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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EDMUND BUR K E.
EDMUND BURKE was the second Shackleton and the illustrious pupil of son of a respectable attorney at Dublin, his venerable father. and his mother came of the ancient family Before Edmund Burke left this school, of the Nagles. He was born on the 1st his elder brother died; which event, is of January, (old style,) in the year 1730; said to have occasioned his removal to and when very young, was sent to the Trinity College, Dublin ; but this is a school of Balytore, in the north of Ire- mistake, for he was now of an age to be land, then kept by Abraham Shackleton, transplanted thither, and as his original a member of the Society of Friends, or, destination was the law, the change that as they are commonly called, Quakers. had occurred made no alteration in the Shackleton was a classical scholar of views of his father. At college he had considerable eminence, and a man of en- Goldsmith for one of his cotemporaries, larged mind, who devoted himself to the who has been frequently beard to de improvement of his pupils with indefat- clare that Burke gave no extraordinary gable application and conscientious in- promise of superior talents while at the tegrity. His seminary was the nursery university. But veracity was unfortuof many great characters, who have nately not among the leading virtues of figured conspicuously at the bar, in the Goldsmith; and it is well known, that church, and the senate. Here BURKE whenever literary reputation came in the laid in a solid foundation of learning; way of that ingenious, but eccentric, man, and, besides Greek and Latin, bis ex- envy always got the better of good nature. ercises in which gave him a decided Goldsmith could not endure the praises superiority over all his contemporaneous bestowed upon another for talents which students, he applied to the reading of the he fancied no one possessed in a higher finest English authors both in prose and degree than himself. All his intimates verse. Of his early habits or favorite were sensible of this failing, but as it , pursuits at this period of his life, however, was a weakness without malevolence, we know but little; for those writers who his harmless vanity only excited their have professed to give the most ample mirth, and no one ever thought it worth and exact memoir of this great man, were his while to resent his petulance. The totally ignorant of his private history, observation of Goldsmiih, therefore, reand even unacquainted with his person; specting the academical 'honors of his whence their accounts of his youthful friend, is in itself undeserving of notice; occupations may safely be passed over but since it has been brought forward, as the fictions of conjectural biography. truth requires that it should be repelled; Yet it is certain that the attainments of and this is easily done, for the late Dr. BURKE, while at the school of Balytore, Thomas Leland, a much better judge of were extensive and valuable; and it is learning than Goldsmith, never mentionequally honorable to him and his precep- ed the name of EDMUND BURKE without tor, that through life they mutually re- a fond recurrence to the brilliant emanaspected each other, which was manifest- tions of his opening genius, witnessed ed by the correspondence carried on be- inter sylvas academi, when he was himself tween the son and successor of Abraham a fellow and tutor of Trinity College,
A little before he left the university, unsuccessful need not to be wondered BURKE gave a happy display of his ta- at ; and it would have been surprising lent for imitative composition, in a series indeed, if the event had proved otherof essays, written so closely in the man- wise, considering the youth of the candiner of Charles Lucas, a political apothe- date, and his being a total stranger to the cary of Dublin, that while they imposed university. But though we have not the upon the admirers of that noisy patriot, means of refuting the story, entirely, by they at the same time turned the prin- direct proof, the improbability of it may ciples of their idol into ridicule, by expo- easily be shown ; for in the year 1751, sing the consequences which necessarily Adam Smith was elected professor of flowed from them. This Lucas was a logic, and the year following he removed turbulent demagogue, who affected the to the chair of moral philosophy, then character of a reformer, and so far suc- vacant by the death of Dr. Francis ceeded, as first to become an object of Hutcheson. prosecution, which made him popular ; It must have been on this occasion then he procured a doctor's degree from therefore that Burke became, if ever he a Scotch university ; next got himself did become, candidate for a professorship chosen an alderman of Dublin ; after at Glasgow, and yet he was at this time which he obtained a seat in the Irish only twenty-two years of age, and withHouse of Commons, and then sunk again out a degree, in any faculty, to warrant into his original obscurity and contempt. his pretensions. But farther, when Smith
Victory over such an opponent as this published in 1759, his “Theory of Moral could bardly be productive of glory, and Sentiments," Hume wrote him a long therefore it is not to be wondered that letter, in which among other literary inthese early effusions of Burke's versa- telligence, he speaks of BURKE, as an ingetile powers should long since have been nious young Irishman, hitherto unknown consigned to oblivion : neither perhaps and recently staried into notice, yet withis it to be regretted, that hitherto none out once adverting to his having been a of the hunters of literary relics should competitor for the logical professorship, a have succeeded in bringing them to light. circumstance which he would hardly have It is deserving of remark, however, that omitted to mention, if it bad only been the only controversies in which Burke for the purpose of assisting his friend's has been known to have engaged, had memory. for their object the detection of sophistry, Early in 1753, BURKE was in London, and the prevention of anarchy.
