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 21 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 21 of 27)
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I am ashamed that any people could be so base
and foolish as to be deluded into a dislike of it.
Am I to be the only sour and narrow-hearted
bigot out of five hundred and fifty-eight gentle-
men? Not one but Lord George Gordon, for

8 Lord Sandwich.


purposes of his own, ever objected to the act
in question, opposed it, or proposed any repeal
of it whatsoever; and am I to make myself the
dupe of a dirty faction at Edinburgh, because
their miserable agents have set on a rabble of
miscreants here, to insult the parliament, and
then to set fire to London, to demolish Newgate,
and attempt to plunder the Bank ? Other induce-
ments and arguments, to make me in love with
this Scottish faction, (disowned by every thing
respectable in their own country,) I have heard
of none. Am I to go and herd with them, in
defiance of every thing that calls for respect in
the country where I live, and the senate in which
I vote ? If the act, when it was ready, (a wise
and enlightened act so far as it went,) was of
a nature so distasteful to any of my constituents,
why did none of them express their dislike of
it until two years after it was passed ? And can
I believe, in 9 honour and respect which I owe
to my constituents, that it was the infamous mode
of forcing a repeal which has now made the act
distasteful, and the repeal wished for by any
one decent and honest freeman of Bristol? If
the act was originally so bad, why was it not
opposed by Mr. Coombs and Mr. Cruger ? They

9 The MS. is a copy, and probably incorrect, but the meaning
of the expression is obvious.


were members of parliament as well as I, and
are as responsible for their conduct, in this
respect, as I can be. If they found any ill-effects
to the established religion or established govern-
ment from it, why did they not move a repeal,
in all the length of time since it passed, until
the day of the wicked and servile riot which
has done such dishonour and permanent detri-
ment to this country ? It would be more decent,
in my opinion, for us all to show an abhorrence
of the leaders and abettors of that shameless
proceeding, and of those who have led so many
poor wretches to the gallows, by their absurd
invectives and seditious practices. In a word,
my dear Noble, whoever charges me with this,
is an enemy to us all, an enemy to the peace,
order, government, liberty, and honour of this
country; and, depend upon it, there is no true
policy whatsoever in keeping measures of any
kind with people at once so senseless and so
treacherous. Let the leaders show themselves,
and then the weight of our enemies will be
known, and who they are, that, whilst they have
not the personal courage themselves to head the
house-breakers and house-burners, who infest the
capital and other parts of the kingdom, are encou-
raging them in a base and underhand way. De-
pend upon it, that, until we are separated from
the leaders of this mischief, whoever they are,


they will be deluding our friends, and weakening
and disgracing our cause every hour, by their
dishonest artifices. This is my opinion; and, I
trust, all those who wish me well, and think well
of me, will act in strict conformity to it. For
be assured, that I never will act with such sets
of robbers and incendiaries, or their abettors,
though they should threaten to burn my house,
or destroy my interest at any election, which I
think the worst of the two. I have just heard
from Champion, who, I thank God, is well ; and
(as you know) thinks as I and all honest men in
this affair must ever think. I have written a
line, last night, to Job Watts ; but forgot to send
it until this night. I am sorry to hear of Mrs.
Noble's illness, but I hope it will soon be washed
away, and that, in spite of your lameness, you
will yet run a good race. I look on the dissolu-
tion as, in a manner, certain.

I am ever, my dear sir,
Most faithfully and affectionately yours,



London, September 15, 1780.


Before I had received your letter from Bristol,
I had written to you at Beconsfield, taking it
for granted that you would hardly stay to be a
spectator of the election there. Indeed, my
dear Burke, it requires all your candour and
reverse of selfishness, (for I know no word to
express it,) to be in patience with that rascally
city, for so I must call it, after the way in which
it has behaved to you. We go on here swim-
mingly J ; but when it will be over, God knows.
Sheridan is chosen at Stafford : so far, so good ;
but there is an ugly report that Burgoyne is
beat at Preston. It is merely report, but I do
not like it. I fear Sawbridge is beat in the city,
owing, as they say, to popery, Sfc. It is impossi-
ble to tell you how much pressed I have been
upon that subject. A voter asked me publicly
to-day upon the hustings, whether I would do my
endeavours for the repeal of the popish bill, declar-
ing that his vote should be guided by my answer.

