Edmund Burke.

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

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stagnated pool, it is rather against us than for us ?
The people are angry with the ministry. I believe
there never was a time in which they were in
more perfect contempt. But that doctrine of the
equality of all men, which has been preached by
knavery, and so greedily adopted by malice, envy,
and cunning, has left these people no resource.
They condemn the ministry, but they do not look
to the opposition. I am too much concerned to
be a very proper judge in this cause ; but, if I am
not greatly mistaken, there has been no period
within reach of history in which the people had
less reason for this indiscriminate distrust. But,
perhaps, we are suffering for the sins of our poli-
tical progenitors. The nation may at length
awake. The dread is, lest, if they call on any one
to assist them, it may be just the worst man,
that is, the greatest boaster and promiser in the
society. I believe the lories are angry ; and if,
among tories, they could find any better set than
the present, they would do any thing to raise them
up ; but to destroy the worst of their own, in
order to make way for the very be^t of ours, is


more than I expect from their public spirit. It
is too great a sacrifice to be expected from the
spirit of party. However, they may, on this occa-
sion, as upon some former ones, be brought to
do more than they intend. If they could be got
to take the lead, we might fall in, and some-
thing may be done. It is in this course only that
I have now any hope.

My affectionate services to Noble. I wrote to
him by the last post. I told him that I had no
opinion of the possibility of any compensation for
a loss which I most sincerely regret, but I have
no objection to his making the trial; and if he
sends up a memorial to that purpose, I shall sup-
port it with all the diligence in my power, though,
as I said, with no sort of hope of success, for the
reasons I have already given to himself; but this
shall not at all abate the zeal of my endeavours.
We shall rejoice to hear of the happy increase of
your family. I hope you have got my last short
letter. Adieu, my dear sir, and believe me
Ever sincerely yours,




London, December 14, 1778.


It is in London that I am favoured with the very
obliging letter of invitation, which your friendly
intentions meant for consolation, at the moment
of my life when I perhaps stood most in need of

The act itself, and the manner of the invitation,
I shall long remember, if my memory does not
take a turn, that I think it has not been used to
do, concerning acts of kindness. The very good
natured and very well understood letter of Mr.
Shee 9 , which I received at the same time, seemed
to enhance the kindness of your own ; and, in a
manner, domiciliated me already under the friendly
roof you invited me to. Please God that my
health continues, I shall probably pay you a visit
not long after this reaches you ; for I will not be
long, at the distance of Madras, without making
you my personal acknowledgments. I hope I shall
find you in the plenitude of power; my friend
Shee will naturally have the benefit of it, and you

9 Afterwards Sir George Shee, Bart.-, and under-secretary
of state in Mr. Windham's office in 1806.


the honour of it ; for it is in truth to the honour
of greatness, that she protects and rewards those
that are attached to her ; and, as I must rejoice
in every thing that is to your credit, I congratulate
you that among your good qualities, the world
allows you to be sensible to the trust and reliance
your friends have in you.

Before this reaches you, you will probably have
learned that the offer of the agency of the king of
Tanjore, meeting me, as it were, on my landing at
Madras, I found in it inducement enough to re-
turn home. I rather flatter myself that I returned
in a fortunate season, when the madness about the
nabob of Arcot was on its wane. It is so common
an effect of vanity to impute to its own efforts the
incidents that succeed, because they are luckily
timed, that I cannot help wishing you to give me
a little credit for the somewhat fair and somewhat
favourable light that the poor king of Tanjore's
cause is now seen in. He does not ask that this
country should adopt his cause in preference to
that of the nabob, or of any other person. He only
requests that, agreeably to reason, and really to
their own interest and to the uniform style of the
company's instructions, an equal hand should be
held between him and his neighbour ; and that
the presidency should not, as they have hitherto
constantly done, take the nabob's assertions as
facts, his complaints as proved offences, or his


demands as liquidated accounts. In a word, that,
leaving the character of agents, they preserve
their rank, and act as mediators.

