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 17 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 17 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

executed, and I believe the thing is laid aside. By
this abortive project, they plainly discovered the
strong sense they entertained of the propriety of
putting the country indiscriminately into a state
of defence ; but by the kind of defence they pro-
posed, they discovered full as strongly their extreme
dread of any method which could tend to make
the people know and feel their own force. This
scheme could have answered no other purpose, than
that of tempting the raw country-people to some
irregular and contemptible hostilities, and thereby
provoke as well as enable the enemy to take a
cruel revenge on the unprotected districts, where
such idle tumultuary efforts were employed. What
could a miserable rabble, armed with weapons not
much better than pitchforks, do against the can-
non, firelocks, and bayonets of regular and well-
appointed troops ? If government were of opinion
that pikemen might be of use, they must know
that they can only be so when they are regularly


trained to the discipline fit for such a corps, and
acting with good bodies of musketry. On their
principle, they ught to have put such men under
qualified officers, and trained them properly. But
it is plain, both by their taking up and their
dropping this foolish project of the pikes, that
they were in the utmost perplexity, when they
came to look in the face of a general and popular
armament. The other method, of subscriptions,
is a repetition of former exploded follies ; and
intended, as the old schemes of that kind were
intended, not to strengthen the nation, but to
strengthen their faction ; for I observe, that they
are totally indifferent about the quantity, the
application, or even the payment of the money.
They want nothing but names, in order to pass as
a sort of proof, that they possess the confidence of
the country which they have ruined ; that our last
stake is thought safe in their hands ; that, after
all the delusions which have been put upon us,
our eyes are still shut ; and that we still put our
trust in their integrity, vigilance, and wisdom.
This is what is proposed, and the whole that is
proposed, by the subscriptions, that stale cheat,
by which it is hoped that we shall make practical
flatteries and addresses by our money, when it
would be too barefaced to make their panegyric
upon paper; and to tell in so many plain words,
that they have conducted our affairs properly,


while there is an unopposed fleet of the enemy at
anchor on our coast. All this is done with infi-
nite activity for the support of a corrupt faction,
while the defence of the country is left to take
care of itself as it may. In this state of things,
my opinion clearly and decidedly is, that if you
can perceive that the unhappy, misled, party men
in our city, can, by their misfortunes, get cured of
their factious principles, or get even to suspend
them at this time of imminent danger, you ought
to promote the public concord, and our friends
ought to arm along with them, and arrange in the
manner you think most advisable for that purpose.
But if they should still, in spite of all experience,
retain their furious party-spirit, and suffer none
but those of their own unhappy faction to have
the lead in forming, or the command when formed,
of any bodies which may be armed, your co-ope-
rating with them in such a scheme, would be only
to expose you to scorn, insult, and tyranny, and
to make you the low and servile instruments of
your own subjection. You know the multitude
and virulence of the libels which they circulate, to
prevent all possibility of union amongst ourselves
at this time. You know that they have already
published to the world by one of their trumpeters,
that nothing but cowardice hinders us from joining
the French in great numbers. The insanity, in-
deed, of this performance, might make one imagine


that such scandalous imputations were but the
work of one wrong-head; but there are many
runners, and many scribblers, who are employed
in the same work, in the capital, and in all parts
of the kingdom. These libels are even carried to
the noses of the most distinguished names, for
rank, opulence, independence, and integrity, in
the kingdom, who are now under arms; some of
them in very mortifying situations, and giving up
their ease and comfort, and preparing to hazard
their lives for a government which they would
not know to exist, but by draining their estates,
and bringing their country to the verge of ruin.
These audacious libels are meant to drive them, if
possible, from the only part of the public service
in which they have been permitted to have a
share ; and, if they can, to provoke a rebellion
here, while the French are knocking at our doors,
in addition to the rebellion which they have
raised in America, and which has brought, at
length, the hostility of half Europe home to us.
If, then, this cursed virulence of temper and
blindness of heart should continue, you (who
have not been willing to betray your country to
France, to gratify your revenge on any part of
your fellow-citizens) have but two choices to
make ; the first, to join with each other to arm
and train at your* proper expense of time and
money, and to put yourselves under the guidance


of those who will not betray you to the enemy,
abroad or at home ; this is the best, both for
your own defence and the king's service. But if
you do not find resolution and union enough for
this, then you have nothing left but to lie still ;
committing yourselves to that Providence which
has done such wonderful things for us, and to
those means which (however employed) parlia-
ment has so amply provided for our safety ; until
the whole people come to their senses enough to
know, that the first thing to be done for the
defence of a country, is to have its resources and
its arms in honest and able hands ; and to inquire,
how the preparations of our enemies came to be
so neglected that, at length, their fleets domineer
in our seas and anchor in our havens. They will
ask, some time or other, how it comes that the
enemy is a full third stronger than we are, in
our own seas ? Till there is sense enough to ask
these questions, nothing can be done effectual
to defend ourselves against the ill-effects of a bad
government ; for, believe me, it is not the force
of France and Spain, but the treachery of our
own administration, denying our danger to palli-
ate their neglects in not providing against it,
that has brought us into our present condition.
Adieu ! my dear sir : Here are my sentiments
on this subject. I am low and dejected at times,
in a way not to be described. The public calami-


ties affect me, and would much more, if I were
not conscious to myself of having done every
thing in my power, to warn the nation of the
evils that were hurrying upon them.

