Reflections on the Revolution in France
It may not be unnecessary to inform the Reader, that the following Reflections had their origin in a correspondence between the Author and *4a very young gentleman at Paris, who did him the honour of desiring his opinion upon the important transactions, which then, and ever since, have so much occupied the attention of all men. *5An answer was written some time in the month of October, 1789; but it was kept back *6upon prudential considerations. That letter is alluded to in the beginning of the following sheets. It has been since forwarded to the person to whom it was addressed. The reasons for the delay in sending it were *7assigned in a short letter to the same gentleman. This produced on his part a new and pressing application for the Author's sentiments.
The Author began a second and more full discussion on the subject. This he had some thoughts of publishing *8early in the last spring; but the matter gaining upon him, he found that what he had undertaken not only far exceeded the measure of a letter, but that its importance required rather a more detailed consideration than at that time he had any leisure to bestow upon it. However, having thrown down his first thoughts in the form of a letter, and indeed when he sat down to write, having intended it for a private letter, he found it difficult to change the form of address, when his sentiments had grown into a greater extent, and had received another direction. A different plan, he is sensible, might be more favourable to a commodious division and distribution of his matter.
You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reason to imagine that I think my sentiments of such value as to wish myself to be solicited about them. They are of too little consequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the time, when you first desired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write to you, and which at length I send, I wrote *9neither for nor from any description of men; nor shall I in this. My errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them.
You see, Sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to you, that, though I do most heartily wish that France may be animated by a *10spirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honest policy, to provide *11a permanent body, in which that spirit may reside, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late transactions.
You imagined, when you wrote last, that I might possibly be reckoned among the approvers of certain proceedings in France, from the solemn public seal of sanction they have received from two clubs of gentlemen in London, called the Constitutional Society, and the Revolution Society.
I certainly have the honour to belong to *12more clubs than one, in which the constitution of this kingdom and the principles of the glorious Revolution, are held in high reverence: and I reckon myself among the most forward in my zeal for maintaining that constitution and those principles in their utmost purity and vigour. It is because I do so, that I think it necessary for me, that there should be no mistake. Those who cultivate the memory of our revolution, and those who are attached to the constitution of this kingdom, will
The first, calling itself *13the Constitutional Society, or Society for Constitutional Information, or by some such title, is, I believe, of seven or eight years standing. The institution of this society appears to be of a charitable, and so far of a laudable, nature: it was intended for the *14circulation, at the expence of the members, of many books, which few others would be at the expence of buying; and which might lie on the hands of the *15booksellers, to the great loss of an useful body of men. Whether the books so charitably circulated, were ever as *16charitably read, is more than I know. Possibly several of them have been exported to France; and, like goods not in request here, may with you have found a market. I have heard *17much talk of the lights to be drawn from books that are sent from hence. What improvements they have had in their passage (as it is said some liquors are *18meliorated by crossing the sea) I cannot tell: But I never heard a man of common judgment, or the least degree of information, speak a word in praise of the greater part of the publications circulated by that society; nor have their proceedings been accounted, except by some of themselves, as of any serious consequence.
Your National Assembly seems to entertain much the
In the antient principles and conduct of the club, so far at least as they were declared, I see nothing to which I could take exception. I think it very probable, that for some purpose, *21new members may have
For one, I should be sorry to be thought, directly or indirectly, concerned in their proceedings. I certainly take my full share, along with the rest of the world, in my individual and private capacity, in speculating on what has been done, or is doing, on the public stage; in any place antient or modern; in the republic of Rome, or the republic of Paris: but having no general apostolical mission, being a citizen of a particular state, and being bound up in a considerable degree, by its public will, I should think it, at least improper and irregular, for me to open a formal public correspondence with the actual government of a foreign nation, without the express authority of the government under which I live.
I should be still more unwilling to enter into that correspondence, under anything like an equivocal description, which to many, unacquainted with our usages, might make the address, in which I joined, appear as the act of persons in some sort of corporate capacity, acknowledged by the laws of this kingdom, and authorized to speak the sense of some part of it. On account of the ambiguity and uncertainty of unauthorized general descriptions, and of the deceit which may be practised under them, and not from mere formality, the house of Commons would reject the most sneaking petition for the most trifling object, under that mode of signature to which you have thrown open the folding-doors of your presence chamber, and have ushered into your National Assembly, with as much ceremony and
I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of that society, be he who he will; and perhaps I have given as good proofs of my attachment to that cause, in the whole course of my public conduct. I think I envy liberty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the *23nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. *24Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effect. The
When I see the *29spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, *30the fixed air, is plainly broke loose: but we ought to suspend our judgment until *31the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one. *32 *33Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver; and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was informed *34how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the *35solidity of
All these considerations however were below the transcendental dignity of the Revolution Society. Whilst I continued in the country, from whence I had the honour of writing to you, I had but an imperfect idea of their transactions. *39On my coming to town, I sent for *40an account of their proceedings, which had been published by their authority, containing a sermon of Dr. Price, with the Duke de Rochefoucault's and the Archbishop of Aix's letter, and several other documents annexed. The whole of that publication, with the manifest design of connecting the affairs of France with those of England, by drawing us into an imitation of the conduct of the National Assembly, gave me a considerable degree of uneasiness. The effect of that conduct upon the power, credit, prosperity, and tranquillity of France, became every day more evident. The form of constitution to be settled, for its future polity, became more clear. We are now in a condition to discern, with tolerable exactness, the true nature of the object held up to our imitation. If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates silence in some
Solicitous chiefly for the peace of my own country, but by no means unconcerned for your's, I wish to communicate more largely, what was at first intended only for your private satisfaction. I shall still keep your affairs in my eye and continue to address myself to you. Indulging myself in the *45freedom of epistolary intercourse, I beg leave to throw out my thoughts, and express my feelings, just as they arise in my mind, with very little attention to formal method. I set out with the proceedings of the Revolution Society; but I shall not confine myself to them. Is it possible I should? It looks to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the affairs of France alone, but of all Europe, *46perhaps of more than Europe. All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about in many instances *47by means the most absurd and ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and apparently, by the most contemptible instruments. Every thing seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled together with all sorts of follies. In viewing this monstrous tragi-comic scene, the most opposite passions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind: alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror.
On the forenoon of the 4th of November last, *49Doctor Richard Price, a non-conforming minister of eminence, preached at the dissenting meeting-house of the Old Jewry, to his club or society, a very extraordinary miscellaneous sermon, in which there are some good moral and religious sentiments, and not ill expressed, mixed up in a sort of porridge of various political opinions and reflections: but the revolution in France is the grand *50ingredient in the cauldron. I consider the address transmitted by the Revolution Society to the National Assembly, through Earl Stanhope, as originating in the principles of the sermon, and as a corollary from them. It was moved by the preacher of that discourse. It was passed by those who came reeking from the effect of the sermon, without any censure or qualification, expressed or implied. If, however, any of the gentlemen concerned shall wish to separate the sermon from the resolution, they know how to acknowledge the one, and to disavow the other. They may do it: I cannot.
For my part, I looked on that sermon as the public declaration of a man much connected with literary caballers, and intriguing philosophers; with political theologians, and theological politicians, both at home and abroad. I know they set him up as a sort of *51oracle; because, with the best intentions in the world, he naturally philippizes, and chaunts his prophetic song in exact unison with their designs.
This pulpit style, revived after so long a discontinuance, had to me the air of novelty, and of a novelty not wholly without danger. I do not charge this danger equally to every part of the discourse. *56The hint given to a noble and
Notes for this chapter
Page 85. The Revolution in France. The term "Revolution," from its application to the events of 1688, had acquired in England a sense exclusively favourable. "Revolution principles" meant the principles of English constitutional liberty. The Tories who supported the Hanoverian succession, while opposing the rest of the policy of the Whigs, called themselves "Revolution Tories." Hence the name "Revolution Society" meant much the same as "Constitutional Society." This use of the term in bonam partem, which was still in vogue, though in its decline, at the time of the French Revolution, from that time disappears from the English language. Burke was at first unwilling to apply the term to a series of events which in his opinion amounted to the total subversion of the framework of a national society, and was based on what he called "spurious Revolution principles," p. 103, l. 26: but custom soon sanctioned its use in England. In France it had been in common use for forty years, and had passed from a favourable sense to one almost legendary and heroic. Thus, on the use of it made by Barbier in 1751, M. Aubertin writes; "Voilà donc ce mot de 'révolution' qui abonde sous la plume des contemporains, et pour un temps illimité prend possession de notre histoire. Désormais, l'idée sinistre d'une catastrophe nécessaire, d'une péripétie tragique, obsède les imaginations françaises; la vie politique de notre pays sort des conditions d'un développement normal pour entrer dans les brusques mouvements et dans l'horreur mystérieuse d'un drame." L'Esprit Public au XVIIIe Siècle, p. 282. On the use of the word shortly before the event, see Mercier, New Picture of Paris, ch. 3: "Every book that bore the title of Revolution was bought up and carried away.... We were always hearing the words, 'Give me the Roman Revolutions—the Revolutions of Sweden—of Italy'; and booksellers, in order to sell their old books, printed false titles, and took the purchase on the credit merely of the label."