I beg your pardon for this sort of involuntary
vent of what my heart is full of. I am, indeed, in
some measure bound to mention, that I am sensi-
ble of the attention Lord North has given to the
representations I have taken the liberty of making
him ; and, indeed, I believe it was the first time
in his life that he was apprised that the king of
Tanjore did not wear horns and walk on cloven
feet. I trust, too, that Mr. Rumbold is not in-
clined to deal, as some of his predecessors have
done, with that unfortunate country of Tanjore.
On every account this gives me great satisfaction ;
first, as it is a thing just and honourable to a man
I respect, as I do Mr. Rumbold, whose letters
home are very kind towards me ; and then, too, it
promises me a pleasant and satisfactory line of
conducting my business, which I shall continue in
the Carnatic. I don't know whether your leisure
from nearer concerns has left you time to con-
template the detail of the Carnatic ; if you have
not, I wish you may: and I doubt if, in the
extent of your reading, you have ever met a
country so cruelly treated ; nor the conduct of a
superior country so senseless and impolitic, as that
of the presidency of Madras, between Tanjore and
the nabob of Arcot.


As far as my tether goes, I have not failed to
do all in my little power to have a sense felt of
your situation ; there is, however, a certain vis
inwtice that favours possession ; but I have some-
times flattered myself that things I have dropped
accidentally have not been totally lost ; and if I,
or mine, can contribute our mite, or our much,
depend upon it we shall not omit to serve you if
we can.

I am, my dear sir,
With very sincere acknowledgments,

Your faithful friend and servant,


May I earnestly entreat that what portion you
can of your kindness to me, may be transferred to
Mr. W. Hickey, the son of one of the oldest and
best friends I have in the world, and a young gen-
tleman of excellent understanding.

Beconsfield, December 24, 1778.


My friend Mr. Burke, whom I recommended to
you on his going to India, returned with uncommon
rapidity to Europe, with a commission from the king


of Tanjore. He has had the means of representing
so powerfully the state of that unhappy person,
that I imagine, if his sufferings should not be
compensated, they will at least not be aggra-
vated or continued. I think that those at
present in office begin to be at length sensible,
that no sound policy can dictate the annihilation
of many of the Indian princes, in order to flatter
the ambition, or to increase an already overgrown
power, of any one of them. Mr. Burke is to go
out again ; and it is a satisfaction both to him
and me, that he will probably have nothing more
to do than to acknowledge, with all gratitude
imaginable, the good intentions of his friends,
without becoming burthensome to their interest.
If they are so good as to forward the objects
of his present pursuit, which will be beneficial
to this country, as well as coincident to the gene-
ral interests of mankind, this must be, consequen-
tially, of the greatest service to him.

You have, my dear sir, a great country to
govern ; and I have no doubt of the principles on
which you govern yourself in the management
of it. I assure you that all your wisdom, dili-
gence, and fortitude, will be wanting, to compen-
sate to us in the east what we have lost irrecover-
ably in the west, by the total absence of those
qualities in those who ought most fully to have
possessed them. We are still, to all appearance,


proceeding exactly in the same train ; and, of
course, our disasters are multiplied in proportion
to the continuance of our follies. A French war
is added to the American; and there is all the
reason in the world to expect a Spanish war to
be superadded to the French. The latter, though
for years to be hourly apprehended, was no way
provided for ; and the former, though hanging
over us, we know neither how to avert, nor to
oppose when it shall come. It is thought that
the rest of the Carribbee islands will follow the
fate of Dominica. We have no fleet in those
seas worth mentioning. Two ships of the line,
two fifties, and about four lesser frigates, under
Admiral Barrington, make the whole of our arma-
ment there. We are preparing to send out
sixteen sail of the line, but they are to various
destinations. The French have, however, I am
afraid, been beforehand with us. D'Estaign has
sailed from Boston, and there is very little doubt
that the West Indies are his object.

