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sort of difference. Perhaps I'may give you too much rather than too little trouble.
From the first hour I was encouraged to court your favour to this happy day of obtaining it, I have never promised you anything, but humble and persevering endeavours to do my duty. The weight of that duty, I confess, makes me tremble; and whoever well considers what it is, of all things in the world will fly from what has the least likeness to a positive and precipitate engagement. To be a good member of parliament is, let me tell you, no easy task; especially at this time, when there is so strong a disposition to run into the perilous extremes of servile-compliance or wild popularity. To unite circumspection with vigour is absolutely necessary, but it is extremely difficult. We are now members for a rich commercial city; this city, however, is but a part of a rich commercial nation, the interests of which are various, multiform, and intricate. We are members for that great nation, which however is itself but part of a great empire, extended by our virtue and our fortune to the farthest limits of the east and of the west. All these wide-spread interests must be considered; must be compared; must be reconciled if possible. We are members for a free country; and surely we all know that the machine of a free constitution is no simple thing; but as intricate and as delicate as it is valuable. We are members in a great and ancient monarchy, and we must preserve religiously the true legal rights of the sovereign, which form the key-stone that binds together the noble and well-constructed arch of our empire and our constitution. A constitution made up of balanced powers must ever be a critical thing. As such I mean to touch that part of it which comes within my reach. I know my inability, and I wish for support from every quarter. In particular I shall aim at the friendship, and shall cultivate the best correspondence, of the worthy colleague you have given me.
I trouble you no farther than once more to thank you all ; you, gentlemen, for your favours; the candidates for their temperate and polite behaviour; and the sheriffs, for a conduct which may give a model for all who are in public stations.
SPEECH AT BRISTOL BEFORE THE ELECTION OF 1780.
[WHEN Parliament was dissolved in 1780 Burke proceeded to Bristol for the purpose of being re-elected. He found, however, that a large number of the electors were violently opposed to him, as he had on several occasions voted for measures to which they objected. These votes referred to
America, the Insolvent Debtors' Bill, Catholic Relief Bills, and Irish Trade Bills. Burke'summoned a meeting at the Bristol Guildhall, on the 6th of September, 1780, and in the following able and eloquent review of his conduct for the six years during which he had represented Bristol, defended every vote he had given in a tone which proved that he felt conscious of having acted with integrity and honour. In that portion of the speech relating to imprisonment for debt the memorable eulogium on John Howard, the philanthropist, will be foundIt is a beautiful specimen of encomiastic eloquence. Burke's defence of his votes on the Irish commercial questions and on Catholic Relief, is manly and high-minded. The reader of the memoir prefixed to this volume is already acquainted with the leadingevents of the period over which this speech of Burke's ranges, and it is therefore unnecessary to dwell on them here. He closes his defence, boasting with honest pride that at all events his opponents had not accused him of parliamentary corruption, the charges being, to use his own language, that "he had pushed the principles of justice and benevolence too far.” Well might Burke add, as he does, “In every accident which may happen through life I will call to mind this accusation, and be comforted.”]
Mr. MAYOP AND GENTLEMEN,- I am extremely pleased at the appearance of this large and respectable meeting. The steps I may be obliged to take will want the sanction of a considerable authority; and in explaining anything which may appear doubtful in my public conduct, I must naturally desire a very full audience.
I have been backward to begin my canvass.—The dissolution of the parliament was uncertain; and it did not become me, by an unseasonable importunity, to appear diffident of the fact of my six years' endeavours to please you. I had served the city of Bristol honourably; and the city of Bristol had no reason to think, that the means of honourable service to the public, were become indifferent to me.
I found on my arrival here that three gentlemen had been long in eager pursuit of an object which but two of us can obtain. I found that they had all met with encouragement. A contested election in such a city as this, is no light thing. I paused on the brink of the precipice. These three gentlemen, by various merits, and on various titles, I made no doubt, were worthy of your favour. I shall never attempt to raise myself by depreciating the merits of my competitors. In the complexity and confusion of these cross pursuits, I wished to take the authentic public sense of my friends upon a business of so much delicacy. I wished to take your opinion along with
me; that if I should give up the contest at the very beginning, my surrender of my post may not seem the effect of inconstancy, or timidity, or anger, or disgust, or indolence, or any other temper unbecoming a man who has engaged in the public service. If, on the contrary, I should undertake the election, and fail of success, I was full as anxious, that it should be manifest to the whole world, that the peace of the city had not been broken by my rashness, presumption, or fond conceit of my own merit.
I am not come, by a false and counterfeit shew of deference to your judgment, to seduce it in my favour. I ask it seriously and unaffectedly. If you wish that I should retire, I shall not consider that advice as a censure upon my conduct, or an alteration in your sentiments; but as a rational submission to the circumstances of affairs. If, on the contrary, you should think it proper for me to proceed on my canvass, if you will risk the trouble on your part, I will risk it on mine. My pretensions are such as you cannot be ashamed of, whether they succeed or fail.
