Edmund Burke.

Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; between the year 1744 and the period of his decease, in 1797 (Volume 2) online

. (page 10 of 27)
Online LibraryEdmund BurkeCorrespondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; between the year 1744 and the period of his decease, in 1797 (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

politics of the times. You send out solid wealth,
the accumulation of ages, and in return you are
to get a few flying leaves of poor American paper.

9 Probably his letter to the sheriffs of Bristol.


However, you have the mercantile comfort of
finding the balance in trade infinitely in your
favour ; and I console myself with the snug con-
sideration of uninformed natural acuteness, that
I have my warehouse full of goods at another's

Adieu, sir ! Continue to instruct the world ; and,
whilst we carry on a poor unequal conflict with
the passions and prejudices of our day, perhaps
with no better weapons than other passions and
prejudices of our own, convey wisdom to future

I have the honour, &c. &c.



Beconsfield, June 26, 1777.


Your remembrance is always grateful to me, and
your admonitions kind and useful. I will certainly
do, and that without delay, what you recommend
with so much prudence. I do attend to the small
tithes of my duty in parliament, with a more
punctilious accuracy than is quite usual with those
who do not neglect the weightier matters of the
law. I am sure that you are perfectly in the right
about the importance of these little things, and


the still greater importance of not suffering my
services in them to be forgot. Until I knew it,
both by my own particular experience, and by my
observation of what has happened to others, I
could not have believed how very little the local
constituents attend to the general public line of
conduct observed by their member. They judge
of him solely by his merits as their special agent.
But it is not for us to complain of the character
of our masters, but to obey them ; not to lament
their temper, but, as far as in honour we can, to
conform to it. It is, however, unlucky for the
public, that this indifference to the main lines of
the duty of a member of parliament should be
so prevalent among the electors. For almost all
small services to individuals, and even to cor-
porations, depend so much on the pleasure of the
crown, that the members are as it were driven
headlong into dependence by those whom the con-
stitution, and (one would at first imagine) the
very nature of things, had contrived to keep in-
dependent of a court influence. This alone is
sufficient to show how much a constitution in fact
differs from a constitution on paper. You must
not think this talk intended as an apology for not
doing what you wish. I will do it, and have de-
sired my brother to send me the acts of parliament,
upon which I will write learned comments. As
to the soap-makers, I had a letter from Mr.


Worrell on that subject ; but none that I recollect
from them. There was no business of theirs in

I heard from our friend William 10 , from Paris ;
thank God, he was then well.

I really should have gone myself to town to
look after all sorts of business with minuteness
and vigour ; but, in truth, I want a little fresh air,
and repose of mind, and exercise of body. For a
long time, I have had very little of any of them ;
I am not yet a week in the country.

Forbear with me a little, and I will pay thee


Adieu, my dear friend, and believe me ever,

Most faithfully yours,


Madame Burke and my son salute you and


July 3, 1777.


Last night I sent you Mr. Stephens's n letter, and
hope he has put the admiralty part of your busi-

10 Mr. William Burke, who had just left England for India.

11 Philip Stephens, Esq., secretary to the Admiralty and
M.P. for Sandwich, created a baronet in 1795.


ness in a proper train. This day they promised
to give directions relative to the entry of your
tobaccos. The clause, as I told you during the
session, was prepared and agreed upon between
me and the secretaries of the treasury and admi-
ralty ; but the lawyers and men of business were
ultimately of opinion, and without doubt they
were in the right, that no clause of the kind
was wanting, as the law was, before, just what
we could wish it. I have wrote a long letter to
the hall, and sent the acts by the coach. I think
the matter of that letter not very important. It
ought not to be concealed from the merchants, but
I would by no means wish the letter printed. We
must not wear out the press ; its effect would be
the less, when we want to make a serious impres-
sion at critical times, and upon important subjects.
We must take those things gently. I have been
deceived about that soap business, by those who
ought, and commonly do, know things with great
correctness. I work a great deal in the business
of the House, some say too much, but some things
will of course escape me. People so much in
affairs will neglect, every now and then, this thing
and that person ; and this will create ill-blood, and
destroy an interest, if a favourable construction
is not ready to be given. No man can serve
with any success, those who do not look upon
him with some degree of partiality. For my


