« ForrigeFortsett »
into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely toru off. All the superadded ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our naked shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.
We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort. In England we are so convinced of this, that there is no rust of superstition, with which the accumulated absurdity of the buman mind might have crusted it over in the course of ages, that ninety-nine in an hundred of the people of England wonld not prefer to impiety. We shall never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the substance of any system to remove its corruptions, to supply its defects, or to perfect its construction. If our religious tenets should ever want a further elucidation, we shall not call on atheism to explain them. We shall not light up our temple from that unhallowed fire. It will be illuminated with other lights. It will be perfumed with other incense, than the infectious stuff which is imported by the smugglers of adulterated metaphysics. If our ecclesiastical establishment should want a revision, it is not avarice or rapacity, public or private, that we shall employ for the audit, or receipt, or application of its consecrated
When I consider the face of the kingdom of France ; the multitude and opulence of her cities; the useful magnificence of her spacious high-roads and bridges; the opportunity of her artificial canals and navigations opening the conveniences of maritime communication through a solid continent of so immense an extent; when I turn my eyes to the stupendous works of her ports and harbours, and to her whole naval apparatus, whether for war or trade; when I bring before my view the number of her fortifications, constructed with so bold and masterly a skill, and made and maintained at so prodigions a charge, presenting an armed front and impenetrable barrier to her enemies upon every side; when I reflect how very small a part of that extensive region is without cultivation, and to what complete perfection the culture of many of the best productions of the earth have been brought in France ; when I reflect on the excellence of her manufactures and fabrics, second to none but ours, and in some particulars
not second; when I contemplate the grand foundations of charity, public and private ; when I survey the state of all the arts that beattify and polish life; when I reckon the men she has bred for extending her fame in war, her able statesmen, the multitude of her profound lawyers and theologians, her philosophers, her critics, her historians and antiquaries, her poets and her orators, sacred and profane; I behold in all this something which awes and commands the imagination, which checks the mind on the brink of precipitate and indiscriminate censure, and which demands that we should very seriously examine, what and how great are the latent vices that could authorise us at once to level so spacious a fabric with the ground.
When my occasions took me into France, towards the close of the late reign, the clergy, under all their forms, engaged a considerable
my curiosity. So far from finding (except from one set of men, not then very numerous, though very active, the complaints and discontents against that body, which some publications had given me reason to expect, I perceived little or no public or private uneasiness on their account. On further examination, I found the clergy in general persons of moderate minds and decorous manners; I include the seculars and the regulars of both sexes. I had not the good fortune to know a great many of the parochial clergy; but in general I received a perfectly good account of their morals, and of their attention to their duties. With some of the higher clergy I had a personal acquaintance; and of the rest in that class very good means of information. They were, almost all of them, persons of noble birth. They resembled others of their own rank; and where there was any difference, it was in their favour. They were more fully educated than the military noblesse; so as by no means to disgrace their profession by ignorance, or by want of fitness for the exercise of their authority. They seemed to me, beyond the clerical character, liberal and open ; with the hearts of gentlemen and men of honour; neither insolent nor servile in their manners and conduct. They seemed to me rather & superior class; a set of men amongst whom you would not be surprised to find a Fenelon. I saw among the clergy of Paris (many of the description are not to be met with any where) men of great learning and candour; and I had reason to believe that this description was not confined to Paris. What I found in other places I know was accidental; and therefore to be presumed a fair sample. I spent a few days in a provincial town, where, in the absence of the bishop, I passed my evenings with three clergymen, his vicars-general, persons who would have done honour to any church. They were all
well-informed; two of them of deep, general, and extensive erndition, ancient and modern, oriental and western; particularly in their own profession. They had a more extensive knowledge of our English divines than I expected; and they entered into the genius of those writers with a critical accuracy.
Good order is the foundation of all good things. To be enabled to acquire, the people, without being servile, must be tractable and obedient. The magistrate must have his reverence, the laws their authority. The body of the people must not find the principles of natural subordination by art rooted out of their minds. They must respect that property of which they cannot partake. They must labour to obtain what by labour can be obtained; and when they find, as they commonly do, the success disproportioned to the endeavour, they must be taught their consolations in the final proportions of eternal justice. Of this consolation, whoever deprives them, deadens their industry, and strikes at the root of all acquisition as of all conversation. He that does this is the cruel oppressor, the merciless enemy of the poor and wretched ; at the same time by his wicked speculations he exposes the fruits of successful industry, and the accumulations of fortune, to the plunder of the negligent, the disappointed, and the unprosperous.
