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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I am, indeed, more and more convinced that it
behoves us, as honest and honourable men, to take
the step of a protestation after parliament has
met. It is unusual. It would, doubtless, occasion
much speculation. It would have some effect upon
the public at large, when they see men of high
rank and fortune, of known principles, and of
undoubted abilities, stepping forwards in so extra-
ordinary a manner, to face a torrent, not merely of
ministerial or court power, but also of almost
general opinion.

In every consideration, I think it will be expe-
dient. If hereafter we should call upon our
friends in the different counties, &c. &c., to ex-
press an opinion concurrent with our own, we
shall do it with the better grace, when we have
been the first to face the torrent. I think, too,
that good may arise from it ; as there will then
appear a remnant still left in Great Britain, with
whom America may conciliate, even if all the
violent measures fail, which most probably will and
must be the case.

I received this evening a note from Sir G. Savile,


who has been for some time at Lumley Castle.
It inclosed a letter to yon, which I now send to
you. I expect to meet Sir G. Savile on Tuesday
or Wednesday next, at Doncaster, where I shall
have the opportunity of having more conversation
with him. This post, too, brought me a letter from
a gentleman of Hull, who writes to apprise me,
that the corporation there had addressed. It will
astonish Sir Geo. Savile, and probably Mr. Hartley,
even more than it does me. The gentleman writes
me word that the letters from the association in
London were the occasion which gave rise to it.
Leicester address is said to have arose from the
same cause. I make no doubt but that the tools
of the court and ministers have made that use of
the letters from the association, just as that foolish
misrepresentation in the newspaper, relative to the
state of the trade of Leeds, gave rise to the address
from thence last spring.

I long to hear from you after you have seen the
Duke of Richmond. I understand from Lord
Fitzwilliam that you had some expectation of see-
ing him in London some days ago. Pray present
my best compliments to the Duke of Richmond
and Duke of Portland, if they are now in London.
I trust the Duke of Portland will not be out of
town after the 10th or 12th, and I hope the Duke
of Richmond will be persuaded to come and stay
in London, from the 10th or 12th, till the business


(if approved) has been carried into execution.
When once that measure is taken, I think we need
not be tied to residence in London. I have hopes
of returning here and passing some months quietly;
I really want recess ; for the bad weather, and the
frequent sultry heats, have prevented me receiving
either much benefit to my health from the country
air, or much relaxation to my mind from the
various amusements which residence in the country
affords me.

I am, dear Burke,
Your most obedient and affectionate, &c. &c.



September 26, 1775.


I should hardly take the liberty of troubling your
grace at this time, if I were not most thoroughly
persuaded that there is a very particular call of
honour and conscience on all those of your grace's
situation, and of your sentiments, to do something
towards preventing the ruin of your country,
which, if I am not quite visionary, is approaching
with the greatest rapidity. There is a short inter-
val between this and the meeting of parliament.


Much may depend upon the use which shall be
made of it.

I am perfectly sensible of the greatness of the
difficulties, and the weakness and fewness of the
helps, in every public affair which you can under-
take. I am sensible, too, of the shocking indiffer-
ence and neutrality of a great part of the nation.
But a speculative despair is unpardonable, where
it is our duty to act. I cannot think the people
at large wholly to blame ; or, if they were, it is to
no purpose to blame them. For God's sake, my
dear lord, endeavour to mend them. I must beg
leave to put you in mind, without meaning, I am
sure, to censure the body of our friends, much less
the most active among them, but I must put you
in mind, that no regular or sustained endeavours
of any kind have been used to dispose the people
to a better sense of their condition. Any election
must be lost, any family interest in a county
would melt away, if greater pains, infinitely
greater, were not employed to carry on and sup-
port them, than have ever been employed in this
end and object of all elections, and in this most
important interest of the nation and of every
individual in it. The people are not answerable
for their present supine acquiescence ; indeed they
are not. God and nature never made them to
think or to act without guidance and direction.
They have obeyed the only impulse they have


received. When they resist such endeavours as
ought to be used by those, who by their rank and
fortune in the country, by the goodness of their
characters, and their experience in their affairs,
are their natural leaders, then it will be time
enough to despair, and to let their blood lie upon
their own heads. I must again beg your grace
not to think that, in excusing the people, I mean
to blame our friends. Very far from it. Our
inactivity has arisen solely from a natural and most
pardonable error, (an error, however,) that it was
enough to attend diligently, and to be active in

But you will say, Why all this? why now?
why to me ? I will tell you. It is, that your
grace can do more than any body else at all
times ; at this time nobody but your grace can do
what I apprehend to be far the most essential
service to the public.

