Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents and the Two Speeches on America
*1Hoc vero occultum, intestinum ac domesticum malum, non modo non existit, verum etiam opprimit, antequam prospicere atque explorare potueris.—CICERO.
*2It is an undertaking of some degree of delicacy to examine into the cause of public disorders. If a man happens not to succeed in such an enquiry, he will be thought weak and visionary; if he touches the true grievance, there is a
To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind; indeed the necessary effects of the
Nobody, I believe, will consider it merely as the language of spleen or disappointment, if I say, that there is something particularly alarming in the present conjuncture. There is hardly a man, in or out of power, who holds any other language. That Government is at once dreaded and contemned; that the laws are despoiled of all their respected and salutary terrors; that their inaction is a subject of ridicule, and their exertion of abhorrence; that rank, and office, and title, and all the solemn plausibilities of the world, have lost their reverence and effect; that our foreign politicks
This state of things is the more extraordinary, because the *19great parties which formerly divided and agitated the kingdom are known to be in a manner entirely dissolved. No great external calamity has visited the nation; no pestilence or famine. We do not labour *20at present under any scheme of taxation new or oppressive in the quantity or in the mode. *21Nor are we engaged in unsuccessful war; in which, our misfortunes might easily pervert our judgement; and our minds, sore from the loss of national glory, might feel every blow of Fortune as a crime in Government.
It is impossible that the cause of this strange distemper should not sometimes become a subject of discourse. It is a compliment due, and which I willingly pay, to *22those who administer our affairs, to *23take notice in the first place of their speculation. Our Ministers are of opinion, that the increase of our trade and manufactures, that our growth by colonization and by conquest, have concurred to accumulate *24immense wealth in the hands of some individuals; and this again being dispersed amongst the people, has rendered them universally proud, ferocious, and ungovernable; that the insolence of some from their enormous wealth, and the *25boldness of others from a guilty poverty, have rendered them capable of the most atrocious attempts; so that they have trampled upon all subordination, and violently borne down the unarmed laws of a free Government; barriers too feeble
Nothing indeed can be more unnatural than the present convulsions of this country, if the above account be a true one. I confess I shall assent to it with great reluctance, and only on the compulsion of the clearest and firmest proofs; because their account resolves itself into this short, but discouraging proposition, "That we have a very good Ministry, but that we are a very bad people"; that we set ourselves to bite the hand that feeds us; that with a malignant insanity we oppose the *27measures, and ungratefully vilify the persons, of those whose sole object is our own peace and prosperity. If a few puny libellers, acting under a knot of factious politicians, without virtue, parts, or character, (such they are constantly represented by these gentlemen,) are sufficient to excite this disturbance, very perverse must be the disposition of that people, amongst whom such a disturbance can be excited by such means. It is besides no small aggravation of the public misfortune, that the disease, on this hypothesis, appears to be without remedy. If the wealth of the nation be the cause of its turbulence, I imagine it is not proposed *28to introduce poverty, as a constable to keep the peace. *29If our dominions abroad are the roots which feed all this rank luxuriance of sedition, it is not intended to cut them off in order to famish the fruit. If our liberty has enfeebled the executive power, there is no design, I hope, to call in the aid of despotism, to fill up the deficiencies of law. Whatever may be intended, these things are not yet professed. We
I am not one of those who think that the people are never in the wrong. They have been so, frequently and outrageously, both in other countries and in this. But I do say, that in all disputes between them and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favour of the people. Experience may perhaps justify me in going further. *32When popular discontents have been very prevalent; it may well be affirmed and supported, that there has been generally *33something found amiss in the constitution, or in the conduct of Government. The people have no interest in disorder.
Upon a supposition, therefore, that, in the opening of the cause, the presumptions stand equally balanced between the parties, there seems sufficient ground to entitle any person to a fair hearing, who attempts some other scheme beside that easy one which is fashionable in some fashionable companies, to account for the present discontents. It is not to be argued that we endure no grievance, because our grievances are not of the same sort with those under which we laboured formerly; not precisely those which we bore from the Tudors, or vindicated on the Stuarts. A great change has taken place in the affairs of this country. For in the silent lapse of events as material alterations have been insensibly brought about in the policy and character of governments and nations, as those which have been marked by the tumult of public revolutions.
No complaisance to our Court, or to our age, can make me believe nature to be so changed, but that public liberty will be among us, as among our ancestors, obnoxious to some
*55Every age has its own manners, and its politicks dependent upon them; and the same attempts will not be made against a constitution fully formed and matured, that were used to destroy it in the cradle, or to resist its growth during its infancy.
*56Against the being of Parliament, I am satisfied, no designs have ever been entertained since the Revolution. Every one must perceive, that it is strongly the interest of the Court, to have some second cause interposed between the Ministers and the people. The gentlemen of the House of Commons have an interest equally strong, in sustaining the part of that intermediate cause. *57However they may hire out the usufruct of their voices, they never will part with the fee and inheritance. Accordingly *58those who have been of the most known devotion to the will and pleasure of a Court, have, at the same time, been most forward in asserting an
*60The power of the Crown, almost dead and rotten as Prerogative, has grown up anew, with much more strength, and far less odium, under the name of *61Influence. An influence, which operated without noise and without violence; an influence, which converted the very antagonist, into the instrument, of power; which contained in itself a perpetual principle of growth and renovation; and which the distresses and the prosperity of the country equally tended to augment, was an admirable substitute for a Prerogative, that, being only the offspring of antiquated prejudices, had *62moulded in its original stamina irresistible principles of decay and dissolution. The ignorance of the people is a bottom but for a temporary system; the interest of active men in the State is a foundation perpetual and infallible. However, some circumstances, arising, it must be confessed, in a great degree from accident, prevented the effects of this influence for a long time from breaking out in a manner capable of exciting any serious apprehensions. Although Government was strong and flourished exceedingly, *63the Court had drawn far less advantage than one would imagine from this great source of power.
At the Revolution, the Crown, deprived, for the ends of the Revolution itself, of many prerogatives, was found too weak to struggle against all the difficulties which pressed so
To get rid of all this intermediate and independent importance, and to secure to the Court the unlimited and uncontrouled use of its own vast influence, under the sole direction of its own private favour, has for some years past been the great object of policy. If this were compassed, the influence of the Crown must of course produce all the effects which the most sanguine partizans of the Court could possibly desire. Government might then be carried on without any concurrence on the part of the people; without any attention to the dignity of the greater, or to the affections of the lower sorts. A new project was therefore devised by *67a certain set of intriguing men, totally different from the system of Administration which had prevailed since the accession of the House of Brunswick. This project, I have heard, was first conceived by some persons in the court of Frederick Prince of Wales.
The earliest attempt in the execution of this design was to set up for Minister, *68a person, in rank indeed respectable, and *69very ample in fortune; but who, to the moment of this vast and sudden elevation, was little known or considered in the kingdom. To him the whole nation was to yield an immediate and implicit submission. But whether it was from want of firmness to bear up against the first opposition; or that things were not yet fully ripened, or that this method was not found the most eligible; *70that idea was soon abandoned. The instrumental part of the project was a little altered, to accommodate it to the time, and to bring things more gradually and more surely to the one great end proposed.
The first part of *71the reformed plan was to draw a line which should separate the Court from the Ministry. Hitherto these names had been looked upon as synonymous; but for
Secondly, A party under these leaders was to be formed in favour of the Court against the Ministry: this party was to have a large share in the emoluments of Government, and to hold it totally separate from, and independent of, ostensible Administration.
The third point, and that on which the success of the whole scheme ultimately depended, was *73to bring Parliament to an acquiescence in this project. Parliament was therefore to be taught by degrees a total indifference to the persons, rank, influence, abilities, connexions, and character of the Ministers of the Crown. By means of a discipline, on which I shall say more hereafter, that body was to be habituated to the most opposite interests, and the most discordant politicks. All connexions and dependencies among subjects were to be entirely dissolved. As hitherto business had gone through the hands of leaders of Whigs or Tories, men of talents to conciliate the people, and to engage their confidence, now the method was to be altered; and the lead was to be given to men of no sort of consideration or credit in the country. This want of natural importance was to be their very title to delegated power. Members of Parliament were to be hardened into an insensibility to pride as well as to duty. Those high and haughty sentiments, which are the great support of independence, were to be let down gradually. Point of honour and precedence were no more to be regarded in Parliamentary decorum, *74than in a Turkish
With such a degree of acquiescence, any measure of any Court might well be deemed thoroughly secure. The capital objects, and by much the most flattering characteristicks of arbitrary power, would be obtained. Everything would be drawn from its holdings in the country to the personal favour and inclination of the Prince. This favour would be the sole introduction to power, and the only tenure by which it was to be held: so that no person looking towards another, and all looking towards the Court, it was impossible but that the motive which solely influenced every man's hopes must come in time to govern every man's conduct; till at last the servility became universal, in spite of the dead letter of any laws or institutions whatsoever.
How it should happen that any man could be tempted to venture upon such a project of Government, may at first view appear surprizing. But the fact is, that opportunities very inviting to such an attempt have offered; and the scheme itself was not destitute of some *77arguments, not wholly unplausible, to recommend it. *78These opportunities and these arguments, the use that has been made of both, the plan for carrying this new scheme of government into execution, and the effects which it has produced, are in my opinion worthy of our serious consideration.
