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January 25th, 1785, Parliament met. The first occasion on which Burke made a speech, calling forth his powers, was on the pay, ment of the Nabob of Arcot's debts. On the 28th of February, Fox made a motion for the production of papers relative to the directions by the Board of Controul for charging on the revenues of the Carnatic the Nabob of Arcot's private debts to Europeans. Dundas maintained that a principal part of the debt was just, as far as the documents in their possession could be credited, and that the remainder was to be the subject of discussion; that the claimants might prefer their claims, subject to the examination of the other creditors, the debtor, (the Nabob himself) and of the Company, whose revenues the result would affect. Burke, who had been at great pains to render himself completely informed respecting the affairs of India, delivered an oration displaying most extensive knowledge of that country, and the wisest general principles. If the facts were as he represented them, the alledged debts arose from a collusion between the Nabob and certain servants of the Company, who had been guilty of the most heinous frauds, oppression; and cruelties. The pictures of the sufferings of India, and of the wickedness of its plunderers and oppressors, in force, animation, and colouring, equal any that had ever been presented, exhibiting misery and guilt.
A motion being made for a parliamentary reforın by Mr. Pitt, April 18, and supported with great ability by him, Mr. Fox, Mr. Dundas, and other gentlemen, Burke, conformably to that general plan which had ever regulated his political reasonings and conduct, declared himself inimical to any change in the representation. On that subject he took an opportunity of reprobating the dissemination of doctrines among the people, tending to persuade them that they were aggrieved in the inequality of franchises. • The people,' he said,
were very quiet and contented until they were told that their constitutional rights were violated.
Mr. Richard Burke, Edmund's son, imbibed the opinions of his father, on the inexpediency of innovation in the constitution of the Legislature. When Major Cartwright wrote very earnestly in support of Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments, Richard published a most acute answer, shewing the danger of such a project, and characterising the classes of individuals who were most favourable to its adoption.
Lord North also spoke very ably against a reforin, and the bill was thrown out by a considerable majority.
The greater part of the remainder of the session was occupied about the commerce of Ireland.
As in the year 1780 the trade of the sister kingdom had been freed from the hurtful restrictions by which it had long been shackled, and which the wisdom and eloquence of Burke so clearly saw, conscien
tiously attacked, and ably exposed ; and as in 1782 the independence of its Parliament had been established, an important object remained for the consideration of the governments of the two countries, in the settlement of a system of commercial intercourse between them, on the firm basis of reciprocity and mutual advantage. To effectuate this beneficial purpose, Mr. Pitt made a very minute and extensive inquiry into the relative and absolute state of manufactures, and other materials of commerce, in both kingdoms. Receiving, in resolutions of the Irish House of Commons, assurances of the wish of that body to settle their commercial intercourse on the basis of reciprocity, and also the outlines of a plan for the purpose, he submitted to the house propositions to be offered to Ireland on the part of Britain. These he reduced into two general heads :
First, The importation of the produce of our colonies in the West Indies and America into Ireland.
Secondly, A mutual exchange between the two countries of their respective productions and manufactures upon equal terms.
The examination of merchants and manufacturers took up so much time, that for some weeks there was little or no debate in the House of Commons. The propositions afterwards were the subject of very ample discussion, during which the leading men on both sides distinguished themselves. They passed through both houses of the British Parliament; but, when offered to the consideration of the Irish, they experienced so cool a reception, and so small a majority, that their virtual abandonment was deemed expedient.
The Irish propositions called forward less the oratorical powers or philosophical expansion of Burke, than the extent and minuteness of his knowledge. This appeared very striking in his conversations on the materials and processes of various articles of manufacture, the market for them, and the