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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variety of things lately done or permitted at
Madras, as continuing and enforcing the plan of
mistaken policy so long predominant there, and
aggravating all the unhappy effects of it.

I am unable to regard the acquisition of terri-
tory to the company as matter of merit, until
I find that, in some one instance, the condition of
the inhabitants has been improved by the revolu-
tion, or that the affairs of this kingdom have
derived some benefit from it. For, unfortunately,
in proportion to our acquisitions, both in Bengal
and in the Deccan, we find the country infinitely
injured ; and the treasures and revenues, both of
the company and the subordinate powers, wasted
and decayed.

The acquisition, therefore, of the Gentoo Circar,
seemed to me exactly like the rest of our late
acquisitions. I thought neither better nor worse
of it, than our acquisition of the country of the
Rohillas, or the revenues of Oude. But when I
found that this territory was no sooner acquired,
than it was delivered over to the barbarians, and
that the whole of that unfortunate people were
(as so many others had been) farmed out as cattle,
to the second son of the Nabob of Arcot, it
seemed to me very evident, that, as long as such


an arrangement was tolerated, the natives were
put out of the reach of the protection of this
kingdom. In that light I could not consider the
whole of that transaction, without great doubt
concerning the propriety of it in every point of

The farming the Jaghire lands to the Nabob,
or rather, in substance and effect, to the same
second son, a person (to speak the best of him) of
very doubtful fidelity to this nation, appeared to
me a measure of the same tendency. The original
short tenure was undoubtedly too much ; and the
resumption, and not the enlarging it, would be
the plain dictate of humanity and good policy. By
these measures, and by others of the same nature
and operation, we have not a foot of land, through
an immense region, which we can properly call
our own ; or in which we possess the ordinary
means of protecting the people, or redressing
their grievances, if ever we should become wise
enough to intend it.

Whatever other measures have been pursued in
the spirit of these, or which tend, by the oppres-
sion of the native princes or people, to aggravate
that evil of usury natural to the country, but
which is infinitely extended and increased by un-
certain demands and unsettled claims, all these
appear to me equally exceptionable.

My proceedings in the India House relative to


Mr. Benfield, will explain to you in what manner
I think myself obliged to consider them. How
far gentlemen acting in India are excusable on
account of the false systems, or variable systems,
which have been prevalent at home, for the mis-
takes of those employed abroad, I am unable to
determine. No man will be more inclined to allow
for them than I shall ; and I never will readily
hear of laying on one man, that blame which
ought to lie on many, if really there should be
found any matter of blame at all.

I am more engaged than I can well describe to
you, with various kinds of business. But when-
ever we have both a moment's leisure, I shall be
happy to converse with you on this business or
any other ; though, to speak after my manner, I
do not choose, privately, to discuss matters with
gentlemen, with whom I may find myself obliged
afterwards to differ in public. It might give me
advantages, which it would be impossible not to
profit of, in some way or other, to their prejudice ;
and that, whether I would or not. To know any
man's story that you cannot agree with, is not

I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,




B.-street, March 27, 1781 6 .


I have ventured to trouble you once more, by
sending a copy of my poem in its former state,
and that which (if it has merit enough to deserve
your correction) I will endeavour to get printed
as expeditiously as possible. I am afraid my fre-
quent applications will induce you to repent of
your kindness to me ; but I must entreat you, sir,
to remember that I am yet uncertain of my fate,
and in fear of feeling again the evils I have
experienced ; you have saved me from sinking,
and supported me on shore ; but I am still unable
to help myself. Be with me, sir, a little time
longer, and I will walk alone as soon as I can.
I find my friends will take off about two hundred
of my poem. If you think it right, this impression
shall extend no further; but I will endeavour

6 It was in this year that Crabbe made himself known to
Burke by a letter, which the poet's son has given in the pub-
lished life of his father. That letter has not been found
amongst Mr. Burke's papers, or it would have been inserted
in this collection. From Burke's kind protection of Crabbe
at this period, resulted the comfort and reputation of the poet's
after-life. It is very gratefully acknowledged by his son in
the publication referred to.


to sell the copy. If it gets me but a trifling sum,
that is entire profit. I am afraid it has not merit
enough for me to venture a large impression ; or if
it has, the sale would be too slow, and the expense
of printing too great, for me to expect any benefit
from it at the time it is most wanted.