Once more give my best services to our friends ;
and believe me always, my dear sir,

Your faithful and obedient humble servant,



Sunday, August 29, 1779.


I received your letter this morning, and am glad
to find my sentiments to be in concurrence with
those of my friends. It certainly cannot be right
to arm in support of a faction, though it is most
laudable to arm in favour of our country. Those
who confine their military arrangements to one set
of men, mean evidently to crush the others, and
not to defend the whole. If the party armament,
which you stated as proposed by the tories, should
take place, on the plan first mentioned, your asso-
ciating to arm yourselves would, in my opinion, be
nothing more than what absolute and immediate
domestic defence against a declared domestic
enemy required. You remember the use they
made of the tumultuary power that was in their


hands in the case of Mr. Cator. This they had
the presumption to avow as the consequence of
his political opinions and conduct. As to the
letter, I have no objection to its being circulated
as largely as you please, and even to its being
shown to some of the moderate tories, if any of
that party can be called moderate with any pro-
priety ; but I think it cannot be useful to print it.
If any thing were to be printed, a great deal more
ought. We are all well, as far as we can be so,
in the present dreadful state of anxiety to every
man in the nation, except those they call ministers.
They are out of town, and perfectly at ease about
every thing, since they see that no misery, depres-
sion, or disgrace of the public, affects their emolu-
ments. Mr. Dodge, a very worthy young gentle-
man of Devonshire, a nephew of our friend,
General Haviland, will deliver this to you. I have
a great regard for him, and wish you and our
Bristol friends would make things pleasant to him
whilst he stays at Bristol. We all heartily salute
you and Mrs. Champion. We give you a thousand
thanks for the asylum you are so good as to offer
to Mrs. Burke. God forbid there should be occa-
sion ; but if there should, I know not under what
roof she could with more satisfaction take shelter
from the public storm.

God Almighty bless you ! Adieu.


Summer Hill*, September 4, 1779.


A slight indisposition of some days lias prevented
my answering, as punctually as I ought, your very
obliging and instructive letter of the 14th of last
month, wherein you are so good to excuse the
mistake of mine of the 6th, which I was really led
into by the misinformation of some persons here ;
not with regard to the uniform disinterested prin-
ciple of your conduct (for my knowledge of that
made such a deception impossible), but with re-
gard to some other extrinsic circumstances, with
which I was entirely unacquainted. On that sup-
position, I own, I was easily induced to believe
that some small token of gratitude from a people 6 ,
for very signal and unhoped-for services done them,
might be accepted. But even in that particular,
my diffidence and doubt of your consenting, might
appear in the earnestness with which I entreated
your acceptance of it. This is the real truth of
the matter, which I thought was the best apology
I could make to you ; and as you have been
pleased to do me justice, with respect to the inno-

* Near Dublin.

6 The Roman Catholics of Ireland.


cence and friendliness of my intention, I shall
trouble you with nothing more upon this head,
but my most sincere thanks for your kind conde-
scension in that respect.

Your cautioning us not to give offence to our
best friends, the friends of the constitution, on
your side of the water, is exceedingly kind and
just. To return hostilities for benefits received,
would, indeed, be an act of the blackest ingrati-
tude. Nor do I know even one individual of our
persuasion here so basely and wickedly disposed.
On the contrary, when you signified to me in a
former letter, that you thought it was incumbent
on us to give some testimony of our gratitude,
either personally or in writing, to those noblemen
and gentlemen, both there and here, for the im-
portant services they had done us, with respect to
the repeal of the penalties, (which we all believed
at that time to be extremely proper and necessary,)
we were prevented from doing it at the instance
and by the advice of a principal friend to our bill
on this side of the water, who differed in opinion
from you on that point only ; and, as he was then
going to England, undertook to show you the
mischief that might have happened to our affairs by
such a proceeding ; which I hope, as it is our only
excuse for not having followed your direction in
that respect, he has done to your satisfaction.

