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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grave, joined in agency with Mr. Burke, who had
before protested to the directors against that very
predatory resolution, and desired to be heard
against it ; the king of Tanjore himself having
then a regular complaint of grievances, and of


extorting money in particular, before the com-

It was carried through in the recess of parlia-
ment, to which the said agents, in the last session,
had prepared a petition ; which petition was con-
sented to be withheld, solely on the directors
putting a stop to their ungrateful design.

It was carried through at a time when the very
servants of the company, to whom the kingdom
of Tanjore is to be delivered, are under an inquiry
of the court of the very directors who deliver it
to them, on but too just a suspicion of peculation
and other evil practices.

And in order that no time should be allowed
for the dissenting directors, proprietors, or agents,
or even for the king's ministers to interfere, they
resolved not to wait for the ships which are to
depart, but have prepared a person suddenly to
go off over-land ; so that if this design had not
been providentially discovered, it was very possi-
ble that on the evening of the day on which the
king of Tanjore was rejoicing on the receipt of a
gracious letter from the king's minister, written
by his majesty's order, he might find his revenues
forcibly seized on, in violation of the treaty, by
an order of the directors, to the infinite scandal
of the honour, justice, and policy of the British

It is necessary to lay a matter of this high and


criminal nature, pursued in this extraordinary man-
ner, before his majesty's servants ; the crown
claiming on the part of the public a right in the
possessions and territorial revenues of the com-
pany, and the time for renewal of the charter now

I humbly venture to suggest, that it is incum-
bent on his majesty's ministers that so material a
revolution, involving the public faith and the
obligation of treaties, together with the welfare
of so great a part of the strength of Great Britain,
should not be made but on the fullest and most
impartial consideration; or that kings and king-
doms, and the lives and properties of millions of
innocent people should not be passed away, by
obscure and collusive practices, between any con-
federacies of men for their private interest and
emolument, with much less ceremony than the
family settlement of a cottage is made or altered.

I make no apology for troubling your lordships
with the notification of so dangerous a proceeding,
knowing your desire of obtaining information
from every quarter, in any matter that relates to
his majesty's service. On this well-grounded
assurance, I am ready to wait on your lordships
at any time you may be pleased to appoint, to
lay before you, on the most authentic grounds,
the futility and fraud of the pretence on which
a violence of this extent is attempted by the


company's servants in India, and thus privately,
without hearing or notice, consented to by their
servants here.

I have the honour to be, with the greatest
respect, my lords,

Your lordships' most obedient and most
humble servant,


Bristol, October 28, 1780.


The corporation of this city, at a meeting of the
common council held this day, having voted their
thanks to you for your great public services, I take
the earliest opportunity to transmit that vote to
you, and to assure you that I am most happy in
obeying the corporation's commands on this occa-
sion, and that

I am, with very great esteem and regard, sir,

Your most obedient and humble servant,
A. ISAAC ELTON, Town Clerk.

11 Bristol-street.

"At a meeting of the common-council held on Saturday, the
28th day of October, 1780 :


" On the motion of Mr. Harford, it is agreed and ordered,
that the thanks of this corporation be given to Edmund Burke,
Esq., for the faithful discharge of his duty in parliament, by
a diligent and unremitted attendance, a constant and un-
wearied attention to the prosperity and advancement of the
British empire in general, and a regard to the commercial
interests of this city in particular.

" And, resolved, that though he ceases to be the representa-
tive of this city in parliament, yet this corporation will always
retain for him the strongest sentiments of friendship and

" And, it is also agreed and ordered, that a copy of this reso-
lution be signed by the town-clerk, and by him transmitted to
Mr. Burke, as containing the fullest expression of the re-
spectful and grateful sense this corporation entertains of his
merits and services, as a senator and as a man.

" (Signed) A true copy.



Beconsfield, December 2, 1780.