His Majesty came to the throne of these kingdoms with more advantages than any of his predecessors since the Revolution. Fourth in descent, and third in succession of
These singular advantages *85inspired his Majesty only with a more ardent desire to preserve unimpaired the spirit of that national freedom, to which he owed a situation so full of glory. But to others it suggested sentiments of a very different nature. They thought they now beheld an opportunity (by a certain sort of Statesmen never long undiscovered or unemployed) of drawing to themselves, by the aggrandisement of a Court Faction, a degree of power which they could never hope to derive from *86natural influence or from honourable service; and which it was impossible they could hold with the least security, whilst the system of Administration rested upon its *87former bottom. In order to facilitate the execution of their design, it was necessary to
In the first place, they proceeded *88gradually, but not slowly, to destroy everything of strength which did not derive its principal nourishment from the immediate pleasure of the Court. The greatest weight of popular opinion and party connexion were then with the Duke of Newcastle and Mr. Pitt. Neither of these held their importance by the new tenure of the Court; they were not therefore thought to be so proper as others for the services which were required by that tenure. It happened very favourably for the new system, that *89under a forced coalition there rankled an incurable alienation and disgust between the parties which composed the Administration. Mr. Pitt was first attacked. Not satisfied with removing him from power, they *90endeavoured by various artifices to ruin his character. The other party seemed rather pleased to get rid of so oppressive a support; not perceiving that their own fall was prepared by his, and involved in it. Many other reasons prevented them from daring to look their true situation in the face. To the great Whig families it was extremely disagreeable, and seemed almost unnatural, to oppose the Administration of a Prince of the House of Brunswick. Day after day they hesitated, and doubted, and lingered, expecting that other counsels would take place; and were slow to be persuaded, that all which had been done by the Cabal, was the effect not of humour, but of system. It was more strongly and evidently the interest of the new Court Faction, to get rid of the great Whig connexions, than to destroy Mr. Pitt. The power of that gentleman was vast indeed and merited; but it was in a great degree personal, and therefore transient. Theirs was rooted in the country. For, with a good deal less of popularity, they possessed a far more natural
Thus for the time were pulled down, in the persons of the Whig leaders and of Mr. Pitt, (in spite of the services of the one at the accession of the Royal Family, and the recent services of the other in the war,) the two only securities for the importance of the people; power arising from popularity; and power arising from connexion. *93Here and there indeed a few individuals were left standing, who gave security for their total estrangement from the odious principles of party connexion and personal attachment; and it must be confessed that most of them have religiously kept their faith. Such a change could not however be made without a mighty shock to Government.
In this piece appeared the first dawning of the new system; there first appeared the idea (then only in speculation) of separating the Court from the Administration; of carrying everything from national connexion to personal regards; and of forming a regular party for that purpose, under the name of King's men.
To recommend this system to the people, *96a perspective view of the Court, gorgeously painted, and finely illuminated from within, was exhibited to the gaping multitude. Party was to be totally done away, with all its evil works. Corruption was to be cast down from Court, as Atè was from heaven. Power was thenceforward to be the chosen residence of public spirit; and no one was to be supposed under any sinister influence, except those who had the misfortune to be in disgrace at Court, which was to stand in lieu of all vices and all corruptions. A scheme of perfection to be realized in a Monarchy, far beyond the visionary
These were some of the many artifices used to reconcile the people to the great change which was made in the persons who composed the Ministry, and the still greater which was made and avowed in its constitution. As to individuals, other methods were employed with them; in order so thoroughly to disunite every party, and even every family, that *103no concert, order, or effect, might appear in any future opposition. And in this manner an Administration without
In times full of doubt and danger to his person and family, George the Second maintained the dignity of his Crown connected with the liberty of his people, not only unimpaired, but improved, for the space of thirty-three years. He overcame a dangerous rebellion, abetted by foreign force, and raging in the heart of his kingdoms; and thereby destroyed the seeds of all future rebellion that could arise upon the same principle. He *104carried the glory, the power, the commerce of England, to an height unknown even to this renowned nation in the times of its greatest prosperity: and he left his succession resting on the true and only true foundation of all national and all regal greatness; affection at home, reputation abroad, trust in allies, terror in rival nations. The most ardent lover of his country cannot wish for Great Britain an happier fate than to continue as she was then left. A people emulous as we are in affection to our present Sovereign, know not how to form a prayer to Heaven for a greater blessing upon his virtues, or an higher state of felicity and glory, than that he should live, and should reign, and, when Providence ordains it, should die, exactly like his illustrious Predecessor.
A great Prince may be obliged (though such a thing cannot happen very often) to sacrifice his private inclination
One of the principal *106topicks which was then, and has been since, much employed by that political school, is an effectual terror of the growth of an aristocratic power, prejudicial to the rights of the Crown, and the balance of the constitution. Any new powers exercised in the House of Lords, or in the House of Commons, or by the Crown, ought certainly to excite the vigilant and anxious jealousy of a free people. Even a new and unprecedented course of action in the whole Legislature, without great and evident reason, may be a subject of just uneasiness. I will not affirm, that there may not have *107lately appeared in the House of Lords a disposition to some attempts derogatory to the legal rights of the subject. If any such have really appeared, they have arisen, not from a power properly aristocratic, but from the same influence which is charged with having excited attempts of a similar nature in the House of Commons; which House, if it should have been betrayed into an unfortunate quarrel with its constituents, and involved in a charge of the very same nature, could have neither power nor inclination to repell such attempts in others. Those attempts in the House of Lords can no more be called aristocratic proceedings, than the proceedings with regard to the county of Middlesex in the House of Commons can with any sense be called democratical.
It is true, that the Peers have a great influence in the kingdom, and in every part of the public concerns. *108While
I am no friend to aristocracy, in the sense at least in which that word is usually understood. If it were not *110a bad habit to moot cases on the supposed ruin of the constitution, I should be free to declare, that if it must perish, I would rather by far see it resolved into any other form, than lost in *111that austere and insolent domination. But, whatever my dislikes may be, my fears are not upon that quarter. The question, on the *112influence of a Court, and of a Peerage, is not, which of the two dangers is the most eligible, but which is the most imminent. He is but a poor observer, who has not seen, that the generality of Peers, far from supporting themselves in a state of independent greatness, are but too apt to fall into an oblivion of their proper dignity, and to run headlong into an abject servitude. Would to God it were true, that the fault of our Peers were too much spirit! It is worthy of some observation, that these gentlemen, so jealous of aristocracy, make no complaints of the power of those peers (neither few nor inconsiderable) who are always in the train of a Court, and whose whole weight must be considered as a portion of the settled
I rest a little the longer on this Court topick, because it was much insisted upon at the time of the great change, and has been since frequently revived by many of the agents of that party: for, whilst they are terrifying the great and opulent with the horrors of mob-government, they are by other managers attempting (though hitherto with little success) to alarm the people with a phantom of tyranny in the Nobles. All this is done upon their favourite principle of disunion, of sowing jealousies amongst the different orders of the State, and of disjointing the natural strength of the kingdom; that it may be rendered incapable of resisting the sinister designs of wicked men, who have engrossed the Royal power.
Thus much of the topicks chosen by the Courtiers to recommend their system; it will be necessary to open a little more at large the nature of that party which was formed for its support. Without this, the whole would have been no better than a visionary amusement, like the scheme of *114Harrington's political club, and not a business in which the nation had a real concern. As a powerful party, and a party constructed on a new principle, it is a very inviting object of curiosity.
It must be remembered, that since the Revolution, until the period we are speaking of, the influence of the Crown had been always employed in supporting the Ministers of State, and in carrying on the public business according to their opinions. But the party now in question is formed
As a foundation of their scheme, the Cabal have *115established a sort of Rota in the Court. *116All sorts of parties, by this means, have been brought into Administration, from whence few have had the good fortune to escape without disgrace; none at all without considerable losses. In the beginning of each arrangement no professions of confidence and support are wanting, to induce the leading men to engage. But while the Ministers of the day appear in all the pomp and pride of power, while they have all their canvas spread out to the wind, and every sail filled with the fair and prosperous gale of Royal favour, in a short time they find, they know not how, a current, which sets directly against them; which prevents all progress; and even drives them backwards. They grow ashamed and mortified in a situation, which, by its vicinity to power, only serves to remind them the more strongly of their insignificance. They are obliged either to execute the orders of their inferiors, or to
They contrive to form in the outward Administration two parties at the least; which, whilst they are tearing one another to pieces, are both competitors for the favour and protection of the Cabal; and, by their emulation, contribute to throw everything more and more into the hands of the interior managers.
*120A Minister of State will sometimes keep himself totally estranged from all his *121collegues; will differ from them in their counsels, will privately traverse, and publicly oppose, their measures. He will, however, continue in his employment. Instead of suffering any mark of displeasure, he will be distinguished by an unbounded profusion of Court rewards and caresses; because he does what is expected, and all that is expected, from men in office. He helps to keep some form of Administration in being, and keeps it at the same time as weak and divided as possible.
However, we must take care not to be mistaken, or to
When any adverse connexion is to be destroyed, the Cabal seldom appear in the work themselves. They find out *122some person of whom the party entertains an high opinion. Such a person they endeavour to delude with various pretences. They teach him first to distrust, and then to quarrel with his friends; among whom, by the same arts, they excite a similar diffidence of him; so that in this mutual fear and distrust, he may suffer himself to be employed as the instrument in the change which is brought about. *123Afterwards they are sure to destroy him in his turn; by setting up in his place some person in whom he had himself reposed the greatest confidence, and who serves to carry off a considerable part of his adherents.
When such a person has broke in this manner with his connexions, he is soon compelled to commit some flagrant act of iniquitous personal hostility against some of them (such as *124an attempt to strip a particular friend of his family estate), by which the Cabal hope to render the parties utterly irreconcileable. In truth, they have so contrived matters, that people have a greater hatred to the subordinate instruments than to the principal movers.
As in destroying their enemies they make use of instruments not immediately belonging to their corps, so in advancing their own friends they pursue exactly the same
When the Faction has any job of lucre to obtain, or of vengeance to perpetrate, their way is, to select, for the execution, those very persons to whose habits, friendships, principles, and declarations, such proceedings are publicly known to be the most adverse; at once to render the instruments the more odious, and therefore the more dependent, and to prevent the people from ever reposing a confidence in any appearance of private friendship, or public principle.
If the Administration seem now and then, from remissness, or from fear of making themselves disagreeable, to suffer any popular excesses to go unpunished, the Cabal immediately sets up some creature of theirs to raise a clamour against the Ministers, as having shamefully betrayed the dignity of Government. Then they compel the Ministry to become active in conferring rewards and honours on the persons who have been the instruments of their disgrace; and, after having first vilified them with the higher orders for suffering the laws to sleep over the licentiousness of the populace, they drive them (in order to make amends for their former inactivity) to some act of atrocious violence, which renders them completely abhorred by the people. They who remember the riots which attended the Middlesex Election; the opening of the present Parliament; and the
That this body may be enabled to compass all the ends of its institution, its members are scarcely ever to aim at the high and responsible offices of the State. They are distributed with art and judgement through all the secondary, but efficient, departments of office, and through the households of all the branches of the Royal Family: so as on one hand to occupy all the avenues to the Throne; and on the other to forward or frustrate the execution of any measure, according to their own interests. For with the credit and support which they are known to have, though for the greater part in places which are only a genteel excuse for salary, they possess all the influence of the highest posts; and they dictate publicly in almost every thing, even with a parade of superiority. Whenever they dissent (as it often happens) from their nominal leaders, the trained part of the Senate, instinctively in the secret, is sure to follow them; provided the leaders, sensible of their situation, do not of themselves recede in time from their most declared opinions. This latter is generally the case. It will not be conceivable to any one who has not seen it, what pleasure is taken by the Cabal in rendering these heads of office thoroughly contemptible and ridiculous. And when they are become so, they have then the best chance for being well supported.
