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with a gentle reproof, that by respecting his slumbers he had stinted Ids bounty. The third of these heroes, the blind Arabah, at the hour of prayer was supporting his steps on the shoulders of two slaves. "Alas!" he replied, "my coffers are empty! but these you may sell: if you refuse, I renounce them." At these words, pushing away the youths, he groped along the wall with his staff. The character of Hatem is the perfect model of Arabian virtue: he was brave and liberal, an eloquent poet, and a successful robber: forty camels were roasted at his hospitable feast; and at the prayer of a suppliant enemy he restored both the captives and the spoil. The freedom of his countrymen disdained the laws of justice: they proudly indulged the spontaneous impulse of pity and benevolence.
Amongst the orators and politicians of the eighteenth century, no one occupies a more distinguished place than Edmund Burke. He was born in Dublin in 1730, and was the son of a respectable and opulent solicitor. After having received the rudiments of education at the village school of Castletown-Koche, and at a private academy in the county of Kildare, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of fifteen. His university career was creditable, bnt not brilliant; and he did not, during his academical course, exhibit any great promise of those commanding powers of mind which afterwards shone forth so conspicuously in him.
In 1750 he came to London, and began to keep his terms at the Middle Temple. He was an ardent and diligent student; but his attention was not given exclusively, or even chiefly, to law. He was, indeed, gradually acquiring that vast and varied store of knowledge of which he afterwards made such splendid use in his writings and orations. He never became a profound lawyer, and he very soon abandoned the vocation altogether, and applied himself to literature and study, as a preparation for political life. In 1756 he published his first work, entitled, A Vindication of Natural Society; written in imitation of the style and reasoning of Lord Bolingbroke. In the same year he also gave to the world his famous essay on The Sublime and Beautiful. Very soon after this he married. About this time also he made the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson, Soame Jenyns, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other eminent men. In conjunction with Reynolds he established the Literary Club, which numbered amongst its members most of those at that time eminent in- literature.
At length the day arrived when Burke was to enter into that great arena for which he had long been training himself. His political career commenced under the auspices of the Marquis of Rockingham, to whom he was appointed private secretary. Through the interest of Lord Yerney, he took his seat in Parliament for the borough of Wendover. He entered the House of Commons at a critical period. The great controversy between England and her North American colonies was just beginning to assume a very ominous and threatening aspect. Burke's first speech was on the American question. He strongly insisted on the impolicy of taxing the colonists; and throughout the unhappy contest which followed, his voice was constantly lifted up in the interests of justice and conciliation. When the Rockingham Ministry was dismissed from office, Burke went into Opposition, and continued for some time steadily to attack the Government on account of their American policy. In 1775 he introduced his propositions on American Conciliation, in one of the most elaborate and powerful speeches which he ever delivered. He spoke, however, in vain; and when, three years later, Lord North proposed measures of conciliation toward America very much like those advocated by Burke, the time for conciliation was gone by, and the colonists demanded and obtained independence.
Burke was now Member for Bristol; but having displeased his constituents, partly by not having courted their favour with sufficient assiduity, partly by his votes and speeches on Irish trade and measures of relief to Roman Catholics, he declined to offer himself for re-election in 1780, and took his seat for Malton, which place he continued to represent during the remainder of his parliamentary career.
As early as 1774, Burke's attention had been drawn to Indian affairs; and in the debates which from time to time arose in the House of Commons on that subject, he generally took a prominent part, and displayed very extensive and accurate knowledge. In 1783 he co-operated in the preparation of Mr. Fox's India Bill, and delivered, in support of it, an elaborate speech, which is included amongst his published works. In 1785 he made his memorable speech on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts—a speech remarkable, not only for the profound acquaintance with the affairs of India which it discovers, but also for its splendid outbursts of rhetoric Within the next year he found himself concerned in a still more important question. This was the case of Warren Hastings, of whose impeachment Burke was the chief mover, and ultimately the chief manager.