1 The election for Westminster, for which place Mr. Fox
was returned by a large majority over Lord Lincoln.


I told him I would not ; upon which, though
he had already taken the oath, he went away
and would not vote at all. They have at last
persuaded me to declare publicly, in an advertise-
ment, thus much, viz. "that I never have sup-
ported, nor ever will support, any measure pre-
judicial to the protestant religion, or tending to
establish popery in this kingdom ;" I think that
by referring for my future conduct to my past,
nobody can accuse me of having done any thing
mean, or gone at all from our ground, which I
would not give up for all the elections in the world.
I was afraid, and I told my friends so, that by
saying, " I never had supported," &c., it would
be thought, as is the truth, that I maintain and
defend that very bill they complain of, and so
do me more harm than good in the election ; but
they thought otherwise, and I gave way. I have
dwelt upon this rather long, because if any one
were to think that I had given up, in the smallest
degree, the great cause of toleration for the sake
of a point of my own, I should be the most
miserable man in the world, amidst all the
acclamations which are at this moment dinning
in my ears, and for which you know I have as
much taste as any man. Pray judge me severely,
and say whether I have done wrong. They
wanted me to leave out the words "have sup-
ported ;" but I told them all fairly, that rf I were


sure that the success of my election depended
upon it, I would not do it. The circumstance
of the voter's question to-day and my answer
will, I hear, be in the papers to-night, and will
certainly do me some mischief; but I trust I
am strong enough now to bear it. How generous
it is of the ministry to publish hand-bills, and
to fill their papers with abuse of me upon this
popery-subject, I leave for them to consider.
Since I began my letter, I have laid my hand
upon one of my hand-bills, and inclose it to you ;
though, God knows, it is not worth the groat you
will have to pay for it. Adieu !

Yours ever most affectionately,

C. J. Fox.

At the close of Thursday's poll :

Rodney .... 4476
Fox . . ... 4059
Lincoln . . . .3315

Do not you think Sheridan an admirable suc-
cessor to Dick Whitworth ? Keppel is nominated
for Surrey ; and no one, as yet, against him. I like
this of all things ; for I think nothing can appear
more honourable for him than that, when the
king has thrown him out of his old borough, the
county in which he lives should take him in so
handsome a manner. Lord Robert Manners and


Yorke, are chosen for Cambridgeshire. You have
heard, before this, of Jack Townshend's success.
Adieu !


Beconsfield, September 26, 1780.


The hurry of Fox's election, the business, the com-
pany, the joy, the debauch, altogether made me
extremely desirous of getting out of town ; and I
hurried off without writing to you or to any one.
We got your long letter yesterday. It was very
agreeable to us. That way of tracing the cause of a
failure is often very right, as it may prevent such
disasters in future. If it be not attended with un-
availing anxiety and reproach, it is always bene-
ficial. As to the party, I do not wonder that they
are sorry : but why they should be angry with any
but themselves, passes my comprehension. What
title had they to your support? Was it that of
having routed your member and his friends ? Their
endeavour, and their successful endeavour, to drive
me from Bristol ? Or was it their plan of reducing
the natural interests of that city to insignificance ?
They always argued in this silly way ; Mr. B. is out