The members of the Court Faction are fully indemnified for not holding places on the slippery heights of the kingdom, not only by the lead in all affairs, but also by the perfect security in which they enjoy less conspicuous, but very advantageous, situations. Their places are, in express legal tenure, or in effect, all of them for life. Whilst the first and most respectable persons in the kingdom are tossed about like tennis balls, the sport of a blind and insolent caprice, no Minister dares even to cast an oblique glance at
Conscious of their independence, they bear themselves with a lofty air to the exterior Ministers. *125Like Janissaries, they derive a kind of freedom from *126the very condition of their servitude. They may act just as they please; provided they are true to the great ruling principle of their institution. It is, therefore, not at all wonderful, that people should be so desirous of adding themselves to that body, in which they may possess and reconcile satisfactions the most alluring, and seemingly the most contradictory; enjoying at once all the spirited pleasure of independence, and all the gross lucre and fat emoluments of servitude.
Here is a sketch, though a slight one, of the constitution, laws, and policy, of this new Court corporation. The name by which they chuse to distinguish themselves, is that of King's men, or the King's friends, by an *127invidious exclusion of the rest of his Majesty's most loyal and affectionate subjects. The whole system, comprehending the exterior and interior Administrations, is commonly called, in the technical language of the Court, Double Cabinet; in French or English, as you chuse to pronounce it.
Whether all this be a vision of a distracted brain, or the invention of a malicious heart, or a real Faction in the country, must be judged by the appearances which things have worn *128for eight years past. Thus far I am certain, that there is not a single public man, in or out of office, who has not, at some time or other, borne testimony to the truth of what I have now related. In particular, no persons have
It is true, that about four years ago, during the administration of the Marquis of Rockingham, an attempt was made to carry on Government without their concurrence. However, this was only a transient cloud; they were *129hid but for a moment; and their constellation blazed out with greater brightness, and a far more vigorous influence, some time after it was blown over. An attempt was at that time made (but *130without any idea of proscription) to break their corps, to discountenance their doctrines, to revive connexions of a different kind, to restore the principles and policy of the Whigs, to reanimate the cause of Liberty by Ministerial countenance; and then for the first time were men seen attached in office to every principle they had maintained in opposition. No one will doubt, that such men were *131abhorred and violently opposed by the Court Faction, and that such a system could have but a short duration.
It may appear somewhat affected, that in so much discourse upon this extraordinary Party, *132I should say so little of the Earl of Bute, who is the supposed head of it. But this was neither owing to affectation nor inadvertence. I have carefully avoided the introduction of personal reflexions of any kind. Much the greater part of the topicks which have been used *133to blacken this Nobleman, are either unjust or frivolous. At best, they have a tendency to give the resentment of this bitter calamity a wrong direction, and to turn a public grievance into a mean personal, or *134a dangerous national, quarrel. Where there is a regular scheme of operations carried on, it is the system, and not any individual
Another motive induces me to put the personal consideration of Lord Bute wholly out of the question. *139He communicates very little in a direct manner with the greater part of our men of business. This has never been his custom. It is enough for him that he surrounds them with his creatures. Several imagine, therefore, that they have a very good excuse for doing all the work of this Faction, when they have no personal connexion with Lord Bute. *140But *141whoever becomes a party to an Administration, composed of insulated individuals, without faith plighted, tie, or common principle; an Administration constitutionally impotent, because supported by no party in the nation; he who contributes to destroy the connexions of men and their trust in one another, or in any sort to throw the dependence of public counsels upon private will and favour, possibly may have nothing to do with the Earl of Bute. It matters little whether he be the friend or the enemy of that particular person. But let him be who or what he will, he abets a Faction that is driving hard to the ruin of his country. He is sapping the foundation of its liberty, disturbing the sources of its domestic tranquillity, weakening its government over its dependencies, degrading it from all its importance in the system of Europe.
*146A plan of Favouritism for our executory Government is essentially at variance with the plan of our Legislature. One great end undoubtedly of a mixed Government like ours, composed of Monarchy, and of controuls, on the part of the higher people and the lower, is that the Prince shall not be able to violate the laws. This is useful indeed and fundamental. But this, even at first view, is no more than a negative advantage; an armour merely defensive. It is therefore next in order, and equal in importance, that the discretionary powers which are necessarily vested in the Monarch, whether for the execution of the laws, or for the nomination to magistracy and office, or for conducting the affairs of peace and war, or for ordering the revenue, should all be exercised upon public principles and national grounds, and not on the likings or prejudices, the intrigues or policies, of a Court. This, I said, is equal in importance to the securing a Government according to law. *147The laws reach
*151In arbitrary Governments, the constitution of the Ministry follows the constitution of the Legislature. Both the Law and the Magistrate are the creatures of Will. It must be so. Nothing, indeed, will appear more certain, on any tolerable consideration of this matter, than that *152every sort of Government ought to have its Administration correspondent to its Legislature. If it should be otherwise, things must fall into an hideous disorder. The people of a *153free Commonwealth, who have taken such care that their laws should be the result of general consent, cannot be so senseless as to suffer their executory system to be composed of persons on whom they have no dependence, and whom no proofs of the public love and confidence have recommended to those powers, upon the use of which the very being of the State depends.
*154The popular election of magistrates, and popular disposition of rewards and honours, is one of the first advantages of a free State. Without it, or something equivalent to it, perhaps the people cannot long enjoy the substance of freedom; certainly none of the vivifying energy of good Government. The frame of our Commonwealth *155did not admit of such an actual election: but it provided as well, and (while the spirit of the constitution is preserved) better, for all the effects of it, than by the method of suffrage in any democratic State whatsoever. It had always, until of late, been held the first duty of Parliament, to refuse to support Government, until power was in the hands of persons who were acceptable to the people, or while factions predominated in the Court in which the nation had no confidence. Thus all the good effects of popular
*157Every good political institution must have a preventive operation as well as a remedial. It ought to have a natural tendency to exclude bad men from Government, and not to trust for the safety of the State to subsequent punishment alone: punishment, which has ever been tardy and uncertain; and which, when power is suffered in bad hands, may chance to fall rather on the injured than the criminal.
*158Before men are put forward into the great trusts of the State, they ought by their conduct to have obtained such a degree of estimation in their country, as may be some sort of pledge and security to the publick, that they will not abuse
*159That man who before he comes into power has no friends, or who coming into power is obliged to desert his friends, or who losing it has no friends to sympathize with him; he who has no sway among any part of the landed or commercial interest, but whose whole importance has begun with his office, and is sure to end with it; is a person who ought never to be suffered by a controuling Parliament to continue in any of those situations which confer the lead and direction of all our public affairs; because such a man has no connexion with the interest of the people.
*160Those knots or cabals of men who have got together, avowedly without any public principle, in order to sell their conjunct iniquity at the higher rate, and are therefore universally odious, ought never to be suffered to domineer in the State; because they have no connexion with the sentiments and opinions of the people.
These are considerations which in my opinion enforce the necessity of having some better reason, in a free country, and a free Parliament, for supporting the Ministers of the Crown, than that short one, That the King has thought proper to appoint them. There is something very courtly in this. But it is a principle pregnant with all sorts of mischief, in a constitution like ours, to turn the views of active men from the country to the Court. *161Whatever be the road to power, that is the road which will be trod. If the opinion of the country be of no use as a means of power or consideration, the qualities which usually procure that opinion will be no longer
*163Cunning men are here apt to break in, and, without directly controverting the principle, to raise objections from the difficulty under which the Sovereign labours, to distinguish the genuine voice and sentiments of his people, from the clamour of a faction, by which it is so easily counterfeited. The nation, they say, is generally divided into parties, with views and passions utterly irreconcileable. If the King should put his affairs into the hands of any one of them, he is sure to disgust the rest; if he select particular men from among them all, it is an hazard that he disgusts them all. Those who are left out, however divided before, will soon run into a body of opposition; which, being a collection of many discontents into one focus, will without doubt be hot and violent enough. Faction will make its cries resound through the nation, as if the whole were in an uproar, when by far the majority, and much the better part, will seem for awhile as it were annihilated by the quiet in which their virtue and moderation incline them to enjoy the blessings of Government. Besides that, the *164opinion of the meer vulgar is a miserable rule even with regard to themselves, on account of their violence and instability. So that if you were to gratify them in their humour to-day, that very gratification would be a ground of their dissatisfaction on the next. Now as all these rules of *165public opinion are to be collected with great difficulty, and to be applied with equal uncertainty as to the effect, what better can a King of England do, than to employ such men as he finds to have views and inclinations most conformable
I will not pretend to say that there is nothing at all in this mode of reasoning; because I will not assert, that there is no difficulty in the art of Government. Undoubtedly the very best Administration must encounter a great deal of opposition; and the very worst will find more support than it deserves. Sufficient appearances will never be wanting to those who have a mind to deceive themselves. *166It is a fallacy in constant use with those who would *167level all things, and confound right with wrong, to insist upon the inconveniences which are attached to every choice, without taking into consideration the different weight and consequence of those inconveniences. The question is not concerning absolute discontent or perfect satisfaction in Government; neither of which can be pure and unmixed at any time, or upon any system. The controversy is about that degree of good-humour in the people, which may possibly be attained, and ought certainly to be looked for.
It is not more the duty than it is the interest of a Prince, to aim at giving tranquillity to his Government. But *171those who advise him may have an interest in disorder and confusion. If the opinion of the people is against them, they will naturally wish that it should have no prevalence. Here it is that the people must on their part show themselves sensible of their own value. Their whole importance, in the first instance, and afterwards their whole freedom, is at stake. Their freedom cannot long survive their importance. Here it is that the natural strength of the kingdom, the great peers, the leading landed gentlemen, the opulent merchants and manufacturers, the substantial yeomanry, must interpose, to rescue their Prince, themselves, and their posterity.