When I had last the honour of conversing with
you on Indian affairs, I assured you that the part
I took in those affairs should be, as it had been,
without the smallest mixture of any party animo-
sity, or any party interest whatsoever. I, there-
fore, hoped, that as the ministers, like myself
and most others, seemed to be strongly impressed


with the idea of the misconduct of the English
subjects in India towards the natives, and of their
disobedience to lawful authority, we might all
proceed with unanimity in vindicating the honour
of the nation, by an inquiry into the abuses which
prevail in that part of the world, and in such
steps as are necessary towards a reformation.
This, if any thing in the world can be, is both the
duty and the interest of government. You com-
plained of the insufficiency of its powers. I
thought them more than sufficient for the object.
But I am very sorry to say, that whatsoever they
may be, they are employed to support the abuse,
and not to effect a reformation. The very first
effect of the decided majority obtained by govern-
ment in the India House is an attempt of the
directors, of such consummate boldness, that if
I had not the fullest assurance of the fact, I could
not think it credible. I am informed, that they
propose to restore to their service the very men
who had been lately convicted in Westminster
Hall, of subverting their lawful government in
one of their principal settlements ; the very
same men who had committed this act of sedition,
if not rebellion, after having been pardoned for
a former delinquency of a very grievous kind,
in the hope of their amendment ; the very men
who had been convicted on a prosecution, carried
on in consequence of the unanimous vote of the


House of Commons ! I am convinced that when
you consider who the directors are, and on what
interests the major part were placed in their
seats, you would think I paid but a poor compli-
ment to your understanding, or showed an impro-
per distrust of your candour, if I should labour to
prove to you, that they never could have dreamed
of such an audacious insult on the sense of the
nation, comprehending, at least, the acquiescence
of the king's ministers, if they did not think them-
selves likely to be supported in it. Surely, this
is very little consulting the decorum of govern-
ment, and the attention which (externally at least)
ought to be paid to a House of Commons ; how
little soever it may deserve, in reality, any sort of
deference to its judgments and proceedings. In-
deed, sir, this is a serious concern of government,
and may lead to consequences not at all desirable
to those who wish well to law and order. Per-
haps you have not yet received correct accounts
of the dreadful state of things in that part of
the world. I do not mean to trouble you for an
answer, or with any further discussion on a sub-
ject into w r hich I have intruded myself, more,
perhaps, than was strictly justifiable in a man
who is not in the confidence of ministers, or any
habits with them. I hope you will believe that
my intentions towards government were fair,
though my address might not have been season-


able or acceptable. I have the honour to be,
with great regard and esteem, sir,

Your most obedient and humble servant,


Beconsfield, Sunday, January 7, 1781.


I received your letter begun on Wednesday and
ended on Thursday evening. I have just now
received another without date, which I conclude,
though not dated, to have been written on Friday.
The evening of that day I came hither. My
letters to you, to Mr. Noble, and to Mr. Symons,
contained my thoughts so much at large upon the
general principle of the approaching election 2 ,
that it is unnecessary to add a great deal more
on the subject. I am altogether confirmed in
them, by finding that they coincide with those
of Mr. Noble and others of our friends.

So far as I have any personal concern in this
business, it is my wish to be put wholly out of
the question. It is not that I am indifferent to

1 This letter alludes to a second election for Bristol, in this
parliament so lately chosen. Burke declined at the hustings
in Bristol, September 6, 1780. Sir Henry Lippincott, who
was chosen at the same time, died in the following December,
and occasioned the vacancy here alluded to.


the honour of representing a place that is so
considerable in itself, one that I have so many
obligations to, and where I have so many friends
that must ever be dear to me ; but I trust you
know, that nothing personal to myself can come
in the smallest degree of competition with the
support of any member of a system, which sup-
ports the public principle I am wedded to.
Take such steps as will contribute most effectually
to your own strength, as a part of the whig
strength of the kingdom, and I shall be perfectly
satisfied. Your policy may be, to compromise,
or to fight. Take for your compromise the man
most steady to you, and the least obnoxious to
those you treat with. If you must fight, find out
not the person only who advances most towards
the charges of the war, but him whose principles
and qualifications are worth fighting about.