IBID. Eleventh Edition, 1791. Within a few months after its first publication, the work had reached this, its permanent form. Burke made some alterations in the text as it appears in the first edition, which will be noticed so far as they are material. A few short annotations, which appear in editions subsequent to the one adopted as the text, are printed with it (see note to
IBID. Argument. Burke says (p. 95, l. 24) that he writes with very little attention to formal method. This distribution of the work into sections is only approximative, and intended to assist the reader in marking the salient points, and thus more readily seizing the drift of the work. The brief headings given in this "Argument" only indicate the thread of the thought, by no means include all that hangs upon it. Those who desire a minute analysis can consult the translations of Gentz and Dupont: but such an analysis tends to impair the effect of the work, which is essentially discursive and informal.
P. 87, L. 24. a very young gentleman at Paris. M. Dupont, who afterwards translated the work into French. He became acquainted with Burke in London, and visited him at Beaconsfield.
L. 27. an answer was written, &c. See Burke's Corr. vol. iii. p. 102. This letter will be found valuable as a means of acquiring a first and general idea of Burke's views. It bears evidence of great pains taken in the composition. Sir Philip Francis, whose taste was so much offended by the "Reflections," thought this letter "in point of writing, much less exceptionable."
P. 88, L. 1. upon prudential considerations—i. e. for fear of the letter being opened, and the receiver endangered by the opinions contained in it. Cp. p. 88, l. 26.
L. 4. assigned in a short letter—which was then sent in its stead. They appear to have been afterwards incorporated in the letter itself (Corr. vol. iii. pp. 103, 104).
L. 8. early in the last spring. The "Substance of Mr. Burke's Speech in the Debate on the Army Estimates, Feb. 9, 1790," published very soon after, in which his views on French events were freely stated, was followed by Lord Stanhope's Letter in answer to it, dated Feb. 24, in which he says, "From the title of another pamphlet, which an advertisement in the papers has announced is speedily to be expected from you, it is conjectured that the Revolution Society in London was in your contemplation when you made that Speech," p. 20. Lord Stanhope was chairman of that society. The advertisement was in the London Chronicle for Feb. 16, 1790, and runs as follows: "In the Press, and will speedily be published, Reflections on certain
P. 88, L. 29. neither for nor from any description of men. Thus far the publication bears a different character to those of the Constitutional and Revolution Societies. Burke, however, claims throughout the first part of the work to be expressing the opinions of all true Englishmen (p. 179).
P. 89, L. 3. spirit of rational liberty, &c. Cp. the Letter to Depont, Corr. vol. iii. p. 105: "You hope that I think the French deserving liberty. I certainly do. I certainly think that all men who desire it, deserve it. It is not the reward of our merit, or the acquisition of our industry. It is our inheritance. It is the birthright of our species. We cannot forfeit our right to it, but by what forfeits our title to the privileges of our kind—I mean, the abuse, or oblivion of our rational faculties, and a ferocious indocility which makes us prompt to wrong and violence, destroys our social nature, and transforms us into something little better than the description of wild beasts."
L. 13. more clubs than one. The allusion is especially to the Whig club "Brooks's," of which Burke became a member in 1783.
L. 33. the Constitutional Society—seven or eight years' standing. Really somewhat more, having been founded by Major Cartwright in the spring of 1780, "after whole months of strenuous exertion." It numbered among its members the Dukes of Norfolk and Richmond, the Earls of Derby, Effingham, and Selkirk, together with many other persons of rank and members of Parliament.
P. 90, L. 2. circulation of many books, &c. An apologist for the Society says that portions of the works of the old Whig authors, such as Sidney, Locke, Trenchard, Lord Somers, &c., were distributed gratis by the Society. But the chief object of the Society was to circulate the writings of Cartwright, Capel Lofft, Jebb, Northcote, Sharp, and other pamphleteers of the day. It is to these that Burke alludes l. 15, in deprecating "the greater part of the publications circulated by that Society."
L. 7. —The word is repeated, by the figure called traductio, in a contemptuous way. Burke hints that the books were not worth reading, and were in fact not read.
L. 10. much talk of the lights, &c. Cp. the French Correspondent of the St. James's Chronicle, Dec. 15, 1789: "It is you, O ye noble inhabitants of
L. 12. meliorated. Burke always uses this (the correct form) instead of the modern "ameliorate."
P. 91, L. 3. a club of Dissenters. Dr. Kippis and Dr. Rees were distinguished members. The Society was established by dissenters, but for some years then past it had numbered among its adherents many members of the Church of England. Lord Surrey, and the Dukes of Norfolk, Leeds, Richmond, and Manchester, sometimes attended their meetings, together with many members of the House of Commons.
L. 3. of what denomination, &c. In the time of Burke the lines which separated dissenting denominations from each other and from the Church were less sharply defined than now. The Unitarians were recognised by other denominations, and allowed to preach in their meeting-houses. Dr. Price was nominally an "Independent," though his doctrines were Unitarian.
L. 16. new members may have entered. It is stated by Lord Stanhope in his Life of Pitt, that this society had then been lately "new-modelled," with a view to co-operating with the French revolutionists. In this way it came to be a "Society for Revolutions," as Burke calls it at p. 110, l. 4.
P. 92, L. 24. who they are—personal abilities, &c. We trace here Burke's inflexible practice of connecting measures and opinions with the persons who support them. Cp. the Letter to Depont, p. 115: "Never wholly separate in your mind the merits of any political question from the men who are concerned in it."
P. 93, L. 8. nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Perhaps an echo of Butler:
Before one rag of form was on.
—Hudibras, Part i. Canto i. l. 561.
L. 14. government, as well as liberty. Cp. note to vol. i. p. 70, l. 22. By "government," Burke means here, as often elsewhere, a state or habit of political regulation. Burke ends as well as begins the book with the distinction between true and false liberty. See p. 361.
L. 26. the scene of the criminals. See Don Quixote, Part i. ch. 22. This masterpiece seems to have been a favourite with Burke. "Blessings on his soul, that first invented sleep, said Don Sancho Panza the wise! All those blessings, and ten thousand times more, on him who found out abstraction, personification, and impersonals." Fourth Letter on Regicide Peace.
L. 27. the metaphysic knight. Burke uses with but little discrimination the forms metaphysic, metaphysical; ecclesiastic, ecclesiastical; theatric,
L. 29. spirit of liberty.... wild gas, &c. Crabbe is frequently indebted for a hint to Burke, his early patron;
That suits with all, like atmospheric air;
The lighter gas, that taken in the frame
The spirit heats, and sets the blood on flame,—
Such is the freedom which when men approve,
They know not what a dangerous thing they love.
—Crabbe, Tales of the Hall.
L. 31. the fixed air. Then the scientific term for carbonic acid gas. The gas was discovered by Van Helmont. This name was given to it by Dr. Black, in 1755, on account of its property, discovered by him, of readily losing its elasticity, and fixing itself in many bodies, particularly those of a calcareous kind.
L. 32. the first effervescence. Cp. infra p. 263, l. 7. "Fixed air" is contained in great quantity in fermented liquors, to which it gives their briskness.
P. 94, L. 2. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver. The idea is adapted from Shakespeare:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
—Merch. of Ven., Act iv. sc. 1.
IBID. Flattery; adulation. Intended to express a difference between this vice as a private and as a public practice.
L. 5. how it had been combined with government, &c. The Second Part (p. 269 to end) is here anticipated.
L. 13. do what they please. "Mais la liberté politique ne consiste point à faire ce que l'on veut.... La liberté ne peut consister qu'à pouvoir faire ce que l'on doit vouloir." De l'Esprit des Lois, Liv. xi. ch. 3.
L. 17. liberty... is power. "On a confondu le pouvoir du peuple avec la liberté du peuple." Id. ch. 2. In France, says M. Mignet candidly, the love of liberty is equivalent to the love of power.
L. 22. those who appear the most stirring, &c. It was believed that the Duke of Orleans was the prime mover, although he did not take the most active part in the scene.
IBID. an account of these proceedings. "A Discourse on the Love of our Country, delivered on Nov. 4, 1789, at the Meeting House in the Old Jewry to the Society for commemorating the Revolution in Great Britain. With an Appendix containing the Report of the Committee of the Society; an
P. 95, L. 8. prudence of an higher order. Burke always recognizes a good and bad form of moral habits and feelings, without much reference to their names and common acceptations. Hence such striking expressions as "false, reptile prudence," "fortitude of rational fear," &c., abound in his writings.
