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adopt as reasonable and as practical a method of procedure. If to be logical is mentally invigorating, yet let us not forget that what is illogical is sometimes supremely desirable.
What an eulogy on liberty is that in which Burke concludes his great speech on conciliation with America. Slavery is contrasted with freedom, and the latter, not the former, indicated as the true bond of union between the Mother Country and the Colonies. All those mighty efforts which, later on, Burke directed against the abusers of Indian chartered rights, all that eloquence which he outpoured on behalf of the French court, nobility and clergy, while the French Revolution marked delirium point, will not stand for a moment beside this marvellous appeal to reason, to conscience, and to the loftiest patriotism. “As long," he cries, “as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom they will turn their faces towards you. Slavery they can have anywhere, freedom is the commodity of price of which you have a monopoly.” If liberty be still dear to Englishmen, it is surely that regulated and conditioned liberty which is the growth of disciplined self-assertion in the race. The elements of power in our constitution have been differently proportioned since the days of Burke. To use his own image, the cards have been shuffled afresh, though the pack has not been changed. The alteration in the balance of power has been reflected in the elements of the community, and while these elements continue to be at once self-respecting and respectful of each other, there ought to be and there will be no difficulty in orderly transfers of power in either direction if made in accord
ance with principles of equity and due recognition of unchanging moral and social laws.
It was on behalf of liberty and the ordered growth of communities that Burke put lance in rest on the great question of our Indian dependency. India was at that time the prey of a chartered company, and the war cry adopted by the defenders of that monopoly was, “The chartered rights of men.” I think the amount of consideration shewn by Burke to these same chartered rights is worthy of attention. He respects them as part of the national covenant made, it is true, with a company of merchants, but none the less on that account to be respected. Upon the theory of chartered companies as a whole he is silent, but once the powers are bestowed he betrays an insuperable reluctance to give his hand to destroy any established institution of government upon a theory however plausible His experience in life teaches him nothing clear upon the subject. have,” he says, “known merchants with the sentiments and abilities of great statesmen, and I have seen persons in the rank of statesmen with the conceptions and characters of pedlars.” It is only when these chartered rights are abused to violate the civil rights of the unhappy victims of oppression that his indignant blood cries out for the enforcement of a higher law and the fulfilment of a more sacred oath than ever guaranteed their original bestowal. Civil rights were possessed by the inhabitants of India. True, they were not such rights as have been dearly bought by Englishmen in the long course of centuries of struggle. But they were ancient, and they were respectable. “ An ancient and venerable priesthood, a nobility of great antiquity and renown, a multitude of cities, merchants, and bankers, millions of ingenious manufacturers and mechanics, millions of the most dili
gent and not the least intelligent toilers of the earth"such is Burke's description of the India of his day. As on the American question he stood forth to defend the Colonists against arbitrary interference with their local assemblies, so he now championed the institutions of India against the most completely destructive power that had ever assailed them. In both, the constructive side of his conservatism was strongly displayed. That which already existed was to be accepted to the utmost limits of possibility,—to be improved upon if it contained in any faint degree the principle of growth. If the government must perforce be displaced, that was merely an argument for a more strict conservation of all the great elements of life and order in the community. The inhabitants of India had known other tyrants before the English, but Burke drew a marked distinction between the present and former devastations. The destroyers of other days had, it is true, indulged in bloody atrocities, but they had finally settled down on the territory conquered, and had in some measure given a pledge of rehabilitation. The Company on the other hand but protected to destroy. It erected no churches, no hospitals, no schools, no bridges. It made no roads, no canals, no reservoirs.
“ Were we," he says, “to be driven out of India to day, nothing would remain to tell that it had been possessed during the inglorious period of our domination by anything better than the ourang-outang or the tiger.”
We who have lived to see England discharge her mission to India in a far different spirit, have seen railroads built, hospitals erected, and an unique system of irrigation provided, must not forget the enormous debt due to Burke for first dragging this question into the light of day. It was no ordinary task, it needed a giant's strength, it needed more than the perseverance of a giant. To all appearances it failed to achieve the immediate object in view, but that great lesson was not taught in vain, and the cries of India are no longer given, as Burke put it, to the seas and winds to be blown about over a remote and unhearing ocean. Burke traced with relentless energy every step in that melancholy process by which each state in turn was first protected, then made the subject of exaction, then mortgaged to the full extent of its revenue, and finally ruined. The possession of wealth in the governed has time out of mind served to excite suspicions of treason in the minds of their rulers, especially when pressing financial necessities have made it convenient that it should do so. How far this principle governed the East India Company in its dealings with native princes will always be a matter for debate, but Burke's facts are strikingly suggestive. Some curious reflections strike one also on the different value of money at different times, when one reads the usurious terms exacted by obliging English money lenders from an embarrassed Indian State a century ago. Fifteen per cent. upon a debt of four and a half millions appears to have been divided without a qualm between a few private gentlemen. Increased usury always followed upon increased embarrassment, and we find that the State of Tanjore was at one time paying at the modest rate of forty-eight per cent. monthly, with compound interest. Burke raised the very natural question as to the services which had been rendered in return for these enormous obligations. He argued that it was not in the power of a private adventurer to advance these prodigious sums. What then had been the equivalent ?
And with his usual insistence upon the moral aspect of the question he demanded to know what were the arts, what the sciences, what the moral institutions, for the bestowal of which these unheard of obligations might be supposed to be the acknowledgement. Finally, he reverts once more to his inherent reverence for existing institutions, and owns himself in a manner stupefied by the desperate boldness of a few obscure young men who had tossed about, subverted, and torn to pieces as it were, in the gambols of a boyish and unlucky malice, the most established rights, the most ancient and most revered institutions of ages and nations.
Burke's action in regard to Ireland was in strict accordance with the root principles of his nature. It was, moreover, the rock upon which above all others his amicable relations with his constituents at Bristol were dashed in pieces. Commercial restrictions and Catholic disabilities-these were the two things which engrossed nearly all that attention which he directed to the land of his nativity. He argued that it was commercially unwise to restrict the growth of the Irish nation in a communion of prosperity with England. He further argued that it did not and could not make for the stability of a constitution to have two millions of the citizens permanently disfranchised. It was the first named, however, which excited the most intense indignation amongst the trading community of Bristol. That community saw in the possible prosperity of Ireland the knell of their own commercial success. Now-a-days, it is a matter of common belief that, however blindly selfish may be the attitude of a given constituency, it is incumbent upon its representative to further its interests in Parliament be the cost to the rest of the empire what it may. Not so thought Burke. Members must be permitted, he argued, to have a very enlarged view of things, otherwise the national representation would be infallibly degraded into a confused and scuffling bustle of local agency. He stood boldly forth for