of the question ; you ought therefore to support
us. There might have been some sort of decency,
though not much reason, in this way of talking,
if they themselves had not been the people who
had put Mr. B. out of the question. It is like
desiring a woman to marry you, on the credit of
having murdered her husband. They are right
when they say that they made a good figure, when
they were deserted by so large a party of the
whig interest. But why were they so deserted ?
Because they themselves had first deserted that
cause. But I believe they will reckon without
their host, if they compute all the votes they had,
into a predilection for Mr. Cruger. And after all,
what right have they to assume the lead of the
whig interest, and to direct what candidates will
be fitted for the support of it ? The fact is, Mr.
Cruger's friends took it for granted that they could
take in, or exclude, whom they pleased, and that
Bristol was their advowson. When it came to
the trial, it proved that they had only the power
of doing mischief. You are to look out for the
honest among them, for such there are, and to
make the most of them, to dispute very little, and
on their cavillings to reduce all argument to this
very short question : How their having driven
away Mr. Burke, came to give them a right to
your support ? Mrs. Burke desires to be cordially
remembered to you and Mrs. Champion ; add


mine most cordially to her and your sister, and all


Ever, my dear Champion,

faithfully yours,


Richard is in town. My dear Champion, let
these things lie, at least for their share, on other
shoulders. Do not take more than your portion of
any one's animosity.


Beconsfield, September 27, 1780.


The fatigues of the election are over ; and I con-
gratulate you on your return to quiet. I congratu-
late you, too, on the order, vigour, and spirit of
decision, that shortened your work, and rendered
the election itself less tedious to the city, and less
vexatious and expensive to the parties than it
would have been but for your exertions. Give
my best compliments on this occasion to your

As to the event of the election, it has been
just what it ought to be". It was the natural result

2 Sir Henry Lippincott and Mr. Brickdale were returned.
Mr. Cruger was beaten by a large majority. Mr. Burke


of the conduct of all parties, and it may have a
tendency to reform the conduct of some of them.
The tories have not acquired a great deal of glory
by the victory they have obtained, and by the use
they have made of their strength. On the other
hand, I am perfectly convinced, that the defeat
both of Mr. Cruger and myself was a thing proper
and necessary. If I had not been defeated, the
whigs never could be taught the necessity of vigour,
activity, vigilance, and foresight. If Mr. Cruger
had not been defeated, his friends could not have
had the chance they now have of being cured of
presumption, and weak, crooked politics. Both
parties could never have been taught the necessity
of cordial union, the mischief of gentlemen neg-
lecting to cultivate an interest among the com-
mon people, and the madness of the common
people's dream, that they could be any thing with-
out the aid of better fortunes and better heads
than their own. None of us could be practically
taught these essential truths but by the aid of a

One great advantage towards our converting our
loss into profit is, that we have lost neither temper
nor credit by it. At present, all our prospects
depend upon the use we make of these circum-
stances. Our numbers, though respectable, are

declined. Sir H. Lippincott died in December, and was suc-
ceeded by Mr. Daubeny.


not large ; but then, all the flesh we have is sound,
and firm, and fit for action ; and it is my earnest
wish that no accession, however flattering, may be
admitted, if it tends more to swell our bulk than
to augment our force. If it be, you will find it a
weight to carry, not strength to carry away any
thing else.

One thing, my dear friend, your manly sense will
guard you against, the admitting any visionary
politicians amongst us. We are sufficiently se-
cured (by our exclusion from the court,) from the
mercenary of that tribe. But the bane of the
whigs has been the admission among them of the
corps of schemers, who, in reality and at bottom,
mean little more than to indulge themselves with
speculations ; but who do us infinite mischief by
persuading many sober and well-meaning people
that we have designs inconsistent with the consti-
tution left us by our forefathers. You know how
many are startled with the idea of innovation.
Would to God it were in our power to keep
things where they are in point of form, provided
we were able to improve them in point of sub-
stance. The machine itself is well enough to
answer any good purpose, provided the materials
were sound. But what signifies the arrangement
of rottenness f

It is our business to take care that we who are
electors, or corporate magistrates, or freeholders,


or members of parliament, or peers, (or whatever
we may be,) that we hold good principles, and that
we steadily oppose all bad principles and bad men.
If the nation at large has disposition enough for
this end, its form of government is, in my opinion,
fully sufficient for it ; but if the general disposition
be against a virtuous and manly line of public
conduct, there is no form into which it can be
thrown that will improve its nature or add to
its energy. I know that many gentlemen, in other
parts of the kingdom, think it practicable to make
the remedy of our public disorders attend on an
alteration in our actual constitution ; and to bring
about the former, as a consequence of the latter.
But I believe that no people, who could think of
deferring the redress of such grievances as ours,
and the animadversion on such palpable miscon-
duct as there has been lately in our affairs, until
the material alterations in the constitution which
they propose can be brought about, will ever do
any mighty matter, even if they should find them-
selves able to carry them.