If you call upon me, I shall solicit the favour of the city upon manly ground. I come before you with the plain confidence of an honest servant in the equity of a candid and discerning master. I come to claim your approbation, not to amuse you with vain apologies, or with professions still more vain and senseless. I have lived too long to be served by apologies, or to stand in need of them. The part I have acted has been in open day; and to hold out to a conduct, which stands in that clear and steady light for all its good and all its evil-to hold out to that conduct the paltry winking tapers of excuses and promises—I never will do it. They may obscure it with their smoke, but they never can illumine sunshine by such a flame as theirs.
I am sensible that no endeavours have been left untried to injure me in your opinion. But the use of character is to be a shield against calumny. I could wish, undoubtedly, (if idle wishes were not the most idle of all things,) to make every part of my conduct agreeable to every one of my constituents. But in so great a city, and so greatly divided as this, it is weak to expect it.
In such a discordancy of sentiments, it is better to look to the nature of things than to the humours of men. The very attempt towards pleasing every body, discovers a temper always flashy, and often false and insincere. Therefore, as I have proceeded straight onward in my conduct, so I will proceed in my account of those parts of it which have been most excepted to. But I must first beg leave just to hint to you, that we may suffer very great detriment by being open
talker. It is not to be imagined, how much of service is lost from spirits full of activity and full of energy, who are pressing, who are rushing forward, to great and capital objects, when you oblige them to be continually looking back." Whilst they are defending one service, they defraud you of an hundred. Applaud us when we run; console us when we fall; cheer us when we recover; but let us pass on--for God's sake, let us pass on.
Do you think, gentlemen, that every public act in the six years since I stood in this place before you that all the arduous things which have been done in this eventful period which has crowded into a few years' space the revolutions of an age-can be opened to you on their fair grounds in half an hour's conversation.
But it is no reason, because there is a bad mode of inquiry, that there should be no examination at all. Most certainly it is our duty to examine ; it is our interest too. But it must be with discretion; with an attention to all the circumstances, and to all the motives; like sound judges, and not like cavilling pettifoggers and quibbling pleaders, prying into flaws and hunting for exceptions. Look, gentlemen, to the whole tenor of your member's conduct. Try whether his ambition or his avarice have jostled him out of the straight line of duty; or whether that grand foe of the offices of active life, that master-vice in men of business, a degenerate and inglorious sloth, has made him flag and languish in his course? This is the object of our inquiry. If our member's conduct can bear this touch, mark it for sterling. He may have fallen into errors; he must have faults ; but our error is greater, and our fault is radically ruinous to ourselves, if we do not bear-if we do not even applaud-the whole compound and mixed mass of such a character. Not to act thus is folly; I had almost said it is impiety. He censures God, who quarrels with the imperfections of man.
Gentlemen, we must not be peevish with those who serve the people For none will serve us whilst there is a court to serve, but those whư are of a nice and jealous honour. They who think every thing, in comparison of that honour, to be dust and ashes, will not bear to have it soiled and impaired by those for whose sake they make a thousand sacrifices to preserve it immaculate and whole. We shall either drive such men from the public stage, or we shall send them to the court for protection, where, if they must sacrifice their reputation, they will at least secure their interest. Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will be free. None will violate their conscience to please us, in order afterwards to discharge that conscience which they have violated, by doing us faithful and affectionate service. If
Let me say
we degrade and deprave their minds by servility, it will be absurd to expect that they who are creeping and abject towards ever be bold and incorruptible assertors of our freedom, against the most seducing and the most formidable of all powers. No! human nature is not so formed; nor shall we improve the faculties or better the morals of public men by our possession of the most infallible receipt in the world for making cheats and hypocrites.
with plainness, I who am no longer in a public character, that if by a fair, by an indulgent, by a gentlemanly behaviour to our representatives, we do not give confidence to their minds, and a liberal scope to their understandings if we do not permit our members to act upon a very enlarged view of things, we shall at length infallibly degrade our national representation into a confused and scufiling bustle of local agency. When the popular member is narrowed in his ideas, and rendered timid in his proceedings, the service of the crown will be the sole nursery of statesmen. Among the frolics of the court, it may at length take that of attending to its business. Then the monopoly of mental power will be added to the power of all other kinds it possesses. On the side of the people there will be nothing but impotence, for ignorance is impotence, narrowness of mind is impotence, timidity is itself impotence, and makes all other qualities that goes along with it, impotent and useless.
At present it is the plan of the court to make its servants insignificant. If the people should fall into the same humour, and should choose their servants on the same principles of mere obsequiousness, and flexibility, and total vacancy or indifference of opinion in all public matters, then no part of the state will be sound; and it will be in vain to think of saving it.
I thought it very expedient at this time, to give you this candid counsel; and with this counsel I would willingly close, if the matters which at various times have been objected to me in this city concerned only myself, and my own election. These charges, I think, are four in number :-my neglect of 'a due attention to my constituents; the not paying more frequent visits here; my conduct on the affairs of the first Irish trade acts; my opinion and mode of proceeding on Lord Beauchamp's debtors’ bills; and my votes on the late affairs of the Roman Catholics. All of these (except perhaps the first) relate to matters of very considerable public concern ; and it is not lest you should censure me improperly, but lest you should form improper opinions on matters of some moment to you, that I trouble you at all upon the subject. My conduct is of small importance.
With regard to the first charre my friends have spoken to me of