as a student of the Middle Temple, where He was now in his twentieth year, and he applied to the law with his wonted from this period to his settlement in Eng- assiduity ; but as his finances were exland, a chasm occurs in his history which treinely narrow, he had recourse to his we have not the means of filling up satis- gen us to supply the deficiency of forfactorily. Some of his biographers as- tune, in other words, he laboured for the sert, that he came to London direct from booksellers, and wrote a variety of pieces, college, while others assert, that he went chiefly in the fleeting periodical works of first to Glasgow, where he offered bim- the day, though now it would be utterly self as a candidate for the professorship impossible to ascertain any of these fuga of logic in that university, being induced tive productions of his pen; for such was so to do by seeing a placard affixed to the the flexibility of his powers, in adapting gate of the old college, inviting a com- his style to the occasion, that his performpetition for the vacant chair, although the ances, unlike those of his great friend successor was already privately chosen. Johnson, are not to be traced by the artiBURKE, it seems, if we are to believe the ficial construction of the sentences or the tale, was ignorant of this esoteric method singular tenuity of the reasoning. While of determining an academical appoint- BURKE was thus endeavouring, with laument, and therefore tendered his services, dable diligence to eke out a scanty mainin the mere confidence of his qualifica- tenance by the efforts of his pen, the pubtions for the place, without making any lic attention was drawn to the writings inquiry as to forms, or exerting what in- and character of Bolinbroke, who had terest he could make among the electors. but recently quitted a scene where he That under such circumstances he was had played many parts, with more splen
dour than credit. This man, as if he had which all men are personally interested, owed mankind a grudge for those disap- and of which there are few who cannot pointments, which were solely owing io form a correct opinion. The sceptical his own want of principle, left behind pretender to philosophy, in his attempts him a magazine of mischiet, entrusted to io overthrow all religion, whether natural the care of one of his most hopeful pupils, or revealed, drew his arguments entirely for publication. Mallet, the heir to this from the abuses which superstition, faprecious deposit, gave out such reports naticism, and craft, have, in various ages, of the contents, as by exciting the fears devised and established as of divine preof the pious, and the expectations of scription. This fallacious mode of reasceptics, were best adapted to fill his soning, indeed, was not new, but it was pockets at the expense of credulity. On artfully adapted to cheat people of light the day when the cargo of infidelity was minds out of their faith, by persuading to be opened to the public, Mallet, with them that the corruptions so prominently unblushing impudence, dared to exclaim exhibited, were the necessary consequenin the shop of the publisher, while looking ces of the doctrines which they had been at his watch, “In half an hour, Christian- accustomed to regard as of sacred authoity will tremble.”. Though this impious rity. Bolinbroke's rhetorical genius gave boast soon terminated in disgrace and hirn many advantages in throw mortification, it is certain that the friends lusive glare over his parodoxes; and it of religion were for a time greatly alarm- was, therefore, reasonable to apprehend ed, not for the cause of truth, which they that the boldness of his assertions, and knew to be impregnable, but for the wel. the examples adduced for their support, fare of society. A host of writers, there would furnish the licentious with argufore, came forward to refute the sophistry ments, which though they had not wit contained in the posthumous works of enough to find them out by their own exBolinbroke ; which in a short space sunk ertions, they might be able to apply with into contempt. While, however, they yet destructive effect, to stagger the princihovered above the chaos of night, and ap- ples of others. As an antidote to this peared portentous of incalculable evils, poison, therefore, Mr. Burke adopted Mr. Burke, then young and unknown Bolinbroke's own plan of reasoning, and to the world, hit upon a method of at- employed it to shew that the same enertack, that evinced bis own incompara- gies which were used for the destruction ble powers, and completely exposed the of religion, might be directed with equal empty pretensions of the deceased infi- success for the subversion of government; del. Early in 1756, he published, “A and that specious arguments might be adVindication of Natural Society ; or a duced against those things, which they View of the Miseries and Evils arising who doubt of everything else, will never to Mankind from every species of Arti- permit to be questioned. ficial Society. In a letter to Lord With this view the “ Vindication of By a late Noble Writer.” The style of Natural Society” came out, to convince Bolinbroke, lofty, declamatory and rapid, mankind, that if Revelation is an imposis not easy of imitation, yet so closely ture, the association of men in greater or was it caught in the present instance, lesser communities is an evil; and that that many persons were deceived into if the one be, as the unbelievers say it is, the belief, that the pamphlet was a genu- a tyranny over minds, the other is, in an ine production of this celebrated noble- equal or rather a greater degree, a perniman; and some there were who actually cious despotism over persons. praised it above his best performances. To support this paradox, which reduIt was soon discovered, however, by men ces mankind at once to the savage state, of deeper judgment, that the anonymous it was indispensable that the author should author had a better object in view, than be dogmatic in his assertions, vehement that of availing himself of a popular name in his language, and copious in his illusto impose an ingenious fraud upon the trations, otherwise he would have failed public. They saw in this imitation of in his design, and his imitation, instead Bolinbroke, the best confutation of his of counteracting, would rather have delusive mode of reasoning, by the appli- strengthened the sophisms of Bolinbroke. cation of it to a point of experience, in Yet it is too remarkable to be passed