L. 10. feeble enough—infancy still more feeble. Burke was too much disposed to refer the Revolution to the spirit of contemporary Jacobinism as a prime cause. Such a spirit may help, but it can never originate, much less carry into effect, similar convulsions, which always have powerful material causes. There was much Jacobinism in England; more than we can now understand. One fifth of the active political forces of this country were classed by Burke as Jacobin; but there was no such irresistible series of material causes as, in the face of material resistance, produced the explosion of 1789.
L. 12. heap mountains on mountains. Cp. Waller, On the Head of a Stag:
When mountains heap'd on mountains fail'd.
The allusion is to the Titans. See Virg. Georg. i. 281.
L. 13. our neighbour's house on fire, &c.
—Hor. Ep. Lib. i. xviii. 84.
See the idea developed in Burke's justification of interference in the affairs of France, grounded on the "law of civil vicinity," in the First Letter on a Regicide Peace—"Vicini vicinorum facta praesumuntur scire—this principle, which, like the rest, is as true of nations as of individual men, has bestowed on the grand vicinage of Europe a right to know, and a right to prevent, any capital innovation which may amount to the erection of a dangerous nuisance." The politicians of France had denied such a right, on the abstract principle that to every nation belongs the unmolested regulation of its domestic affairs.
L. 22. freedom of epistolary intercourse; little attention to formal method. "The arrangement of his work is as singular as the matter. Availing himself of all the privileges of epistolary effusion, in their utmost latitude and
L. 28. perhaps of more than Europe. The designs of Bonaparte, and actual events in Egypt, Syria, India, and the West Indies, justify this forecast. The Revolution forced on the independence of Spanish and Portuguese America.
L. 32. by means the most absurd, &c. Balzac (the earlier), "Aristippe": "Les grands événements ne sont pas toujours produits par de grandes causes. Les ressorts sont cachés, et les machines paraissent; et quand on vient à découvrir ces ressorts, on s'étonne de les voir et si faibles et si petits. On a honte de l'opinion qu'on en avait eue." Cp. in the beginning of the First Letter on a Regicide Peace; "It is often impossible, in these political enquiries, to find any proportion between the apparent force of any moral causes we may assign, and their known operation.... A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of nature." In that place, as here, he is considering the fact that "in that its acmé of human prosperity and greatness, in the high and palmy state of the monarchy of France, it fell to the ground without a struggle." So Dr. Johnson: "Politicians have long observed, that the greatest events may be often traced back to slender causes. Petty competition, or casual friendship, the prudence of a slave, or the garrulity of a woman, have hindered or promoted the most important schemes, and hastened or retarded the revolutions of Empire." The Rambler, No. 141.
P. 96, L. 12. Machiavelian. The old adjective, from the French form "Machiavel," then in use in England. The ch is pronounced soft. We now say "Machiavelli" and "Machiavellian," pronouncing the ch hard.
L. 15. Dr. Richard Price... minister of eminence. Now an old man and in failing health. He was a political economist of some repute, cp. p. 228, l. 31. His writings procured him the friendship of Lord Rockingham's Whig rival, Lord Shelburne, who wished him to become his private secretary, on his accession to office in 1782. By Burke and his party Lord Shelburne was bitterly detested. Shelburne's party, minus their leader, were now in power under Pitt: and hence there might be presumed by foreigners some connexion between Price and the English government. Political disappointment thus contributes to the virulence with which Burke attacks
P. 97, L. 2. oracle—philippizes. The celebrated expression of Demosthenes. Aesch. in Ctes. p. 72.
L. 15. your league in France. The Holy League of the Catholics. Burke may have had in mind Grey's note on Hudibras, Part i. Canto ii. l. 651.
L. 19. politics and the pulpit, &c. The common cry of professional politicians. Silence with regard to public matters neither can nor ought to be kept in the pulpits of a free nation in stirring times. "I abhorred making the pulpit a scene for the venting of passion, or the serving of interests." Burnet, Own Times, Ann. 1684. The practice was by no means confined to the Revolutionists. On the 30th of January, 1790, the Bishop of Chester had preached before the House of Peers a political diatribe full of violent invective against the French nation and the National Assembly. The House voted him thanks, and ordered the sermon to be printed. As to the introduction of politics in the pulpit, Fox agrees with Burke: "Dr. Price, in his sermon on the anniversary of the English Revolution, delivered many noble sentiments, worthy of an enlightened philosopher.... But, though I approve of his general principles, I consider his arguments as unfit for the pulpit. The clergy, in their sermons, ought no more to handle political affairs, than this House ought to discuss subjects of morality and religion." Speech on the Test Act, 1790.
L. 28. Inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much confidence. "Try experiments, as sound philosophers have done, and on them raise a legislative system!" This is a specimen of the wisdom of the Rev. Robert Robinson, another of these political divines; once famous as a Baptist minister at Cambridge.
P. 98, L. 3. The hint given to a noble and reverend lay-divine. The Duke of Grafton, whom Junius and Burke had united in attacking twenty years before. He had lately written a pamphlet on the subject of the Liturgy and Subscription, entitled "Hints &c., submitted to the serious attention of the Clergy, Nobility, and Gentry, newly assembled." Price calls it "a pamphlet ascribed to a great name, and which would dignify any name." It is chiefly remarkable as having called forth Bishop Horsley's Apology for the Liturgy and Clergy of the Church of England. Mathias alludes to "the pious Grafton," and his hostility to the Church, in his "Pursuits of Literature," Dialogue iv. l. 191, where he adds a note, "See the Duke's Hints—rather broad." Again at l. 299:
A Dilettante in Divinity.
P. 98, L. 4. lay-divine. The Duke held Unitarian opinions. Besides some writings of his own, he had done service to religious enquiry by printing for popular circulation the celebrated recension of the New Testament by Griesbach.
IBID. high in office in one of our Universities. Cp. Junius, Letter xv. The Duke was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Gray's Ode on his installation is well known. The text hints at the impropriety of such an office being held by a frequenter of the Unitarian meeting-house of Dr. Disney in Essex Street.
Discourse on the Love of our Country, Nov. 4, 1789, by Dr. Richard Price, 3d edition, p. 17 and 18.
L. 5. to other lay-divines of rank. The allusion is to the friend and patron of Price and Priestly, the Marquis of Lansdowne (Earl of Shelburne), who also held Unitarian opinions.
L. 7. Seekers. The Seekers were a Puritan sect who professed no determinate form of religion. Sir Harry Vane was at their head.
L. 8. old staple—as in Shakespeare, = material, especially used of woollen tissues. "Spun into the primitive staple of their frame," Fourth Letter on Regicide Peace. Cp. infra p. 302, l. 26.
"Those who dislike that mode of worship which is prescribed by public authority ought, if they can find no worship out of the church which they approve, to set up a separate worship for themselves; and by doing this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men of weight from their rank and literature may do the greatest service to society and the world." P. 18. Dr. Price's Sermon.
L. 23. great preachers. Ps. xlviii. v. 11. The repetition of great is ironical, alluding to the rank of these lay-divines.
IBID. uniform round of its vapid dissipations. Alluding to the London season, which at this date began late in the autumn, and terminated late in the spring. Cp. Johnson's homily on the Close of the Season, Rambler No. 124 (May 25, 1751).
End of Notes
But I may say of our preacher, "*70utinam nugis tota illa dedisset tempora saevitiae." All things in this his fulminating bull are not of so innoxious a tendency. His doctrines affect our constitution in its vital parts. He tells the Revolution Society, in this political sermon, that his majesty "*71is almost the only lawful king in the world, because the only one who owes his crown to the choice of his people." As to the kings of the world, all of whom (except one) this archpontiff of the rights of men, with all the plenitude, and with more than the boldness of the papal deposing power in its *72meridian fervour of the *73twelfth century, puts into one sweeping clause of ban and anathema, and proclaims usurpers by circles of longitude and latitude, over the whole globe, it behoves them to consider how they admit into their territories these apostolic missionaries, who are to tell their subjects they are not lawful kings. That is their concern. It is ours, as a domestic interest of some moment, seriously to consider the solidity of the only principle upon which these gentlemen acknowledge a king of Great Britain to be entitled to their allegiance.
Thus these politicians proceed, whilst little notice is taken of their doctrines: but when they come to be examined upon the plain meaning of their words and the direct tendency of their doctrines, then equivocations and slippery constructions come into play. When they say the king
Whatever may be the success of evasion in explaining
1. "To choose our own governors."
This new, and hitherto unheard-of bill of rights, though made in the name of the whole people, belongs to those gentlemen and their faction only. The body of the people of England have no share in it. They utterly disclaim it. They will resist the practical assertion of it with their *79lives and fortunes. They are bound to do so by the laws of their country, made at the time of that very Revolution, which is appealed to in favour of the fictitious rights claimed by the society which abuses its name.