part, I shall endeavour to omit nothing to help
the most trifling- business, or the most insigni-
ficant person in Bristol. This I shall certainly
do from a sense of duty and of great obligation ;
but if we think that, by any means, we can keep
up an interest there, in the present state of things,
by any attentions of ours, we are idly amusing
ourselves. I see that any mistake or neglect of
mine is so heavily taken, and my service so coldly
regarded, so soon forgotten, or even so totally mis-
conceived, that I am most perfectly convinced,
that unless I can contrive to apply to the interests
of individuals, Bristol is for some more fortunate
person at the next election. Now this cannot be,
but by a change, of which there is not the least
prospect. All this, however, is for your most pri-
vate ear.

I have written to the master of Soap-makers'
hall : I don't know his name, and have directed
to his name of office. It does not appear to me
that there is any thing much amiss in the act.

Mrs. Burke got a cold in coming to town. She
has been feverish, but is something better to-
day. Direct to me next at Beconsfield. Pray
remember us all most cordially to Mrs. Champion,
and to all our worthy friends.

I am, my dear friend, always

Most affectionately yours,




Beconsfield, July 21, 1777.


Many thanks for your humane and charitable
attention to my poor man. I wish he may get
relief at the hospital, for the bread of a family
depends on that man's paralytic hand.

It gives me great concern that I cannot attend
you to the Duke of Richmond's; but I am not
able at present to indulge myself in so great a
satisfaction. Assure his grace, that I most heartily
rejoice in his success in the great object for which
he went abroad. Would to God he had had as
much success in the still greater objects which
he was pursuing at home ! However, he has done
all for his country which could be done by any
man, and what he has not done, is not lost to
himself in internal satisfaction, nor to the world,
in the example he has shown of resolution, dis-
interestedness, and public spirit. I wish his repose
may recruit, not rust, his great abilities. Mrs.
Burke gives her humble service to you.
I am, my dear doctor,

Most faithfully yours, &c.




August 11, 1777.


I have not written for some time, as I was not
wholly without hopes of seeing you and Mrs.
Champion here. I wish to know whether we are
to expect it ; lest any thing should call me from
home, and be the means of my losing my part
of the sincere pleasure which all the family would
have in your company.

Mr. Cowles, and some other gentlemen of the
glass-trade, called here in their way to London.
I offered to go with them, or to follow them, as
they pleased, and sent a letter by them to com-
missioner Pownall, who returned me an obliging
answer, and seems well-disposed to do for them
whatever can be done. I doubt whether they
can have redress, though I will do all in my
power to procure it for them. I have had a
letter from Mr. Cowles, who seems well satisfied
with my endeavours. With one thing, however,
I was struck on this and on other occasions. I
was not without hopes that, not only the taxes,
but the many burthensome and vexatious circum-
stances that always attend new impositions, co-
operating with the public disgraces and losses


in trade, would tend to put people extremely out
of humour with those who have led them into
war with so very different promises both as to
conduct and as to events. But I find that, gene-
rally speaking, they bear their calamities as they
bear the seasons; not as arising from the faults
of those who rule them, but as dispositions of
Providence, at which they ought not to repine,
and are not able to oppose. I never was much
more surprised, even well acquainted as I was
with this disposition in the people, than when
our friend Noble gave me an account of the vote
of the freedom of our corporation to Lord Sand-
wich and Lord Suffolk '. I thought it a great
deal, if they bore the loss of the Newfoundland
trade, and the taking of ships in the channel,
with patience and resignation ; but to choose the
very moment of our scandalous situation, as a
season for compliment to ministers, seemed to
me the most surprising instance of insanity that
ever was shown out of the college of Moorfields.
I should have imagined that our friends in the
corporation, would, for the honour of the city,
have given some sort of opposition to so strangely-
timed a piece of adulation. But I believe, on
this, as on all other occasions, the general
character of a people will operate, in spite