What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue ? It is the greatest of all possible evils ; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths. Grand, swelling sentiments of liberty, I am sure I do not despise. They warm the heart; they enlarge and liberalize our minds; and they animate our courage in a time of conflict.
I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and much impartiality. They come from one who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of greatness; and who in his last acts does not wish to belie the tenour of his life. They come from one, almost the whole of whose public exertion has been a struggle for the liberty of others: from one in whose breast no anger durable or vehement has ever been kindled, but by what he considered as tyranny ; and who snatches from his share in the endeavours which are used by good men to discredit opulent oppression, the hours he has employed on your affairs; and who in so doing persuades himself he has not departed
from his usnal office: they come from one who desires honours, dise tinctions, and emoluments but little ; and who expects them not at all; who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of obloquy; who shuns contention, though he will hazard an opinion : from one who wishes to preserve consistency; but who would preserve consistency by varying his means to secure the unity of his end; and, when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its balance.
A REPRESENTATION TO HIS MAJESTY.--1784.
[The conduct of George III. in 1783 has been considered by most political writers as very unconstitutional, and in earlier times might have cost him his crown. He not only showered favours on those who opposed Fox's India Bill, (which he deemed an unjust encroachment on the Crown,) but ventured to use personal threats towards the friends of the measure. The bill was carried in the Commons, but was lost in the Lords. The Coalition Ministry was soon dismissed by the king, and Pitt was called to the post of Premier. He was defeated in the House of Commons by the com. bined forces of North and Fox; and, to punish the House, Parliament was dissolved. The new Parliament proved more amenable to the court ; for when Burke and Wyndham moved (14th June, 1784,) an address to the throne, complaining of some observations in the address by the new Par. liament, the motion was rejected. Burke soon afterwards published the address under the title of “ A Representation to his Majesty." This production, which is written in a calm, but decisive style, as befits an important state paper, contains several forcible arguments against what Burke calls “the penal dissolution of Parliament.” He asserts in respectful language, but with vigorous and manly sentiments, the right of the House of Commons to deal with measures which may come before them, totally regardless whether their votes may please the court or not. The Representation” is longer than would suit our limits to present entire, but the following passage will illustrate its tone.] It is the undoubted prerogative of the crown to dissolve parliament; but we beg leave to lay before his majesty, that it is, of all the trusts vested in his majesty, the most critical and delicate, and that in which this house has the most reason to require, not only the good faith, but the favour of the crown. His commons are not always upon a par with his ministers in an application to popular judgment : it is.
not in the power of the members of this house to go to their election at the moment most favourable for them. It is in the power of the crown to choose a time for their dissolution, whilst great and arduous matters of state and legislation are depending, which may be easily misunderstood, and which cannot be fully explained before that misunderstanding may prove fatal to the honour that belongs, and to the consideration that is dae, to members of parliament.
With his majesty is the gift of all the rewards, the honours, distinctions, favour, and graces of the state; with his majesty is the mitigation of all the rigours of the law; and we rejoice to see the crown possessed of trusts calculated to obtain good-will
, and charged with duties which are popular and pleasing. Our trusts are of a different kind. Our duties are harsh and invidious in their nature; and justice and safety are all we can expect in the exercise of them. We are to offer salutary, which is not always pleasing, counsel : we are to inquire and to accuse : and the objects of our inquiry and charge will be for the most part, persons of wealth, power, and extensive connections: we are to make rigid laws for the preservation of revenue, which of necessity more or less confine some action, or restrain some function, which before was free : what is the most critical and invidious of all, the whole body of the public impositions originate from us, and the hand of the House of Commons is seen and felt in every burthen that presses upon the people. Whilst ultimately we are serving them, and in the first instance whilst we are serving his majesty, it will be hard, indeed, if we should see a House of Commons the victim of its zeal and fidelity, sacrificed by his ministers to those very popular discontents which shall be excited by our dutiful endeavours for the security and greatness of his throne. No other consequence can result from such an example, but that, in future, the House of Commons, consulting its safety at the expense of its duties, and suffering the whole energy of the state to be relaxed, will shrink from every service, which, however necessary, is of a great and arduous nature; or that, willing to provide for the public necessities, and, at the same time, to secure the means of per-forming that task, they will exchange independence for protection, and will court a subservient existence through the favour of those ministers of state, or those secret advisers, who ought themselves to stand in awe of the commons of this realm.
An House of Commons, respected by his ministers, is essential to his majesty's service : it is fit that they should yield to parliament, and not that parliament should be new modelled until it is fitted to their
purposes. If our authority is only to be held up when we co