These gentlemen of the Old Jewry, in all their reasonings on the *80Revolution of 1688, have a revolution which happened in England about forty years before, and the late French revolution, so much before their eyes, and in their hearts, that they are constantly *81confounding all the three together. It is necessary that we should separate what they
*82This Declaration of Right (the act of the 1st of William and Mary, sess. 2. ch. 2) is the *83corner-stone of our constitution, as reinforced, explained, improved, and in its fundamental principles for ever settled. It is called "An act for declaring the rights and liberties of the subject, and for settling the succession of the crown." You will observe, that these rights and this succession are declared in one body, and bound indissolubly together.
*84A few years after this period, a second opportunity offered for asserting a right of election to the crown. On the prospect of a total failure of issue from King William, and from the Princess, afterwards Queen Anne, the consideration of the settlement of the crown, and of a further security for the liberties of the people, again came before the legislature. Did they this second time make any provision for legalizing the crown on the spurious Revolution principles of the Old Jewry? No. They followed the principles which prevailed in the Declaration of Right; indicating with more precision the persons who were to inherit in the Protestant line. This act also incorporated, by the same policy, our liberties, and an hereditary succession in the same act. Instead of a right to choose our own governors, they declared that the succession in that line (the protestant line drawn from James the First) was absolutely necessary "for
Unquestionably there was at the Revolution, in the person of King William, *88a small and a temporary deviation from the strict order of regular hereditary succession; but it is against all genuine principles of jurisprudence to draw a principle from a law made in a special case, and regarding an individual person. *89Privilegium non transit in exemplum. If ever there was a time favourable for establishing the principle, that a king of popular choice was the only legal king, without all doubt it was at the Revolution. *90Its not being done at that time is a proof that the nation was of opinion it ought not to be done at any time. There is no person so completely ignorant of our history, as not to know, that the majority in parliament of both parties were so little disposed to any thing resembling that principle, that at first they were determined to place the vacant crown, not on the head of the prince of Orange, but *91on that of his wife Mary, daughter of King James, the *92eldest born of the issue of that king, which they acknowledged as undoubtedly his. It would be to repeat a very trite story, to recall to your memory all those circumstances which demonstrated that their accepting king William was not properly a *93choice; but, to all those who did not wish, in effect to recall King James, or to deluge their country in blood, and again to bring their religion, laws, and liberties into the peril they had just
In the very act, in which for a time, and in a single case, parliament departed from the strict order of inheritance, in favour of a prince, who, though not next, was however very near in the line of succession, it is curious to observe how Lord Somers, who drew the bill called the Declaration of Right, has comported himself on that delicate occasion. It is curious to observe with what address this temporary solution of continuity is kept from the eye; whilst all that could be found in this act of necessity to countenance the idea of an hereditary succession is brought forward, and fostered, and made the most of, by this great man, and by the legislature who followed him. Quitting the dry, imperative style of an act of parliament, he makes the lords and commons fall to a pious, legislative ejaculation, and declare, that they consider it "as a marvellous providence, and merciful goodness of God to this nation, to preserve their said majesties' royal persons most happily *94to reign over us on the throne of their ancestors, for which, from the bottom of their hearts, they return their humblest thanks and praises." The legislature plainly had in view the Act of Recognition of the first of Queen Elizabeth, Chap. 3d, and of that of James the First, Chap. 1st, both acts strongly declaratory of the inheritable nature of the crown; and in many parts they follow, with a nearly literal precision, the words and even the form of thanksgiving, which is found in these old declaratory statutes.
The two houses, in the act of king William, did not thank God that they had found a fair opportunity to assert a right to choose their own governors, much less to make an election the only lawful title to the crown. Their having been in a condition to avoid the very appearance of it, as much as possible, was by them considered as a providential
They knew that a doubtful title of succession would but too much resemble an election; and that an election would be utterly destructive of the "unity, peace, and tranquillity of this nation," which they thought to be considerations of some moment. To provide for these objects, and therefore to exclude for ever the Old Jewry doctrine of "a right to choose our own governors," they follow with a clause, containing a most solemn pledge, taken from the preceding act of Queen Elizabeth, as solemn a pledge as ever was or can be given in favour of an hereditary succession, and as solemn a renunciation as could be made of the principles by this society imputed to them. "The lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, do, in the name
So far is it from being true, that we acquired a right by the Revolution to elect our kings, that if we had possessed it before, the English nation did at that time most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, *97for themselves and for all their posterity for ever. *98These gentlemen may value themselves as much as they please on their whig principles; but I never desire to be thought a *99better whig than Lord Somers; or to understand the principles of the Revolution better than those by whom it was brought about; or to read in the declaration of right any mysteries unknown to those whose penetrating style has engraved in our ordinances, and in our hearts, the words and spirit of that immortal law.
It is true that, *100aided with the powers derived from force and opportunity, the nation was at that time, in some sense, free to take what course it pleased for filling the throne; but only free to do so upon the same grounds on which they might have wholly abolished their monarchy, and every other part of their constitution. However they did not think such bold changes within their commission. It is indeed *101difficult, perhaps impossible, to give limits to the mere abstract competence of the supreme power, such as was exercised by parliament at that time; but the limits of a moral competence, subjecting, even in powers more indisputably sovereign, occasional will to permanent reason, and to the steady maxims of faith, justice, and fixed fundamental policy, are perfectly intelligible, and perfectly binding upon those who exercise any authority, under any name, or under any title, in the state. The *102house of lords, for instance, is not
It is far from impossible to reconcile, if we do not suffer ourselves to be entangled in the *106mazes of metaphysic sophistry, the use both of a fixed rule and an occasional deviation; the sacredness of an hereditary principle of succession in our government, with a power of change in its application in cases of *107extreme emergency. Even in that extremity (if we take the measure of our rights by our exercise of them at the Revolution) the change is to be confined
A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risque the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve. The two principles of conservation and correction operated strongly at the two critical periods of the Restoration and Revolution, when England found itself without a king. At both those periods the nation had lost the bond of union in their antient edifice; they did not, however, dissolve the whole fabric. On the contrary, in both cases they regenerated the deficient part of the old constitution through the parts which were not impaired. They kept these old parts exactly as they were, that the part recovered might be suited to them. They acted by the ancient organized *108states in the shape of their old organization, and not by the *109organic moleculae of a disbanded people. At no time, perhaps, did the sovereign legislature manifest a more tender regard to their fundamental principle of British constitutional policy, than at the time of the Revolution, when it deviated from the direct line of hereditary succession. The crown was carried somewhat out of the line in which it had before moved; but the new line was derived from the same stock. It was still a line of hereditary descent; still an hereditary descent in the same blood, though an hereditary descent qualified with protestantism. When the legislature altered the direction, but kept the principle, they shewed that they held it inviolable.
On this principle, the law of inheritance had admitted some amendment in the old time, and long before the aera of the Revolution. *110Some time after the conquest great
The gentlemen of the Society for Revolutions see nothing in that of 1688 but the deviation from the constitution; and they *114take the deviation from the principle for the principle. They have little regard to the obvious consequences of their doctrine, though they must see, that it leaves positive authority in very few of the positive institutions of this country. When such an unwarrantable maxim is once established, that no throne is lawful but the elective, no one act of the princes who preceded the aera of fictitious election can be valid. Do these theorists mean to imitate some of their predecessors, who *115dragged the bodies of our antient sovereigns out of the quiet of their tombs? Do they mean to *116attaint and disable backwards all the kings that have reigned before the Revolution, and consequently to stain the throne of England with the blot of a continual usurpation? Do they mean to invalidate, annul, or to call into question, together with the titles of the whole line of our kings, that great body of our statute law which passed under those whom they treat as usurpers? to annul laws of inestimable value to our liberties—of as great value at least as any which have passed at or since the period of the Revolution? If kings, who did not owe their crown
The law by which this royal family is specifically destined to the succession, is the act of the 12th and 13th of King William. The terms of this act bind "us and our heirs, and our posterity, to them, their heirs, and their posterity," being Protestants, to the end of time, in the same words as the declaration of right had bound us to the heirs of King William and Queen Mary. It therefore secures both an hereditary crown and an hereditary allegiance. On what ground, except the constitutional policy of forming an establishment to secure that kind of succession which is to preclude a choice of the people for ever, could the legislature have fastidiously rejected the fair and abundant
The Princess Sophia was named in the Act of Settlement of the 12th and 13th of King William, for a *120stock and root of inheritance to our kings, and not for her merits as a temporary administratrix of a power, which she might not, and in fact did not, herself ever exercise. She was adopted for one reason, and for one only, because, says the act, "the most excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Dutchess Dowager of Hanover, *121is daughter of the most excellent Princess Elizabeth, late Queen of Bohemia, daughter of our late sovereign lord King James the First, of happy memory, and is hereby declared to be the next in succession in the Protestant line," &c. &c.; "and the crown shall continue to the heirs of her body, being Protestants." This limitation was made by parliament, that through the Princess Sophia an inheritable line, not only was to be continued in future but (what they thought very material) that through her it was to be connected with the old stock of inheritance in King James the First; in order that the monarchy might preserve an unbroken unity through all ages, and might be preserved, with safety to our religion, in the old approved mode by descent, in which, if our liberties had been once endangered, they had often, through all storms and struggles of prerogative and privilege, been preserved. They did well. No experience has taught us, that in any other course or method than that of an hereditary crown, our liberties can be regularly perpetuated and preserved sacred as our hereditary right. An irregular, convulsive movement may be necessary to throw off an irregular, convulsive disease. But the course of succession is the
*122A few years ago I should be ashamed to overload a matter, so capable of supporting itself, by the then unnecessary support of any argument; but this seditious, unconstitutional doctrine is now publicly taught, avowed, and printed. The dislike I feel to revolutions, the signals for which have so often been given from pulpits; the spirit of change that is gone abroad; the total contempt which prevails with you, and may come to prevail with us, of all ancient institutions, when set in opposition to a present sense of convenience, or to the bent of a present inclination: all these considerations make it not unadviseable, in my opinion, to call back our attention to the true principles of our own domestic laws; that you, my French friend, should begin to know, and that we should continue to cherish them. We ought not, on either side of the water, to suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by the counterfeit wares which some persons, by a double
Notes for this chapter
L. 22. is almost the only lawful king, &c. From the insolent form of words in which Price says he would have congratulated the king on his recovery, "in a style very different from that of most of the addresses." (p. 25), alluded to infra, p. 116.
