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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in my opinion, with infinitely more dignity. But
no effectual part of the reform can take place,
but in parliament.

The three capital jobs to be reformed are, the
Board of Trade, the Lords of Police, and the
Board of Green-cloth. The first is constituted, by
the act of the 23rd of the late king, chapter 31,
sections 21 and 22, the superintending autho-
rity over the African Company ; with power to
hear complaints, redress grievances, and to re-
move their servants. They have, therefore, a
considerable part of their authority by act of


The Lords of Trade and Police are entrusted
with the disposition of public money, originating
from grants of parliament. I am quite sure of it,
though I cannot turn to the place, but I shall
get at it. All my old papers on this subject were
turned topsy-turvy by Lord George Gordon. But
this I am sure of, that the lords of police cannot
be effectually removed but by act of parliament.
Nota bene, their pensions are paid at the ex-
chequer of England, from the English revenue.

The Court of Green-cloth is an ancient court,
as old, probably, as the House of Commons ; and
I look on the clerks as an integrant part of it.

If we let slip parliament, we let slip all. This
is our only security against cabal and intrigue ;
and if that cabal and intrigue should force us out,
you have spread the carpet of a fair reputation to
receive you in your fall.

Sketch of a Memorial or Speech from the MARQUIS
OF ROCKINGHAM to the KING, on proposing to
His Majesty a Message to the Commons for intro-
ducing an economical Reform 1782.

As it is possible that your majesty may have been
misinformed concerning the plan of economical


reform, to which you have so graciously conde-
scended, in order to remove any doubt which
might remain on your majesty's mind of the per-
fect propriety of it, you will permit me to observe
to your majesty, that not a single article of the
expense proposed to be retrenched "touches any
thing whatsoever which is personal to your ma-
jesty, or to your majesty's royal family, or which
in the least contributes to the splendour of your
court. If it were otherwise, I assure your majesty,
that, instead of humbly recommending, as I do,
this plan, there is not a servant or subject you
have who would resist it with more firmness, to
the best of my poor ability.

But, in this plan, nothing is taken away, except
those places which may answer the purposes of us,
your majesty's ministers, and which may serve to
carry points and support interests of our own,
and not of yours.

I have many friends, and your majesty will
easily believe that, at this time, when you honour
me with your gracious attention to my recom-
mendations, it would be the pleasantest thing in
the world to me, to be the channel of your ma-
jesty's favour to twenty or thirty places of ease
and emolument for those friends. The denying
myself that satisfaction, has been the greatest act
of self-denial of my whole life. I solemnly declare
to you as a gentleman and a man of honour, that


for this fortnight past I have suffered more trouble,
mortification, and, I may say, agony, (and that in
no good state of health,) by encumbering myself
with this place 3 , than any object in life is worth,
or, indeed, all the objects in life put together,
except that of doing my duty to your majesty and
my country. All my feelings would have been
gratified, and all my vexations would have been
prevented, even if I had kept but one capital class
of the offices which have been suppressed.

Besides the claims of friendship, which I hope
no man feels more than I do, if I looked towards
the strengthening what is called political interest
and connexion for myself, nothing could have con-
tributed more to it than the recommendation to
so many places. But I was seriously convinced in
my conscience, that I should be making myself
considerable at your expense, and that, instead of
strengthening your majesty's government by keep-
ing up those places, your majesty's government
could not go on if they are suffered to subsist.