1 For their zeal in the prosecution of John the Painter, for
his attempt to set fire to the shipping at Bristol.


of all resistance or remonstrance whatsoever.
I suppose this capture at Charlestown, which,
if what I hear be true, gives me a worse opinion
than I had of the American vigilance, will con-
tribute to raise their spirits and nourish their
delusion. What will they do in their pride and
insolence, when they behave so under their humi-
liation? As to their rulers, whilst they are
making them these compliments on their virtue
and success, I suspect that their hearts are aching
under the consequences of their conduct.

I hear with much pleasure of the strength
which the whigs, by good management, are likely
to get in the corporation, and of the probable
consequences to our worthy friend Paul. What-
ever becomes of me, I shall most sincerely rejoice
to see that interest always triumphant in that
corporation ; and, indeed, in every corporation,
and every where, as long as they preserve their
present liberality of principle, and that power
does not pervert them into the character and
habits of their adversaries. I am afraid that,
with regard to the corruption from power, they
are in no great danger for some time. Adieu,
my dear friend ; salute Mrs. Champion in mine
and Mrs. Burke's name. Both the Richards are
in town. Adieu, God bless you.

Yours sincerely,




Westminster, August 26, 1777.


On my coming to town for a day, I was a good
deal surprised at seeing advertised in one of the
morning papers, a piece of yours, as shortly to
be published, on the subject of my letters to the
sheriffs of Bristol. Your lordship knows perfectly
the main purpose of that letter. It was to ex-
plain to my constituents several particulars rela-
tive to my conduct and opinions, and particularly
to my absence from all matters relative to Ame-
rica at the beginning of last session. All these
had been much misrepresented, and I received
several letters from my friends on that misrepre-
sentation, and the industry with which it was

I flattered myself that your lordship would wish
me to stand well in the opinion of those to whom
I have such eminent obligations, and on whose

2 Willoughby Bertie, fourth Earl of Abingdon. He gene-
rally voted with the Rockingham party. The pamphlet re-
ferred to made its appearance soon after, under the title of
" Thoughts on Mr. Burke's letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol on
American affairs." He died in 1799, and was father of the
present Earl.


concurrence I must depend so mucli for the effect
of my parliamentary conduct. If you agree with
me in sentiment, and take this method of support-
ing what I have always thought our common cause,
the use you make of my letter, for conveying your
ideas to the public, is an honour of which I shall
ever be highly sensible ; and I shall make some
amends for my unworthiness of your notice by my
gratitude for it. But if you differed with me on
that subject, and believed that any thing in my con-
duct, or in my manner of justifying it, called for
animadversion, had your lordship been so good as
to desire an explanation, I persuade myself that I
should have so explained matters, as to have re-
moved all doubts and uneasiness from your mind
on whatever concerns the political part. I hoped
I had done so at Lord Rockingham's, on what you
seemed to feel as some personal inattention to
yourself. Of all things, that supposition must
give me the greatest concern. I did then, and I
do now, assure you, that 110 man living has a
higher value and esteem than I have for your
lordship's conduct and principles, for your public
and private virtues. If I feel any uneasiness on
the view of the present publication, it is not from
the least pain that I shall feel in having my trifling
opinions refuted, or my feeble politics set at
nought. Both have been too often and too long
rejected, where I took most trouble to support


them, to make me feel much on that account
at this time of day. I am only afraid that this
kind of controversy will tend to confirm the
people at large in an opinion (not at all as well
founded as it is commonly thought), that there are
unpleasant discussions, and great jealousies and
animosities amongst ourselves. If it were not for
this effect, which it will much more certainly pro-
duce than it will any decision of what may be
controverted between us, nobody could be more
pleased than I should, at your lordship's intentions
of giving the public useful information. I should
share with great satisfaction and gratitude the
lights which the public derived from a discovery
of my errors. But on all this your lordship is
much more competent to judge than I am ; and
I shall cheerfully submit the prudence of such a
publication at this season to your lordship's more
mature consideration. I have the honour to be,
with the highest esteem and affection,

