indemnity more than he has given up?
Gratuitous official service-and, under the name of gratuitous official service, reduction of official emolument being the object still contended against, here we have a quite new argument. Till now, it was in other shapes, though indeed in all manner of shapes other than that of frugality, that, in case of any such reduction, the service was to suffer: now it is in the shape even of frugality itself. Whatsoever a man (the sort of man in question) gives up in appearance, in reality (says our sophist) he will take to himself
"ten times more."
To the above proposed plan of retrenchment, the objection, such as it is, has not, it must have been seen already, and for the reasons already given, any the slightest application. But even with reference to the then existing state of things, what could be more extravagant?
On the part of the orator, suppose on this occasion any the smallest particle of thought, and at the same time of sincerity, what must have been the opinion entertained by him of the state of government in this country, and how profound at the same time his indifference to it? The state of government such, that on so easy a condition as the giving up a mass of lawful emolument for a time, a man might make sure of gaining, in the way of " base profligacy and corruption," ten times" as much" in the long run! and this a sort of speculation, promising and feasible enough, not only to be worth guarding against, but to be necessary to be guarded against, and that at such an expense as that of making an allcomprehensive addition to the mass of official emolument! and this too an addition without bounds!
Oh no! (cries the orator) not make sure, those were no words of mine; “claim” was my word," claim" and nothing more. Oh yes, Mr. Orator, "claim" was indeed the word you used; but make sure was the idea it was your object to convey by it: for, sure enough, where public money is the subject, it is only by what a man gets, and not by what he claims, and without getting it, that any mischief can be done.
In writing, no man ever weighed his words in nicer scales; no author ever blotted more. To find, for each occasion, a set of
words that shall comprehend two meanings, one for attack, another in case of necessity, for retreat and self-defence, such throughout is the study of the rhetorician, whom devotion to a party reduced to that species and degree of servitude, with which sincerity is incompatible. In this sinister art no man ever laboured more—no man surely ever made a greater proficiency—no man, one may venture to say, ever made so great a proficiency as this Edmund Burke.
Here we have a picture (shall we say) or a plan, of Machiavelism, sketched out by his own hand. In itself it is but a loose sketch, for, by any thing like a complete and correct draught, too much would have been brought to view. But in its exact shape, no small part, and in outline the whole, was already in his own breast. Nor, so far as concerned his own portrait, was it from fancy but from the looking-glass that he drew.
The Treasury Bench-the Castle of Misrule-stood before him. Sham-economy, an instrument of "Young Ambition," the ladder by which it was to be scaled. Already the ladder was in his hand. A bill for "independence" and so forth-and for "economical reformation" and so forth-was the name-the wordy name he had found for it.
At the end of a long contest, the ladder performed its service. But when the fortress was in his hands, a buttress was deemed necessary to enable him to maintain his ground. The buttress fell, and he in it, and along with it; the buttress fell, and great was the fall thereof.
And what was this buttress? Few readers can be at a loss for it.
Four years after, when under the pressure of the mass of corruption, in the hands of the secret advisers of the Crown, they betook themselves for relief, he and his party, not to the legitimate influence of the people, as it would have been manifested in an equalized representation, accompanied with the exclusion of dependent votes, but to a counter mass of corruption, to be drawn from the East Indies-it was to the "fallacious shew of disinterestedness" made by this his Economy Bill, already carried and turned into an Act, that he trusted for that blind support, which he had looked for at the hands of a supposed blinded people. The result is known to every body.
As to the picture we here see him drawing, it was at the time of his thus drawing it, half history, half prophecy: the prophetic part left unfinished, as every thing in the shape of prophecy must necessarily be.
The picture dramatized, the characters and other objects in it, might stand as follows:
Ambitious man," Edmund Burke.
2. "Fallacious show of disinterestedness:" the show made by this Economy Bill of his with the inconsiderable retrenchments (£60,000 a year, or some such matter) effected by it.
Competitors run down" by means of it (in addition to the force derived from other sources, such as the unpopularity and ill success of the American war, together with the exertions of arbitrary vengeance in the case of Wilkes, &c.) Lord North and his Ministry then in power, with the secret advisers of the Crown for their support.
4. Instrument attempted to be made for the “fixing himself in power," Burke's East India Bill: a steadiment, containing in it a sort of pump, contrived for drawing from the East Indies the matter of wealth, to be applied in the character of matter of cor, uption, by hands of his own choice, to the purpose of engaging a sufficient number of workmen for the fixing him and his party as above, to wit, with such a force of resistance as it should not be in the power of the secret advisers of the Crown, with all the assistance they could get from the people, to overcome.
As to the particular "course," which, for the purpose of reaping the fruits of his conquest, had this machinery of his succeeded, it might have happened to him to take, and with the word indemnity in his mouth, the quantity of public money he might have claimed,
so it is, that his grand instrument of steadiment and “fixation" having failed, all these, together with so many other quondam future-contingencies, remain in darkness inscrutable. But, supposing the indemnity no more than "ten times" the amount of the sacrifice, still would it have fallen short, as any body may see, of the ground prepared for it by this his speech.