Your majesty's late ministers were very apt to
represent to others, and possibly to your majesty,
that these economical ideas were notions of oppo-
sition, taken up to embarrass government and to
captivate the people. But it is no such thing.
I certainly wish to serve your majesty, and not to

8 The office of first lord of the treasury.


suffer that portion of your authority which you
have done me the honour to entrust to my hands,
to be enfeebled and baffled for want of a due
force to carry on the business of your government.
I should discredit myself, if I had not that sacred
regard which I have, and ever shall have, for the
credit and reputation of the crown ; but I humbly
entreat your majesty to recollect the extreme
weakness of the administration of your late ser-
vants, the many defeats which their measures have
met with in parliament, (to say nothing of the
other disasters,) more than, I believe, have hap-
pened to all other ministers that have served the
crown for these eighty years, if their defeats were
all put together. This happened, notwithstanding
they were possessed of the influence of all these
places, and of a great deal more, to the frequent
distress of your civil list. But the fact is, that these
very places were the cause of this weakness of
government, because it is evident to the world
that, trusting in that influence, they did not attend
as they ought to your majesty's honour and ser-
vice, so as to prevent by their diligence and fore-
sight, the disagreeable things that, without due
care, will happen in parliament, as well as those
greater calamities which have happened to the
nation. They have retired, after having some of
them taken care of themselves, and left your
majesty in debt and distress, which it will be my


business and pleasure to relieve you from, and
to preserve you from falling into the like, as
long as I am honoured with your majesty's con-

It has been suggested to your majesty, that this
reform may be made without going to parliament.
With great deference to the judgment of others,
I hope to satisfy your majesty that it is imprac-

The paymasters and treasurers who have sums
of money imprested to them, cannot be exonerated
of any part until they have accounted for the
whole ; nor can that part of the bill which admits
the paymaster to give in the proof of issues to
subordinate paymasters and agents, as money ac-
tually paid into the exchequer, be executed but by
act of parliament.

The regulation of the two great offices of ac-
count, the Pay-office and that of the Treasurer of
the Navy ; the regulation and reduction of the
great offices of the Exchequer, the fees of which
are legal fees, and can neither be taken away or
reduced but by statute ; the suppression of the
Board of Trade, which has a parliamentary juris-
diction over the African Company ; the suppres-
sion of the clerks of the Green-cloth, who belong
to an ancient court ; the Lords of Police in Scot-
land, who have the trust of public money ; the
Mint, which is an ancient legal establishment ;


these, with the disposal of the unprofitable landed
estates, which the act of Queen Anne prohibits
the alienation of, beyond a term of years, abso-
lutely require the interposition of parliament.
Besides, the order which is to secure ease and
affluence to your majesty, out of the reach of the
prodigality and mismanagement of your servants,
can be settled in no other way. The effect of
leaving the few and inconsiderable parts of the
arrangement which may be done otherwise, out of
the general parliamentary plan, can answer no
end, except to prevent the decent display of your
majesty's bounty to the public, to make it look
little and diminutive, and to raise doubts and
suspicions on a matter which is undertaken to
produce quiet and satisfaction. I am sure it is
the duty of your majesty's servants, when your
majesty intends an act of grace and favour to
your people, to make it show in all its natural
lustre, and to let it seem, at the very least, as good
and as gracious as it is.

For my part, I am so much of that opinion, that
I am not more desirous of doing it all together, in
one piece and in one way, for the solid service it
may do to your majesty, than for the graciousness
of the appearance, which will give your majesty
the entire honour of the act in a cheerful and
voluntary manner, so as to conciliate the minds of


your people in this moment of our common diffi-
culty and distress ; and this credit to your majesty
I shall ever make it my study to acquire to your ma-
jesty personally, in every act of your government in
which I shall have the honour of being consulted,
and not suffer any thing which the public neces-
sities render indispensable and impossible for your
ministers to resist, to seem as if forced from your
majesty, as your former ministers have done in an
hundred instances. I shall, therefore, submit to
your majesty the draft of a message on the subject
to the House of Commons.

If it were possible for me to be wanting in zeal
to your majesty's glory, and to decline, or even to
oppose this business for little political ends of my
own, it would be to no kind of purpose. The
country gentlemen in the House of Commons call
loudly for it, and will infallibly bring it in, if
others, who are committed upon it, should choose
to ruin their character by declining it, and would
infallibly carry the question, in spite of all the
opposition which those who fill the places could
make to the reform.