IBID. twelfth century. Burke alludes to the pontificate of Innocent III, 1198-1216. Cp. the Abridgment of Eng. Hist. Book iii. chap. 8. "At length the sentence of excommunication was fulminated against the king (John). In the same year the same sentence was pronounced upon the Emperor Otho; and this daring pope was not afraid at once to drive to extremities the two greatest princes in Europe.... Having first released the English subjects from their oath of allegiance, by an unheard-of presumption he formally deposed John from his throne and dignity; he invited the king of France to take possession of the forfeited crown," &c.
P. 101, L. 17. at a remote period, elective. "Reges ex nobilitate... sumunt," Tacitus, Germ. c. 7. Bolingbroke, N. Bacon, &c., make much of the fact as applied to the Saxon kings, and to Stephen and John after the Conquest.
L. 29. electoral college. The collective style of the nine Electors to the Empire. "College" (collegium) is used in its technical sense in Roman law.
P. 34, Discourse on the Love of our Country, by Dr. Price.
P. 102, L. 20. lives and fortunes. A very ancient formula, the original words of which survive in the German "Mit Gut und Blut." So the 8th section of the Bill of Rights: "That they will stand to, maintain, and defend their said Majesties.... with their lives and estates, against all persons whatsoever," &c. This will explain the reference in the next sentence. The expression recalls the once common "life and property addresses" from public bodies to the crown.
L. 26. Revolution of 1688. It must be confessed that the argument which Burke here begins, and sustains with much force and ingenuity through twenty pages, is a complete failure. Mr. Hallam has refuted it at almost every point. It must be remembered that Burke is writing not as a judge, or a philosophical historian, but as an advocate. He conceived that the constitution would be endangered by the tenets of the Society, if they came into general credit, and made up his mind to lend the whole weight of his authority and his skill as a debater to support the opposite views (cp. the concluding paragraph of the work).
L. 29. confounding all the three together. Burke, using the expression of Sir Joseph Jekyl, says, that the Revolution of 1688 "was, in truth and in substance, a revolution not made, but prevented." In the Revolution of "forty years before," which good sense and good faith on the part of one man might have prevented, the letter of our liberties was insisted on quite as strictly as by the Old Whigs, or by Burke.
P. 103, L. 11. Declaration of Right. Commonly called the Bill of Rights. It is printed in the Appendix to Professor Stubbs's Select Charters, p. 505.
L. 19. A few years after this period. 12 & 13 Will. III. cap. 2. By this Act the Crown was settled, after the death of William III and Anne without issue, upon the Princess Sophia, youngest daughter of Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia (daughter of James I.), and the heirs of her body, being protestants. Burke does not mention the Act 6 Anne, cap. 7, which asserts the right of the legislature to regulate the descent of the Crown, and makes it treasonable to maintain the contrary.
P. 104, L. 5. gypsey predictions—i. e. ignorant, random utterances. Burke called the republican nomenclature of the months "gipsey jargon."
L. 7. case of necessity—rule of law. Cp. in the Fragment of Speech on the Acts of Uniformity; "When tyranny is extreme, and abuses of government intolerable, men resort to the rights of nature to shake it off. When they have done so, the very same principle of necessity of human affairs, to establish some other authority, which shall preserve the order of this new institution, must be obeyed, until they grow intolerable; and you shall not be suffered to plead original liberty against such an institution. See Holland, Switzerland."
L. 10. a small and temporary deviation—regular hereditary succession. This is hardly worthy of Burke. Hallam most truly says: "Our new line of sovereigns scarcely ventured to hear of their hereditary right.... This was the greatest change that affected our monarchy by the fall of the House of Stuart. The laws were not so materially altered as the spirit and sentiments of the people. Hence those who look only at the former have been prone to underrate the magnitude of this revolution. The fundamental maxims of the constitution, both as they regard the king and the subject, may seem nearly the same; but the disposition with which they were received and interpreted was entirely different." The truth of this last statement is undeniable.
L. 14. Privilegium non transit in exemplum. A maxim of the Civil law. "Privilegium" is used in the technical sense of an enactment that has for its object particular persons, as distinguished from a public measure. "C'est un grand mal," says Pascal, "de suivre l'exception au lieu de la règle. Il faut être sévère et contraire à l'exception."
L. 17. its not being done at that time, &c. "The Commons," says Hallam, "did not deny that the case was one of election, though they refused to allow that the monarchy was thus rendered perpetually elective."
L. 24. on that of his wife. By which, as Bentinck said, the prince would have become "his wife's gentleman-usher."
IBID. eldest born of the issue.... acknowledged as undoubtedly his. The allusion is to the reported spuriousness of the prince born in 1688. Until that unfortunate event, which precipitated the Revolution, the Princess was heir presumptive to the crown. In acquiescing in the Revolution, the
L. 29. choice... act of necessity. If this were really said in seriousness, it is a sophism which could scarcely mystify an intelligent schoolboy. Two very different things are indicated by the term "choice."
P. 105, L. 15. to reign over us, &c. The best comment on this is, that it required a distinct Act of Parliament (2 W. and M. ch. 6) to enable the queen to exercise the regal power during the king's absence from England.
1st Mary, Sess. 3. ch. 1.
P. 106, L. 10. repeating as from a rubric. A process which always commanded Burke's respect, in matters of the constitution. Cp. vol. i. p. 267, l. 26, &c.
L. 31. limitation of the crown. In the technical sense, alluding to the succession being made conditional on the profession of Protestantism (see § 9 of the Declaration).
P. 107, L. 3. for themselves and for all their posterity for ever. It is impossible to defend Burke in this literal reading of the Declaration, in which he follows the genuine Tory Swift (Examiner, No. 16). This paper of Swift's will illustrate the difference between real Toryism and the Whig-Toryism of Bolingbroke. The words "for ever," copied from the Act of 1st Elizabeth, are mere surplusage, as in the expression "heirs for ever," in relation to private property. The right of Parliament to regulate the succession to the crown was too well established to make it worth while to have recourse to this verbal quibble. "The Parliament," says Sir Thomas Smith (Secretary of State temp. Elizabeth), "giveth form of succession to the Crown. To be short, all that ever the people of Rome might do either in centuriatis comitiis or tribunitiis, the same may be done by the Parliament of England." Commonwealth of England, p. 77, Ed. 1633. Priestley remarked that Burke had rendered himself, by denying this competency in Parliament, liable to the charge of high treason under an act framed by his own idol, Lord Somers: and Lord Stanhope declared his intention of impeaching him for it. The right of binding posterity was denied, on general grounds, by Locke, Treatise Concerning Government, Book ii. ch. viii. 116, to whom Swift alludes in the Examiner: "Lawyers may explain this, or call them words of form, as they please; and reasoners may argue that such an obligation is against the nature of government: but a plain reader, &c."
L. 4. The question as to a power of a people to bind their posterity is argued and settled according to Burke's opinion in a well-known passage in Absalom and Achitophel.
