« ForrigeFortsett »
alone. The eloquent and pathetic appeal on behalf of Marie Antoinette, is perhaps unsurpassed in the language, and the energetic denunciation of infidelity which pervades the entire work, shows what it was which Burke really dreaded in the spread of French principles.
It was this question which separated Burke from those who had long been his political associates. The reader of the following volume will find in Burke's speech on the Army Estimates of 1790, the commencement of that quarrel which estranged him from Fox and Sheridan. The difference did not, however, come to an open
angry rupture till the spring of 1791, when that memorable and historic debate occurred, in which the friendship of a quarter of a century was rudely snapped in an hour. The occasion was the discussion of a measure relating to the government of Quebec. Burke introduced the subject of the French Revolution, and attacked those who advocated the principles on which it was based. This train of observation roused the anger of Fox, who immediately rose, and while declaring his unaltered attachment to the British constitution, maintained that the people of France were justified in the course which they had pursued. Fox then proceeded to charge Burke with inconsistency in denouncing those who in France had risen against oppression, although he had supported America in resistance to wrong. Burke felt this accusation keenly, and complained that Fox had trcatcd him with harshness. “We have often differed on some subjects before,” said he, “but there was no breach of friendship; there is something however, in this accursed French Revolution which envenoms everything." Fox whispered to him “there is no breach of friendship;” to which Burke replied (and certainly he seems to have quite lost his temper) “there is, there is, I know the price of my conduct, our friendship is at an end.” Thus terminated a friendship which had dated back to the early years of the contest with America. The Whig Club passed a resolution in favor of the policy adopted by Fox, in consequence of which proceeding Burke (and with him Wyndham) withdrew from that body. Burke soon afterwards published a pamphlet entitled, (An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs” in which he defended
his reasonings on the French Revolution, and endeavoured to prove that he had always consistently maintained the principles of the Old Whigs of England. It should be borne in mind, in justice to Fox, that France had not at this time stained her hands in the blood of the royal family, nor had those fearful and sanguinary scenes of inhuman massacre taken place, which rendered the “Reign of Terror" the darkest chapter in the annals of the human race. Fox contemplated an overthrown Bastile, not a murdered aristocracy. Burke continued to denounce the Revolution to his last moments, in a series of letters and pamphlets of great power, and on one occasion he flung a dagger on the floor of the House of Commons, telling his hearers that that was what they might expect if French principles gained the ascendancy in England. His last publication, “ Thoughts on a Regicide Peace,” proved how deeply rooted were his feelings on the subject. It is however quite consistent with admiration of the firmness with which Burke maintained to his last breath principles which he deemed the only barrier against infidelity and anarchy, to regret that some middle course was not adopted which would have averted the sanguinary struggle which so long desolated Europe and retarded social progress.
When in 1790, Burke foretold that France would proceed in her career till Paris was deluged with innocent blood, he was prophetic; when in 1793, he in the strongest language denounced the cruelties of the second stage of the revolution, he carried with him the concurrent voice of all good men; but when he went farther, and instead of letting France recover from her delirious fever, urged (for even Pitt was for a time reluctant) Europe to rush upon a people still panting with madness, he gave but slight indication of that wişdom which marked so much of his career.
In our rapid sketch of the life of Burke, we have principally dealt with the three great subjects which mainly occupied his attention. But in addition to America, India, and France, numerous other topics were illustrated by his pen or tongue.
On the subject of Irish Catholic freedom he wrote fully in letters to Sir Hercules Langrishe and others. He also dealt with
this important theme in the defence of his parliamentary conduct, which will be found in this volume amongst his speeches delivered at Bristol. His support of the Catholic side of the question was one of the causes of his unpopularity with the electors of that city.
Respecting the liberty of the press he was in advance of his age He was the principal promoter of the bill of 1771, which sought to make juries the judges of the law, as well as of the fact, in cases of libel. The bill was at that time defeated, but the same measure was, in 1791, proposed by Fox, (who forgot to acknowledge that Burke had formerly brought it forward, and that he himself had opposed it,) and placed on the statute book, where it still remains, one of the best safeguards of the subject.
On the subject of the toleration of Dissenters, Burke was large
nded and liberal, and supported the principle on several occasions But he resisted (and his reasons are very cogent) an attempt which was made in 1772, by certain clergymen of the Church of England, who sought to retain the benefits of being connected with the establishment, and yet to be freed from subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles. He, in his latter years, however, allowed his fear of French principles to warp his conduct too much on the subject of the Test Act and other similar questions.
On questions connected with Irish Trade, and with Irish Parliamentary freedom, Burke took the side of his native country. We will not enter now on this point, for we will have a more appropriate opportunity for doing so, when we venture on an attempt to illustrate the career of Henry Flood, another great Irishman, and a friend of Edmund Burke.
On Parliamentary Reform, Burke differed from Fox, Sheridan, and Grey, for he believed the constitution perfect.
Burke's policy was, strictly speaking, to preserve the freedom which existed, and not to risk its loss by seeking for its extension. There is no statesman of latter times, the general tendency of whose opinions in his mature years, more closely resembled those of Burke, than Sir Robert Peel.
On Finance we need only refer the reader to Burke's able speech in
this volume on Economical Reform, by the perusal of which he will find that Burke was completely master of that most difficult branch of the public administration, and was rm advocate of retrenchment.
During the Regency debat : in : 188, Burke took so strong a part against Pitt's proposal to limit the powers of the Prince of Wales, that his temper gave way on some occasions. Constitutional lawyers admit, however, that Burke, who adopted the principle which was (arried in the Irish Parliament, though rejected in that of England, was right according to the strict theory of the constitution.
Such are a few of the numerous subjects to elucidate which Burke gave the weight of his talents during his public career.
Barke retired from Parliament in 1794, immediately after the acquittal of Hastings, and was succeeded in the representation of Malton by his only son Richard, to w m he was most affectionately at. ched. The younger Burke did nou, however, live to enjoy parlia. mertary honours, for he died soon afterwards. From this blow Burke never rallied : he sank into a state of despondency which preyed upon his constitution, and such was his horror of the French Revolution, that the successes of the armies of the Republic added to the irritability under which he had now begun to suffer. When, however, the Duke of Bedford made some severe animadversions on the pension which had been conferred on him, Burke resumed his pen, and in a letter to the Earl of Fitzwilliam, displayed much of the fire which had marked the productions of his earlier and more vigorous years. This pamphlet was almost his last composition: one of his “ Letters on a Regicide Peace” was his last. He ceased to reside in London for some time before his death, which event took place at Beacons. field on the 8th July, 1797, in the 68th year of his age.
The style of Burke's oratory was—but let the reader proceed to study the following splendid orations, and he will thank us for not detaining him any longer from productions, the perusal of which will make him feel, more than could even the most elaborate criticism, what “manner of man" was EDMUND BURKE.
RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE.
SPEECH ON AMERICAN TAXATION.
[On the 19th April, 1774, Mr. Rose Fuller, member for Rye, proposed
Sir, I agree with the honourable gentleman who spoke last, that this subject is not new in this house. Very disagreeably to this l. Juse,
[NOTE.-In this selection of Burke's Speeches the following arrangement has been adopted :-Firstly, the editor has collected Burke's lead. ing Orations, delivered respecting the most important questions which were discussed during our great orator's career; secondly, the speeches on Warren Hastings have been placed together, with connecting remarks; and thirdly, extracts will be found from a large number of shorter speeches, with which Burke delighted the British senate for nearly thirty years. As a copious Table of Contents will be found in the beginning of the volume, the reader will be able at once to discover Burke's opinion on any of the principal questions of the age in which he lived.-J. B.]