My situation in the country, my time of life, my
state of health, and (I hope) the known sobriety
of my character, will not, I trust, suffer your
majesty to think I mean to run violent courses of
popularity to the prejudice of government. In-


deed, I am very far from it : but the times are
serious ; and a little, early and prudently yielded,
may save much trouble and uneasiness here-


Beccles, April 16, 1782.

I have long delayed, though I much wished to
write to you, not being willing to take up any
part of your time with the impertinence of con-
gratulation ; but I now feel that I had rather be
thought an intruder on your patience, than not to
be a partaker of the general joy. Most heartily,
indeed, do I rejoice, being well assured that if the
credit and happiness of this kingdom can be
restored, the wisdom and virtues of my most
honoured friend, and his friends, will bring for-
ward so desirable an event ; and if not, it will be
some satisfaction to find such men lost to the
confidence of the people, who have so long de-
monstrated their incapacity to make a proper use
of it.

Having procured a successor to my curacies, I

4 Mr. Crabbe was ordained deacon in December, 1781.


expect to be in town within a few days, and for
a few. I shall then hope once to see you, not
bearing to suppose that any honours, or business,
or even the calls of my country, should make me
totally forgotten ; for you have directed, assisted,
adopted me ; and I cannot relinquish the happi-
ness your favour gives me. I will be still your
son, and my portion shall be to rejoice in my
father's honour. I am also, with the highest
respect, and most earnest good wishes,
Dear and excellent sir,
Your greatly obliged and grateful servant,

I beg that I may be mentioned to Mrs. Burke
in the manner that will imply the most respectful



April 24, 1782.

I sit down to be the historian in detail of the late
revolution in our affairs here, which you will have
in substance from dearer hands. I should have

8 Afterwards lord bishop of Rochester.


wished to decline the office, not on my own but
on your account, had not the press of business,
which is at present on Mr. Burke's hands, neces-
sarily thrown this on mine. I will only add, before
I begin with facts, that I yield to none in the
warmth and sincerity with which I rejoice at the
happier prospects they open to you, to him, and
his, if I needed to divide you.

The news of the capture of Lord Cornwallis'
army, which arrived just before the beginning of
the present session, seemed at last to have opened
the eyes of the blind themselves, to the utter im-
practicability of reducing the colonies by force. The
country gentlemen, and even some of the oldest
and strongest tories in parliament, began to ac-
knowledge the folly and madness of persisting any
longer; and Lord North, before he ventured to
move the current supplies of the year, found it
necessary to assure them that it was no longer the
intention of ministry to carry on an offensive war
in America. However, as some of his colleagues
openly avowed sentiments of a different nature,
Sir James Lowther moved the resolutions which
are sent you herewith, together with the divisions
upon it. In the debate, the ministry in general
renewed their assurances of giving over all active
operations in America ; and it was generally un-
derstood that Lord George Germain, who held
opinions totally different from the rest, was on


that account removed from his office to the House
of Lords.

The American war being virtually given up, the
great bond which seemed to have knit together
the ministers and their old adherents was broken.
After the holidays, General Conway moved the
second set of resolutions, on the avowed ground
that the declarations and assurances of the minis-
ters were not to be relied on. The question was
at first lost by a majority of only one ; and being
brought on again the next week, was carried by a
majority of nineteen.

The king's answer to the address of the House,
and the resolution moved in consequence thereof,
you have in the same paper.

The country gentlemen, having recovered from
their American calenture, began to view the con-
duct of the ministry in its true light, and to see
faults which their passions made them no longer
wish to connive at. Many people still imagined,
that notwithstanding the questions that had been
carried against them, they would still be able to
maintain their ground by adopting the measures
forced on them by opposition. We were all,
therefore, exceedingly surprised at losing the next
question, which went personally to the ministers,
by a majority of ten only. Lord North seemed
so little to expect it, that he precipitately pledged
himself to the House to ask for his dismission, in


case he found, by their acceding to the question
moved, that he had lost the confidence of the
House. There now appeared little to be done,
but to follow up the blow. The tories began to
make their dismission a party cause, and the peo-
ple out of doors universally reprobated their
shameful and scandalous attachment to office. The
next question, as you will see, was carried in favour
of the ministry only by nine ; and finding it vain
to contend, they did not venture to meet the next
attack, but on the 20th of last month surrendered
at discretion.