Ireland is always a part of some importance
in the general system; but Ireland never was
in the situation of real honour, and real conse-
quence, in which she now stands. She has the
balance of the empire, and, perhaps, its fate for
ever in her hands. If the parliament which is
shortly to meet there should interpose a friendly
mediation, should send a pathetic address to
the king, and a letter to both Houses of Parlia-
ment here, it is impossible that they should not


succeed. If they should only add to this, a sus-
pension of extraordinary grants and supplies, for
troops employed out of the kingdom, in effect,
employed against their own clearest rights and
privileges, they would preserve the whole empire
from a ruinous war, and with a saving, rather
than expense, prevent this infatuated country
from establishing a plan which tends to its own
ruin, by enslaving all its dependencies. Ministry
would not like to have a contest with the whole
empire upon their hands at once. I have not
the most enthusiastic opinion of the dignity of
thinking which prevails in Ireland ; but if pains
are taken, they cannot be so unnatural as to
refuse one kind word towards peace ; or not to
suspend in this crisis, for a few moments, the
rage and lust of granting; not to delay, at least,
the exhausting of their own purses, for the pur-
pose of destroying their own liberties. Your
grace, closely connected with the first peer and
the first commoner of that kingdom, and who
may have as much influence as you please upon
both, can do this business effectually. Ponsonby
is in opposition. If these three unite heartily,
(why should they not?) they will carry a point
which will send them with infinite popularity to
the approaching general election. Here the
Cavendishes may be greatly useful ; and they are
in all repects the men most natural, and in all


respects the best adapted, to co-operate with
your grace's endeavours. This is truly a great
point; and far, very far, from being desperate
in proper hands. I wish most earnestly to see
your grace in London. Surely no time ought
to be lost. I thought it necessary to attend to
my little department. I paid a visit to Bristol.
The tories and courtiers are powerful there, but
not omnipotent. The corporation is their princi-
pal strength ; but hitherto they have been de-
feated in their attempts to obtain an address
from thence. Our friends were dejected, but not
alienated. By putting things into a little train,
we are in a better posture and in more heart.
If the enemy should succeed in the corporation,
the town at large will show better dispositions.
We do not despair, and we will work even when
we do. A little committee is appointed there,
to correspond and carry on business with method
and regularity.

Some steps are taking towards doing the same
thing in London. Baker has done his duty as
he ought. With assistance, countenance, and
counsel, we may be useful ; not otherwise.

I beg pardon for this long and unmanaged
letter. I am on thorns. I cannot, at my ease,
see Russian barbarism let loose to waste the
most beautiful object that ever appeared upon


this globe. Adieu, my dear lord ; you want
nothing but to be sensible of all your importance.
I am, with the greatest truth,

My dear lord,

Your grace's ever obedient and affectionate
humble servant,


London, Thursday, October 5, 1775.


The inclosed letter from Baker, which I have un-
dertaken to convey to you with safety, makes it
very unnecessary for me to detain you a single
moment, because you cannot doubt of my inten-
tion of making the trial you recommend. But yet
the desire I feel of leaving nothing undone that
can give the public a true idea of the present state
of this country, the deceits of administration, and
the true ground of our opposition to the impolitic
and violent measures adopted by them, makes me
venture to suggest the propriety of some endea-
vours to obviate the effect, which the idea of
supporting the legislative power of Great Britain
over every part of her dominions, has but too
generally acquired over the quiet unthinking minds


of people in general. I fear it is but too true,
that sound has as much weight as reason ; and the
world in general, not willing to trouble themselves
with much reflection or argument, are ready to
take for granted this assertion of the friends of
administration ; and, from the same indolent dis-
position, suppose that every attempt to counteract
the measures of administration tends directly to
establish anarchy and confusion. What else can
induce so many people of independent fortunes
to remain in that state of inactivity, at least, in
a time of such imminent danger to the very ex-
istence of this country ? Would it not be proper
to show them that we are as desirous of preserving
the superintending and controlling power of this
country over her colonies as any the most deter-
mined friend of ministry; but that it is not for
the shadow of that power that we contend, but
for those real and substantial benefits which can
only arise from a system of true policy which
must equally and reciprocally promote the inter-
ests of England and America. I am fearful that
this outline is a very rough one, and perhaps un-
necessary ; but if it should be so, it will not give
you much trouble to convince me of it ; and if it
is not so, you will think of some plan that may be
of service.

Ever, my dear Burke, most faithfully yours,




October 17, 1775.


I was engaged all yesterday evening, or I had
intended to call at Grosvenor-square. This morn-
ing I must look over several African papers. This
is the cause of my troubling your lordship in this

Lord Chatham's coming out 7 is always a critical
thing to your lordship. But even if he should not
attack, as it is possible he may not, would it be
right for your lordship, in a great American affair,
to let him and his partisans have the whole field
to themselves ? If he is tender of you, you will
naturally be tender of him. But a gentle hint of
a wish, that parliament should lay the foundation
rather than the crown ; and that as taxation was
the great ground of the quarrel, the co-operation
of the House of Commons, if not the origination
there, would be a necessary part of a good plan ;
and that the crown would want both authority
and credit without some previous resolution of

7 See thanks of common-council to Lord C., February 10,


that house ; (that proposition, Lord John's, had
been made and rejected ;) these would be, I
think, proper hints to add to what your lordship
had been thinking of. But if the thing is even
tolerably right, your lordship might express your
wish to concur in it.