L. 6. better Whig than Lord Somers, &c. Note, vol. i. p. 148, l. 34. See Burke's panegyric upon the "Old Whigs"; "They were not umbratiles doctores, men who had studied a free constitution only in its anatomy, and upon dead systems. They knew it alive, and in action." Burke really
L. 12. aided with the powers. Burke generally uses with to express the instrument. We now say "by the powers." Cp. p. 115, l. 10, &c.
L. 18. difficult... to give limits to the mere abstract competence of the supreme power. The distinction between abstract and moral competence had an important place in Burke's reasoning on the American question. Perimus licitis. Cp. vol. i. p. 254, and see note.
L. 27. house of lords—not morally competent, &c. "The legislative can have no power to transfer their authority of making laws, and place it in other hands."—"The house of lords is not morally competent to dissolve itself, nor to abdicate, if it would, its portion in the legislature of the kingdom." These passages are quoted, the former from Locke, the latter from Bushel, by Grattan, in his Speech against the Union, Feb. 8, 1810. The argument is merely an idle non possumus; and on Grattan's deduction from it, the verdict of succeeding generations has been against it.
L. 34. constitution—constituent parts. The old "constitutional" doctrine is here very clearly stated. Had Burke lived a century later, he would have seen that it completely failed when it came to be generally applied. No principle is now better established than the unity and indivisibility of national sovereignty.
P. 108, L. 10. not changing the substance—describing the persons—same force—equal authority. Burke does not add force to his subtleties by this parody of the Athanasian Creed. Yet he cautions his readers, a few lines further, against getting "entangled in the mazes of metaphysic sophistry"!
L. 14. communi sponsione reipublicae. The Editor does not call to mind the phrase as a quotation. It was possibly invented by Burke, to express his meaning with the more weight.
L. 19. mazes of metaphysic sophistry. See note to vol. i. p. 215, l. 11. The outcry against "metaphysic sophistry" was no invention of Burke's. It is a favourite topic with Bolingbroke and other politicians who opposed the philosophical Whiggism of the School of Locke.
L. 23. extreme emergency. Mr. Hallam says most truly that this view, which "imagines some extreme cases of intolerable tyranny, some, as it were, lunacy of despotism, as the only plea and palliation of resistance," is merely a "pretended modification of the slavish principles of absolute obedience."
P. 109, L. 10. states. i. e. the Lords and Commons; the English Parliament in its original form being an imitation of the States-General of France. Our Liturgy until lately spoke of "the Three Estates of the Realm of
Pleas'd highly those infernal States, and joy
Sparkl'd in all their eyes.
—Par. Lost, ii. 386.
L. 11. organic moleculae of a disbanded people. The idea is fully explained in the First Letter on Regicide Peace; "The body politic of France existed in the majesty of its throne, in the dignity of its nobility, in the honour of its gentry, in the sanctity of its clergy, in the reverence of its magistracy, in the weight and consideration due to its landed property in the several bailliages, in the respect due to its moveable substance represented by the corporations of the kingdom. All these particular moleculae united form the great mass of what is truly the body politic in all countries."
L. 25. Some time after the conquest, &c. "Five kings out of the seven that followed William the Conqueror were usurpers, according at least to modern notions" (Hallam). The facts seem to be as follows. Even in private succession, the descent of an inheritance as between the brother and the son of the owner was settled by no certain rule of law in the time of Glanvil. The system of Tanistry, which prevailed in Ireland down to the time of James I., and under which the land descended to the "eldest and most worthy" of the same blood, who was commonly ascertained by election, was thus partially in force. No better mode, says Mr. Hallam, could have been devised for securing a perpetual supply of civil quarrels. The principle of inheritance per stirpem which sound policy gradually established in private possessions, was extended by the lawyers about the middle of the 13th century to the Crown. Edward I. was proclaimed immediately upon his father's death, though absent in Sicily. Something however of the old principle may be traced in this proclamation, issued in his name by the guardians of the realm, where he asserts the Crown of England "to have devolved upon him by hereditary succession and the will of his nobles." These last words were omitted in the proclamation of Edward II.; since whose time the Crown has been absolutely hereditary. The question was thus settled at the period when the English constitution, according to Professor Stubbs, took its definite and permanent form. For illustrations of the question from ancient history see Grotius de Jure Bell. et Pac., Lib. ii. ch. 7, § 24.
L. 27. the heir per capita—the heir per stirpes. The distinction is produced by taking two different points of view; the one regarding the crown as the right of the reigning family, the other as the right of the reigning person. In the first case, when the reigning member of the family died, the whole of the members of the family (capita) re-entered into the family rights, and the crown fell to the "eldest and most worthy." In the second case, the crown descended to the legal heir or representative of the reigning person (per stirpem). By the heir per capita, Burke means the "eldest and most worthy" of the same blood. Elsewhere, following the
L. 30. the inheritable principle survived, &c. Burke says of the kings before the Conquest, "Very frequent examples occur where the son of a deceased king, if under age, was entirely passed over, and his uncle or some remoter relation raised to the Crown; but there is not a single instance where the election has carried it out of the blood" (Abr. Eng. Hist., Bk. ii. ch. 7).
L. 32. multosque per annos, &c. Virg. Georg. iv. 208. The quotation had been used as a motto to No. 72 of the Spectator, and in the Dedication to Bolingbroke's Dissertation on Parties.
P. 110, L. 6. take the deviation... for the principle. It was not in Burke's plan here to argue against the elective principle; but in the Annual Register for 1763, on the occasion of the then impending elections of a King of Poland and a King of the Romans, he says; "Those two elective sovereignties not only occasion many mischiefs to those who live under them, but have frequently involved a great part of Europe in blood and confusion. Indeed, these existing examples prove, beyond all speculation, the infinite superiority, in every respect, of hereditary monarchy; since it is evident, that the method of election constantly produces all those intestine divisions, to which, by its nature, it appears so liable, and also fails in that which is one of its principal objects, and which might be expected from it, the securing government for many successions in the hands of persons of extraordinary merit and uncommon capacity. We find by experience, that those kingdoms, where the throne is an inheritance, have had, in their series of succession, full as many able princes to govern them, as either Poland or Germany, which are elective."
L. 14. dragged the bodies of our antient sovereigns out of the quiet of their tombs. The allusion is to the outrages committed by the Roundhead troopers in Winchester Cathedral. There may also be an allusion to the plundering of the Abbey of Faversham, at the dissolution of monasteries, when the remains of King Stephen were disinterred and thrown into the Swale, for the sake of the leaden coffin. Cp. in the Draft of Letter to Markham (1770); "My passions are not to be roused, either on the side of partiality, or on that of hatred, by those who lie in their cold lead, quiet and innoxious, in the chapel of Henry, or the churches of Windsor Castle or La Trappe—quorum Flaminia tegitur cinis atque Latina."
L. 26. Statute de tallagio non concedendo—(Anno 1297). Not originally a statute, though referred to as such in the preamble to the Petition of Right, and decided by the judges in 1637 to be a Statute. See Stubbs' Select Charters, p. 487. Cp. vol. i. p. 237, l. 33.
P. 111, L. 5. The law, &c. Burke, as we might expect, turns to the Act of Settlement without saying a word of the cause which led to its being passed, namely, the failure of issue, not of Queen Mary, but of William himself. The final limitation of the Bill of Rights was to William's own heirs: so that if after Mary's death he had married some one else, and had a son, the crown would have passed completely out of the English royal family.
L. 27. Stock and root of inheritance—temporary administratrix of a power. This shifts the argument to a different position. The doctrines of the Revolution Society obviously referred to the latter ground of choice. But Burke would scarcely have maintained that the merit of William as an administrator did not weigh with the English nation, when they associated him with Mary on the throne.
L. 32. is daughter, &c. Others however, nearer in blood, but of the Catholic faith, were passed over: especially those of the Palatine family, whose ancestors having been strong assertors of the Protestant religion, it was thought likely that some of them might return to it.
P. 112, L. 34. A few years ago, &c. Burke commands more attention when he confesses his reason for all this deliberate mystification. No sophistry was ever too gross for the public ear; but the occasion which turned Burke for the time into a Tory casuist must have appeared to him critical indeed.
P. 113, L. 14. export to you in illicit bottoms. The allusion is to the Act of Navigation. See vol. i. p. 179, and note. "Bottom" (Dutch Bodem) is the old technical term for a ship. It is still used in such mercantile phrases as "foreign bottoms," and survives in the term "bottomry," applied to the advance of money on the security of the ship for the purposes of the voyage.
End of Notes
The people of England will not ape the fashions they have never tried; nor go back to those which they have found mischievous on trial. They look upon the legal hereditary succession of their crown as among their rights, not as among their wrongs; as a benefit, not as a grievance; as a security for their liberty, not as a badge of servitude. They look on the frame of their commonwealth, such as it stands, to be of inestimable value; and they conceive the undisturbed succession of the crown to be a *124pledge of the stability and perpetuity of all the other members of our constitution.