Hitherto Burke had been a member of the Whig party. From the resignation of the Rockingham Ministry in 1766 till that Ministry again took office in 1782, he spoke and voted with the Opposition. On the accession of the Marquis of Rockingham to power, Burke was made paymaster of the forces and a privy councillor. He resigned office shortly afterwards, on the death of Lord Rockingham, but was reinstated in his position when the Coalition Ministry of Lord North and Mr. Fox superseded the Ministry of Lord Shelburne. This Ministry, however, was in its turn ejected from office on the question of Fox's India BUI, and Burke once more took his seat on the Opposition benches. So far his opinions had inclined to the side of progress and popular rights. He took, as we have seen, the liberal side on the American question; he argued strongly in favour of economical and financial reform, and introduced a very able measure on the subject. His views on trade and commerce were in advance of his age, and he was a champion of religious toleration, and an outspoken opponent of negro slavery. But he underwent a sort of political reaction through the effect on his mind of the extravagancies and atrocities of the French Revolution. His work on this subject was written from what would now-a-days be called a very conservative stand-point; and when Mr. Fox continued to express his approval of the general principles of that Revolution, and his confidence in the ultimate advantage it would secure to popular rights and national liberties, Burke, after extemporizing a somewhat theatrical scene in the House of Commons, left his place by Fox's side, crossed the floor of the House, and took his seat near Mr. Pitt on the Ministerial benches. His friendship with Fox was from that day broken off.
Burke's private life was most virtuous and honourable: in all his domestic relations he was very estimable. His tastes were those of an English country gentleman, and he devoted much attention to agriculture and gardening. One great sorrow darkened the closing years of his life. His only son, a young man of high accomplishments and great promise, was taken from him at the age of thirty-six. Three years afterwards, his own summons came; and, after a short illness, he expired at his residence near Beaconsfield on the 8th of July 1797.
The literary remains of Burke may be described as consisting of Speeches and Dissertations. His earliest work, as already mentioned, was his Vindication of Natural Society, The character of this work is ironical, and it was written to show how the arguments made use of by Bolingbroke against revealed religion may be employed to establish the superiority of a state of nature as compared with civilized life. Thus, by a sort of reductio ad absurdum, it refutes the sophistries of Bolingbroke. It is a most felicitous imitation of that author's style and mode of reasoning.
His next work, published in the same year, was an Enquiry into ike Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. These ideas the writer traces to the inspiration of terror. "Whatever," he says, "is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime." The theory itself is unphilosophical and absurd; nor is the reasoning by which he attempts to support it very cogent. This treatise, therefore, though containing evidence of Burke's powers and wealth of mind, is inferior to his other works, and of no very high merit in itself. Of much greater value is his Thoughts on the Present Discontents. This essay is not only more forcible and elegant in style, but abounds with large and enlightened views of politics, and contains a most acute and uncompromising exposure of all the various arts of political corruption. <■
A considerable number of Burke's writings have reference to the momentous subject of the French Revolution. Of these, the most important is that entitled Reflections on the Revolution in France. Indeed, of all his works this is perhaps the best known to general readers. It is undoubtedly a striking monument of his genius, and exhibits in ample profusion the endowments and powers of his brilliant intellect. It is characterized at once by ingenious and vigorous argument, by glowing imagery and varied illustration, by touching appeal and animated description. But it is an undistinguishing attack, not only on the extravagancies and atrocities of the Revolution, but on the whole course of it—on all the agencies by which it was carried on, and all the principles on which it was based. It scarcely recognizes the fact that great evils and abuses previously existed; it holds up to contempt the National Assembly by whom the movement was inaugurated and carried on; it is unsparing in its denunciation of all those who in this country felt any sympathy for the revolutionary cause, or any confidence in the ultimate issue.
Among other writings of Burke on the same topic, we may mention his Letter to a Member of the National Assembly— Remarks on the Policy of the Allies with Regard to France—Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs—Letters on a Regicide Peace, &c, &c
The horrors which undeniably accompanied the fierc.e struggle of the French nation for its liberties seem to have made so deep an impression on Burke, that he found it impossible to take an impartial, philosophical view of the great questions at issue. The sobriety of his judgment was disturbed by the morbid activity of his imagination.
The chief works of onr author yet to be referred to are his Speeches. Of these, the most remarkable are, his speech on American Taxation, that which he delivered on moving resolutions for Conciliation with America, that on Economical Reform, and that on the Nabob of A rcot's Debts. Of his magnificent speeches delivered at the trial of Warren Hastings no complete report was taken at the time; and though he himself afterwards did something towards preparing them for the press, yet, as finally published—and they were not published till some years after his death—they only imperfectly exhibit the eloquence which he displayed on that occasion.
As an orator, however, Burke cannot be included in the highest rank, if oratory is to be estimated by the impression it produces. He did not carry his hearers with him as completely as some men of less splendid powers have done. He wanted, indeed, the faculty of thoroughly adapting himself to his audience. He was too fond of enlarging, generalizing, refining, to suit the temper of a popular assembly. Hence the very speeches which delight us as written dissertations produced comparatively little effect on the House of Commons. He was deficient also in some of the accessories of oratory. His action was ungraceful, and his voice harsh and of little compass. But as a writer and a man