Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

cal; or it may be said, his mind, like the soil of the East, which he loved to paint, threw up a rank and luxuriant vegetation, in which unsightly weeds were mingled with the choicest flowers and the most precious fruit. Ile was at once a poet, an orator, a philosopher, and practical statesman: and his knowledge, his industry, and perseve. rance were as remarkable as his genius. The protracted and brilliant career of this great man was terminated on the 9th of July 1797, and he was interred in the church at Beaconsfield.

A complete edition of Burke's works has been published in sixteen volumes. His correspondence between the year 1744 and his decease, edited by Earl Fitzwilliam and Sir R. Bourke, was published in 1844, in four volumes; and copious Lives of Burke have been written by Prior, Croly, and Macknight. Burke's political, and not his philosophical writings, are now chiefly read. His ‘Disquisition on the Sublime and beautiful' is incorrect in theory and in many of its illustrations, though containing some just remarks and elegant criticism. His mighty understanding, as Sir James Mackintosh observed, was best employed in the middle region, between the details of business and the generalities of speculation. A generous political opponent, and not less eloquent—though less original and less powerful-writer, has thus sketched the character of Burke:

'It is pretended,' says Robert Hall, that the moment we quit a state of nature, as we have given up the control of our actions in return for the superior advantages of law and government, we can never appeal again to any original principles, but must rest content with the advantages that are secured by the terms of the society. These are the views which distinguish the political writings of Mr. Burke, an author whose splendid and unequal powers have given a vogue and fashion to certain tenets which, from any other pen, would have appeared abject and contemptible. In the field of reason, the encounter would not be difficult, but who can withstand the fascination and magic of his eloquence? The excursions of his genius are immense. His imperial fancy has laid all nature under tribute, and has collected riches from every scene of the creation and every walk of art. His eulogium on the queen of France is a master-piece of pathetic compo. sition; so select are its images, so fraught with tenderness, and so rich with colours - dipt in heaven,” that he who can read it without rapture, may have merit as a reasoner, but must resign all pretentions to taste and sensibility. His imagination is, in trutii, only too prolific:

tailed: a cabinet so variously inlaid : such a piece of diversified mosaic; such a tesselated pavemcut, without cement, here a bit or black stone, and there a bit of wbite: patriois and courtiers--king 's friends and republicans- I higs and Tories--treacherons riends and open cuemies--that it was indeed a very curious show. but utterly unsafe to toich, and nosure to s and on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards stared at each other; and were obliged to a-k: Sir. your name? Sir. 5. have the advantage of me. * Mr. Such-t-one. I beg a thousand pardons. I venture to say it did so lappen, chat persons had a single otice divided between them, who hud? never spoke to each other in their lives, until they found themselves, they kuew nub bow, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle-bed.

a world of itself, where he dwells in the midst of chimerical alarms is the dupe of his own enchantments, and starts, like Prospero, at the spectres of his own creation. His intellectual views in general, however, are wide, and variegated, rather than distinct; and the light that he has let in on the British constitution, in particular, resembles the coloured effulgence of a painted medium, a kind of mimic twilight, solemn and soothing to the senses, but better fitted for ornament than use.'

Sir James Mackintosh considered that Burke's best style was before the Indian business and the French Revolution had inflamed him. It was more chaste and simple; but his writings and speeches at this period can hardly be said to equal his later productions in vigour, fancy, or originality. The excitement of the times seemed to give a new development to his mental energies. The early speeches have most constitutional and practical value—the late ones, most genius. The former are a solid and durable structure, and the latter its ‘Corinthian columns.'