Our new secretary-at-war 10 has entered upon the
business of his department. He is a very great, a
very grave, and a very gracious minister. Lord
Barrington has retired first from parliament, then
from office ; principally, I believe, from downright
weariness, and possibly from some mixture of dis-

10 Charles Jenkinson.


gust. I don't hear what bargain he has made on
retiring, or whether he has made any. Jenkin-
son's budget was very ostentatious. In order
to swell it out, your Indian armies were in-
cluded, though we had no vote to give for them ;
but we were to be made, in his oratory, the most
powerful nation upon earth, in order to encou-
rage us, on the presumption of our power, to be
the least prudent. Indeed, if he had perfectly
proved his point, a worse story could not have
been told for the wisdom of those who have had
the direction of that enormous power. It is true,
that the very fragments of our ruin are a mighty
mass. But our new secretary-at-war valued him-
self upon troops that are not raised, on money
that is not subscribed, and on funds which are not
as yet so much as thought of. The East India
Company is to be excepted, which is to find
one million of the nine which we shall borrow,
and the eleven we shall stand in need of. The
charter, I hear, is to be renewed; the dividend
raised, and a portion of the annual surplus to be
secured to government. But your correspondents
of the company will inform you much better of
all these particulars than I am able to do. As
to the rest, our present thoughts are engrossed, so
far as any public consideration can be said, with
propriety, to engross them, by two matters : the
first is, the return of our commissioners from


America, along with almost all our generals ; the
other is the trial of Admiral Keppel. I do not
remember that any thing has, in my time, excited
so much indignation. It has, I believe, been
ill-received by both services. The disgust of the
major and better part of the marine is not easily

To turn myself from public matters to private,
which I always do with pleasure ; our mutual
friend, John Bourke, is the same worthy and
good-humoured man he always was. All those
here whom you know, and whose good wishes
you desired to have, are very steady in their
regards to you, and heartily rejoice at the success
and honour that has attended you ; although you
meet obstructions, as all must do, who aim at any
uncommon degree of perfection. I have the
honour to be, with the most sincere regard and

Dear sir,

Your most obedient and faithful
humble servant,



Lamb's Buildings, Temple, Feb. 28, 1779.


Although we live in times when, as old Ennius
says, " Pellitur e media sapientia, vi geritur res;
Spernitur orator bonus, horridus miles amatur" yet
I have ventured to translate the speeches of an
Athenian advocate, the master of Demosthenes,
whose eloquence, in such times as these, would
have been exerted in vain. You will find my
preface and commentary to be rather the sketch
than the completion of a design, which, if the
execution had been answerable to it, would per-
haps have merited your approbation. As to the
translation, I am not satisfied with it ; but I was
afraid lest, by polishing it too highly, I should lose
the character of the original, and destroy the
likeness, by attempting to make a fine picture. I
shall be very glad if you receive entertainment
from this little work ; as the approbation of such

11 Afterwards Sir William Jones, the celebrated oriental
scholar. Mr. Burke's answer to this letter, dated March 12,
is given in Prior's Life, vol. i. p. 350.


a reader is the highest reward that a writer can
desire ; and will give the greatest pleasure to,

Dear sir,

Your most obliged and faithful servant,



Edinburgh, March 25, 1779.


In the Edinburgh Caledonian Mercury of yester-
day's date, are the following paragraphs, asserted to
be part of a speech made by you in the honourable
House of Commons, in support of the petition you
presented from the Scotch Catholics, craving re-
paration of the damage they had sustained in their
properties, by the mobs in Edinburgh and Glas-
gow ! , viz. : " He then produced a most disgraceful

1 The relaxation of the popery-laws carried through par-
liament in the last year, though so trifling in extent, gave such
great offence to many of the most rigid presbyterians in Scot-
land, that associations were formed by them for the protection
of the protestant religion, which they alleged to be in danger ;
and the public mind was inflamed by mischievous and un-
founded publications, emanating from these societies. Riotous
mobs assembled at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other places
at the beginning of this year, threatening and assaulting


pamphlet, artfully printed and circulated by an asso-
ciation calling themselves ' the Committee of Cor-
respondence for the Protestant interest.' These
men, to give a sanction to their proceedings,
assembled in the principal church at Edinburgh ;
and it is shocking to humanity to reflect, that
such bigotry, blind zeal, and religious barbarity,
should subsist in any part of the British dominions,
at a time when men's minds are enlightened, and
the most liberal opinions in religious matters uni-
versally prevail.