As to myself, I am come to no resolution rela-
tive to my making one in the consultation of
these matters. I believe that, without much in-
trigue, I might contrive to come into parliament
through some door or other. But when I con-
sider, on one hand, the power and prostitution of
the faction which has long domineered, and does


still domineer in this country; and, on the other,
the strange distraction, not only in interests, but
in views and plans of conduct, that prevails among
those who oppose that faction, I do something
more than hesitate about the wisdom and pro-
priety of my making one in this -general scene of
confusion. I will say nothing about that tail
which draggles in the dirt, and which every party
in every state must carry about it. That can only
flirt a little of the mud in our faces now and then ;
it is no great matter : but some of our capital
men entertain thoughts so very different from
mine, that if I come into parliament, I must either
fly in the face of the clearest lights of my own
understanding, and the firmest conviction of my
own conscience, or I must oppose those for whom
I have the highest value. The Duke of Richmond
has voluntarily proposed to open the elections of
England to all those, without exception, who have
the qualification of being eighteen years old ; and
has swept away at one stroke all the privileges of
freeholders, cities, and boroughs, throughout the
kingdom ; and sends every member of parliament,
every year, to the judgment and discretion of such
electors. Sir George Savile has consented to adopt
the scheme of more frequent elections, as a remedy
for disorders which, in my opinion, have a great
part of their root in elections themselves ; and while
the Duke of Richmond proposes to annihilate the



freeholders, Sir George Savile consents to a plan
for a vast increase of their power, by choice of a
hundred new knights of the shire. Which of these
am I to adhere to ? Or shall I put myself into
the graceful situation of opposing both? If I
am asked who the Duke of Richmond and Sir
George Savile are, and what is my own inward
opinion of them, I must fairly say, that I look upon
them to be the first men of their age and their
country, that I do not know men of more parts or
more honour. Of the latter, you remember what
I said, in the Guild Hall ; and I cannot retract a
word of it.

In this situation, with regard to those whom I
esteem the most, how shall I act with those for
whom I have no esteem at all ? Such there are ;
not only in the ministry, but in the opposition.
There is, indeed, the Marquis of Rockingham, and
there are some more, with whom I do not think
I differ materially ; but I am quite certain that,
though they make our greatest number, yet it is a
number by no means sufficient, with any effect,
to oppose the court, with the little or no aid we
have from the people. These are my thoughts, or
rather a very small part of the inducements which
make me content, I had almost said desirous, of
continuing where the larger part of our city was
of opinion I ought to continue.

On recollection, I have perhaps gone further


than I intended, on the subject of my difference
with my friends ; and since I have troubled you
with so long a letter, I ought to take the benefit
of your present patience, and explain myself a

As to the shortening of the duration of parlia-
ments, I confess I see no cause to change, or to
modify, my opinion on that subject. The reason
remains the same. The desires of the people go
along with the reason of the thing. I do not
know any thing more practically unpopular. It is
true that many people are fond of talking on short
parliaments, as a subject of ingenuity ; and they
will come to resolutions on the point, if any one
wishes that they should. But when they come to
the touchstone, to the election itself, they vomit
up all these notions. You have, I dare .say, re^
marked that (except in one place only) not one
candidate has ventured in an advertisement, or in
a declaration from the hustings, to say one syllable
on the subject of short parliaments, nor has any
one elector thought proper to propose a test, or to
give an instruction, or even the slightest recom-
mendation of such a measure. You know how
every one in Bristol feels on that matter ; and
I have reason to be persuaded that they do not
at all differ from the majority of the kingdom.

