the commercial emancipation of Ireland against the prejudices of his constituents, and wrung from Parliament some considerable concessions. He embraced the doctrines of free trade by implication when he declared that in unrestricted intercourse alone could the commercial fortunes of trading nations find their truest growth. But he had stronger grounds for his attitude upon this question than the prosperity, or otherwise, of Ireland. England was then at the height of her troubles, and Burke feared that Ireland might do what she eventually did-namely, seize the favourable moment for demanding by force what England had refused to concede with dignity. In 1780 he justified himself to his constituents in the memorable speech previous to that election from which he withdrew under the shadow of certain defeat. Successful justificawas, of course, out of the question. Burke had committed that most fatal of all blunders-namely, asserting the cause of justice against the bigoted prejudices of his countrymen. It was nothing that the lapse of time had proved him conclusively right. This was but to intensify the original cause of offence. He had been right on the American question. He had been right on the Irish question, and he received his reward. It is impossible to read his manly defence without emotion. He had been, he said, an Irishman on the Irish business, just as he was an American when on the same principles he wished timely concessions to America. When England refused, and Ireland later on exacted, he had felt equally distressed, “I became,” he says, “ unpopular in England for the one, and in Ireland for the other. What then, what obligation lay on me to be popular? I was bound to serve both Kingdoms. To be pleased with my service was their affair, not mine.” The lapse of one hundred years has induced Parliamentary representatives to waive this superiority to popular applause, and I think we must all agree that there is but too little fear in our own day of a repetition of offences similar to Burke's. With equal force, in 1782, Burke inveighed against the unwisdom of keeping the Irish Catholics entirely outside the constitution. He condemned absolutely the method of prescribing whole bodies of men by denominations and general descriptions. He terms the penal laws which had been re-enacted by the Irish Parliament against Irish Catholics as an universal, unmitigated, indispensable, exceptionless disqualification from every office of trust and profit, from every vote at an election, from any privilege in a town corporate, from a vote at a vestry, from being a barrister, attorney or solicitor. The Irish Parliament, be it noted, had in 1782 exacted from England a full measure of legislative independence. Burke's most reasonable plea was that that same Parliament should concede to the Roman Catholics of Ireland some share of the elective franchise, some measure of that freedom which they had wrung from the English administration. Here, again, his ineradicable respect for the principle of growth displays itself. He speaks on a supposition that there is a disposition to take the State in the condition in which it is found, and to improve it in that state to the best advantage.

It is in a similar strain that in 1792, ten years later, and when life was fast drawing to a close, we find him addressing his memorable letter to Sir Hercules Langrish. Therein he traced the origin of the great chasm which had existed between the English and the native Irish in Ireland from the times of Elizabeth downwards, and combated vigorously the idea that the latter ought to enjoy all things under the State, but ought not to form a part of the State. He had by this time found fresh cause for alarm in the offers held out to Irish Catholics by Jacobins and Dissenters, and was strongly in favour of ranging the Irish on the side of law and order by giving them an immediate interest in the Constitution.

“ Is the narrowing of the foundation,” he asks, “the best way to secure a building? Can two millions of your fellow subjects be permanently disenfranchised ?" It is noteworthy that, as early as 1792, many in the Irish Parliament were in such a heat at the idea of the Catholics having a share in the franchise, that they threatened to throw up their independence and precipitate à union with Great Britain. Burke's prescience was again demonstrated when he questions whether, even so, the exclusion of two millions of Irishmen from all share in the Constitution could be made a permanent article of the union. In one of his rare attempts at humour, he supposed the unhappy case of a gentleman who, even under the union, might be exposed to the mortification of asking the votes of those who held a different opinion from himself concerning the elements in the sacraments. When practically at death's door, in 1797, we find Burke still urging the prudence of endorsing the claims of the Irish Catholics, and dreading the possibility of their being driven into the arms of the Jacobins. He states that he is in favour of the closest connection between the two countries, but conceives that the whole of the superior, and what he would call the imperial, politics, ought to have their residence in England, and that Ireland locally, civilly, and commercially independent, ought to look up to Great Britain in all matters of peace or war in all those points to be guided by her, and, in a word, with her to live or die. This is Home Rule in its essence, and therefore those of us who have a whim to classify the men of a century ago according to present day controversies will, pace the altered circumstances, have no

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difficulty in classifying Burke. But the circumstances are altered, and it is just possible that Burke might have taken up his familiar position. He might have argued that since the Irish, Protestants and Catholics alike, have had for nearly seventy years a direct interest in the Constitution, it might be unwise upon a theory to alter a tried system, and open up again the very basis of the Constitution. Be this, however, as it may, Burke was always clear against separation, for by that he considered Ireland would be the most completely undone country in the world, the most wretched, the most distracted, the most desolate part of the habitable globe.

It is difficult, when contemplating Burke's attitude upon the question of Catholic representation in Ireland, to reconcile with it his steady refusal even to consider the idea of widening the representation of the English House of Commons. Years before he took alarm at the methodised anarchy of the French Revolution, he had uniformly and steadily opposed for many years together, this particular reform. Probably the only valid excuse that can be discovered for this inconsistency is his own statement, “A Constitution made up of balanced powers must ever be a critical thing.” Hence he refused altogether to meddle with it, and fell back upon arguments which could hardly have held water even towards the close of the last century. His reasons for the Crown as it was, and for the Lords as they were, were his reasons for the Commons as they were, and the electors as they were. This was in the first case an appeal to prescriptive right-a doctrine of which successive transfers of power has not increased the prerogative; and, secondly, an appeal to experience. The Constitution had worked well, and was suited to the community. Why alter its basis? The vestment was accommodated to the body.


Why attempt to interfere with it? He rejected in toto the plea of natural right and representation by head, and failed to find in experience any reasonable ground for a change. That substantial ground for change was found later on none will deny. Whether sufficient ground existed in Burke's day may be matter for argument. But at times we feel that he himself had a sense of inadequate representation. When alarmed by the secret influence of the crown, he agrees that it will be better to have a house reflecting all the tempers and distempers of the nation than one absolutely non-representative. He even went so far as to assert that the virtue, spirit, and essence of the House of Commons consisted in its being the express image of the feelings of the nation. When Lord Carmarthen founded a plea for withholding representation from America on the ground that certain towns in England were not represented, he was stung into describing this defect in English representation as the shameful part of our Constitution, our weakness, our opprobrium, the slough of slavery, which we were not able to work off. But when left undisturbed, his mind gravitated back to its first principles of holding fast to a tried and proved political system, and there we must leave him.

But if Burke was willing to tolerate certain inequalities in elective representation rather than disturb the nice balance of the Constitution, he was none the less resolute to correct its administrative abuses. His great effort on behalf of economic reform was, as he himself tells us, most completely adverse to the natural turn and temper of his mind.

Yet he made it unflinchingly, and, needless to say, with all that grasp of facts and figures which was in him as remarkable as his great breadth and soundness of judgment. Pensions, offices, boards, sinecures of all

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