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be marked (we must contend] in a long war.” 1 This sentence Buckle very justly characterizes as “the most horrible ever penned by an English politician.” It is sad and almost impossible to believe that this is the same Burke who wrote, in 1777 : “ The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression, is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man.” And again : “ General rebellions and revolts of a whole people never were encouraged, now or at any time. They are always provoked."
Burke's attitude towards the French Revolution brought him many mortifications, among them the approval of King George. It cost him also the friendship of Fox, Sheridan, and, indeed, one might almost say of nearly every public man in England whose friendship was worth having. As time went on his feeling grew more and more intense; from the measured tone of dignified argumentation he passed to the uncontrollable scream of passion; in the Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791), and in the Letters on a Regicide Peace (some of them not published till after his death), we find passages worthy the worst days of that Irish Parliament of whom Swift so touchingly wrote:
“May their God, the Devil, confound them!”
Fox declared, with equal wit and wisdom, that it was lucky for Burke that he took the royal side in the Revolution; had he taken the other side, his violence would certainly have got him hanged.
1 The Italics are Burke's.
In 1794 Burke, then sixty-six years of age, and feeling his strength failing, retired from the House of Commons. His affairs being greatly embarrassed, he accepted a pension of £2,500 a year from the Crown. Thirty years of disinterested public service had well deserved this reward ; but the usual cry of corruption was raised, and by a person ill-qualified for the task, — the Duke of Bedford. To him Burke replied in the Letter to a Noble Lord (1795), the last of his writings that can be read with pleasure, or that can count for his literary reputation.
Burke died at his country-seat of Beaconsfield, in 1797. His friend-and-adversary Fox desired for him a public funeral and a tomb in Westminster, but according to Burke's express wish his body was laid to rest in the quiet country church near his own home.
Fortunate would it have been for Burke had he died in the zenith of his powers, say, when was acknowledged that American Independence for which he contended so nobly. Then, when we reflected upon the high morality, the lofty emotion, the luminous wisdom, the fine imagination, the powerful expression of his work — then might we have been able to feel as felt Macaulay when he exclaimed : “Burke: the greatest man since Milton ! ” Now, when we gaze upon the melancholy decline of those closing years of Burke's life — now our thought is rather, —
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley were with us, - they watch from their graves! He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
- He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves 1"
THE BEST BOOKS ABOUT BURKE.
JOHN MORLEY. Burke (in the English Men of Letters Series). The author of this book exhibits the rare phenomenon of a politician with fine literary training. It would be difficult, therefore, to imagine any one better fitted to treat of Burke ; equally difficult would it be to find a biography where (in spite of a certain prolixity of style) the accomplishment better fulfills the expectation.
JOHN MORLEY. Burke : An Historical Study. The substance of this book will also be found in a series of articles in the Fortnightly Review, vols. vii. and viii. It deals only with the political side of Burke ; some of the material is used over again in the biography above referred to.
LESLIE STEPHEN. History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century ; vol. ii., chapter x. Burke occupies a prominent place in this chapter, which traces the history of political theories in England from the time of Locke to that of the French Revolution.
BUCKLE. History of Civilization in England ; vol. i., chapter vii., pp. 325-362 (Appleton's edition). Buckle brings together in sharp contrast some of the noble declarations for liberty in Burke's earlier writings and his ferocious denunciations of liberty in his later writings. His criticism of Burke is severe, but hardly more severe than the occasion warrants. Burke's violence he attributes to senility ; Mr. Morley (contrary to the evidence, it seems to me) ridicules this theory.
The teacher who has mastered these four studies will find little of value in the critiques of earlier writers upon Burke. Rather, then, as literary curiosities than as substantial contributions to thought, are mentioned the following : De Quincey': Essays on Rhetoric and on Schlosser's Literary History of the Eighteenth Century; Hazlitt's Essay on the Character of Burke ; Sir Joseph Napier's Lecture on Burke. References to Burke will be found scattered through Boswell, The Diary of Madame D'Arblay, and Macaulay's Essays; consult the Indexes to these works.
The latest writer on Burke is Augustin Birrell in his Obiter Dicta, Second Series. While it is impossible to take Mr. Birrell seriously as a critic, he is certainly a delightful humorist, and should be read as such.
NOTE ON THE ENGLISH PARLIAMENTARY
THE English system of Parliamentary Government differs in so many ways from our system of Congressional Government, that the young student of Burke may find it helpful to have the details of the former briefly explained here.
In the English system there is no such divorce between the Legislative and the Executive as the constitution-makers effected in our system. The Cabinet (Executive) consists of some twelve or fifteen officials chosen from the political party that commands a majority in the House of Commons (Legislative); the cabinet, therefore, is practically a Committee of the House of Commons. Members of the Cabinet may be selected from the House of Lords,- a few invariably are; but it is the political complexion of the House of Commons that determines the make-up of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is appointed nominally by the Crown; practically he is selected by the consensus of the influential politicans in his own party. The other members of the Cabinet are also appointed nominally by the Crown, but practically by the Prime Minister, after consultation with his party friends.