I will apply myself diligently to the study of the
Greek and Latin languages ; my great inclination
to the church, and your late hints to me on this
subject, give me, perhaps, too fair a prospect of
success ; but I am ignorant of the difficulty, and
you will pardon me if I hope too much. I have
a friend in Suffolk on whom I can depend for
every little step that can be afforded by a person
who has no superfluous income ; there I can reside
at any time when it would be expensive, and not
necessary to me to be elsewhere. There is also a
family in Oxford who, in this way, would be of
service to me, should my good fortune ever lead
me there. I, in the strict sense of the words,
" know not what I ask," when I hint these things,
and only do it with a firm confidence that you, sir,
will feel for my circumstances, in which I hope
much, and have much to fear.

If this poem should not be ill received, perhaps
a small collection carefully revised and published,
would bring me in something to support the ex-
penses of a college; but when it may be convenient,
I will entreat you to think for me.


If the line wherein the Duke of Rutland is
indirectly mentioned, be such as would offend his
grace, or if you disapprove it, it is almost un-
necessary, I hope, to say it shall be immediately
altered. I will again do myself the honour or
seeing you, and am, sir, with the highest respect
and most lively gratitude,

Your very humble servant,



Charles-street, April 10, 1781.

MR. BURKE presents his compliments to Mr. Tighe,
and is extremely sorry that his engagements of
business have not yet permitted him to wait on
Mr. Tighe, to thank him for the honour of his
obliging communication of his able and well-inten-
tioned performance 7 . He will certainly take an
early opportunity of doing it personally.

As to the plan itself, Mr. B. confesses himself
perfectly unable to fathom the depth of the policy
of the king's ministers, in the tax which Mr. Tighe
thinks they intend to propose or support. Mr. B.
having been long out of Ireland, cannot pretend

7 Some proposal for an absentee-tax in Ireland. The
letter to which this is an answer has not been found.


to any accurate knowledge of the state of that
kingdom, and his experience of the ill reception
which his humble endeavours on a former occa-
sion have met with, makes him as unwilling, as he
is unable, to meddle much in any thing which
relates to it. Whether persons of this country,
who enjoy hereditary possessions in Ireland, de-
volved upon them along with possessions in Eng-
land, and reside in the seats of their ancestors, or
in the capital of the empire, ought to consider
themselves as delinquents towards the community
in which they do not reside, and ought, therefore,
to be made subject to penalties of regulation,
(if not of vindictive justice,) is a question perhaps
above Mr. B.'s reach. He is equally incapable
of deciding on the propriety of extending the same
penalties to such English as vest their money in
the purchase of lands in Ireland ; or who, without
transferring their persons with their property, lend
their money on the security of Irish estates ; for
the principle goes to the last as well as to the

As to the step recommended to those persons,
Mr. B. begs Mr. Tighe will have the goodness to
excuse him, if he does not instantly perceive how
it can answer the purpose which it seems to have
in view. It is indeed sufficiently probable that
any who petition to be taxed, however new and
unusual the request, will be favourably received.


But it does not appear how the situation of the
persons who request this favour will be mended,
by marking themselves out as proper objects of
regulation. It seems indifferent to a man, whose
property is confiscated in the whole, or in any
part, whether the confiscation is applied to paro-
chial concerns or to those of the state ; or whether
it goes to the support of a poor-house, or of a
barrack. Mr. B. apprehends the whole merit of
the mode of application to be involved in the
question of the propriety of the tax itself, a point
which will naturally admit of some doubt, as it
is without example in any countries which have
some connexion, by being under the same king,
who has a common right of peace and war in


Bath, August 2, 1781.