From the Speech on Conciliation with America, 1775. Mr. Speaker, I cannot prevail on myself to hurry over the great consideration. It is good for us to be here. We stand where we have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds, indeed, and darkness, rest upon the future. Let us, however,

re we des from this noble eminence, refle that growth of our national prosperity has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For instance, my Lord Bathurst* might remember all the stages of the progress. He was in 1104 of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old enough acta parentum jam legere, et qua sit poterit cognoscere virtus. Suppose, sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate men of his age, had opened to him in vision, that, when in the fourth generation, the third prince of the house of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation, which-by the happy issue of moderate and healing councils—was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, lord-chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one. If amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honour and prosperity that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country, and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the Genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell him: • Young man, there is America-which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, shew itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by succession of civilising conquests and civilising settlements in a series of seventeen hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life! If this state of his country had been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man, he has lived to see it! Fortunate, indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect and cloud the setting of his day!

You cannot station garrisons in every part of these deserts. If you drive the people from one place, they will carry on their annual tillage, and remove with their

& Allen, first Earl Bathurst, the friend of Pope and Swift, born in 1681, died in 1775.

focks and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already little attached to particular situations. Already they have topped the Appalachian mountains. From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level meadow ; a square of five hundred miles. Over this they would wander without a possibility of restraint; they would change their manners with the habits of their life; would soon forget a government by which they were disowned; would become hordes of English Tartars, and, pouring down upon your unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry. become masters of your governors and your counsellors, your collectors and comptrollers, and all the slaves that adhere to them. Such would, and in no long time must, be the effect of attempting to forbid as a crime, and to suppress as an evil, the command and blessing of Providence-increase and multipy,' Such would be the happy result of an endeavour to keep as a lair of wild beasts that carth which God, by an express charter, has given to the children of men. Far different, and surely much wiser, has been our policy bitherto. Hitherto we have invited our people, by every kind of bounty, to fixed establishments. We have invited the husbandman to look to authority for his title. We have taught him pionsly to believe in the mysterious virtue of wax and parchment. We have thrown each tract of land, as it was peopled, into districts, that the ruling power should never be wholly out of sight. "We have settled all we could, and we have carefully attended every settlement with government.

Adhering, sir, as I do to this policy, as well as for the reasons I have just given, I think this new project of hedging-in population to be neither prudent nor practicable.

To impoverish the colonies in general, and in particular to arrest the noble course of their inarine enterprises, would be a more easy task. I freely confess it. We have shewn a disposition to a system of this kind; a disposition even to continue the restraint after the offense; looking on ourselves as rivals to our colonies, and persuaded ibat of course we must gain all that they shall lose. Much mischief we may certainly do. The power inadequate to all other things is often more thau sufficient for this. I do not look on the direct and immediate power of the colonies to resist our violence as very formidable. In this, however, I may be mistaken. Bui when I cousider that we have colonies for no purpose but to be serviceable to us, it seems to my poor understanding a little preposterous to make them unserviceable, in order to keep them obedient. "It is, in truth, nothing more than the old, and, as I thought, exploded problem of tyranny, which proposes to begger its subjects into submission. But remember, when you have completed your system, of impoverishment, that nature still proceeds in her ordinary course; and that discontent will increase with misery; and that there are critical moments in the fortunes of all states, when they who are too weak to contribute to your prosperity, may be strong enough to complete your ruin. Spoliatis arma supersunt.

The teinper and character which prevail in our colonies are I am afraid, unalterable by any human art. We cannot, I fear, falsify the pedigree of this fierce people, and persuade them that they are not sprung from a nation in whose veins the blood of freedom circulates. The language in which they would hear you tell them this tale would detect the di-position ; your speech would betray you. An Englishmar. is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishmau into slavery.

My hold of the colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges, and cqnal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government; they will cling and grapple to you; and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another; that these two things may exist without any mutual relation, the cement is gone-the cohesion is loosened-and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign anthority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sous of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia; but uutil you become lost to all feeling of your true interest und your natural dignity. freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price of which you have the monopoly. This is the true act of navigation, which binds you to the commerce of the colonies, and through them secures to you the commerce of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination, as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your coquets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivifies every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.

Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our situation and glow with zeal to fill our places as becomes our station and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings on America with the old warning of the church, sursum corda! We ought to elevate our minds to the greatness of that trust to which the order of Providence has called us. By adverting to the dignity of this high calling, our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire; and have made the most extensive, and the only honourable conquests, not by destroying, but by promoting the wealth, the number, the happiness of the human race. Let us get an American revenue, as we have got an American empire. English privileges have made it all that it is; English privileges alone will make it all that it can be. In full confidence of this unalierable truth, I now (quod felix faustumque sit) lay the first stone of the temple of peace.* Destruction of the Carnatic.- From speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts,

1785. When at length Hyder Ali found that he had to do with men who either would sign no convention, or whom no treaty and no signature could blind, and who were the determined enemies of human intercourse itself, he decreed to make the country possessed by these incorrigible and predestinated criminals a memorable example to mankind. He resolved, in the gloomy recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to leave the whole Carnatic an everlasting monument of vengeance, and to put perpetual desolation as a barrier between him and those against whom the faith which holds the moral elements of the world together was no protection. He became at length so confident of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no secret whatever of his dreadful resolution. Having terminated his disputes with every enemy and every rival, who buried their mutual animosities in their common detestation against the creditors of the Nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the arts of destruction: and compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation into one black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivities of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on this menacing meteor which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly burst and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. Astorm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants flying from the flaming villages, in part were slaughtered: others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of function ; fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an un

* At the conclusion of this speech, Mr. Burke moved that the right of parliamentary representation should be extended to the Americau colonies, but his motion was negatived by 270 to 73. Indeed. bis most brilliant orations made little impression on the House of Commons, the ministerial part being oinnipotentin numbers. The manuer of be orator was also ungraceful, and detracted from the effect of his speeches.

kpown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities ; but escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine.

The alms of the settlement, in this dreadful exigency, were certainly liberal; and all was done by charity that private charity could do: but it was a people in beggary; it was a nation that stretched out its hands for food. For months together these creatures of sufferance, whose very excess and luxury in their most plenteous days had fallen short of the allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, without sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished by a hundred a day in the streets of Madras; every day seventy at least laid their bodies in the streets, or on the glacis of Tanjore, and expired of famine in the granary of India. I was going to awake your justice towards this unhappy part of our fellow-citizens, by bringing before you some of the circumstances of this plague of hunger. Of all the calamities which beset and waylay the life of man, this comes the nearest to our heart, and is that wherein the proudest of us all feels himself to be nothing more than he is: but I find myself unable to manage it with decorum ; these details are of a species of horror so nauseous and disgusting; they are so degrading to the sufferers and to the hearers; they are so humiliating to human nature itself, that, on better thoughts, I find it more advisable to throw å pall over this hideous object, and to leave it to your general conceptions.

For eighteen months, without intermission, this destruction raged from the gates of Madras to the gates of Tanjore; and so completely did these masters in their art, Hyder Ali and his more ferocious son, absolve themselves of their impious vow, that when the British armies traversed, as they did, the Carnatic for hundreds of miles in all directions, through the whole line of their march did they not see one man, not one woman, not one child, not one four-footed beast of any description whatever. One dead uniform silence reigned over_the whole region. ... The Carnatic is a country not much inferior in extent to England. Figure to yourself, Mr. Speaker, the land in whose representative chair you sit; figure to yourself the form and fashion of your sweet and cheerful country from Thames to Trent, north and south, and from the Irish to the German Sea, east and west, emptied and embowelled (may God avert the omen of our crimes !) hy so accomplished a desolation ! Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.- From ' Reflections on the Revolu

tion in France.' It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in-glittering like the morning-star full of life, and splendour, and joy. Oh! what a revolution! and what an heart inust I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall ! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to that enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone that sensibility of priuciple, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.

The British Monarchy. The learned professors of the rights of man regard prescription not as a title to bar all claim set up against old possession, but they look on prescription itself as a bar against the possessor and proprietor. They hold an immemorial possession to

« AnteriorContinuar »