My dear lord,

Your lordship's most faithful and obedient
humble servant,



Rycot, August 28, 1777-


I have received the favour of your letter ; and al-
though I have read it with some degree of pleasure,
it was not without an equal mixture of concern.
My pleasure arises from the opportunity you afford
me of explaining to you the motives of my intended
publication. They are by no means personal to
you, as I hope you are fully sensible. No man
partakes more sincerely than yourself of my good
opinion, of my friendship, esteem, and respect.
It is true, I felt, and could not help feeling, the
censure which your letter to the sheriffs of Bristol
indirectly passed on my parliamentary conduct,
with respect to the late suspension of the habeas-
corpus ; but this of itself would never have moved
me to the part I have now taken ; my motives are
of a less private nature. It is the cause of the
public that has led me to look upon that as a duty
which, otherwise, I had not been engaged in. I
suffer, therefore, some concern from your letter,
inasmuch as it would seem to withdraw me from
this, at least apprehended, duty of mine ; and in a
moment too, when your own ideas of propriety
cannot fail of marking the impropriety of such a



measure. I have announced a publication to the
world. This publication is already out of the
press. What apology, then, could justify the sup-
pression of it, or excuse in me a conduct so unde-
cided as this would appear ? It must, therefore,
at all events make its appearance. I trust you will
find nothing in it that is not the effect of principle,
and the dictates of a good intention. I may,
however, be wrong ; and, as in some points I differ
with you in opinion, it is most likely that I am ;
but, on the contrary, if you have advanced any
errors of consequence to the country, I am per-
suaded you do not wish that they should be
adopted ; and if you have not, whatever I may say,
as it will serve to establish the truth on your part,
so on this ground, be assured, I can meet no man
with greater pleasure and satisfaction than your-
self. Believe me, my dear sir, most heartily and

Your very affectionate friend,

and humble servant,




Madras, September 1, 1777.


I take the liberty of forwarding letters from my
two kinsmen (Edmund Burke and John Bourke) ;
one of them has been so much honoured with
your good opinion, that he flatters himself so

a Mr. William Burke left England for India in May or
June of this year, travelling over land, and taking dispatches
for Lord Pigot at Madras. On his arrival there, he did not
find Lord Pigot alive. He remained but a short time at that
presidency, and returned to England as agent for the Rajah
of Tanjore, whose business he prosecuted with great earnest-
ness and some success, both with the British ministers and
the board of East India directors. He returned to the East
in 1779, where he obtained the appointment of deputy pay-
master-general to the king's troops in India. He accom-
panied Lord Cornwallis, by whom he was much beloved, in
most of his campaigns in that country. From his agreeable
manners and general information, his company was much
sought after ; and having rather a turn for expense, he neg-
lected those opportunities of making a fortune which his
long employment in India afforded. He returned home in
1793, much reduced in health, and died in 1798. After his
return from India, he published a translation of Brissot's
letter to his constituents, to which Mr. Edmund Burke wrote
a preface, given in the seventh volume of the works, octavo

N 2


much as to be assured of your friendship ; the
other is your old friend and intimate, and, of
consequence, is confident of your love and regard.
They both do me the honour to make my interest
the almost single object of their attentions and
cares, in this quarter of the globe. Whether
your opportunities answer, what I had almost
assumed (upon the ground of their recommenda-
tion) to be your kind intentions towards me,
I can in no sort pretend to say ; but the imme-
diate occasion of Mr. Elliott's departure for Ben-
gal, was too favourable for me to omit the oppor-
tunity of letting you know that I am at Madras.
It looks almost ridiculous, in the serious state
of my affairs, to tell you simply where I am, and
yet it is all I can do. Mr. Whitehill, upon
whom the government has devolved by the death
of poor Lord Pigot, is, I think, inclined to serve
me ; but whether such service as alone can be
an object to me will fall in his way, God only
knows. Mr. Rumbold, who will be here in two
or three months, has, indeed, assured some of the
first consequence at home, of his determined
intention of serving me ; but I have, before I
arrived, lost one friend in Lord Pigot ; and in the
thousand things that do happen, Mr. Rumbold
may not arrive, and if he does, I know not how
the thousand sort of claims that he may find
upon him may put me back ; and, in a word, if