Some years after, viz. about the year 1790, a decent quantity of public money, even though not in office, he did contrive to get: but forasmuch as for this donation there was a pretence made out of a Pamphlet, with the help of which the embers of war between Britain and France were blown into a flame, and, for security against anarchy, the good people of Great Britain driven, as far as by his pious endeavours they could be driven, into the arms of despotism, so it was, that the bread of sinecure-the sacred show bread, destined and appropriated to the Chief Priests of the temple of corruption-was not, any part of it, profaned and diverted to this use: reward in the ordinary shape of pension, being regarded as applicable to, and sufficient for, this ordinary service.'
"This rule," (continues he, p. 67) " this rule, like every other, may admit its exceptions. When a great man has some one great object in view to be achieved in a given time, it may be absolutely necessary for him to
§. 11. Burke's Objection to The Application of the principle of Competition to this Purpose-its frivolousness.
After denying that the great efficient offices are overpaid, "The service of the public" (continues he) " is a thing which cannot be put to auction, and struck down to those who will agree to execute it the cheapest."
Cannot! Why cannot it? Upon the face of it, the proposition bears not so much as the colour of reason; nor in the sequel is either substance or colour so much as attempted to be found for it. Of possibility, what is the sort of evidence that in this case he would require? Would fact have been regarded as admissible? "The service of the public is a thing, which," a year afterwards, after the orator had been in, and out again, Pitt the second did "put up to auction"—" did strike down to those who would agree to execute the cheapest:" and this to such an extent, that, in comparison of the saving thereby effected, whether money or improbity be the article considered, the utmost saving so much as projected by this our sham-reformer, shrinks into insignificance.'
This, it is true, the pseudo-reformer had not as yet witnessed. But there was nothing in it that was not in the most perfect degree obvious: what difficulty there was in the business consisted not in the thinking of it, but in the doing of it.
But what the sophist trusted to was the word auction, and the sentiment of ridicule which, if applied to, the subject in question, he hoped to find prepared for the reception of it in men's minds. Mention the word auction, the image you present is that of a man with a smirk upon his countenance mounted on the burlesque of a pulpit, with a wooden hammer in his hand, expatiating upon
walk out of all the common roads, and if his fortune permits it, to hold himself out as a splendid example. I am told" (continues he)" that something of this kind is now doing in a country near us. But this is for a short race: the training for a heat or two, and not the proper preparation for the regular stages of a methodical journey. I am speaking of establishments and not of men."
As to the splendid example he was here alluding to, it was that of Necker; and here, as the sequel showed, the orator was completely in the wrong. What he could not make himself believe, or at least could not bear that others should believe, was, that this training of Necker's (meaning the serving in the office of Finance Minister without salary) could last for more than a heat or two." It lasted however during the whole of his "journey" nor that an "unmethodical" one. He did more than serve the public without being paid for it: he trusted the public, that child of his own adoption, with his own money-with the greatest part of his own money: and that public -that "base and profligate," though, in a pecuniary sense, not in general corrupt, trustee of his, betrayed its trust.
Viz in the instances of Loans, Lotteries, and Victualling contracts. Sce Mr. Rose's Observations, &c. pp. 26 to 31.
the virtues-sometimes of statues and pictures, sometimes of chairs and tables.
The hyperboles employed by orators of that class while expatiating on the virtues of the vendible commodities consigned to their disposal, are, as he in common with every body else must have remarked every now and then, such as while in some parts of the audience they produce the desired impression, excite in the minds of others the idea of the ridiculous. But no panegyric that was ever bestowed by any such orator on the picture or the screen of a Marquis or a Duke, had more of exaggeration in it than the pictures which this vender of puffs was so expert at drawing, naming them after this or that one of his most noble patrons and originals.. His piece of still life, called the Marquis of Rockingham-his Duke of Portland, into the picture of which a Kneller or a Reynolds would have put more thought than Nature and Art together had been able to force into the original-that original whose closest resemblance to a picture that had thought in it was the property of being vendible-that puppet, whose wires after playing for a time so easy, ran rusty at last under the hand of Mr. Canningviewed through the raree-show glass of Edmund Burke, these and so many other "great characters" appeared no less fit for their "high situations" than the Counsellors of King Solomon, when, with Punch for their interpreter, on the drawing up of the curtain, they are displayed in the act of paying tributes of wisdom to the wise.
Competition. This word would not, as auction so well did, serve the sophist's purpose. To the word competition ro smirk stands associated-no pulpit-no hammer.-Competition-a power, the virtues of which had already been so well displayed by Adam Smith, not to speak of Sir James Stewart. In competition he beheld that security against waste and corruption which would have been mortal to his views.
§. 12. Concluding Observations.-Burke, why thus examined. Erasmus wrote an elogium on Folly: but Erasmus was in jest: Edmund Burke wrote an elogium-he wrote this elogium-on Peculation:-and Edmund Burke was serious.
In thus exhibiting the orator in one of those fits of extravagance to which he was but too subject-in exhibiting the orator's own figure, according to the monstrous caricature we have seen him drawing of himself, viz. that of a man, in whose estimation nothing but money has any value-a man by whom all breasts that have any thing in them that is not sordid, are to be marked out as fit objects of abhorrence, let me not be accused of wasting time and paper.