The literary affair which I took the liberty to


mention in my last, and your perusal and correc-
tion of which I very much wished for, was only a
few remarks on Dr. Priestley's system of the
materiality of the human soul, and the mechani-
cal necessity of human actions, the pernicious
tendency of which system has tempted me to
look into his proofs, as they are stated, seemingly
with all their force, in the late Monthly Reviews,
(for I could not find the books themselves here,)
which I think may be refuted ; and, therefore,
have been, almost unaccountably to myself,
prompted to undertake that task ; not by ab-
stracted metaphysical subtleties, which has been
too much the practice hitherto, but by known
matters of fact, and such plain reasoning as mani-
festly results from them. But, as I am confident
that your time and thoughts are, at present, em-
ployed about matters of much more use and
importance, than any speculations of that kind, I
shall think no more of troubling you about them ;
and only add, with great truth, that I am,

Dear sir,

Your most obliged and affectionate
humble servant,


P.S. If it is not improper, I wish you would
give us some further light, in what you say con-
cerning the prospect of some future favour next



session, that " as things have been carried, seri-
ous difficulties have arisen, and will continue, as
/ am afraid you will find," that we may have it
in our power to do what I am sure you sincerely
desire, " every thing on our parts towards removing


Charles-street, St. James's-square,
December 9, 1779.


Lord North has this day opened the substance of
his propositions relative to the trade of Ireland ;
but on account of his health, as well as the import-
ance of the subject matter, he wished to defer any
debate that may arise until Monday next ; so that
the matter passed without any regular motion on
his part, or discussion on the part of the members.
The propositions, in substance, are, that Ireland is
to trade, not only to all independent nations, but
Africa, America, and the West Indies ; subject,
however, with regard to the three latter, to the
same restrictions, limitations, and regulations, that
now affect the commerce of Great Britain ; and
that the direct import into Ireland of sugar and
other West India commodities, is to be made (by


the Irish parliament) liable to duties equivalent to
those paid on the entry of the same commodities
into England. But that if they choose the cir-
cuitous trade rather than the direct, then that
affair of duties is to remain as at present, and the
merchants are to make their option between a
direct trade with high, or a circuitous with low

That the woollen export trade to the places
above mentioned, be free from the restrictions of
all acts of parliament.

The glass trade he did not imagine would be a
very considerable object to Ireland. But as an
harsh, and manifestly unjust, restriction was made
in the act of George the Second, it was to be
repealed. Many things seem to require expla-
nation in this plan, which I dare say his lord-
ship will clear up in the committee on Monday

You will be so good as to communicate this in-
telligence to the corporation. I have the honour
to be, with great esteem and regard,


Your most obedient and very humble servant,




No date 7 .


The book 8 which you did me the honour to send to
my house in town, did not come to my hands until
very lately. I have read it with the attention
which is due to the importance of the subject, and
the distinguished abilities of the author. You will
be so good as to accept my share of the acknow-
ledgments the public owe to you, for the ingeni-
ous pains you have taken for its reformation. I
find that I have not always the happiness to agree
with you, but I have the good fortune to meet
what is but rare in political controversies, and
indeed in controversies of any kind, an adversary
who differs in opinion with candour and polite-

I am afraid that the American affairs will be

7 Docketed in Mr. Burke's handwriting, " Letter begun to
Baron Mazeres never finished."

8 Probably the Canadian Freeholder, a work published in
1777 by Baron Mazeres, in the form of " Dialogues between an
Englishman and a Frenchman settled in Canada." The pas-
sage to which Mr. Burke particularly alludes is to be found
in vol. i. pp. 186, 187, where the Englishman proposes that
the American colonies should have representatives in the
British parliament. Baron Mazeres was cursitor baron of the
exchequer, and died in 1824, at the very advanced age of 93.


settled, and the fate of that great portion of the
world decided, in a manner very different from
what, I am sure, we join in wishing. There has
been too much disposition, from the beginning, to
solve all these questions by force. I do not as yet
find this disposition greatly altered by time or by
events ; and it is but too probable that if America
should ever be established in a state of freedom,
she will owe that liberal settlement to her separa-
tion from this country. If, however, things should
turn out otherwise, and our experience of the
mischiefs of war should teach us moderation and
prudence, even in victory, lessons which victory
is rarely disposed to learn, I hope I shall never
be found in opposition to yours, or to any other
plan that shall be proposed by rational and honest
men for the re-union of this empire, and for
cementing the several parts of it in the closest and
most lasting manner. I confess I still feel in my
mind many objections to the representation you
propose. To make it at all practicable, you are
obliged, when you come to seat the American
representatives, to alter exceedingly the tenure
and terms on which the present members sit. I
believe many more alterations, and some funda-
mental, would be necessary on such an occasion.
At any rate, I am somewhat apprehensive that no
state of humiliation will make America ever be-
lieve that the real substantial purposes of repre-