I arrived at Bath last night, and this morning had
the honour of your letter by the coach. The opi-
nion of Lee and your acquiescence in it, would
alone have dissuaded me from the measure I was
pursuing ; but your kind offer and the admirable
letter you have framed, is so much more eligible
than any part of my former plan, that, added to
VOL. ii. E e


all other favours, I feel myself particularly in-
debted to you for withholding my letter to the
Duchesse de Choiseul ; and I now request you to
keep it in your hands till we meet, together with
that of hers to me, upon which I set great
value 8 .

I have consulted C. Fox, (who also arrived here
yesterday,) and he entirely agrees with me, that
nothing can exceed the copy of your intended
letter in point of propriety, nor give so fair a
prospect of service to me. The only part I could
mark out for alteration, is that where your par-
tiality states my character in colours so much
above its deserts ; but I cannot bring myself really
to desire the change of a single expression which
marks your good opinion of me. I will not injure
my feelings so much as to attempt to tell you
how much I am obliged to you, and will only
request you to put your design into execution
whenever you can do it by a conveyance agreeable
to yourself.

8 The subject of this letter, and of some others which
follow, is the exchange of General Burgoyne, a prisoner to
the Americans since the convention of Saratoga, and now on
his parole in England. To the exertions of Mr. Burke in
this matter, may be attributed the exchange of General Bur-
goyne for Mr. Henry Laurens, who had been president of the
American congress, and being taken prisoner at sea in 1780,
was confined for more than a year in the Tower.


I return herewith your copy. The gratitude
of a heart overcome with so distinguished a testi-
mony of friendship is, and ever will be, fixed upon

Charles is very well, and begins waters and
regularity to-morrow. I shall stay with him about
eight days, and shall then go to Lord Derby's at
Knowsley, Lancashire. You will perceive, by this
account of myself, that I am not without hopes of
hearing from you again, should you find a vacant
quarter of an hour in the course of the ensuing
month or two. I shall perhaps trouble you with
another solicitation for that honour ; at present
I am obliged to write in haste, to catch the even-
ing coach for the conveyance of this, which I am
unwilling to delay.

My best respects attend Mrs. Burke. I hope
Mr. R. Burke is quite recovered. With every
sentiment of affection,

Believe me, dear sir,

Ever yours,


E e 2



August, 1781.


I feel as an honest man and as a good citizen
ought to feel, the calamities of the present un-
happy war. The only part, however, of those cala-
mities which personally affects myself, is, that
I have been obliged to discontinue my intercourse
with you ; but that one misfortune, I must con-
sider as equivalent to many. I may, indeed, with
great truth, assure you, that your friendship has
always been an object of my ambition ; and that,
if a high and very sincere esteem for your talents
and virtues could give me a title to it, I am not
wholly unworthy of that honour. I flatter myself
that your belief in the reality of these sentiments,
will excuse the liberty I take, of laying before
you a matter in which I have no small concern.
The application I make originates wholly from
myself, and has not been suggested to me by any
person whatsoever.

I have lately been informed with great certainty,
and with no less surprise, that the congress have
made an application for the return of my friend
General Burgoyne to captivity in America, at a
time when the exchange of almost all the rest of
the convention officers has been completed. It


is true that this requisition has been for the pre-
sent withdrawn : but then, it may be renewed at
every instant ; and no arrangement has been made
or proposed, which may prevent a thing, on all
accounts so very disagreeable, as to see the most
opposite interests conspiring in the persecution of
a man, formed, by the unparalleled candour and
moderation of his mind, to unite the most discord-
ant parties in his favour.

I own this proceeding of the congress fills me
with astonishment. I am persuaded that some
unusually artful management, or very unexampled
delusion, has operated to produce an effect which
cannot be accounted for on any of the ordinary
principles of nature or of policy.