The same day, Wednesday, on which they de-
clared their dissolution to the House, the chan-
cellor waited on Lord Rockingham from the king,
to consult with him on the forming a new ministry.
Lord Buckingham's answer was, that before he
could take any part in the arranging a new ministry,
he must have the king's express consent to the
measures which such a ministry as he should venture
to recommend, would undoubtedly govern them-
selves by. These were : first: Peace with Ame-
rica, as good a one as could be got, but abso-
lutely peace ; second : Peace with the Dutch, if
a separate peace could be got ; third : Pacific
dispositions with respect to the other belligerent
powers ; fourth : Reformation in the household,
&c., upon the plan proposed by Mr. Burke's bill ;
fifth : The contractors' bill ; sixth : The custom-


house officers' bill. These propositions were carried
by the chancellor to the king, who returned for
answer, that he approved of the three first, fifth,
and sixth, and also of the general outlines of the
fourth ; but that he thought they were more pro-
per for the consideration of ministers, than for the
basis on which to form an administration, and
was again desired, and strongly urged, to name his
administration. There is little doubt but that this
was insidiously intended for the purpose of look-
ing for materials for jealousy and disappoint-
ment, to sow amongst the members of the new
arrangement. In the mean time, the junto, find-
ing that Lord Rockingham was not to be moved,
were carrying on private intrigues to save their
dear system, with the Gowers, &c., but none of
them would venture to embark in so desperate
a cause. Their last effort was more ably designed,
and indeed was a master-stroke of politics. At the
time when we all imagined that, (as every thing
material was agreed on between the king and Lord
Rockingham, and especially as all the country
party approved of the conduct of the latter, and
offered, und voce, to support him in a complete and
total change, both of men and measures, and
system,) things would have gone on in the channel
in which they were : whilst we were expecting, I
say, every hour to hear, that the king had sent for
Lord Rockingham, Lord Shelburne comes out of


the closet on Friday, informs Lord Rockingham
that he had been sent for by the king, and that he
had received full powers to form an administra-
tion with him ; but that the king had positively
objected to seeing Lord Rockingham till the ad-
ministration was formed. You will easily conceive
how much Lord Rockingham was shocked at this
treatment, and will not wonder that his first trans-
ports should lead him to reject the offer, in the
manner which it certainly deserved. At a large
meeting of his friends, at which many of the first
characters amongst the country party were present,
they offered to support and stand by him to the
last. However, as it appeared pretty clearly that
a refusal to negotiate through Lord Shelburne was
the thing the junto wished, he was persuaded to
proceed in the negotiation ; and accordingly sent
his six propositions to Lord Shelburne, in order
that the king's approbation might be expressly
obtained. This was obtained on Sunday, and the
same day Lord Rockingham sent in his cabinet
by Lord Shelburne. Fox, who carried the arrange-
ment to Lord Shelburne, says that he did not
seem to be quite satisfied, and that he told him he
hoped that Lord Rockingham would not pursue
any strong measures, in case the king should wish
to have further time to consider of the new
arrangements. Fox told him that a motion was
prepared for the next day, and that if matters were

VOL. II. I i


not finally settled before the House met, they
might expect to have as warm a day as his friends
could possibly make it.