" In this wretched performance, the Protestant
inhabitants are exhorted not to buy of or to sell
to Roman Catholics ; neither to borrow of them,
nor lend to them ; to hold no social communica-
tion with them whatever; nor to harbour, nor
conceal them, and to use their utmost endeavours
to banish them for ever from Scotland ! Annexed
to these pious resolutions entered into by the
association, and recommended to all their Protes-
tant brethren, is a catalogue of the penal laws of
Scotland against papists, not quite so bloody, but
as severe, as the laws of Draco."

Honourable sir, As I am a member of the

the persons, and plundering and destroying the property of the
Roman Catholic inhabitants. These disgraceful proceedings
extended in the next year to London, where Mr. Burke 's
residence was one of those marked for destruction, but happily
escaped the fury of Lord George Gordon's followers.


" Committee of Correspondence for the Protestant
Interest," allow me to tell you, whoever they were
that put the pamphlet you mention into your
hands, as a publication of theirs, have grossly im-
posed upon you ; and thereby you have been led
to represent that committee in a very unjust point
of view to the honourable House of Commons.
Inclosed in this, and another cover addressed to
you, is the only pamphlet that committee pub-
lished. How different it is from that you impute
to them, will be evident on perusal. The dictates
of truth, humanity, and honour, for which, sir,
you are so deservedly esteemed, will doubtless
induce you to do the committee justice, and bring
the truth to view, in a proper time and place.
With sincere esteem, I am, honoured sir,
Your most humble and obedient servant,


Westminster, March 30, 1779.

I am favoured with your letter from Edinburgh of
the 25th March last. The expressions in the news-
papers to which you allude are (as usual) the
news-writer's own. Very little that appears there
has the smallest resemblance to my mode of ex-


pression, or to my manner of stating facts and
arguments. I did indeed mean to express, in my
place, my entire disapprobation of a pamphlet
which it is natural that you should be very earnest
to disown, as it contains sentiments which no
being in the human form could, on reflection, be
fond of owning.

I did not state it as a certain fact, that this
piece had its origin in your committee : I spoke
of it only as a suspicion, the grounds of which
I mentioned at the time. I am glad that you
have undeceived me, and I have lost not a moment
in doing you public justice, though I cannot think
I was very rash in my original conjecture. When
any set of gentlemen are known to be active in
the circulation of anonymous pieces, works of the
same original temper and tendency with those
which they circulate, will naturally be attributed
to them. The pamphlet which you have sent me,
and which you avow, has no more name of an
author to it than that which you disclaim ; and
yet, if I had met that work, and attributed it to
your committee, it is plain that I should not have
been mistaken.

You will pardon me, sir, if I am obliged sin-
cerely to lament the resemblance of the two
writings in many material particulars. They
breathe the very same spirit; they support the
same system of intolerance ; they raise the same


question on the competence of legislature to
make any alteration in that system ; and though
the book published by your committee does not,
in quite so direct and explicit terms as the other,
recommend a dissolution of all the bonds of society
with certain obnoxious descriptions of that species
to which we all have the honour to belong in
common, yet it lays down the grounds and prin-
ciples of just such a breach of the ties of huma-
nity. I am sorry to say that it even exceeds the
unhappy performance which I quoted in the
House, in the asperity of expression, and the
bitterness and passion of the invectives. So that
the work of your committee had an inevitable
tendency to produce, in the minds of all upon
whom it could have an influence, a disposition to
those enormities and crimes which have lately
disgraced our age and country. These barbarities
are, indeed, little more than a practical inference
from the principles there laid down.