We are at present at issue upon this point. We are in the great crisis of this contention; and the part which men take, one way or other, will serve to discriminate their characters and their principles. Until the matter is decided, the country will remain in its present confusion. For while a system of Administration is attempted, entirely repugnant to
There is, in my opinion, *172a peculiar venom and malignity in this political distemper beyond any that I have heard or read of. In former times the projectors of arbitrary Government attacked only the liberties of their country; a design surely mischievous enough to have satisfied a mind of the most unruly ambition. But a *173system unfavourable to freedom may be so formed, as considerably to exalt the grandeur of the State; and men may find in the pride and splendor of that prosperity some sort of consolation for the loss of their solid privileges. Indeed the increase of the power of the State has often been urged by artful men, as a pretext for some abridgement of the public liberty. But the scheme of the junto under consideration, not only strikes a palsy into every nerve of our free constitution, but in the same degree benumbs and stupifies the whole executive power: rendering Government in all its grand operations languid, uncertain, ineffective; making Ministers fearful of attempting, and incapable of executing, any useful plan of domestic arrangement, or of foreign politicks. It tends to produce neither the security of a free Government, nor the *174energy of a Monarchy that is absolute. Accordingly, the Crown has dwindled away, in proportion to the unnatural and turgid growth of this excrescence on the Court.
The interior Ministry are sensible, that *175war is a situation which sets in its full light the value of the hearts of a people; and they well know, that the beginning of the importance of the people must be the end of theirs. For this reason they discover upon all occasions the utmost fear of every thing, which by possibility may lead to such an event. I do not
If, by any chance, the Ministers who stand before the curtain possess or affect any spirit, it makes little or no impression. *182Foreign Courts and Ministers, who were among the first to discover and to profit by this invention of the
Such has been the aspect of our foreign politicks, under the influence of a double Cabinet. With such an arrangement at Court, it is impossible it should have been otherwise. Nor is it possible that this scheme should have a better effect upon the government of our dependencies, the first, the dearest, and most delicate objects, of the interior policy of this empire. The Colonies know, that Administration is separated from the Court, divided within itself, and detested by the nation. The double Cabinet has, in both the parts of it, shown the most malignant dispositions towards them, without being able to do them the smallest mischief.
They are convinced, by sufficient experience, that no plan, either of lenity or rigour, can be pursued with uniformity and perseverance. *184Therefore they turn their eyes entirely from Great Britain, where they have neither dependence on friendship, nor apprehension from enmity. They look to themselves, and their own arrangements. They grow every day into alienation from this country; and whilst they are becoming disconnected with our Government, we have *185not the consolation to find, that they are even friendly in their new independence. Nothing can equal the futility, the weakness, the rashness, the timidity, the perpetual contradiction, in the management of our affairs in that part of the world. A volume might be written on this melancholy subject; but it were better to leave it entirely to the reflexions
Continue reading Vol. 1, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents
Notes for this chapter
Page 69. Hoc vero occultum, intestinum, &c. Cic. in C. Verrem Act. Secunda, lib. i. cap. xv. sec. 39. Burke's original quotation is faulty, and has been corrected in the text. Translate non existit, "escapes observation." The allusion is to the treachery of Verres, when quaestor, to his praetor Cn. Carbo: the quaestor being bound to his praetor, according to the official policy of Rome, by a quasi-filial tie, known as necessitudo sortis. This tie is mentioned by Burke (p. 148) as an illustration of the party obligation in English politics. The introduction of the quotation at the commencement of this pamphlet points vaguely to similar treachery on the part of the Court and the House of Commons towards the English nation, and directly to the powerlessness of the nation to resist the poisonous influence of the Court Cabal. The passage was perhaps suggested by Lord Chatham's speech in the Lords, January 22, 1770: "The grand capital mischief is fixed at home. It corrupts the very foundation of our political existence, and preys upon the vitals of the state." This quotation almost foreshadows the accusation of Warren Hastings, between whom and Verres Burke always sought to establish a similarity, though it would have been easier to demonstrate a contrast.
P. 70, L. 1. It is an undertaking, &c. Burke understood thoroughly the art of the preamble. He never makes it so long as to fatigue the reader or hearer at the outset. If he introduces general observations, it is done in such a way as to prepare for the particular points which are to follow, and with strict reference to that object. Being the most philosophical, he is naturally the most sententious of orators; and the canon of the Roman rhetorician, sententias interponi raro convenit, ut rei actores, non vivendi praeceptores esse
L. 5. i.e. so as to touch, ruffle them. Under the general mention of "persons of weight and consequence," Burke alludes to the King.
L. 8. obliged to blame the favourites of the people, i.e. the popular ex-minister Lord Chatham. The pamphlet in its earliest form contained a severe attack on Chatham, which was expunged previous to publication. Burke's Correspondence, vol. i. p. 200.
L. 10. instrument of faction. Cp. p. 110, l. 4. Among the members of his party Burke was anxious to have it understood that this pamphlet was a manifesto from the whole body (Correspondence, vol i. pp. 198, 199): but he repudiated the idea of being "a mere conduit for the conveyance of other people's sentiments or principles," in letters on the subject to his private friends (Correspondence, vol. i. p. 226).
L. 12. our law has invested, &c. "All persons, noblemen and others (except women, clergymen, persons decrepit, and infants under fifteen) are bound to attend the justices in suppressing a riot."—Blackstone. Compare his insisting on the legal nature of the "interposition of the body of the people itself," infra, p. 142, and the conclusion of the Letter to W. Elliot, Esq.: "Private persons may sometimes assume that magistracy which does not depend on the nomination of Kings," &c.
L. 14. private people... stepping a little out of their ordinary sphere. Burke was at this time an active member of Parliament. From this and other passages (see pp. 130-31) it is clear that he wrote in the character of a private citizen. This apology for the public expression of private opinion was a stock piece in English political writing down to the reign of George III. Political pamphlets, and series of pamphlets under a general name by the same author, grew rarer after this time, when anonymous writers could get their letters inserted in the newspapers.
L. 19. reason upon them liberally. A favourite epithet with Burke. Cp. "liberal obedience," p. 288.
L. 22. rulers for the day... cause of Government. Burke distinguishes between the essence of government, which is permanent and resides rather in the spirit of the governed than in anything outside of them, and the merely temporary external administration. Cp. Speech on the Econ. Reform, near beginning; "the settled, habitual systematick affection I bear to the cause and to the principles of government." The present passage hints at the distinction between the interests of the King and those of his ministers.
L. 27. abstract value of the voice of the people—of which Burke had a low opinion. See p. 103 and note.
L. 28. reputation, the most precious possession of every individual—alluding to the passage from "Othello," quoted at p. 279.
P. 71, L. 11. The temper of the people... ought to be the first study of a Statesman. Instead of the temper of the House of Commons. Cp. the passage on C. Townshend, pp. 210-11. The maxim is an old commonplace. Tacitus, Ann. lib. 3: "Noscenda tibi natura vulgi est, et quibus modis temperanter habeatur." Martial:
L. 20. levity of the vulgar. "Multitudinis levitas" is an expression of Cicero, who often insists on the fact. "Vulgo nihil incertius," Pro Muraena. "In multitudine est varietas, et crebra tanquam tempestatum, sic sententiarum commutatio," Pro Domo.
L. 21. all times have not been alike. "I have read my friend Congreve's verses to Lord Cobham, which end with a vile and false moral, and I remember is not in Horace to Tibullus, which he imitates, 'that all times are equally virtuous and vicious,' wherein he differs from all Poets, Philosophers and Christians that ever writ." Swift to Bolingbroke, April 5, 1729. But Marcus Antoninus, Bacon, and Guicciardini, have expressed the contrary opinion. It is perhaps put most forcibly by Machiavelli, "giudico il mondo sempre esser stato ad un medesimo modo," &c. Discorsi sopra T. Livio, Lib. II, Introduction. The question on both sides is stated by Burke in his review of Brown's "Estimate of the Manners," &c., Annual Register, 1758, p. 444. Sir T. Browne says: "'Tis better to think that times past have been better than times present, than that times were always bad." Christian Morals, Part III, Sect. 3.
P. 72, L. 6. disconnexion... in families—alluding particularly to the Temple family. In general Lord Temple was a staunch opponent of the Court; his brother, George Grenville, a supporter of the Court, and his brother-in-law, Lord Chatham, politically separated from both. A reconciliation however had taken place before the publication of this pamphlet.
L. 11. great parties.... in a manner entirely dissolved. An old commonplace. "These associations are broken; these distinct sets of ideas are shuffled out of their order; new combinations force themselves upon us.... The bulk of both parties are really united; united on principles of liberty, in opposition to an obscure remnant of one party, who disown those principles, and a mercenary detachment from the other, who betray them." Dissertation on Parties, Letter I, Bolingbroke's Works, 4to. edition, vol. ii. p. 32. The real distinction of Whig and Tory parties faded away after the Revolution: and
L. 14. at present... scheme of taxation. There is an allusion to the attempted taxation of America, and to possible attempts of a like nature at home.
L. 16. Nor are we engaged in unsuccessful war, &c. "The last means (of averting popular discontents) consists in preventing dangers from abroad; for foreign dangers raise fears at home, and fears among the People raise jealousies of the Prince or State, and give them ill opinions either of their abilities or good intentions," &c. Sir William Temple on Popular Discontents.
L. 22. those who administer our affairs. The Duke of Grafton resigned while this pamphlet was in the press; but Lord North, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, succeeded him, and Onslow, Jenkinson, and Dyson, continued Junior Lords of the Treasury.
L. 27. immense wealth in the hands of some individuals. A gloomy picture of the depravation of the country from these causes is drawn by
L. 31. boldness of others from a guilty poverty. On the frightful prevalence of crime at this time see Phillimore's Hist. of George III, p. 49.
P. 73, L. 5. industry of some libellers—especially of Junius, whose letters began January 21, 1769. Nearly forty of them had been published before Burke's pamphlet.
L. 27. to introduce poverty, as a constable, &c. "He is an unskilful physician that cannot cure one disease without casting his patient into another: so he that can find no other way for correcting the errors of his people but by taking from them the conveniencies of life, shows that he knows not what it is to govern a free nation." Sir T. More's Utopia (Bp. Burnet's translation), Book I. Cp. inf. p. 248, "the exploded problem of tyranny, which proposes to beggar its subjects into submission."
L. 28. If our dominions abroad are the roots which feed all this rank luxuriance of sedition. "The current price of boroughs—for such is the corrupt state of the national representation in England, that this language is authorized by common use—was enormously raised by the rival plunderers of the East and of the West, who, by a new species of alchymy, had transmuted into English gold the Blood of Africa and the Tears of Hindostan. Many private fortunes were ruined, or materially impaired, by contests carried on with the utmost shamelessness of political depravity." Belsham, History of Great Britain, vol. v. p. 268 (Anno 1768).