sentation can be answered, by sending representa-
tives to the other side of the globe. With regard
to the late agencies which you suppose might
reconcile them to this plan, I believe there is
nothing so likely to give them a total disrelish to
it. I am sure that some of their agents have been
in a course of betraying them ; and one agent in
particular was so shamefully profligate, as to deliver
hand-bills at the door of the House of Commons,
in his own person, (on the very night when
the province which he represented was to be
stripped of all its rights,) tending to inflame the
passions of the members against that province.
The matter of the hand-bills was drawn from a
testimony borne against his constituents, uncalled
for by any judicature, on a matter which (if he had
stated as truly as he has done most fallaciously)
had come to his knowledge whilst he was acting
in trust, as the confidential servant of the colony.
This perfidious wretch is much countenanced and
employed by government here; and, I am told,
just as much and as well received in many respect-
able societies, as he was before this unheard-of act.
I have not the least doubt that it was solely through
inadvertence that such a testimony and such a
man could be named in the work of a person, not
less eminent for his fidelity and integrity in a
public trust, than for his extensive learning, in-
dustry, and great abilities.



Grosvenor-square, Friday night, Jan. 7, 1780.


I obeyed Lady Rockingham's commands, which I
find were also your lordship's, and came to town
this day. I have the pleasure of finding her lady-
ship perfectly well, and write from Grosvenor-
square, where Miss Pelham and the Duke of
Portland now are. His grace is just come from
the Middlesex meeting. James Townshend was
in the chair, and Byng 9 was called on to open the
business of the meeting. He did it very well,
though he had no thoughts of being desired to
execute this office. He had not even seen the
petition, a draft of which was put into his hand
after he had got upon the table. He was surprised,
but (as he said) not disagreeably, at finding it ver-
batim the same with yours of Yorkshire. They
came also to the same resolutions of correspond-
ence and association. They added thanks to the
minority, which I rather think an improvement ;

9 George Byng, Esq., father of the present George Byng,
of Wrotham, member of parliament for the county of Middle-


though indeed your Yorkshire meeting does not
admit of much amendment. It was well, very
well. The shade was of as much importance as
the lights, in your picture. Smelt was admirable,
and his speech must have had a good effect in
very many ways.

Your lordship is, by this, apprized of the tone
which has been adopted in the parliament of Ire-
land. I received some letters upon it. I was
weak enough to be affected with it, and wrote, in
my first warmth, a letter of no less than four
sheets upon it '. I received, this day, a letter in
manuscript, inclosing a most abusive letter to
myself in print. Lord Inchiquin writes that it is

1 A letter to Thomas Burgh, Esq., given in the 9th volume
of the Works, octavo edition, and mentioned in a former note.
Mr. Burke here alludes to the disposition shown by the leading
members on the popular side, in the Irish parliament, to break
with the independent party in the English, on the plea of their
apparent inactivity, whilst propositions for the benefit of Irish
trade, which were passed into a law at the close of the year
1779, were under discussion in their house. Mr. Burke
shows that the advantages to Ireland obtained by that law,
were extorted from the cabinet by the imposing appearance of
the Irish volunteers, and the spirited conduct of the liberal
party in the Irish parliament ; and that the prudence and for-
bearance of their English friends, in suffering the minister to
carry, as from himself, what was in truth their measure, with-
out creating obstacles and losing time by unnecessary discus-
sion, were eminently conducive to its final success.


their present intention to make an address of
thanks to the king, applauding ministry, and con-
veying a strong insinuation against the minority.
This affair, just at this minute, seems a little awk-
ward. I fancy that the gentlemen who have the
lead in parliament there, are looking towards the
vacant ministry of that kingdom, and finding ad-
ministration here more permanent than they
imagined, began to pay a court to this side, in
order to cancel past delinquencies.

I am much afraid that a certain person 2 will
not like what has been done, and will attribute
the voluntary acts of others, which you did not
direct, and could not in prudence attempt to re-
strain, as the fruit of your particular politics. This
is unlucky, certainly, but it cannot be helped.
To be over earnest in endeavours to exculpate,
previous to accusation, would imply that design
which you and your friends showed yourselves so
solicitous to disclaim. But if an actual complaint
be made, your particular friends are authorized
and informed sufficiently to represent the matter
as it really was.

People here, I find, do not well know what to
make of the Duchy business 8 . I wish your lord-
ship, whilst in the country, would give yourself all
the rest you possibly can from business, either

2 His majesty George the Third.

3 This probably relates to the Duchy of Lancaster.


public or private. I am, with the most affectionate
attachment, ever,

My dear lord,

Your most obedient and humble servant,


If it were not very inconvenient, I should be
glad to know as much as possible about the Duchy
business ; its estates, revenues, and every thing
belonging to it.


January 24, 1780.


I return you the draft of the petition you pro-
posed, with such corrections as occurred to me to
be any way necessary. I have upon the subject 4
to say but two things ; first, that it is not to be
attempted if the minds of the people concerned
are not perfectly ripe for it. If it does not come
from them freely, without much address or ma-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 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 17 of 27)