Bengal promised present and certain advantage,
I should not hesitate to take my part.

The opportunity of coming with the dispatches
to Lord Pigot, was so sudden, that I could avail
myself of few recommendations ; but I do hope
to receive very earnest ones from very near
friends of General Clavering, as well as others to

I meddle here nothing with politics ; so I trou-
ble you not with any attempt at the state of
things here, only I must say, from my own expe-
rience of Mr. Whitehill, in travelling some thou-
sand miles in company with him, that he is a very
pleasing man, of a very conciliating disposition,
and is, I think, well received by all parties. For
yourself, may all good things, health, fortune,

and fame, attend you.

I am, dear sir,

Your faithful humble servant,


Chatsworth, September 8, 1777-


As I now understand that parliament meets late,
and as I have nothing else to do, I am going to
take this opportunity of making a visit to my


friends in Ireland. Townshend * goes with me,
and we are to set out the day after to-morrow.
I thought you would like to know my intention,
in case there should be any body whom you
would wish me to see, or to whom you would
wish to be particularly remembered. If that
should be the case, you will be so good as to
direct to me at the Duke of Leinster's, Dublin.
Pray make my compliments to Mrs. Burke, &c.
With respect to public affairs, it seems to be
the opinion of every body, that one must wait
for events, to form a plan of operations ; now,
my opinion is, that no event likely to happen,
can be any thing to the purpose ; but from the
days of Demosthenes down to ours, it has ever
been the resource of all indolent people to prefer
the waiting of news to the taking of any decisive
measure. "Is Philadelpkia taken?" "No; but
there are hopes of it? fyc. is something like, though
twenty thousand times more futile, than the
inquiries about Philip's death, which are so well
treated in the first Philippic. Adieu, my dear
Burke ! I have been living here some time, with
very pleasant and very amiable people ; but alto-
gether as unfit to storm a citadel, as they would
be proper for the defence of it.

Yours affectionately,

C. J. Fox.

4 Hon. John Townshend, afterwards Lord John Townshend.



Calcutta, October 1, 1777.


Your letter dated the first of September was sent
to me on Monday night by Mr. Elliott. I cannot
express my surprise at hearing that you were at
Madras. The reports of the express from Eng-
land, which reached us ten days ago, by the land
post, mentioned the arrival of Richard Burke with
an appointment on this establishment, but I had
no idea of the possibility of your venturing into
this country without one. You need not tell me
that your situation is serious. The fact proves it
too sensibly, and on my mind, at least, makes
every impression you could wish.

I do not like stating the difficulties or disabi-
lities of my own situation, in answer to so just a
call of honour and friendship as that which you
bring with you from two men whom in this world
I most love and esteem. Yet it cannot be un-
known to you, therefore I mention it with the less
scruple, that since Colonel Monson's death I have
not only had no share or interest in any thing but
the tails of this government, but that my friend-
ship, in effect, has been a loss or disadvantage
to every man who was supposed to possess it.
Slight and injustice, if not direct persecution, have


been the lot of many whose attachment to me
has been their only demerit. In short, I have the
character of a factious opponent to an immaculate
administration. Your own experience will have
told you, that this is not the road to preferment.
I have nothing to oppose to a decided majority,
but a minority equally decided, and likely enough

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryEdmund BurkeCorrespondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; between the year 1744 and the period of his decease, in 1797 (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 27)