There was never, perhaps, a day of greater
anxiety and expectation to this whole town than
Monday. No administration existed in the country.
Public business of every kind had been for some
weeks at a stand. The general language of the
people in the city was little short of rebellion, and
the new majority in the House came down in a
disposition to proceed to any extremities. It was
not till two o'clock that it was announced that the
king had accepted of his new cabinet ; and the
joy that it occasioned was as universal as the oc-
casion of it was singular; for I believe that it had
never happened in this or any other country before,
that a great, settled, and potent system should be
overthrown, and a new arrangement of men and
measures take place, without the smallest mixture,
or intervention, of court intrigue or political

I have been writing as fast as I am able, having
had but a very short notice, and am afraid you
will find many things for your indulgence, both in
matter and expression.

(The copy breaks off here.)




April 24, 1782.

Why were you not here to enjoy and to partake
in this great, and I trust for the country, happy
change? Be assured, that in the Indian arrange-
ments, which I believe will take place, you will
not be forgotten, at least I hope not. King gives
you a list. I have kissed hands, and gone through
all ceremonies. The office is to be 4000 certain.
Young Richard is the deputy, with a salary of
500. The office to be reformed according to the
bill. There is enough of emoluments. In decency
it could not be more. Something considerable is
also to be secured for the 'life of young Richard,
to be a security for him and his mother. My
brother is deep on the western circuit, where he
has got full as much credit in one or two causes,
as he could, or any man could get. It has been
followed with no proportionable profit. He has
now before him the option of the secretaryship of
the treasury, with precedence in the office. Many
people think the figure he has made in his pro-
fession, in one cause in the King's Bench, in one
upon the circuit, and in one in ajcemmittee of the
House of Commons, in which he threw out John
Macpherson, ought to oblige him to pursue that


line, to which, if he accepts the secretaryship, he
can never return, in case of a change that may
deprive him of his office. He is not in town, no
more than the other Richard, who is in the re-
motest part of the north. All my friends are
absent at a moment so important. Oh ! my dear-
est, oldest, best friend, you are far off indeed !
May God, of his infinite mercy, preserve you !
Your enemies, your cruel and unprovoked per-
secutors, are on the ground, suffering the punish-
ment, not of their villainy towards you, but of
their other crimes, which are innumerable.

* Resolutions

will pass, after the holidays, to secure the rajah
of Tanjore, and to limit the nabob. Much
good will happen. Indeed, my dear friend, your
honest and humane labours have not been useless.
I shall think of Mr. Ross. I will write at large
the moment I have leisure. My best love to
Staunton, Boyd, and Dunkin. May God of his
infinite mercy return you to us, happy and pros-
perous, and above all, speedily. Lord Shelburne
has the correspondence with the India princes.
The company itself is properly under the treasury.
I should like that secretary Fox had the corre-
spondence. *

My dearest friend, we proceed as we began, in
our endeavours to reform the state. A con-
tractors' bill has passed the House of Commons.
A bill for taking away the votes of revenue officers


has made a considerable progress, and will also
pass our House. The great lines of my bill came
down recommended by a message from the crown.
I moved, as you will see, the address. We pro-
ceed in the same prosperous course in the India
reformation. I told you before, that the Lord-
Advocate 6 continued in the same happy train of
thinking which your early impressions formed him
to. His speeches, as well as his resolutions rela-
tive to Tanjore and the oppressions and usurpa-
tions of the nabob, were such as if your own
honest heart had dictated them. He has not yet
brought out the whole, but he will bring forward
such on Monday next, as will free that unfortu-
nate prince and harassed country from the wicked
usurpation of Mr. Hastings. Our select com-
mittee has reported ; and last night the committee
of the whole House has agreed to the resolutions
which General Smith, our chairman, moved against
Sullivan, Impey, and Hastings. We have already
had Sullivan two days under interrogatories about
the appointment of John Macpherson to the su-
preme council. After shuffling and prevaricating,
he has at length taken refuge in refusing to give
answers which may tend to criminate himself.
The resolutions against Rumbold will be moved

on Monday next.

(The copy breaks off here.)

6 Henry Dundas, Esq., afterwards Viscount Melville.


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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 26 of 27)