Ever most faithfully your lordship's servant,



October 20, 1775.


I have written to you by the last post ; to my
other friends, that is, to Paul Farr, to Mr. Mayor,
and to Mr. Sheriff, the post before. You need
not hurry your petition to the Commons. Your
point is to keep yourselves alert, and ready for
occasions. Until towards the meeting of parlia-
ment, it is impossible to know exactly the dose
we ought to prescribe for our petition. Our
friends begin to come to town, and we shall soon
have enough for consultation. I am mistaken, if
our measures will not be firm and decisive. As
to the ministry, they are completely bewildered ;
and their addressers would do well to find them
some fair way out of their difficulties. I find your
petition universally approved by all names and


descriptions here. Some of the wretched minis-
terial tools, as you see in the paper I inclose, think
fit, indeed, to pretend sentiments different from
those of their masters. Do you think it right that
any notice should be taken of them ? I think it
too contemptible. As to the gentlemen in Bristol
who take offence at my letter, I am sorry for
their delusion. I am willing to persuade myself
that they acted from good intentions ; but never
were men so wofully mistaken. How will they
recover Halifax, the last hope of the king's
army and navy, now most probably, if not cer-
tainly, in the hands of the provincials, with all
the military and naval stores in that place ? All
they can do by their addresses, is to make the
future necessary concessions of their friends as
ignominious as possible. As to those who acted
from the fury of a party, they are in some sort
excusable ; but I see some names to that un-
happy paper, from whom I hoped other things.
I did not imagine that, upon matters of which
they must be not quite perfect judges, they should
carry up to the king a scurrilous accusation, most
groundless in fact, and most indecent in language,
against people of whose conduct and views
they can have at least a very imperfect know-
ledge. I thought they would have been more
cautious and sober. I am exceedingly sorry to
see them led into an act so little resembling the



usual line of their behaviour and character ; and
trust they will atone for it.

There has appeared a paper of great weight,
in the London Evening, against ministry. It is
signed Valens. I wonder you don't reprint these
essays in your Bristol papers. This unknown ally
does execution.

I am, my dear Champion,

Ever sincerely yours,



October 24, 1775.


A great deal of the plan of our petition, indeed
of all our future operations, must depend upon the
temper in which we find the House on the first day
of the session. If we discover any disposition to
relent, great advantage may be made of it to for-
ward that good beginning ; if not, it may sow the
seed of future good. But I shall give you as early
intelligence as possible of the temper which shall
seem to prevail in the House.

This day they committed to the Tower, Sayre
the banker, late sheriff'. The charge is for treason-
able practices. The overt acts, a scheme for seiz-

VOL. u. G


ing the king's person on Thursday next, on his
way to the House of Lords ! for seizing the Tower,
and offering to corrupt the guards ! The accuser,
one Richardson, who lately purchased an ensigncy
in the guards, is an American by birth, and
always a violent American in politics, as I am
told ; at least so far as to conversation. This is
thrown out to discourage the spirit of petitioning,
to help the addresses to some countenance, and to
divert the attention of parliament from the main
point, the conduct of ministers with regard to
America. But in this they will not succeed. We
hear that they propose to take up two or three

Yours affectionately,





If this can find its way to you through the snow,
(of which I see something, and hear so much more
terrible things than I see,) it is to ask you when
you wish me to be in town ? It shall be as early
as you please ; but it is your lordship's wish, and
not my desire, that will carry me towards the scene


of action a moment before the curtain is drawn
up 13 . I have thought, and thought again, on the
subject of the paper on which you spoke to me.
But that which appeared so very easy, as almost to
force itself upon me, whilst the thing was warm,
and the flying opportunity not yet passed, now that
all is cold and dead, and the evils it was wished for
as a means of averting having actually happened,
I am really as stiff as a foundered horse, and
cannot make any way, at least to my own satisfac-
tion. However, I shall certainly do all that in me
lies, and will bring something for your lordship's
judgment, by the time you wish to see me 14 .

Mrs. Dowdeswell has pressed me much for an
epitaph for a monument she intends to the memory
of her husband l . I wish your lordship and Lady
Rockingham to look over the sketch I have drawn.
I wish to avoid general panegyric, and what would
be as suitable to one eminent man as another. I
would give his great merits their praise ; but it
should be appropriated praise, and which carried
something characteristical in it. By attempting
this, I have got into greater length than is
allowed for an epitaph. I could make it shorter,

13 Parliament met the 26th October in this year.

'* It does not appear that Mr. Burke published any thing in
1775 or 1776, except perhaps his speech on conciliation with
America, in the first of those years.