Ibid. I hear it indeed sometimes asserted, &c. "On the other hand, several of the Court party cried out for measures of severity. The authority of Parliament had been trampled upon. The K—— had been insulted on his throne..... To support the ministers effectually it was not only necessary to adhere to their grand measure in the Middlesex election, as a perpetual rule of policy; but to punish the contraveners, who, otherwise, might continually keep alive that matter of complaint." Burke, Ann. Reg. 1770.
L. 29. When popular discontents have been very prevalent, &c. "Politicians may say what they please, but it is no hard thing for the meanest person to know whether he be well or ill governed," &c. Swift, Sermon V, on martyrdom of Charles I. See infra, p. 252.
L. 31. something amiss in the conduct of Government. "The disorders of the people, in the present time and in the present place, are owing to the usual and natural cause of such disorders at all times and in all places, when such have prevailed—the misconduct of government; they are owing to plans laid in error, pursued with obstinacy, and conducted without wisdom." Address to the King (1777).
P. 75, L. 1. Les révolutions qui arrivent—impatience de souffrir. Memoirs of Sully, tom. i. p. 133. (Burke.) But there follows (p. 97) a partial exculpation of the Earl of Bute, the only man who resembled the favourites of Henry III. The parallel of the discontents will not bear close examination, and it is due to Burke to add that not only is it none of his invention, but that in an earlier pamphlet he had taken some pains to expose its unsoundness. Grenville had introduced it in his pamphlet on the State of the Nation, with the foolish idea of exhibiting himself as the counterpart of Sully.
L. 3. "Pour le populace," &c. "General rebellions and revolts of a whole people never were encouraged, now or at any time. They are always provoked." This is represented as the lesson of the "whole course of history" (Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol).
L. 32. generality of people, &c. Nothing is more striking than the general truth of Burke's aphorism that the majority of people are half a century behind-hand in their politics. It will scarcely be credited that in 1777 one Dr. Miles Newton preached a sermon at Oxford strenuously denying the doctrines of power derived from the people, and of the lawfulness of resistance. This effusion was provoked by the recent publication of Dr. Powell's Sermons. At the present day the Tories, of the two parties, are the least liable to the charge of hoarding worn-out ideas.
P. 76, L. 2. in books everything is settled for them, &c. History in the time of Burke had already begun to assume the philosophical tone, which assumes that the reader is either too dull or too indolent to draw an inference for himself. When this pamphlet was written, Robertson's chief works had been published, and Hume was in his fifth edition. On the difference between Burnet and modern historians, cp. Charles Lamb's letter to Manning, Works, p. 55.
L. 4. Men are wise with but little reflection, &c. "It is natural to mean well, when only abstracted ideas of virtue are proposed to the mind, and no particular passion turns us aside from rectitude: and so willing is every man to flatter himself, that the difference between approving laws and obeying them is frequently forgotten." Johnson, Rambler, No. 76. See the famous passage in vol. ii. p. 244.
L. 8. the whole train of circumstances, &c. "The examples which history presents to us, both of men and of events, are generally complete: the whole example is before us, &c." Bolingbroke, On the Study of History.
L. 11. Whig on the business of an hundred years ago. Alluding to the professed Whigs who had joined the Court party, and to ministers like George Grenville, Charles Townshend, Lord North, and Lord Mansfield, who boasted of the name of Whig, while leading the policy of would-be tyranny.
To make the accomplish'd gentleman complete:
There, safe in self-sufficient impudence,
Without experience, honesty, or sense,
Unknowing in her interest, trade, or laws,
He vainly undertakes his country's cause.
Forth from his lips, prepared at all to rail,
Torrents of nonsense burst, like bottled ale,
Though shallow, muddy; brisk, though mighty dull;
Fierce without strength; o'erflowing, yet not full;
Now, quite a Frenchman in his garb and air,
His neck yok'd down with bag and solitaire,
The liberties of Britain he supports,
And storms at placemen, ministers, and courts.
Next, we have him among his constituents:
He loudly bellows out his patriot speeches;
King, lords, and commons ventures to abuse,
Yet dares to show those ears he ought to lose.
The end of all is—
But seeks preferment, as the last resort,
Cringes each morn at levées, bows at court,
And, from the hand he hates, implores support;
The minister, well pleas'd at small expence
To silence so much rude impertinence,
With squeeze and whisper yields to his demands,
And on the venal list enrolled he stands;
A ribband and a pension buy the slave;
This bribes the fool about him, that the knave.
And now, arriv'd at his meridian glory,
He sinks apace, despis'd by Whig and Tory;
Of independence now he talks no more,
Nor shakes the senate with his patriot roar;
But silent votes, and with court trappings hung,
Eyes his own glittering star, and holds his tongue.
A contemporary observer writes: "Une très longue expérience prouve, que dans la Grande Bretagne le Patriotisme de ceux, qui se montrent opposés à la cour ou au parti du ministère, n'a pour objet que d'importuner le Souverain, de contrarier les actions de ses ministres, de renverser leurs projets les
L. 13. historical patriotism. "You will be wise historically, a fool in practice." Vol. ii., ubi sup.
L. 16. Many a stern republican, &c. In Bubb Dodington's correspondence with the Duke of Newcastle, in reference to his preferment, which has been described as exhibiting the meanest sentiments that ever were trusted to paper, he declared that a peerage was "not worth the expense of new-painting his coach." Better men have assumed similar airs. "Halifax was in speculation a strong republican, and did not conceal it. He often made hereditary monarchy and aristocracy the subjects of his keen pleasantry, while he was fighting the battles of the Court, and obtaining for himself step after step in the peerage. In this way he tried to gratify at once his intellectual vanity, and his mere vulgar ambition." Macaulay, Essay on Sir William Temple. Cp. vol. ii. p. 155.
L. 18. Our true Saxon constitution. See Burke's interesting Fragment of an Essay on the History of English Law. "N. Bacon, in order to establish his republican system, has so distorted all the evidence he has produced, concealed so many things of consequence, and thrown such false colours upon the whole argument, that I know no book so likely to mislead the reader in antiquities, if yet it retains any authority. In reality, that ancient constitution, and those Saxon laws, made little or nothing for any of our modern parties.... Nothing has been a larger theme of panegyrick with all our writers on politicks and history, than the Anglo-Saxon government; and it is impossible not to conceive an high opinion of its laws, if we rather consider what is said of them, than what they visibly are," &c. (Bolingbroke had made large use of N. Bacon as an authority.) The figment of the Saxon constitution, however, long survived the ridicule of Burke. Cp. the once popular Lesson to a Young Prince, intended for Prince George, afterwards George IV, with its absurd copper-plate illustrations of different constitutions.
L. 20. coarsest work—used like "job," in malam partem:
—Shakspeare, Coriolanus, iv. 6.
Cp. the common expression "what work was made of it," i.e. what a bungle.
L. 30. alteration to the prejudice of our constitution. It is a well-known maxim of Machiavelli that a free government must be perpetually making new regulations to secure its liberty. According to this doctrine, it is in the nature of things that some alterations should take place, and if they are not directed in one way they proceed, by a species of gravitation, in the other. Burke professes to enter thoroughly into that spirit of jealousy of government which prevailed for centuries among the English people. Bolingbroke writes in the Patriot King: "Men decline easily from virtue. There is a devil, too, in the political system—a constant tempter at hand."
P. 77, L. 1. Furniture of ancient tyranny, &c. "You will find nothing in their houses but the refuse of Knave's Acre: nothing but the rotten stuff, &c. &c. It is nearly two thousand years since it has been observed that these devices of ambition, avarice, and turbulence, were antiquated." Appeal from New to Old Whigs. "They have totally abandoned the shattered and old-fashioned fortress of Prerogative," &c., infra, p. 120.
L. 3. to fall into the identical snare. "The unpitied calamity of being repeatedly caught in the same snare," infra, p. 161.
Still the same bait, and circumvented still!
—Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel.
Ibid. An Extension of the Forest Laws. As by Charles I. See Hallam, ibid; Macaulay, History of England, i. 195 (of Clarendon).
L. 11. Exaction of two hundred pullets, &c. "Uxor Hugonis de Nevill dat Domino Regi ducentas gallinas, eo quod possit jacere una nocte cum Domino suo Hugone de Nevill." Madox, Hist. Exch. c. xiii. p. 326. (Burke.)
L. 13. Every age has its own manners, &c. Burke sums up, as usual with him, in a single sentence, the conclusions of the two preceding paragraphs.
L. 18. Against the being of Parliament.... no designs have ever been entertained since the Revolution. Burke might have gone back earlier. Lord Egmont was one of the first to draw attention to the exaggerated importance generally attached to the Revolution as an era of civil liberty. "The Revolution," says Mr. Hallam, "is justly entitled to honour as the era of religious in a far greater degree than civil liberty: the privileges of conscience having no earlier Magna Charta and Petition of Right whereto they could appeal against encroachment." Constitutional History, ch. xv.
L. 24. However they may hire out the usufruct of their voices, &c. This recalls the irony of Butler's Characters, published by Thyer in 1759 and noticed by Burke in the Annual Register for that year. Burke's pungent remark is copied by Macaulay in his essay on Sir William Temple.
L. 26. Those who have been of the most known devotion, &c. Dyson was especially forward in asserting it. See G. Grenville's Speech of February 2, 1769, Parliamentary History, xvi. 550.
P. 78, L. 1. forms of a free... ends of an arbitrary Government. The policy of Tiberius as described by Tacitus will at once suggest itself to the student. "A constitution may be lost, whilst all its forms are preserved,"
L. 4. The power of the Crown... Prerogative... Influence.
Could scape the heavy hand of God and man;
Yet by the natural variety
Of frailties, reigning since the world began,
And change force into craft, old times to new.
"The formidable prerogatives of the Sovereign were, indeed, reduced within the bounds of a just executive authority, and limited by the strict letter of the laws. But the terror and jealousy of the people were quieted by this victory, and the mild and seducing dominion of influence stole upon us insensibly in its stead, bestowing a greater and more fatal authority than ever existed in the most arbitrary periods of the government.... The Crown, by appearing to act with the consent of the people through their representatives, though in fact by its own influence, is enabled to carry on a system which the most absolute prince could not have fastened upon England for centuries past." Erskine, Speech for Reform, May 26, 1797. He goes on to point out that Burke, "as he abhorred reform, must be supposed to have disclosed unwillingly the disgraces of Parliament." "The state of things has much altered in this country, since it was necessary to protect our representatives against the direct power of the Crown. We have nothing to apprehend from prerogative, but everything from undue influence." Junius, April 22, 1771.
L. 6. Influence. The name, and the thing itself, were alike borrowed from the great Whig lords. It might seem strange that the King should be the only English gentleman whose rightful possessions and lawful connexions entitled him to no political power or credit, but this doctrine was remorselessly urged by the Whigs.
L. 13. moulded in its original stamina irresistible principles, &c. A favourite image of Burke. "The heads of certain families should make it their business, by the whole course of their lives, principally by their example, to mould into the very vital stamina of their descendants, those principles which ought to be transmitted pure and unmixed to posterity." Letter to the Duke of Richmond, November 17, 1772.
L. 22. the Court had drawn far less advantage. This is partly to be explained by the predilections of the first two Georges. George the Third had an Englishman's passion for state business, and was naturally disposed to claim all the influence to which his active exertions might entitle him.
P. 79, L. 9. confidence in their own strength... fear of offending their friends. Men of great natural interest—of great acquired consideration. Alluding to Pitt on the one hand, and the great Whig leaders on the other.
L. 19. returned again, &c. The image of rain and the ocean was a favourite one with Burke. Readers of Cobbett will remember his attack on Burke for applying it to money raised by taxation and afterwards spent in
L. 24. nature of despotism to abhor power, &c. It was the constant employment of the terms "despotism," "tyranny," "liberty," "the people," &c., in this pamphlet, that so irritated those who called themselves Supporters of the Bill of Rights (Wilkes, Glynn, Sawbridge, &c.), of whom the "republican virago" (Correspondence i. 230), Mrs Macaulay, was the literary champion. That an aristocratic faction should lisp the Shibboleth of democracy seemed intolerable.
P. 80, L. 3. A certain set of intriguing men... court of Frederick Prince of Wales. See Introduction.
L. 9. a person in rank indeed respectable, &c. The Earl of Bute. "Respectable" is here used in the earlier and French sense = worthy of respect.
L. 10. very ample in fortune. This generously contradicts sinister remarks caused by the enormous amount (between 200,000l. and 300,000l.) expended by Lord Bute in purchasing an estate, laying out a park, and building houses, in 1763-1765, whilst his clear income was asserted to be only 5000l. per annum. Cp. Anti-Sejanus (Scott), Letter of August 3, 1765.
L. 20. the reformed plan, &c. "The plan of Bute and George III," says Earl Russell, "was not so systematic, nor was the Whig government so beneficial as Burke has depicted: but the project was certainly formed of restoring to the Crown that absolute direction and control which Charles I and James II had been forced to relinquish, and from which George I and George II had quietly abstained." Bedford Corresp. vol. iii, Preface, p. xxix.
L. 27. —a legal word, employed by Burke in an unusual sense. He seems to have adopted it from the French phrase puissance exécutrice (Montesquieu). Swift and Addison said, as we do, executive.
P. 81, L. 2. to bring Parliament to an acquiescence in this project. The submission was not unprecedented. "The Parliament having resigned all their ecclesiastical liberties, proceeded to an entire surrender of their civil, and without any scruple or deliberation, they made by one act a total subversion of the English constitution." Hume, c. 37 (Henry VIII), alluding to 31 Hen. VIII. cap. 1, repealed by 1 Edw. VI. c. 12. Filangieri says of this occasion, "This part of the history of England may convince us that in mixed Governments of this nature, the prince may often succeed in his wishes, and even oppress the nation without any alteration in the form of the constitution, and without any risk to his personal safety, if he have only the address to corrupt the assembly which represents the sovereignty." Scienza della Legislazione, c. 10. Bolingbroke (Diss. on Parties, Letter
L. 21. than in a Turkish army. "As among the Turks, and most of the Eastern tyrannies, there is no nobility, and no man has any considerable advantage above the common people, unless by the immediate favour of the Prince; so in all the legal kingdoms of the North, the strength of the government has always been placed in the nobility; and no better defence has been found against the encroachments of ill Kings than by setting up an order of men, who, by holding large territories, and having great numbers of tenants and dependants, might be able to restrain the exorbitancies that either the Kings or the Commons, might run into." Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, chap. iii. sec. 28.
L. 22. might appoint one of his footmen. Alluding to Lord Holland's saying "The King may make a page first minister." Walpole, Mem. iii. 66.
L. 25. first name for rank or wisdom. This distinction again alludes to the Duke of Newcastle and Pitt.
P. 82, L. 11. Arguments not wholly unplausible. The case is impartially stated by Burke in the Annual Register for 1763, chap. vii.
L. 26. victorious in every part of the globe. The earlier volumes of the Annual Register contain Burke's chronicle of these victories. See Macknight's Life of Burke, vol. i.
L. 32. additions from conquest. Canada and the Floridas, together with some possessions in the West Indies and in Africa.
L. 5. reversionary hope. Such as had existed when the return of the Pretender was still possible.
L. 6. inspired his Majesty only with a more ardent desire to preserve unimpaired the spirit of that national freedom. The pamphlet was intended to conciliate the monarch, while attacking his instruments. In his speeches and writings Burke always preserved a respectful tone towards the King. Among his friends he was not always so cautious. "One day he (Burke) came into the room (Reynolds's studio) when Goldsmith was there, full of ire and abuse against the late King (George III), and went on in such a torrent of unqualified invective that Goldsmith threatened to leave the room. The other, however, persisted; and Goldsmith went out, unable to bear it any longer." Hazlitt, Conversations of Northcote, p. 40. Another of these ebullitions occurred later on, when the King was seized by a fit of mental aberration, on which occasion he said publicly "that the Almighty had hurled him from his throne."
L. 30. under a forced coalition there rankled an incurable alienation, &c. The formation of Pitt's first ministry in December 1756 was on a thoroughly popular basis. The refusal of Pitt, Temple, and Legge to support the unfortunate German expedition of the Duke of Cumberland, occasioned their removal: but the public will which had brought them in was strong enough to procure their recall. The second ministry was formed in June 1757, including Lord Anson, Sir R. Henley, and Mr. Fox, of the opposition. Fox was placed in the Pay Office, which Pitt had left: "a triumph," says his candid biographer, "too diminutive for the dignity of Mr. Pitt's mind. However, he enjoyed it: which shows the influence of little passions in men of the first abilities." Anecdotes of Lord Chatham, vol. i. p. 249.
L. 34. endeavoured by various artifices to ruin his character. Through fear lest the popular will, which had brought him back to power in 1757, might do so again. The hired press, in the hands of the Leicester House faction, branded him with the names of Pensioner, Apostate, Deserter, &c. A pamphlet of considerable size, says Adolphus, was formed by the republication of paragraphs which appeared against him in the newspapers on this single occasion. The barony of Chatham conferred on his wife at his resignation, and the annuity of 3000l. per. annum, furnished substantial grounds for unpopularity.
P. 84, L. 17. Long possession, &c. Burke was fond of recounting the historical merits of the Whig party. "If I have wandered," he writes in another place, "out of the paths of rectitude into those of an interested faction, it was in company with the Saviles, the Dowdeswells, the Wentworths, the Bentincks; with the Lenoxes, the Manchesters, the Keppels, the Saunderses; with the temperate, permanent, hereditary virtue of the whole house of Cavendish; names among which some have extended your fame and empire in arms, and all have fought the battle of your liberties in fields not less glorious."
L. 30. The whole party was put under a proscription, &c. A more severe political persecution never raged. See Walpole, Memoirs, vol. i. p. 233. "Numberless innocent families which had subsisted on salaries from 50l. to 100l. a year, turned out to misery and ruin." Speech of Lord Rockingham, Jan. 22, 1770. "A cruel and inhuman proscription at the Customhouse," Duke of Newcastle. Rockingham Memoirs, i. 235. Noblemen of the first consideration, like the Duke of Newcastle and Earl Temple were deprived of their county lieutenancies. The proscription was directed by Lord Holland.
P. 85, L. 9. Here and there... a few individuals were left standing. Lord Northington, Lord Granville, the Duke of Bedford, and Lord Halifax, besides Lord Holland (Fox), continued in office under Lord Bute.
L. 27. a pamphlet which had all the appearance of a manifesto.
L. 31. written with no small art and address. The only remarkable passage in the pamphlet seems that which contains the aphorism borrowed from Defoe, "Party is the madness of the many for the gain of the few," p. 32. It is plainly written, and bears marks of declining power. Walpole says, "the author, and some of the doctrines it broached—not any merit in the composition—make it memorable." Mem. Geo. III. i. 54. "In general the language of the pamphlet was that of the Court, who conducted themselves by the advice bequeathed by Lord Bolingbroke, who had, and with truth, assured the late Prince of Wales that the Tories would be the heartiest in support of prerogative." Ibid. The reputation of the author as a wit, as well as a politician, was great. "How many Martials are in Pulteney lost!" Pope. "How can I Pult'ney, Chesterfield forget, While Roman spirit charms, and Attic wit?" Id. "All wit, about six years ago, came from L(ord) C(hesterfield): and nobody could say a clever thing that was not by the vox populi placed to his lordship's general account. For some time every Monitor, with very long sentences in it, was my friend Pitt's; every political pamphlet the E(arl) of B(ath)'s," &c. Ann. Register, 1760, p. 211.
L. 15. those good souls, whose credulous morality, &c. "Of all kinds of credulity, the most obstinate and wonderful is that of political zealots; of men, who, being numbered, they know not how nor why, in any of the parties that divide a State, resign the use of their own eyes and ears, and resolve to believe nothing that does not favour those whom they profess to follow." The Idler, Ann. Register, 1758. With such "good souls," arguments of a moral character, however misplaced, go a long way.
L. 21. sure constantly to end, i.e. without exception—not as now used = frequently. Cp. infra p. 150, and note.
L. 22. talking prose all their lives without knowing anything of the matter. "Mr.
Jordan: O' my conscience I have spoke Prose above these forty years, without knowing anything of the matter," &c. Molière, Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Cit Turn'd Gentleman: Works French and English, 1755, vol. viii. p. 54). This stock-piece of humour was apparently introduced into English literature in "Martinus Scriblerus," ch. xii.
L. 29. which had been infamously monopolized and huckstered. "I have never deemed it reasonable that any confederacy of great names should monopolize to themselves the whole patronage and authority of the state:
L. 32. Mettre le Roy hors de page. A phrase applied by contemporary historians to Louis XI. Sidney, Discourses concerning Government, chap. ii. § 30: "For that reason (increasing the power of the crown) he is said by Mezeray and others 'to have brought those kings out of guardianship.' (D'avoir mis les roys hors de page)." It is also quoted by Bolingbroke, 6th "Letter on the Study of History."
L. 34. —those who did the lowest work, spies, messengers, &c. Burke's Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 205, "One of the runners of Government in the City—a tool of Harley." Infra, p. 203, "The wretched runners for a wretched cause."
P. 87, L. 10. no concert, order, or effect, &c. This, with many other topics, is repeated from the pamphlet on the State of the Nation. Cp. also p. 146, l. 20.
L. 30. carried the glory, the power, the commerce of England, &c. "That infernal chaos, into which he (Bute) from the first plunged affairs, at the time that through his cloudy imbecility it so soon thickened in the clear of the fairest horizon that ever tantalized a country with the promise of meridian splendor." Public Advertiser, August 30, 1776.
P. 88, L. 12. condition of servility. An impression of which George III always found it impossible to disabuse himself.
L. 19. topicks... much employed by that political school. See the political writings of the late Dr. Brown, and many others. (Burke.) Thoughts on Civil Liberty, Licentiousness, and Faction, Second Edition, 1765. This work is written somewhat in the spirit of Dr. Johnson, to attack Bolingbroke's views, based on the disavowal of natural religion, and Mandeville's, based on the alleged incurable depravity of human nature. Like Bolingbroke, however, he attacks the Whig doctrine of "men not measures," and aims "to unite all honest men of all parties," p. 124, and with Mandeville he maintains the unconditional necessity of corruption in all free governments, p. 142. The state of things which forced Pitt into power in 1757 is marked as the culminating point of the corruption of the age. He advocates "a general and prescribed improvement in the laws of Education" (p. 156) as a remedy for the disorders of the State ("a correspondent and adequate Code of Education inwrought into its first Essence," p. 159). A better work is the Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times, 2 vols. 1757-8 (reviewed in the Annual Register, 1758), an attack on the existing system of education, beginning with the universities, on effeminacy in manners, luxury in dress, &c.; the exorbitant advance of trade and wealth is adduced as a cause of depravity; and change is advocated on general moral grounds.
L. 29. lately appeared in the House of Lords a disposition to some attempts derogatory to the rights of the subject. The allusion is to the Debates on the
P. 89, L. 8. While they are men of property, it is impossible to prevent it... property is power. The law that power follows the balance of property, first clearly laid down by Harrington, was thought by Adams to be a discovery comparable with Harvey's on the circulation of the blood. But Burke's Aristotelian views of the fallibility of general laws in politics, must be kept in mind. "That power goes with Property is not universally true, and the idea that the operation of it is certain and invariable may mislead us very fatally." Thoughts on French Affairs, December, 1791. The decline of the power of the crown after the Tudors was thought to be traceable to the alienation of the Crown Lands, which previously included about one fourth of the Kingdom. Bishop Burnet, with a view of reinstating the Crown in its former power, advised the House of Hanover to apply as much surplus revenue as possible (300,000l. or 400,000l. per annum) in repurchasing the Crown Lands. "This would purchase 15,000l. by the year of good land every year; which in about ten or fifteen years' time would be a good estate of its selfe, and may be so contrived as that the nation shall take but little notice in the doing it, &c." Memorial to Princess Sophia, p. 67.
L. 23. a bad habit to moot cases, &c. English political writers have always freely indulged in the habit.
L. 26. that austere and insolent domination. "The worst imaginable government, a feudal aristocracy," Burke's Abridgment of English Hist., Book iii. c. 8. Cp. the description of Poland under such a government, Ann. Reg. 1763. "Every new tribunal, erected for the decision of facts, without the interposition of a jury... is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute governments." Id. 1768, p. 272.
L. 29. influence of a Court, and of a Peerage, which... is the most imminent. Pope thus describes the supposed paralysing influence of a Whig minister:
Proud to my list to add one monarch more;
And nobly conscious princes are but things
Born for First Ministers, as slaves for Kings.
And make one mighty Dunciad of the land!
—Dunciad, iv. 599.
The opinion that England was like to end in despotism prevailed in many thinking minds from the time when Hume wrote the Essay on the British Government ("Absolute Monarchy—the true Euthanasia of the British Constitution") to the end of the reign of George III. "Despotism," wrote Bentham in 1817, "is advancing in seven-leagued boots." Works, iii. 486. On the anticipation of an absolute aristocracy, in the early part of that reign, cp. Churchill, The Farewell, Works, Fifth Edition, iii. 147, 148:
Nor titled upstarts league to rob the realm,
Let not, whatever other ills assail,
If, all too short, our course of Freedom run,
'Tis thy good pleasure we should be undone,
Let us, some comfort in our griefs to bring,
Be slaves to one, and be that one a King.
Cp. also Goldsmith, Traveller (1764);
Contracting regal power to stretch their own,
When I behold a factious band agree
To call it freedom when themselves are free—
... half a patriot, half a coward grown,
I fly from petty tyrants to the throne.
Dr. Primrose, in the Vicar of Wakefield (ch. xix), expresses a similar feeling. See also Cowper, Task, Book v. 485 sqq. The fear of the Whig nobles constantly haunted the brain of George the Third. He often declared his determination not to submit to be shackled by those desperate men, Correspondence with Lord North, passim. Burke was acute enough to see where the real weakness of the body of the Peers lay, and how few could leave below them what Grattan termed the "vulgar level of the great."
P. 91, L. 20. established a sort of Rota in the Court. Harrington's club, called the Rota, had for its aim to bring the nation to adopt a scheme of aristocracy. The name is borrowed from the privy council of the Court of Rome. Sidrophel, in Hudibras, is described as being
—Part II. Canto iii. 1107.
L. 21. All sorts of parties... have been brought into Administration,... few have had the good fortune to escape without disgrace, &c. Every statesman of the day, except Lord Temple, was in turn gulled by the King into accepting office, and then left to find out that he was expected to hold it by a tenure inconsistent alike with self-respect and constitutional traditions.
P. 92, L. 7. many rotten members belonging to the best connexions. "That tail which draggles in the dirt, and which every party in every state must carry about it." Burke, Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 385. "Parties are like coin: which would never be fit for common use without some considerable alloy of the baser metals." Lord Stanhope, History of England, vol. v. p. 179. The image is borrowed from Bacon, Essay I.
L. 13. the Junto = cabal or faction. The opposite party applied the term to the Whigs; cp. "Seasonable Hints."
P. 93, L. 10. some person of whom the party entertains an high opinion. The allusion is to the young Duke of Grafton, who was one of the Secretaries in Lord Rockingham's ministry.
L. 17. Afterwards they are sure to destroy him in his turn; by setting up in his place, &c. The Duke of Grafton was displaced in January 1770, when Lord North became First Lord of the Treasury.
L. 24. an attempt to strip a particular friend of his family estate. Alluding to the scandalous attempt to deprive the Duke of Portland of Inglewood forest with the Manor and Castle of Carlisle, and extensive appurtenant election influence, by a grant to Sir James Lowther, the son-in-law of Lord Bute. These premises, though not specified in the grant from William III of the honour of Penrith to the Portland family, had been enjoyed by the family for several descents under that tenure. The grant was completed and sealed before the Duke had the opportunity of establishing his title, notwithstanding a caveat entered in the Exchequer, the Treasury relying on the antiquated prerogative maxim nullum tempus occurrit regi. Sir G. Savile's bill abolishing this maxim, though at first rejected, subsequently became law: and sixty years adverse possession now defeats the title of the Crown
P. 96, L. 1. Like Janissaries, they derive a kind of freedom, &c. Cp. "the ancient household troops of that side of the house." Infra, p. 164, &c. "In the teeth of all the old mercenary Swiss of state," p. 195, and p. 197. G. Grenville first applied the term to the King's men: "a set of Janissaries, who might at any time be ordered to put the bowstring around his neck." Bedford Correspondence, vol. iii.
L. 2. the very condition of their servitude... people should be so desirous of adding themselves to that body. Burke, in speaking of the Janissaries, perhaps has in mind the description in the letter of Lady M. W. Montagu to the Countess of Bristol, April 1, 1717. "This (offering to bring the head of the cadi who had neglected her orders) may give you some idea of the unlimited power of these fellows, who are all sworn brothers, and bound to revenge the injuries done to one another, whether at Cairo, Aleppo, or any part of the world. This inviolable league makes them so powerful, that the greatest man at Court never speaks to them but in a flattering tone; and in Asia, any man that is rich is forced to enrol himself a Janizary, to secure his estate."
L. 14. invidious exclusion. "The King of France," says Machiavelli, "suffers nobody to call himself of the King's party, because that would imply a party against him." "The King of England," pertinently remarks a critic of the day, "has no enemies."
L. 23. for eight years past. The institution was supposed to have been set up after Lord Bute had been forced to resign, as a defence to the Crown against the Whig Ministries. See Butler's Reminiscences, vol. ii. p. 114.
L. 5. without any idea of proscription. Referring to Lord Holland's proscription. See note to p. 84, l. 31.
L. 11. abhorred and violently opposed by the Court Faction, &c. But it was the inherent weakness of the Rockingham administration, and the unhappy schisms among the Whigs, rather than the opposition of the King's friends, which brought about its fall. This was notorious at the time. Cp. note to p. 196, l. 9.
L. 15. I should say so little of the Earl of Bute, &c. Burke wished rather to conciliate than to offend this nobleman. The democratic party were exceedingly enraged at his being treated so leniently.
L. 23. a dangerous national quarrel—alluding to the indecent attacks on the Scotch nation in the North Briton and other publications of that day.
L. 28. indifference to the constitution. By a natural reaction from the violent Whiggism of the early part of the century.
L. 30. We should have been tried with it, if the Earl of Bute had never existed. Burke here corrects the views of the author of the History of the Minority, p. 10.
P. 98, L. 2. He communicates very little in a direct manner, &c. After 1764 Bute never seems to have directly communicated with the King, much less with Ministers. His visits, however, to Carlton House, on his return from abroad, were as frequent as ever, and were especially remarked during the month preceding the establishment of the Chatham Ministry in 1766.
L. 8. whoever becomes a party to an Administration, &c. The attack on Lord Chatham which the pamphlet in an earlier shape contained, and which was afterwards expunged, perhaps followed this paragraph.
L. 23. System of Favouritism. Unnatural perhaps, but not uncommon in similar circumstances. Bacon extols a system of Favouritism as the best remedy against the ambitious great. Essay of Ambition.
L. 32. bitter waters, Numbers v. 14. The rhetorical phrases and images borrowed from the Holy Scriptures, which always suggested themselves to Burke when rising above the common level of his argument, are naturally less thickly sown in this pamphlet than in his speeches. See pp. 105, 118, 122, 144.
L. 33. drunk until we are ready to burst. Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle iii. "Men and dogs shall drink him till they burst." "Largely drink, e'en till their bowels burst." Churchill, Gotham, Book ii. 3.
L. 35. abused by bad or weak men—and by the King himself, though Burke could only hint this. Yet without an unusually low standard of morality among public men, the King would have been unable to abuse his discretionary power.
P. 99, L. 3. A plan of Favouritism, &c.—better of this system. These pages demand attentive study; and the student will beware of taking for aphorisms which can be detached the frequent maxims which form the successive landing-places of the reasoning. Burke here assumes a concealed influence on the part of Lord Bute, though the existence of such an influence at this
L. 23. In arbitrary Governments, &c.... Both the Law and the Magistrates are the creatures of Will. All legislative power is in the strict sense arbitrary. "If it be objected that I am a defender of arbitrary powers, I confess I cannot comprehend how any society can be established or subsist without them; for the establishment of government is an arbitrary act, wholly depending on the will of men.... Magna Charta, which comprehends our antient laws, and all the subsequent statutes, were not sent from heaven, but made according to the will of men.... The difference between good and ill governments is not, that those of one sort have an arbitrary power which the others have not: for they all have it: but that those that are well constituted, place this power so as it may be beneficial to the people, and set such rules as are hardly to be transgressed, &c." Sidney, ch. iii. s. 45.
L. 27. every sort of government, &c. Cp. the principle of Montesquieu, that legislation should be relative to the principle as well as to the organisation of each Government. Raleigh, in his Maxims of State, has a remark very similar to that of Burke.
L. 30. free Commonwealth. Burke boldly points out the real character of the English constitution, and shows that the only alternative is a government practically arbitrary.
P. 101, L. 1. The popular election of magistrates, &c. The analogy of England with a republic like that of ancient Rome is firmly traced.
L. 6. did not admit of such an actual election, &c. Burke's observations on this point are confirmed by a comparison of the democratic institutions which have been set up in different parts of the world, since they were penned, with the English political system. On the weakness of looking more to the form than to the working of an institution, cp. Aristotle, Pol., Book v.
L. 20. the King with the controul of his negative. "The circumstance that in England the royal veto has practically not been exercised for a century and a half, whilst the President of the United States (Tyler) has lately made frequent and energetic use of it, is often adduced as a proof of the powerlessness of the British Crown, whereas it is really of itself a great proof of the advancement of the English Constitution, and its wealth in preventive remedies (Vorbeugungsmitteln)." Dahlmann, Politik, Th. 1. cap. 5. Cp. vol. ii.: "All the struggle, all the dissension, arose afterwards upon the preference of a despotic democracy to a government of reciprocal controul. The triumph of a victorious party was over the principles of a British constitution."
P. 102, L. 1. Every good political institution, &c. The practical doctrines of the
L. 8. Before men are put forward, &c. England indeed now possesses a far greater security for the excellence of her chief ruler than any other country has ever had. He must be chosen, as it were, by a triple election. A constituency must return him, public opinion and Parliament must accept him as a leader, and the Sovereign must send for him.
P. 103, L. 7. Whatever be the road to power, &c. A favourite image with Burke. Cp. infra, p. 220. "Men will not look to Acts of Parliament, to regulations, to declarations, to votes, and resolutions. No, they are not such fools. They will ask, what is the road to power, credit, wealth, and honour," &c. Speech on East India Bill.
L. 34. opinion of the meer vulgar is a miserable rule. Cp. p. 71, "ignorance and levity of the vulgar." It has been reserved for our own generation to put forth the monstrous paradox of the inherent wisdom of the mass of a people. The political philosophers of the period of the Commonwealth knew nothing of it. See Milton, and Baxter's Holy Commonwealth. chap. viii. Dryden is hardly more severe, Absalom and Achitophel;
Whom kings no titles gave, and God no grace.
P. 104, L. 4. public opinion.... collected with great difficulty. The chief source was the city of London, where George III encountered the most uncompromising resistance on the Wilkes question and others. It was owing to this limitation of area that productions like the letters of Junius appeared to have so enormous an influence on public opinion. Johnson speaks of this author as working on "the cits of London and the boors of Middlesex." Owing to well-known circumstances the opinions of the city of London no longer possess this peculiar significance.
L. 24. It is a fallacy, &c. Remark the ease with which Burke mounts from a particular case to the widest general principles, and the strength of thought which in this process never lets go the special consideration. In this, as well as in the way of framing and applying his general principles, he resembles Aristotle.
To clear the vile, and spot the innocent.
—Crabbe, "The Maid's Story."
L. 11. no lines can be laid down, &c. The student of Aristotle will be struck with the frequency with which the inestimable axioms of the Greek politician are employed, in an enriched form, by Burke. Not only is this true of detached sayings, but the Aristotelian political method was constantly present to him as a whole. Compare the following: "Nothing universal can be rationally affirmed on any moral or any political subject. Pure metaphysical abstraction does not belong to these matters. The lines of morality are not like ideal lines of mathematicks. They are broad and deep as well as long. They admit of exceptions; they demand modifications. These exceptions and modifications are not made by the process of logick, but by the rules of prudence. Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all. Metaphysicks cannot live without definition; but prudence is careful how she defines." Appeal from New to Old Whigs. "The state of civil society is a state of nature. Man is by nature reasonable. Art is man's nature. (Dahlmann commences his Politik with this aphorism.) Men qualified in the manner I have just described, form in nature as she operates on the common modification of society, the leading, guiding, and governing part. It is the soul to the body, without which the man does not exist." Doctrine of Natural Aristocracy, ib. "The vice of the ancient democracies, and one cause of their ruin was, that they ruled as you do, by occasional decrees, psephismata." Vol. ii. p. 319. "But as human affairs and human actions are not of a metaphysical nature, but the subject is concrete, complex, and moral, they cannot be subjected (without exceptions which reduce it almost to nothing) to any certain rule." Report of Committee on Lords' Journals. "Civil freedom is not, as many have endeavoured to persuade you, a thing that lies hid in the depth of abtruse science. It is a blessing and a benefit, not an abstract speculation; and all the just reasoning that can be upon it is of so coarse a texture as perfectly to suit the ordinary capacities of those who are to enjoy, and of those who are to defend it, &c." Letter to Sheriffs of Bristol. See also infra, p. 254, &c., the Second Letter on a Regicide Peace, and many other of Burke's writings.
L. 13. though no man can draw a stroke between the confines of day and night, &c.
A thousand ways, is there no black or white?
—Pope, Essay on Man, il.
These lines are quoted by Burke in the "Sublime and Beautiful," and often alluded to in his later works.
—Dryden, Astraea Redux.
And, as by stealth, with so much softness blend,
'Tis hard to say, where they begin, or end.
—Churchill, Gotham, Book ii.
"The principles of right and wrong so intermix in centuries of human dealing, as to become inseparable, like light and shade: but does it follow that there is no such thing as light or shade; no such thing as right or wrong?" Grattan, Speech against the Union, Feb. 5, 1800.
L. 23. those who advise him may have an interest in disorder and confusion. "The interest of the present Royal family was to succeed without opposition and risque, and to come to the throne in a calm. It was the interest of a faction that they should come to it in a storm." Bolingbroke, Letter on the State of Parties at the Accession of George I.
P. 106, L. 10. a peculiar venom and malignity, &c. It might be said that Burke here pushes his point too far. The student should read the criticism of H. Walpole, Mem. Geo. III, vol. iv. pp. 129-147.
L. 29. energy of a Monarchy that is absolute. "Le gouvernement monarchique a un grand avantage sur le républicain; les affaires étant menées par un seul, il y a plus de promptitude dans l'exécution." Montesquieu, Esp. des Lois, v. 10.
L. 33. war is a situation, &c. "Peace at any price" has generally been the maxim of a weak ministry.
L. 9. keeps danger at a distance, &c.
Began his state with vigour to reform,
And made a calm by laughing at the storm.
—Crabbe "The Widow."
L. 15. the conquest of Corsica. Corsica had groaned in vain from century to century under the Republican tyranny of Genoa, patronised by France. Her last struggle was begun in 1755 under Pascal Paoli, and was advancing towards victory, when the proclamation of George III, in 1762, prohibited British subjects from rendering any assistance to the Rebels of Corsica. (The Mediterranean fleet had in former times given effectual help to the insurgents, having recovered from the Genoese, in 1745, the forts of St. Fiorenzo and Bastia.) This proclamation was a terrible blow to the Corsicans, and probably emboldened France to conclude the subsequent treaty with Genoa, by which the progress of the Corsican general was arrested in the midst of his victories. England was in a position to have
L. 16. professed enemies of the freedom of mankind. The spirit of liberty which existed in France was unsuspected. "Il faut avouer que vos François sont un peuple bien servile, bien vendu à la tyrannie, bien cruel, et bien acharni sur les malheureux. S'ils savoient un homme libre à l'autre bout du monde, je crois qu'ils y iroient pour le seul plaisir de l'exterminer." Rousseau, Letter to M. de Leyre on the occasion of the Treaty of France and Genoa. Contemporary literature teems with allusions to the French people as the veriest slaves in the world.
L. 22. Ransom of Manilla... East India prisoners. Manilla was taken October 6, 1762, by General Draper and Admiral Cornish, and the enemy escaped with life, property, and liberty, on promising to pay a ransom of a million sterling. The East India prisoners were the garrison of Pondicherry, to the number of 1400 Europeans. See Ann. Reg. 1761, p. 56.
P. 108, L. 2. Foreign Courts and Ministers, &c. "A letter from the Russian Minister to his Court was intercepted, urging his mistress not to conclude too hastily with Ministers, who could not maintain their ground. This the King denied, and assured Lord Rockingham that they had his confidence—having at that very moment determined on their speedy overthrow." Phillimore's Hist. of Geo. III, vol. i. p. 558. The belief in the still prevailing influence of Lord Bute, widely spread in England, was universally entertained on the Continent. Chatham was possessed of it till his dying day. The rumour of bribery on the occasion of the peace of 1762 probably gave other courts the cue for future transactions.
L. 25. Lord Shelburne... is obliged to give up the seals. Burke's hint that Lord Shelburne's removal was a penalty for the warmth of his remonstrances to the French court on the subject of Corsica, is disproved by the Duke of Grafton's MSS., and by other contemporary documents. See Lord Stanhope's Hist. of England, vol. v. p. 307.
P. 109, L. 21. Therefore they turn their eyes, &c. The Colonists rather attributed the encroaching policy of the government to the spirit of the majority of the nation.
End of Notes
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