You tell me of a certain language held by cer-
tain of Mr. Cruger's friends. It seems, they say,
that if I do not find a seat in parliament for that
gentleman, they will oppose me if I am nomi-
nated ; and that they will find a candidate who
will spend a great deal of money.

If the language of finding candidates with a
power and disposition to spend money, without
naming the persons or the principles, had been
held to Stockbridge or to Cricklade, or to any
other venal borough, it would be talking in a
rational manner. How people make their way in


Bristol by such discourses, I cannot so easily guess,
who have formerly been elected there upon grounds
very different. You then were more nice in the
person of your member. You regarded his prin-
ciples more than your own purses. It would have
at that time appeared but a poor compliment to
tell you, that if you could find votes, there were
those who could find you with money.

As to my prevailing on Lord Rockingham to
recommend Mr. Cruger to the borough which I
have now the honour to represent, I am very sorry
to observe, that these gentlemen have the same
poor opinion of my prudence, which they always
have had ; and that no experience will convince
them that I have common sense. What must
their opinion of my understanding be, who could
propose to me to resign to Mr. Oruger the seat
of which I am actually in possession, in return
for one which it is by no means clear to me is at
his disposal ? If the nomination to Bristol be in
Mr. Cruger, or his personal friends, in a prudential
light such a dealing might be tolerable; but if
there be a mistake in this point, I must think the
proposal of an extraordinary nature indeed.

But, " I shall be opposed by them if this con-
dition is not complied with." I do not observe
that any thing is said by these gentlemen of their
being able to carry Mr. Cruger himself at Bristol 3 .
Their strength seems to be in their power to hurt

3 Mr. Cruger was not returned.


other people by creating divisions, and they make
no scruple of declaring their intention of availing
themselves of that circumstance to make terms for
their friends. If they think me not a fit repre-
sentative for Bristol, they are extremely in the
right to give me all the opposition in their power.
But how I should become a more proper member
for Bristol, by Mr. Cruger's being member for Mai-
ton, they are to explain. I am sure I comprehend
nothing at all of the matter. I am to tell you that
these gentlemen do not enter into the principles
upon which Lord Rockingham acts. He never
will use his interest in Malton, or any where else
where he has an interest, except in favour of some
person whom he knows, of whose principles he is
tolerably secure, and with a view to the public
service of the country. No predilection of mine
to any particular place, ever could make him
deviate one inch from this line of conduct. And
I do assure you that far from ever wishing him
to decline from it, in favour of any object of mine,
I applaud and encourage him in such notions to
the utmost of my endeavours.

I confess that I wish you to act (as indeed,
hitherto, you have acted) on the same principles.
If Mr. Cruger should appear to you the fittest
person for the support of your cause, make him
directly, and in the first instance, the object of your
compromise or of your contest. All I wish is,

VOL. n. D d


that you should know your own power ; for you
may be assured, that if the body of the whigs
should agree with the high party in the nomina-
tion of a proper candidate, it is neither I nor Mr.
Cruger, nor both of us together, that can disturb
a compromise founded upon such a basis. All
arguments drawn from the threats of hostility and
division, are so many insults to you, and you will
treat them accordingly. If, in such great bodies
as yours, public trusts are not to be disposed of
upon public principles, very little is to be hoped
from a more confined representation in subordi-
nate places. As a freeman of Bristol, and mem-
ber of the union club, such threats should not
intimidate me ; but I would name and support a
proper candidate at a proper time ; lest my wait-
ing for a compromise among ourselves, founded upon
no idea of the public service, should render a com-
promise with the other party, founded upon the
peace of the city and the general good, utterly
impracticable. Our divisions have done us mis-
chief enough already; and you know that, from
the beginning to this hour, I was resolved that
no pretensions of mine should increase or embitter
them. I have now done with all advice on the
subject. I wish these sentiments to be commu-
nicated to the club, and (if you like it) to the
gentlemen who have thought proper to put their
negative upon me, (even though I should be


named by the club,) if I do not submit to terms
not reasonable in themselves, nor in my power to
perform. Be so good as to inform them, that they
have supposed me wonderfully earnest about elec-
tions, before they could think of talking in that
strain to my friends. But I have not the honour
of being known to them, and I am sorry for it.