1 See note, vol. i. p. 141, in which the epitaph is given.


but when an epitaph is very short, it is in danger
of getting into a cold generality, or into pertness,
or conceit. I have sent a copy to Mrs. Dowdes-
well for her consideration. All here desire to
present their best respects to Lady Rockingham
and your lordship. You will be so good as to
believe me with the most affectionate attachment,

My dear lord,

Your lordship's obliged and obedient
humble servant,



Grosvenor- square, Thursday night,
November 2, 1775.


I could wish you would not open this note till to-
morrow morning. To be sure this is an Iricism for
the inside of a letter ; but I mean only to convey,
that what I have to ask you will easily do while
you are eating your breakfast, and of course need
not think of the subject matter when you get home
to-night from the House of Commons.

Lord Abingdon and Lord Craven are in a flurry


about a meeting of the county of Berks, which has
been called by the sheriff for the seventh of this
month, in order to address. Their lordships are
very desirous of proposing a petition, and they
wish and mean to exert themselves. A well-drawn
petition they think would be of infinite service in
forwarding their intentions. They are anxious,
therefore, for your assistance, and wish you could
sketch, or rather draw one out to-morrow morn-
ing. Lord Abingdon, over and above, wishes for
your help in regard to a petition from Abingdon,
where an address has already been carried, though
not by a considerable majority.

The times are very, very interesting ; it behoves
us to be wary, neither to be precipitate in giving
too much confidence to the professions of various
men, nor, on the other hand, to be over cautious
in taking umbrage, and entertaining suspicions
too generally ; and I confess, to my judgment, I
would even overlook, and not resent, though I had
proof of tricks being played.

Ever, dear Burke, yours, &c.



Friday morning, November 3, 1775.


On looking over Lord Rockingham's note again,
I find you have imposed a task on me which I am
not fit for : for the county of Berks they want a
petition framed ad captandum ; it should therefore
be framed so as to unite as many opinions as pos-
sible, and draw off some of the beef-heads who are
disposed against it. Now this is a matter far too
difficult for me ; if you have not leisure, your
brother, or Will. Burke, could complete any ideas
of yours far better than I could.

Abingdon seems to require neither so much care

nor haste.

Yours, sincerely,


Goodwood, Saturday night, Nov. 25, 1775.


When you promised me to sit for your picture to
Mr. Romney, you only desired not to begin it till
after you had got rid of your conciliatory motion.


I doubt not but you have now some other busi-
ness of great importance on your hands ; but if
I wait for my picture till you have nothing to
do, I am likely to go without it. In the midst
of business, a little relaxation is of use ; but I
have thought of a method even to reconcile your
business with this sitting, which is by having
Mr. Romney to take your portrait while you are
writing or reading, whichever you like best. I
know the painters have a nonsensical jargon, that
such attitudes throw a shadow on the face, lose a
part of it, and particularly the eyes, which are so
necessary to the countenance ; but, in truth, all
this is not founded, and is meant more to flatter
the sitter than for any real purpose.

Romney has half finished one for me, which,
for my own conveniency, I chose to have reading,
and although the brilliancy of my eyes is lost, I
believe you will think it a good and a like portrait
when you see it.

I think a portrait of you, merely looking one in
the face, and doing nothing, can never be like,
as it must give a representation so different from
your real nature. I wish, therefore, to have you
painted doing something. The act of speaking
can never be well painted, especially in a single
figure. Writing will, I think, do very w r ell, and
will suit you exceedingly.

Pray, therefore, call at Mr. Romney's, in Caven-


dish-square, (his name is on the door,) and begin.
I beg the size may be that which is commonly
called a head, and that it may be doing some-
thing. Pray tell Mr. Romney my wishes in this

Adieu, believe me ever your most sincere and
faithful humble servant,


Westminster, December 15, 1775.


I wrote to Paul Farr last night, to give him an
account of what I had done, and that I had showed
no remissness in any business that belongs to you
and him, or any other of our good friends. I saw
from the moment of seeing Lord North, that a
personal application would be the best method of
proceeding, especially when the bill was so near
its final determination. If a few honest men may
save themselves from the sweeping and compre-
hensive ruin of this most wicked and sacrilegious
of all measures 2 , I shall be happy, though it cost

2 A bill " to prohibit all trade and intercourse with the
American colonies, now in actual rebellion." It received the
royal assent the 23rd December of this year.


me a visit to the minister. He, I believe, is not
the author of it. It is generally thought to be
the manufacture of Sandwich. They are now de-

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 5 of 27)