As to some remedy to the present state of the
representation, I do by no means object to it. But
c c 2


it is an affair of great difficulty, and to be touched
with great delicacy, and by a hand of great power.
I do not hesitate to say, it cannot be done. By
power, I mean the executive power of the king-
dom. It is (according to my ideas of such a re-
formation) a thing in which the executive govern-
ment is more concerned (in all matters of detail it
is much concerned) than it is in short parliaments ;
and I know that, in business of this sort, if admi-
nistration does not concur, they are able to defeat
the scheme, even though it should be carried by
a majority in parliament, and not only to defeat
it, but to render it in a short time odious and con-
temptible. The people show no disposition to
exert themselves for putting power into the hands
of those from whom they expect the performance
of tasks that require a great deal of strength,
and that too, a strength regular, systematic, and
progressive. If they can find none to trust,
there is an end of this, and of all questions of

Before I finished the first sheet of this, I re-
ceived your letter, and I thank you heartily for it.
I am extremely pleased with the turn that things
have taken in Somersetshire, and that solely on
account of Coxe ; for, as to Mr. Trevelyan, I am
not quite certain about his disposition. I find too,
with at least as much satisfaction, that you and
our friends agree with me about the constitution


of our club, and the spirit in which it ought to
proceed. Hereafter, and when we have fully cut
off treachery, all our measures ought to be healing ;
no revenge, and no reproach.

You see in what a way Westminster was carried.
There is in that city a sort of whigs perfectly
resembling the corrupt part of ours, and who
would have done just as much mischief, if they
had been under any head. Fortunately they were
not ; and, therefore, instead of being detrimental
to the cause, their activity rendered them very

Give my most affectionate compliments to all
our friends. I hope to hear that Noble is quite
well again. He deserves to be so on all accounts.
Remember me and my brother (whom I left in
town behind me) to Mrs. Harford and the young
ladies, and to Mrs. Hill. When you write to
Warrington, do not forget me there. Believe me
always, and with unalterable regard,

My dear sir,

Your most faithful and obedient
humble servant,



Copy of a Letter from EDMUND BURKE, ESQ. to the
STORMONT, two of His Majesty's principal Secre-
taries of State.

Charles-street, St. James's-square,
October 3, 1780.


I think it the right and the duty of every subject
of this kingdom to communicate to his majesty's
ministers intelligence of every matter, by which
the king's interest and honour, and that of the
nation, are likely to be affected.

The chairman and deputy-chairman of the East
India Company have come to a resolution of
seizing upon and delivering over to the discretion
of their servants at Madras, the revenues of the
king of Tanjore, an ally of the company, and,
therefore, of the crown and nation of Great
Britain, in direct violation of a solemn treaty,
by which the company has engaged that none of
their servants shall intermeddle in the internal
government of that prince.

This very extraordinary and dangerous design,
leading to a general waste and robbery of the
only yet remaining native government, and the


only flourishing country within the reach of our
power in India, was carried through a very thin
court of directors.

It was carried through the very day after the
sitting of a general court of the East India Com-
pany, without the least communication to the
body they act for ; and although that very general
court had come to a resolution to take the whole
of their affairs into consideration on so early a day
as the sixth of November next.

It was carried through in the absence of Lord
North and both secretaries of the treasury,
though, upon representations to his lordship, this
business had been formerly stopped, and at a time
when he is at so great a distance from town, as to
make his interposition, or even any immediate
application to him, utterly impracticable.

It was carried through immediately after Mr.
William Burke, one of the king of Tanjore's
agents, had set off on a journey over-land, with a
letter from Lord North, written by the order of
his majesty, to whom the king of Tanjore had
submitted his cause, and all his grievances; and
in the absence also of the Honourable Mr. Walde-

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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 21 of 27)