I am, with the sincerest regard to you and all
my friends,

Ever yours,


Dorchester, Friday, March 16, 1781.


Not unmindful of my promise, I now at length sit
down to fulfil it. I am sorry that a circuit which
affords me such abundant time, should furnish me
so very little matter for writing. This day we
went into court at ten minutes past twelve ; and
here am I (that is in my lodgings) writing to you
at ten minutes before one. There were four causes
only. The plaintiff in one died this morning ; the
defendant in the second (having employed counsel
for that purpose) made no defence; the judge re-
serves the third to help digestion after dinner ;
and the fourth, with some bitters, he hopes will
D d 2


procure him an appetite for his dinner to-morrow
In the midst of this variety of business, your
poor friend is so utterly unemployed, that he
cannot suggest, even to himself, an excuse for not
writing to you. But, sir, and madam, it was not
so at Salisbury. There, I bore the weight of six
causes ; and with some slight assistance furnished
me by Dunning (who bore the oppressive weight
of three hundred guineas for that assistance with-
out any one's aid,) and Serjeant Rooke, I suc-
ceeded for my client, Mr. Petrie, and obtained for
him a verdict for ,5000, being ten penalties in-
flicted by a malignant statute, on so many acts of
benevolence and charity performed at the late
election for Cricklade, by a Mr. John Bristow, as
agent for Lord Porchester, in order, by covering
the multitude of John Macpherson's sins, to make
his election sure. Thus are good works reprobated
in candidates, and the vile race of electors have no
faith. Bad times, my friend. Go back to Win-
chester, and there you will find me as idle as at
Dorchester ; look forward to Exeter, and ten to
one, my ease and quiet will continue undisturbed
amidst the bawling of cryers, the rattling of
parchments, the wrangling of lawyers, the medi-
tations of the judge, the snoring of jurors, and
the perjuries of witnesses. There ends my cir-
cuit ; and I return to London, where I hope to
be, at farthest, by dinner time to-morrow (pos-


sibly this day) se'night, in order to attend the
committee on the Preston election, which is to
be ballotted for on the 27th instant. God send
us a good deliverance !

This nonsense will not arrive before your joy
in the plunder of St. Eustatia, and your triumph
in the irresistible force of our armies under the

command of General , are pretty well

celebrated. Monsieur de Graaf was, I believe,
perfectly right in his opinion of not being able to
resist the strength of our commanders ; God grant
he may be right in the opinion he has expressed of
their other qualities. I do not expect any in
return for this letter during the circuit, but I
expect by the time I have pointed out, to have
an ample return for it in London. Tell me truly
that you and Mrs. Champion are well, (that is
my first care for you,) and I shall be indeed over-
paid. Make me completely happy by telling me
that your prospects are good. May they promise
what you wish, and perform what you deserve,
and all will be as I wish. God bless you both !
Adieu, my very good and dear friend.

Apropos ! Cruger has petitioned, and I am not
retained 3 . Look to it. I shall blame you if
I am not at one side or the other; and at which,
(as the fees are equal,) God knows my heart, I am

3 He petitioned against the return of Mr. Daubeny for
Bristol, who however kept his seat.


perfectly indifferent. Not one throb of the heart
would disturb me in doing my duty, nor a grain
of anxiety could deprive my client of the most
regulated efforts. Copy this out, my dear Cham-
pion, and send it to each of the parties ; and then,
if I am not employed why then, I shall continue
to think of them just as I do now ; but should
they employ me, then, then indeed, I should not
alter my opinion. Adieu !