I beg you to be assured, that I am far from
imputing to you, or to the gentlemen of your
committee, any intention whatsoever of instiga-
ting the populace to those cruel and criminal acts.
I dare say that those outrages are the subjects
of your greatest abhorrence. You were animated
by zeal, I am fully persuaded, and not actuated
by malignity and a spirit of oppression, in all that
you have done. But I trust that your good sense

VOL. n. s


will draw an useful lesson from your late experi-
ence. You will see the extreme danger of exciting
a violent hatred of their neighbours, in fierce and
undisciplined minds; and you will undoubtedly,
by your future good offices, make all the repara-
tion in your power to those, who, contrary to
your intentions, have suffered by the flame you
have been the means of lighting up.

Your own good sense will also, on a temperate
review of the matter, be sufficient to make you a
little cautious of setting in the most odious point
of view, persons, with whom none of you have
had a very extensive and intimate acquaintance ;
and even whose books, if you have read them at
all, have probably been taken up for the purpose
of finding matter of exception in them. I am
told that many bigoted papists think as ill of
us, as any of us can possibly think of them, and
this ill opinion is one of their incitements to
persecute. I am satisfied that there is so much
good in mankind at large, that one of the main
causes of the mutual hatred in parties, is our
mutual ignorance of each other. Let us take
care, on our part, that our speaking so ill of our
adversaries does not give them occasion to con-
ceive ill of ourselves. This I know for certain,
that an unmanaged, licentious style of railing and
invective, in which many among us are but too
apt to indulge, does very great mischief to the


Protestant, cause in Catholic countries. For,
until men are convinced that they deserve these
atrocious reproaches, it is impossible that they
should not be somewhat offended at them, and
that they should not conceive a bad opinion of
the persons who are capable of making charges,
which they will not admit to be true. It is not
perfectly easy to convince the body of the clergy
and laity of so many great countries, that they
are such villains and reprobates as you describe
them ; and I assure you that they do not take
the description itself as a very particular civility.

As to those of that communion with you in
Scotland, I cannot be brought to believe that
there is any peculiar malignity in the air of North
Britain, which can operate to make them so much
worse than they are in this and in other coun-
tries. I have never had the honour of conversing
with any of them, but Lord Linton and Mr. Hay ;
and of them, candour obliges me to say, that,
from what I have observed in several conversa-
tions, as well as what has been the result of some
inquiry, if your committee be composed of more
worthy men, and more deserving the protection
of government than they are, it will give you a
very high place in my esteem. But whatever the
merits of these gentlemen and your other neigh-
bours may be, I really wish you to consider, as
you profess to be so zealously affected to the Pro-

s 2


testant, and particularly to the Presbyterian reli-
gion, whether it be seriously worth your while, for
the sake of tormenting and insulting a handful
of miserable Roman Catholics that have fallen
into your hands, to call down the resentment and
retaliation of mighty powers, upon twenty times
that number of Protestants of your own particular
description? Otherwise, it may come to be sus-
pected, that you have little regard for the credit
of your religion and the safety of your brethren ;
and are only indulging the unhappy but common
propensity of men, to an exercise of despotic
power whenever they are able to compass it, wholly
regardless of its consequences on the happiness
of mankind. Gentlemen of your activity in public
affairs, in which you have taken a voluntary part,
ought rather to employ your abilities in enlighten-
ing than inflaming the people. We have had dis-
union enough already, and I heartily wish that
your part of the kingdom had manifested but one
half of the zeal for the union of our Protestant
empire on terms of equity and freedom, that has
been manifested for taking away all justice and all
liberty from our Roman Catholic subjects at home.
If there had, we should not have been set down
in our present miserable condition. At any rate,
sir, do call up your humanity, and make an effort
worthy of the power and influence you have
shown, to restore us to peace, and to political and


Christian charity amongst ourselves. By this you
will do your country and religion more service,

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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 14 of 27)