I shall beg leave, before I go any further, to take notice of some paltry artifices, which the abettors of election as the only lawful title to the crown, are ready to employ, in order to render the support of the just principles of our constitution a task somewhat invidious. These sophisters substitute a fictitious cause, and feigned personages, in whose favour they suppose you engaged, whenever you defend the inheritable nature of the crown. *125It is common with them to dispute as if they were in a conflict with some of those *126exploded fanatics of slavery, who formerly maintained, what I believe no creature now maintains, "that the crown is held by divine, hereditary, and indefeasible right." These old fanatics of single arbitrary power dogmatized as if hereditary royalty was the only lawful government in the world, just as our *127new fanatics of popular arbitrary power maintain that a popular election is the sole lawful source of authority. The old prerogative enthusiasts, it is true, did speculate foolishly, and perhaps impiously too, as if monarchy
The second claim of the Revolution Society is "a right of cashiering their governors for misconduct." Perhaps the apprehensions our ancestors entertained of forming such a precedent as that "of cashiering for misconduct," was the cause that the declaration of the act which implied the abdication of King James, was, if it had any fault, rather too guarded, and too circumstantial.*6 But all this guard, and all this accumulation of circumstances, serves to shew the spirit of caution which predominated in the national councils, in a situation in which men irritated by oppression, and elevated by a triumph over it, are apt to abandon themselves to violent and extreme courses: it shews the anxiety of the great men who influenced the conduct of affairs at that great event, to make the Revolution a parent of settlement, and not a nursery of future revolutions.
Dr. Price, in this sermon,*7 condemns very properly the practice of gross, adulatory addresses to kings. Instead of this fulsome style, he proposes that his majesty should be told, on occasions of congratulation, that "he is to consider himself as *134more properly the servant than the sovereign of his people." For a compliment, this new form of address does not seem to be very soothing. Those who are servants, in name, as well as in effect, do not like to be told of their situation, their duty, and their obligations. The slave, in the old play, tells his master, "*135Haec commemoratio est quasi exprobratio." It is not pleasant as compliment; it is not wholesome as instruction. After all, if the king were to bring himself to echo this new kind of address, to adopt it in terms, and even to take the appellation of Servant of the People as his royal style, how either he or we should be much mended by it, I cannot imagine. I have seen very assuming letters, signed, "Your most obedient, humble servant." The proudest domination that ever was endured on earth took a title of still greater humility than that which is now proposed for sovereigns by the Apostle of Liberty. Kings and nations were trampled upon by the foot of one calling himself "the Servant of Servants"; and mandates for deposing sovereigns were sealed with the signet of "the Fisherman."
*136Kings, in one sense, are undoubtedly the servants of the people, because their power has no other rational end than that of the general advantage; but it is not true that they are, in the ordinary sense (by our constitution, at least) any thing like servants; the essence of whose situation is to obey the commands of some other, and to be removeable at pleasure. But the king of Great Britain obeys no other person; all other persons are individually, and collectively too, under him, and owe to him a legal obedience. The law, which knows neither to flatter nor to insult, calls this high magistrate, not our servant, as this humble Divine calls him, but "our sovereign Lord the King"; and we, on our parts, have learned to *137speak only the primitive language of the law, and not the confused jargon of their Babylonian pulpits.
As he is not to obey us, but as we are to obey the law in him, our constitution has made no sort of provision towards rendering him, as a servant, in any degree responsible. Our constitution knows nothing of a magistrate like *138the Justicia of Arragon; nor of any court legally appointed, nor of any process legally settled for submitting the king to the responsibility belonging to all servants. In this he is not distinguished from the commons and the lords; who, in their several public capacities, can never be called to an account for their conduct; although the Revolution Society chooses to assert, in direct opposition to one of the wisest and most beautiful parts of our constitution, that "a king is no more than the first servant of the public, created by it, and responsible to it."
The ceremony of cashiering kings, of which these gentlemen talk so much at their ease, can rarely, if ever, be performed without force. It then becomes a case of war, and not of constitution. *141Laws are commanded to hold their tongues amongst arms; and tribunals fall to the ground with the peace they are no longer able to uphold. The Revolution of 1688 was obtained by a just war, in the only case in which any war, and much more a civil war, can be just. "*142Justa bella quibus necessaria." The question of dethroning, or, if these gentlemen like the phrase better, "cashiering" kings, will always be, as it has always been, an extraordinary question of state, and wholly out of the law; a question (like all other questions of state) of dispositions, and of means, and of probable consequences, rather than of positive rights. As it was not made for common abuses, so it is not to be agitated by common minds. The speculative line of demarcation, where obedience ought to end, and resistance must begin, is *143faint, obscure, and not easily definable. It is not a single act, or a single event, which determines it. Governments must be abused and deranged indeed, before it can be thought of; and the prospect of the future must be as bad as the experience of the past. When things are in that lamentable condition, the nature of the disease is to indicate the remedy to those whom nature has qualified to
*145The third head of right, asserted by the pulpit of the Old Jewry, namely, the "right to form a government for ourselves," has, at least, as little countenance from any thing done at the Revolution, either in precedent or principle, as the two first of their claims. The Revolution was made to preserve our antient indisputable laws and liberties, and that antient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty. If you are desirous of knowing the spirit of our constitution, and the policy which predominated in that great period which has secured it to this hour, pray look for both in our histories, in our records, in our acts of parliament, and journals of parliament, and not in the sermons of the Old Jewry, and the after-dinner toasts of the Revolution Society. In the former you will find other ideas and another language. Such a claim is as ill-suited to our temper and wishes as it is unsupported by any appearance of authority. The very idea of the fabrication of a new government is enough to fill us with disgust and horror. We wished at the period of the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we possess as an inheritance from our forefathers. Upon that body and stock of inheritance we have taken care not to inoculate any cyon alien to the nature of the original plant. All the reformations we have hitherto made, have proceeded upon the principle of reference to antiquity; and I hope, nay
Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Charta. You will see that Sir Edward Coke, that great oracle of our law, and indeed all the great men who follow him, to Blackstone,*8 are industrious to prove the pedigree of our liberties. *146They endeavour to prove, that the antient charter, the Magna Charta of King John, was connected with another positive charter from Henry I. and that both the one and the other were nothing more than a re-affirmance of the still more antient standing law of the kingdom. In the matter of fact, for the greater part, these authors appear to be in the right; perhaps not always: but if the lawyers mistake in some particulars, it proves my position still the more strongly; because it demonstrates the powerful prepossession towards antiquity, with which the minds of all our lawyers and legislators, and of all the people whom they wish to influence, have been always filled; and the stationary policy of this kingdom in considering their most sacred rights and franchises as an inheritance.
In the famous law of the 3rd of Charles I. called the Petition of Right, the parliament says to the king, "Your subjects have inherited this freedom," claiming their franchises, not on abstract principles as the "*147rights of men," but as the rights of Englishmen, and as a patrimony derived from their forefathers. Selden, and the *148other profoundly learned men, who drew this petition of right, were as well acquainted, at least, with all the *149general theories concerning the "rights of men," as any of the discoursers in our pulpits, or on your tribune; full as well as Dr. Price, or as the Abbé Sieyes. But, for reasons worthy of that practical wisdom which superseded their theoretic science, they preferred this positive,
The same policy pervades all the laws which have since been made for the preservation of our liberties. In the 1st of William and Mary, in the famous statute, called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of "a right to frame a government for themselves." You will see, that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long possessed, and had been lately endangered. "Taking*9 into their most serious consideration the best means for making such an establishment, that their religion, laws, and liberties might not be in danger of being again subverted," they auspicate all their proceedings, by stating as some of those best means, "in the first place" to do "as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their antient rights and liberties, to declare"; and then they pray the king and queen, "that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true antient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom."
*150You will observe, that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the *151uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an *152entailed inheritance *153derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means our constitution preserves an *154unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and *155an house of commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors.
Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts, to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart insolence almost inevitably adhering to and disgracing those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. By this means our liberty becomes *166a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. We procure reverence to our civil institutions on the principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men; on account of *167their age; and on account of those from whom they are descended. All your sophisters cannot produce any thing better adapted to preserve a rational and manly freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.
You had all these advantages in your antient states; but you chose to act as if you had never been moulded into civil
Compute your gains: see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your
Notes for this chapter
L. 27. pledge of the stability and perpetuity, &c. The following passage is proper to be quoted here, as being a complete expression of the idea in the text, and at the same time the one which was selected by De Quincey as the most characteristic passage in the works of Burke, from the literary point of view. It is also a necessary illustration to the argument at p. 141, ll. 23-35.
Accolet; imperiumque pater Romanus habebit.