Charles-street, Friday, March 23, 1781.


I am honoured with your letter and the inclosures
which I received on my return very late on
Wednesday night. My attendance on the Bengal
committee and at the House has not left me
sufficient leisure to thank you for your communi-
cation until this instant. Even now, I doubt, I
shall not have time to explain myself so clearly
and fully as I could wish to do, on the important
matter you have done me the honour to lay
before me.

4 Was created a baronet in 1779, and had been governor of


The high opinion which, in common with the
rest of the world, I entertain of Sir Hector Monro,
gives, in my mind, very great weight to his testi-
mony in your favour. The regard too, which I
have long since felt for yourself, would naturally
incline me to wish that every thing in your con-
duct, during your government, may be found per-
fectly honourable to you. I am sensible that the
state into which the country, where you presided,
has been brought by a long train of ill-policy, has
made all your proceedings there very delicate
and critical ; and I am as much disposed, as any
man can be, to allow for several errors that are
almost unavoidable in that very difficult and
embarrassed situation.

Not to engage rashly in wars with the powers
of the country, is, in my eyes, an eminent degree
of merit in an East India governor ; and I am
sincerely persuaded, that your keeping out of
them was an act purely voluntary. I feel, as a
member of this community, and as a member of
the community of mankind at large, your merit
in discountenancing, as I understand you have
done, the present ruinous Mahratta war ; and I
shall ever acknowledge it as a public service.
In condemning the perverse policy which led
to that war, and which, before, had given rise
to the still less justifiable war against the Rohillas,
I do not speak from the smallest degree of pre-


judice or personal animosity against the respect-
able person 5 , (for such, in many respects, he
undoubtedly is,) who was so unhappy as to be the
author of both these measures. I rather gave
him my little voice as long as I thought it justi-
fiable to afford him the smallest degree of sup-
port. I was always an admirer of his talents,
and the farthest in the world from being engaged
in a faction against him. I assure you, sir, with
great truth, that I am also very far from a con-
nexion with any personal enemies of yours, if
such you have ; and that, in general, I am one of
the latest and most reluctant in imputing blame
to gentlemen who serve their country in distant
and arduous situations.

But since your letter not only permits, but, in
a manner, calls upon me to deliver my opinion to
you upon affairs of no trivial consequence, you
will naturally excuse the liberty I shall take
of laying open to you with plainness and sincerity,
my thoughts on some late proceedings at Madras.

I have invariably considered the plan of amass-
ing a great body of power in the hands of one of
the potentates of the country of India, by the
destruction of all the original governments about
him, as very ill-conceived in the design, very

* Warren Hastings, Esq., at this time governor-general of


pernicious during the execution, and perfectly
ruinous in the consequences. This from the
beginning appeared to me very clear in the
theory, and every step towards the practice has
more and more confirmed me in that persuasion.

I consider it also as very ill policy to set up a
power of our own creating, and intrinsically de-
pendent, in a state of fictitious independency ; and
not only of independency, but superiority: that
wars might be carried on, and great depredations
committed in his name, which, in the real acting
parties, could scarcely escape the strictest animad-

Looking, as I did, upon every new pretension,
and every new subject of discussion, as a means of
new abuse of all kinds, I could not help viewing
all encouragement to an attempt for unsettling
the succession of the ruling families in India in
their lawful heirs, a succession recognised and
settled by treaties and solemn acts, as a measure
of a very pernicious tendency ; first, to the people,
who would be infinitely exhausted by the support
of a party, and a force to support this subversion
of the regular order of succession ; and, next, to
the family itself, which, sooner or later, must be
extinguished by its dissensions.

Having these and other motives, all originating
from the same principles, deeply and firmly rooted
in my mind, you will easily see that it cannot


arise from the smallest desire of finding fault with
any acts in which you have had a share, that
I have hesitated about the propriety of a great

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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 22 of 27)