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more firmly, and explained it still more impressively. As for the question of the right of taxation, he exclaimed, “ It is less than nothing in my consideration. ... My consideration is narrow, confined, and wholly limited to the policy of the question. I do not examine whether the giving away a man's money be a power excepted and reserved out of the general trust of Government. ... The question with me is not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do. I am not determining a point of law; I am restoring tranquillity, and the general character and situation of a people must determine what sort of government is fitted for them.” “I am not here going into the distinctions of rights,” he cries, “not attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions. I hate the very sound of them. This is the true touchstone of all theories which regard man and the affairs of man: does it suit his nature in general ? does it suit his nature as modified by his habits ?" He could not bear to think of having legislative or political arrangements shaped or vindicated by a delusive geometrical accuracy of deduction, instead of being entrusted to the natural operation of things, which, left to themselves, generally fall into their
order." Apart from his incessant assertion of the principle that man acts from adequate motives relative to his interests, and not on metaphysical speculations, Burke sows, as he marches along in his stately argument, many a germ of the modern philosophy of civilization. He was told that America was worth fighting for. “Certainly it is,” he answered, “if fighting a people be the best way of gaining them.” Every step that has been taken in the direction of progress, not merely in empire, but in education, in punishment, in the treatment of the insane, has shown the deep wisdom, so unfamiliar in that age of ferocious penalties and brutal methods, of this truth-that “the natural effect of fidelity, clemency, kindness in governors, is peace, good-will, order, and esteem in the governed." Is there a single instance to the contrary? Then there is that sure key to wise politics : "Nobody shall persuade me, when a whole people are concerned, that acts of lenity are not means of conciliation.” And that still more famous sentence, “I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people."
Good and observant men will feel that no misty benevolence or vague sympathy, but the positive reality of experience, inspired such passages as that where he says, “Never expecting to find perfection in men, and not looking for divine attributes in created beings, in my commerce with my contemporaries I have found much human virtue. The age unquestionably produces daring profligates and insidious hypocrites? What then? Am I not to avail myself of whatever good is to be found in the world, because of the mixture of evil that is in it! ... Those who raise suspicions of the good, on account of the behaviour of evil men, are of the party of the latter. ... A conscientious person would rather doubt his own judgment, than condemn his species. He that accuses all mankind of corruption, ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one. In truth, I should much rather admit those whom at any time I have disrelished the most, to be patterns of perfection, than seek a consolation to my own unworthiness in a general communion of depravity with all about me.” This is one of those pieces of rational constancy and mental wholeness in Burke, which fill up our admiration for him one of the manifold illustrations of an invincible fidelity to the natural order and operation of things, even when they seemed most hostile to all that was dear to his own personality,
ECONOMICAL REFORM -BURKE IN OFFICE-FALL
TOWARDS 1780 it began to be clear that the ministers had brought the country into disaster and humiliation, from which their policy contained no way
In the closing months of the American war, the Opposition pressed ministers with a vigour that never abated. Lord North bore their attacks with perfect good - humour. When Burke, in the course of a great oration, parodied Burgoyne's invitation to the Indians to repair to the King's standard, the wit and satire of it almost suffocated the prime minister, not with shame but with laughter. His heart had long ceased to be in the matter, and everybody knew that he only retained his post in obedience to the urgent importunities of the King, whilst such colleagues as Rigby only clung to their place because the salaries were endeared by long familiarity. The general gloom was accidentally deepened by that hideous outbreak of fanaticism and violence, which is known as the Lord George Gordon Riots (June, 1780). The Whigs, as having favoured the relaxation of the laws against popery, were especially obnoxious to the mob. The government sent a guard of soldiers to protect Burke's house in Charles Street, St. James's; but, after he had removed the more important of his papers, he insisted on the guard being dispatched for the protection of more important places, and he took shelter under the roof of General Burgoyne. His excellent wife, according to a letter of his brother, had “the firmness and sweetness of an angel; but why do I say of an angel of a woman." Burke himself courageously walked to and fro amid the raging crowds with firm composure, though the experiment was full of peril. He describes the mob as being made up, as London mobs generally are, rather of the unruly and dissolute than of fanatical malignants, and he vehemently opposed any concessions by Parliament to the spirit of intolerance which had first kindled the blaze. All the letters of the time show that the outrages and alarms of those days and nights, in which the capital seemed to be at the mercy of a furious rabble, made a deeper impression on the minds of contemporaries than they ought to have done. Burke was not likely to be less excited than others by the sight of such insensate disorder; and it is no idle fancy that he had the mobs of 1780 still in his memory, when ten years later he poured out the vials of his wrath on the bloodier mob which carried the King and Queen of France in wild triumph from Versailles to Paris.
In the previous February (1780) Burke had achieved one of the greatest of all his parliamentary and oratorical
Though the matter of this particular enterprise is no longer alive, yet it illustrates his many strong qualities in so remarkable a way that it is right to give some account of it. We have already seen that Burke steadily set his face against parliamentary reform; he habitually declared that the machine was well enough to answer any good purpose, provided the materials were sound. The statesman who resists all projects for the