—Letter to a Noble Lord, p. 53.
P. 114, L. 1. It is common for them to dispute, &c. But cp. Hallam, Const. Hist. chap. xiv. "Since the extinction of the House of Stuart's pretensions, and other events of the last half century, we have seen those exploded doctrines of indefeasible hereditary right revived under another name, and some have been willing to misrepresent the transactions of the Revolution and the Act of Settlement as if they did not absolutely amount to a deposition of the reigning sovereign, and an election of a new dynasty by the representatives of the nation in parliament." Mr. Hallam wished to be understood as explicitly affirming (in contradiction of Burke) what had been already stated by Paley (see Princ. of Moral and Political Philos. p. 411), that the great advantage of the Revolution was what many regarded as its reproach, and more as its misfortune—that it broke the line of succession. After stating precisely the votes, and pointing out the impossibility of reconciling them with such a construction as Burke's, he goes on to say—"It was only by recurring to a kind of paramount, and what I may call hyper-constitutional law, a mixture of force and regard to the national good, which is the best sanction of what is done in revolutions, that the vote of the Commons could be defended. They proceeded not by the stated rules of the English government, but by the general rights of mankind. They looked not so much to Magna Charta as to the original compact of society; and rejected Coke and Hale for Hooker and Grotius." Hallam in effect subscribes to the criticism contained in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Letters of Dr. Priestley on this question. Cp. Grotius, Lib. ii. c. 7, § 27.
L. 7. new fanatics, &c. Rousseau attacked Grotius quite as unreasonably as Filmer had done. We may exclaim too often with Burke, "One would think that such a thing as a medium had never been heard of in the moral world!"
L. 11. more of a divine sanction, &c. It would be superfluous to show the inaccuracy of such a notion.
"That King James the second, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom, by breaking the original contract between king and people, and by the advice of jesuits, and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, hath abdicated the government, and the throne is thereby vacant."
P. 115, L. 17. broken the original contract—more than misconduct. That is, a higher degree of misconduct than Dr. Price meant to be understood by his use of the word. The argument really amounts to no more than a criticism of Dr. Price's English.
L. 36. the next great constitutional act—the Act of Settlement, 12 and 13 W. III, cap. 2. "It was determined," says Mr. Hallam, "to accompany this settlement with additional securities for the subject's liberty. The Bill of Rights was reckoned hasty and defective: some matters of great importance had been omitted, and in the twelve years which had since elapsed, new abuses had called for new remedies." One of these abuses was the number of placemen and pensioners in the House (cp. note to vol. i. p. 138, l. 27).
P. 116, L. 3. no pardon—pleadable to an impeachment. This question arose upon the plea of pardon put in bar of prosecution by the Earl of Danby in 1679, and resisted with what Mr. Hallam considers culpable violence, by two successive Houses of Commons. It remained undecided until the Act of Settlement. The expressions in the enacting clause of this Act, says Mr. Hallam, "seem tacitly to concede the Crown's right of granting a pardon after sentence; which, though perhaps it could not be well distinguished in point of law from a pardon pleadable in bar, stands on a very different footing with respect to constitutional policy."
L. 7. practical claim of impeachment. Always strongly insisted upon by Burke as an important guarantee of constitutional liberty. Cp. vol. i. p. 120, l. 33, and note.
P. 22, 23, 24.
L. 17. more properly the servant, &c. The idea that a governing functionary is a servant, and that national sovereignty is inalienable, was strongly insisted on by Rousseau in the "Contrat Social" (Liv. ii. ch. 1. 2). It is an advance on the Whig doctrine, maintained by Burke, that government consists in a compact between the king and people, as equal contracting parties, which neither is at liberty to break so long as its original conditions are fulfilled. Cp. Selden's Table-Talk, head "Contracts." "If our fathers have lost their liberty, why may not we labour to regain it?" Ans. "We must look to the contract; if that be rightly made, we must stand to it: if once we grant we may recede from contracts, upon any inconveniency that
L. 22. Haec commemoratio, &c. Ter. And., Act i. sc. 1. l. 17. The steward Sosia, no longer a slave, in these words resents his master's reminding him of the change in his condition. Burke's repartees to Dr. Price, which fill up the rest of the page, are in his most effective parliamentary style.
L. 24. the Justicia of Arragon. See Hallam's account of Arragon. His functions did not differ in essence from those of the Chief Justice of England, as divided among the judges of the King's Bench, but practically they were much more extensive and important. The office is to be traced to the year 1118, but it was not till the Cortes of 1348 that it was endowed with an authority which "proved eventually a more adequate barrier against oppression than any other country could boast." From that time he held his post for life. It was penal for any one to obtain letters from the king impeding the execution of the justiza's process. See Hallam's account of the successful resistance of the justiza Juan de Cerda to John I.: "an instance of judicial firmness and integrity, to which, in the fourteenth century, no country perhaps in Europe could offer a parallel." Middle Ages, chap. iv.
P. 118, L. 3. Let these gentlemen, &c. Selden gives as the original meaning of the maxim that the king can do no wrong, that "no process can be granted against him" (at Common Law).
L. 6. positive statute law which affirms that he is not. Burke clearly alludes to a provision in the Act for attainting the Regicides, 12 Car. II. cap. 30, which runs thus: "And be it hereby declared, that by the undoubted and fundamental laws of this kingdom, neither the Peers of this realm, nor the Commons, nor both together in Parliament or out of Parliament, nor the People collectively or representatively, nor any other Persons whatsoever, ever had, have, hath, or ought to have, any coercive power over the persons of the Kings of this realm." We can hardly wonder that Burke did not think fit to indicate precisely this "positive statute law."
L. 15. Justa bella quibus necessaria. Burke, as usual, quotes from memory. "Justa piaque sunt arma, quibus necessaria; et necessaria, quibus nulla nisi in armis spes salutis." Livy, Lib. ix. cap. 1. The passage is alluded to by Sidney, and also in the famous pamphlet "Killing no Murder"; "His (Cromwell's) indeed have been pious arms," &c., p. 8.
L. 4. The third head, &c. On this Burke does not expend so much useless force. Feeling that after all he had something better to do than to split hairs with Dr. Price, he soon pushes on to the proper business of the book. He avoids actually denying the rights of men, but alleges that Englishmen have not had occasion to insist on them.
See Blackstone's Magna Charta, printed at Oxford, 1759.
P. 120, L. 1. They endeavour to prove, &c. Similarly the Americans had based their claims to liberty on law and precedent.
L. 18. rights of men—rights of Englishmen. "Our ancestors, for the most part, took their stand, not on a general theory, but on the particular constitution of the realm. They asserted the rights, not of men, but of Englishmen." Macaulay, Essay on Mackintosh's History of the Revolution. Burke however himself alludes to the "common rights of men," in distinction from the "disputed rights and privileges of freedom," in the Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol. And every Englishman familiar with the literature of his own time must have known that Burke exaggerated. The "rights of men" were a common Whig topic. Bp. Warburton, for instance, says in one of his Sermons that to call an English king "the Lord's Anointed" is "a violation of the rights of men."
L. 20. other profoundly learned men. The allusion is to Coke and Glanvil. Cp. vol. i. p. 238, l. 7.
L. 22. general theories. Hooker and Grotius are alluded to. See also Book I. of Selden "De Jure Naturae et Gentium secundum disciplinam Hebraeorum."
1 W. and M.
P. 121, L. 14. you will observe, &c. Burke here terminates his quotations from the archives of the English constitution, and passes on to his "Reflections" on the French Revolution. He effects the transition in three paragraphs, in which he contrives to rise, at once, and without an effort, to the full "height of his great argument." These three paragraphs, evidently composed with great pains, sum up the conclusions of the previous pages as to matter, and as to style are so regulated as to prepare for the gravity and force which characterize the next section of the work.
L. 16. entailed inheritance. "Major hereditas venit unicuique nostrum a jure et legibus, quam a parentibus," is the well-known motto from Cicero, prefixed to Coke upon Littleton.
L. 17. derived to us from our forefathers, to be transmitted to our posterity. The spirited lines of Cato (Act III.) were familiar to Burke:
The generous plan of pow'r deliver'd down
(So dearly bought, the price of so much blood),
O let it never perish in your hands,
But piously transmit it to your children.
L. 22. an house of commons and a people. Observe the claim here insinuated, suggested by Burke's Whiggish theory of Parliament. It is now understood that the rights of the House of Commons are not distinguishable from, and are immediately resolvable into those of the people.
L. 26. following nature, which is wisdom without reflection, &c. Cp. infra p. 174, l. 32, p. 181, l. 27, &c. So in the Third Letter on Regicide Peace; "Never was there a jar or discord between genuine sentiment and sound policy. Never, no, never, did Nature say one thing, and Wisdom say another." A literal translation of Juvenal, