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matter how that was said,” Burke replied to one of his visitors, “whoever relishes and reads Spenser as he ought to be read, will have a strong hold of the English language.” The delight of the host must have been at least equalled by the delight of the guest in conversation which was thus ever taking new turns, branching into topical surprises, and at all turns and on every topic was luminous, high, edifying, full.
No guest was more welcome than the friend of his boyhood; and Richard Shackleton has told how the friendship, cordiality, and openness with which Burke embraced him was even more than might be expected from long love. The simple Quaker was confused by the sight of what seemed to him so sumptuous and worldly a life, and he went to rest uneasily, doubting whether God's blessing could
with it. But when he awoke on the morrow of his first visit, he told his wife, in the language of his sect, how glad he was to find no condemnation ; but on the contrary, ability to put up fervent petitions with much tenderness on behalf of this great luminary.” It is at his country home that we like best to think of Burke. It is still a touching picture to the historic imagination to follow him from the heat and violence of the House, where tipsy squires derided the greatest genius of his time, down to the calm shades of Beaconsfield, where he would with his own hands give food to a starving beggar, or medicine to a peasant sick of the ague; where he would talk of the weather, the turnips, and the hay with the team-men and the farm-bailiff ; and where, in the evening stillness, he would pace the walk under the trees, and reflect on the state of Europe and the distractions of his country.
THE NEW MINISTRY-WARREN HASTINGS-BURKE'S PUBLIC
The six years which followed the destruction of the Coalition were, in some respects, the most mortifying portion of Burke's troubled career. Pitt was more firmly seated in power than Lord North had ever been, and he used his power to carry out a policy against which it was impossible for the Whigs, on their own principles, to offer an effective resistance. For this is the peculiarity of the King's first victory over the enemies who had done obstinate battle with him for nearly a quarter of a century. He had driven them out of the field, but with the aid of an ally who was as strongly hostile to the royal system as they had ever been. The King had vindicated his right against the Whigs to choose his own ministers; but the new minister was himself a Whig by descent, and a reformer by his education and personal disposition.
Ireland was the subject of the first great battle between the ministry and their opponents. Here, if anywhere, we might have expected from Burke at least his usual wisdom and patience. We saw in a previous chapter (p. 23) what the political condition of Ireland was when Burke went there with Hamilton in 1763. The American war had brought about a great change. The King had shrewdly predicted that if America became free, Ireland would soon follow the same plan and be a separate state. In fact, along with the American war we had to encounter an Irish war also; but the latter was, as an Irish politician called it at the time, a smothered war. Like the Americans, the Anglo-Irish entered into non-importation compacts, and they interdicted commerce. The Irish volunteers, first forty, then sixty, and at last a hundred thousand strong, were virtually an army enrolled to overawe the English ministry and Parliament. Following the spirit, if not the actual path, of the Americans, they raised a cry for commercial and legislative independence. They were too strong to be resisted, and in 1782 the Irish Parliament acquired the privilege of initiating and conducting its own business, without the sanction or control either of the Privy Council or of the English Parliament. Dazzled by the chance of acquiring legislative independence, they had been content with the comparatively small commercial boons obtained by Lord Nugent and Burke in 1778, and with the removal of further restrictions by the alarmed minister in the following year. After the concession of their independence in 1782, they found that to procure the abolition of the remaining restrictions on their commerce-the right of trade, for instance, with America and Africa—the consent of the English legislature was as necessary as it had ever been. Pitt, fresh from the teaching of Adam Smith and of Shelburne, brought forward in 1785 his famous commercial propositions. The theory of his scheme was that Irish trade should be free, and that Ireland should be admitted to a permanent participation in commercial advantages. In return for this gain, after her hereditary revenue passed a certain point, she was to devote the surplus to purposes, such as the maintenance of the navy, in which the two nations had a common interest. Pitt was to be believed when he declared that, of all the objects of his political life, this was, in his opinion, the most important that he had ever engaged in, and he never expected to meet another that should rouse every emotion in so strong a degree as this.
A furious battle took place in the Irish Parliament. There, while nobody could deny that the eleven propositions would benefit the mercantile interests of the country, it was passionately urged that the last of the propositions, that which concerned the apportionment of Irish revenue to imperial purposes, meant the enslavement of their unhappy island. Their fetters, they went on, were clenched, if the English Government was to be allowed thus to take the initiative in Irish legislation. The factious course pursued by the English Opposition was much less excusable than the line of the Anglo-Irish leaders. Fox, who was ostentatiously ignorant of political economy, led the charge. He insisted that Pitt's measures would annihilate English trade, would destroy the Navigation Laws, and with them would bring our maritime strength to the ground. Having thus won the favour of the English manufacturers, he turned round to the Irish Opposition, and conciliated them by declaring with equal vehemence that the propositions were an insult to Ireland, and a nefarious attempt to tamper with her new-born liberties. Burke followed his leader. We
say that for once he allowed his political integrity to be bewildered. In 1778 and 1779 he had firmly resisted the pressure which his mercantile constituents in Bristol had endeavoured to put upon him ; he had warmly supported the Irish claims, and had lost his seat in consequence. The precise ground which he took up in 1785 was this. He appears to have discerned in Pitt's proposals the germ of an attempt to extract revenue from Ireland, identical in purpose, principle, and probable effect with the ever-memorable attempt to extract revenue from the American Colonies. Whatever stress may be laid upon this, we find it hard to vindicate Burke from the charge of factiousness. Nothing can have been more unworthy of him than the sneer at Pitt in the great speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts (1785), for stopping to pick up chaff and straws from the Irish revenue, instead of checking profligate expenditure in India.
Pitt's alternative was irresistible. Situated as Ireland was, she must either be the subservient instrument of English prosperity, or else she must be allowed to enjoy the benefits of English trade, taking at the same time a proportionate share of the common burdens. Adam Smith bad shown that there was nothing incompatible with justice in a contribution by Ireland to the public debt of Great Britain. That debt, he argued, had been contracted in support of the government established by the Revolution ; a government to which the Protestants of Ireland owed not only the whole authority which they enjoyed in their own country, but every security which they possessed for their liberty, property, and religion. The neighbourhood of Ireland to the shores of the mother country introduced an element into the problem, which must have taught every unimpassioned observer that the American solution would be inadequate for a dependency that lay at our very door. Burke could not, in his calmer moments, have failed to recognize all this. Yet he lent himself to the party cry that Pitt was taking his first measures for the re-enslavement of Ireland. Had it not been for what he himself called the delirium of the preceding session, and which had still not subsided, he would