I shall not enter into the particulars of the con-
vention under which this claim is made, nor into
the construction of it, nor the execution. I am
not, perhaps, capable of doing justice to the merits
of the cause ; and if I were, I am not disposed to
put them upon any ground of argument, because
(whatever others might and possibly ought to do)
I am not pleading a point . of strict right, but
appealing to your known principles of honour and
generosity, with the freedom and privileges of an
old friendship ; and as I suppose you perfectly
acquainted with the whole history of the extra-
ordinary treatment General Burgoyne has met
with, I am resolved not to show so much distrust


in so sound a memory and so good a judgment as
yours, as to attempt to refresh the one or to lead
the other.

I am ready to admit that General Burgoyne
has been, and (as far as what is left him will suffer)
is a very affectionate and a very jealous servant of
the crown ; and that in America he acted as an
officer of the king (so long as fortune favoured
him) with great abilities, and distinguished fidelity,
activity, and spirit. You, my dear sir, who have
made such astonishing exertions in the cause
which you espouse, and are so deeply read in
human nature and in human morals, know better
than anybody, that men will and that sometimes
they are bound to take, very different views and
measures of their duty from local and from pro-
fessional situation; and that we may all have
equal merit in extremely different lines of con-
duct. You know that others may deserve the
whole of your admiration in a cause, in which
your judgment leads you to oppose them. But
whatever may be our opinions on the origin of
this fatal war, I assure you, General Burgoyne
has the merit of never having driven it on with
violence, or fostered or kept it alive by any evil
arts, or aggravated its natural mischiefs by unne-
cessary rigour ; but has behaved on all occasions
with that temper which becomes a great military
character, which loves nothing so well in the pro-


fession, as the means it so frequently furnishes of
splendid acts of generosity and humanity.

You have heard of the sacrifices he has made
to his nice sense of honour, on this side of the
water ; sacrifices far beyond the just demands of
the principle to which they were made. This has
been no advantage to the country where he was
piqued to it. Shall America, too, call for sacrifices
that are still more severe, and of full as little
advantage to those who demand them ? I know
the rigour of political necessity ; but I see here,
as little of necessity, or even expedience, as of
propriety. I know the respect that is due to all
public bodies ; but none of them are exempt from
mistake; and the most disrespectful thing that can
be done towards them, is to suppose them incapa-
ble of correcting an error.

If I were not fully persuaded of your liberal
and manly way of thinking, I should not presume,
in the hostile situation in which I stand, to make
an application to you. But in this piece of experi-
mental philosophy, I run no risk of offending you.
I apply not to the ambassador of America, but to
Dr. Franklin, the philosopher, the friend, and
the lover, of his species. In that light, whatever
colour politics may take,

I shall ever have the honour to be,
Dear sir, &c. &c.




Hague, August 14, 1781.

WE have been here three days, and propose
staying here three days longer, to enjoy ourselves
after our fatigue. I promise you we have not
been idle. Hitherto, every minute of the day
has been employed in travelling or staring. The
Prince of Orange's gallery is the only magazine of
pictures that we have seen here, and the only we
are likely to see. The possessor of another collec-
tion, Mr. Van Uteren, is not in town, he is at
Amsterdam. The Greffier has sent to him, but it
is suspected it will be without effect, as he has
the keys with him, and will never suffer his pic-
tures to be seen but when he his present. The

9 The celebrated painter, with whom, as is well known,
Burke lived on terms of the greatest intimacy for many years.
Their occupations and modes of life, requiring both to pass
much of their time in London, gave them frequent opportuni-
ties of being together, of which they never failed to profit.
Hence but few letters appear to have passed between them.
Sir Joshua, who died in 1792, appointed Burke by his will to
be one of his executors, and bequeathed to him a legacy
amounting to four thousand pounds. Burke also became
guardian to Miss Palmer, Sir Joshua's niece, who inherited
the bulk of her uncle's fortune, and was afterwards married
to the first Marquis of Thomond.


