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EDMUND BURKE: 1730-179 7.
Burke, the greatest of English orators, and the most philosophical of
English statesmen, was born in Dublin. After being educated for the bar, he devoted himself to literature. In 1757 he published an Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, which attracted considerable attention. In 1761 he became private secretary to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and in 1765 secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, who was then prime-minister. Next year Burke was returned to the House of Commons, where he soon distinguished himself by his eloquence. His more important speeches are those on the American war and on the impeachment of Warren Hastings. His greatest work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, appeared in 1790.
From his Speech on Conciliation with the American Colonies, 1775.
My hold of the colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges, and equal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government; they will cling and grapple to you ; and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another ; that these two things may exist without any mutual relation, the cement is gone-the cohesion is loosened-and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have ; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia ; but until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true act of navigation, which binds you to the commerce of the colonies, and through them secures to you the commerce of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination, as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your coquets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivifies every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.
Is it not the same virtue which does everything for us here in England ? Do you imagine, then, that it is the land-tax act which raises your revenue ? that it is the annual vote in the committee of supply which gives you your army? or that it is the mutiny bill which inspires it with bravery and discipline ? No! Surely no ! It is the love of the people ; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber. All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians who have no place among us; a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material ; and who, therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth everything, and all in all. Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our situation, and glow with zeal to fill our places as becomes our station and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings on America with the old warning of the church, sursum corda ! 1 We ought to elevate our minds to the greatness of that trust to which the order of Providence has called us. By adverting to the dignity of this
i Lift up your hearts.
high calling, our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire ; and have made the most extensive, and the only honourable conquests ; not by destroying, but by promoting the wealth, the number, the happiness of the human race. Let us get an American revenue, as we have got an American empire. English privileges have made it all that it is ; English privileges alone will make it all it can be. In full confidence of this unalterable truth, I now lay the first stone of the temple of peace.1
EXTRACT FROM HIS LETTER TO A NOBLE LORD, 1796.
[The Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale attacked Mr Burke and his pension in their place in the House of Lords, and Burke replied in his Letter to a Noble Lord, one of the most sarcastic and most able of all his productions.]
I was not, like his Grace of Bedford, swaddled, and rocked, and dandled into a legislator-Nitor in adversum 2 is the motto for a man like me. I possessed not one of the qualities, nor cultivated one of the arts, that recommend men to the favour and protection of the great. I was not made for a minion or a tool. As little did I follow the trade of winning the hearts by imposing on the understandings of the people. At every step of my progress in life—for in every step was I traversed and opposed—and at every turnpike I met I was obliged to shew my passport, and again and again to prove my sole title to the honour of being useful to my country, by a proof that I was not wholly unacquainted with its laws, and the whole system of its interests both abroad and at home. Otherwise, no rank, no toleration even for me. I had no arts but manly arts. On them I have stood, and, please God, in spite of the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale, to the last gasp will I stand.
I know not how it has happened, but it really seems that, whilst his Grace was meditating his well-considered censure upon me, he fell into a sort of sleep. Homer nods, and the Duke of Bedford may dream ; and as dreams-even his golden dreams—are apt to be ill-pieced and incongruously put together, his Grace preserved his idea of reproach to me, but took the subject-matter from the crown-grants to his own family. This is the stuff of which his dreams are made. In that way of putting things together, his Grace is perfectly in the right. The grants to the house of Russell were so enormous, as not only to outrage economy, but even to stagger credibility. The Duke of Bedford is the leviathan among all the creatures of the crown. He tumbles about his unwieldy bulk; he plays and frolics in the ocean of the royal bounty. Huge as he is, and whilst 'he lies floating many a rood,' he is still a creature. His ribs, his fins, his whalebone, his blubber, the very spiracles through which he spouts a torrent of brine against his origin, and covers me all over with the spray-everything of him and about him is from the throne.
1 At the conclusion of this speech, Mr Burke moved that the right of parliamentary representation should be extended to the American colonies, but his motion was negatived by 270 to 78,
% I struggle against the tide.
Is it for him to question the dispensation of the royal favour?
I really am at a loss to draw any sort of parallel between the public merits of his Grace, by which he justifies the grants he holds, and these services of mine, on the favourable construction of which I have obtained what his Grace so much disapproves. In private life, I have not at all the honour of acquaintance with the noble Duke. But I ought to presume, and it costs me nothing to do so, that he abundantly deserves the esteem and love of all who live with him. But as to public service, why, truly, it would not be more ridiculous for me to compare myself in rank, in fortune, in splendid descent, in youth, strength, or figure, with the Duke of Bedford, than to make a parallel between his services and my attempts to be useful to my country. It would not be gross adulation, but uncivil irony, to say that he has any public merit of his own, to keep alive the idea of the services by which his vast landed pensions were obtained. My merits, whatever they are, are original and personal ; his, are derivative. It is his ancestor, the original pensioner, that has laid up this inexhaustible fund of merit, which makes his Grace so very delicate and exceptious about the merit of all other grantees of the crown. Had he permitted me to remain in quiet, I should have said : “'Tis his estate ; that's enough. It is his by law; what have I to do with it or its history?' He would naturally have said on his side : "'Tis this man's fortune. He is as good now as my ancestor was two hundred and fifty years ago. I am a young man with very old pensions ; he is an old man with very young pensions—that's all.'
HORACE WALPOLE: 1717-1797. Walpole was the third son of Sir Robert Walpole, the famous Whig minister.
He sat for twenty-six years in parliament, but the greater part of his life was spent in his suburban retreat at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. He succeeded to the earldom of Orford in 1791. The chief works of Walpole, published during his lifetime, are, Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, Anecdotes of Painting in England, and The Castle of Otranto, the first example of that class of fiction which now bears the title of the Romance. Several large collections of Letters, and Memoirs of the Court of George II., published since his death, are full of lively and amusing pictures of the manners and characters of the 18th century.
THE TRIAL OF THE REBEL LORDS.
From a Letter to Sir Horace Mann, August 1, 1746. I am this moment come from the conclusion of the greatest and most melancholy scene I ever yet saw !-you will easily guess it was the trials of the rebel lords. . ... The first appearance of the prisoners shocked me! their behaviour melted me! Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Cromartie are both past forty, but look younger. Lord Kilmarnock is tall and slender, with an extreme fine person : his behaviour a most just mixture between dignity and submission; if in anything to be reprehended, a little affected, and his hair too exactly dressed for a man in his situation; but when I say this, it is not to find fault with him, but to shew how little fault there was to be found. Lord Cromartie is an indifferent figure, appeared much dejected, and rather sullen : he dropped a few tears the first day, and swooned as soon as he got back to his cell. For Lord Balmerino, he is the most natural brave old fellow I ever saw: the highest intrepidity, even to indifference. At the bar he behaved like a soldier and a man ; in the intervals of form, with carelessness and humour. He pressed extremely to have his wife, his pretty Peggy, with him in the Tower. Lady Cromartie only sees her husband through the grate, not choosing to be shut up with him, as she thinks she can serve him better by her intercession without: she is very handsome: so are their daughters. When they were to be brought from the Tower in separate coaches, there was some dispute in which the axe must go-old Balmerino cried : ‘Come, come, put it with me. At the bar, he plays with his fingers upon the axe, while he talks to the gentleman-gaoler ; and one day somebody coming up to listen, he took the blade and held it like a fan between their faces. During