Greffier has shown us every civility possible ; he
returned our visit immediately, and we dined
with him the next day. He is a most amiable
character, of the greatest simplicity of manners,
and has not the least tincture of that insolence
of office, or, I should say, (thinking of a person at
Brussels,) that indolence of office, of those who
think their whole business is to appear negligent
and at their ease. By the attention which has
been paid us by the Greffier, his nephew, and the
rest of his family, the attention of the town upon
us has been much excited. This is but a small
place, and in many respects like Bath, where the
people have nothing to do but to talk of each
other ; and it may be compared to Bath, likewise,
for its beauty. It abounds in squares which you
would be charmed with, as they are full of trees;
not disposed in a meagre, scanty row, but are
more like woods with walks in the middle.

The Prince of Orange, whom we saw two or
three times, is very like King George, but not so
handsome. He has a heavy look, short person,
with somewhat a round belly. The Greffier fre-
quently expressed his concern that he was not
able to do for us all he wished, such as introduc-
ing us to the prince, &c., on account of the situa-
tion of affairs. We have seen the collection I
mentioned in the beginning, which was scarce
worth the trouble of sending so far for the keys.


Dutch pictures are a representation of nature,
just as it is seen in a camera-obscura. After
having seen the best of each master, one has no
violent desire of seeing any more. They are
certainly to be admired, but do not shine much
in description. A figure asleep, with another
figure tickling his or her nose, which is a common
subject with the painters of this school, however
admirable their effect, would have no effect in

Amsterdam, August 24.

The above letter was written, as you see, at
the Hague ; to-morrow we leave Amsterdam for
Dusseldorp. The face of this country is very
striking from its being unlike every thing else.
The length and straightness of their artificial
roads, often with double rows of trees, which, in
the perspective, finish in a point ; the persever-
ance of their industry and labour to form those
dykes, and preserve them in such perfect repair, is
an idea that must occur to every mind, and is
truly sublime. This country is, I should imagine,
the most artificial country in the world. This
city is more like Venice than any other place
I ever saw. In many places, it is an exact like-
ness, where the water reaches to the houses ; but
this is not common. In the middle of every
street are canals ; and on each side those canals,


quays and rows of trees. Another idea of their
industry and perseverance, which amounts, I think,
to the sublime, is, that the foundation of their
buildings, which is piles, costs as much as what
appears above ground, both in labour and expense.
The Stadthouse is founded on 13,659 piles. I
have often thought the habit they have acquired
of fighting against nature, has given them a dis-
position never to leave nature as they find her.
But in order to see the Dutch taste in its highest
degree, we spent a day in North Holland. We
went to a village called Brock, which appeared
so different from any thing we had seen before,
that it appeared rather like an enchanted village,
such as we read of in the Arabian tales ; not
a person to be seen, except a servant here and
there. The houses are very low, with a door
towards the street, which is not used, and never
has been used, except when they go out of it to
be married, after which it is again shut up. The
streets, if they may be so called, for carriages can-
not enter them, are sanded with fine ink-sand;
the houses painted from top to bottom, green,
red, and all sorts of colours. The little gardens,
with little fountains and flower-knots, as neat as
possible; and trees cut into all kinds of shapes.
Indeed, I much doubt if you can find a tree in its
natural shape all over Holland, and we may add,
nor water neither, which is everywhere kept with-


in bounds. We have been extraordinarily well
received by Mr. Hope ; we are every day dining
or supping with him, and one great dinner seemed
to be made on purpose for us.

Dusseldorp, August 30, 1781.

On the 25th we set out from Amsterdam, and
to-morrow we propose going from hence to Aix-
la-Chapelle ; and then, after staying a day or two
there, turn our faces directly for England. If I
do not send away this letter now, I shall bring
it with me to England. I really did intend
writing to you from the Hague and from Amster-
dam ; but the difficulty of finding time to finish
my letter, has been the reason of my carrying it
about with me.

We are very well contented with our visit to
Dusseldorp. Rubens reigns here and revels. His
pictures of the Fallen Angels, and the Last Judg-
ment, give a higher idea of his genius than any
other of his works. There is one picture of

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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 23 of 27)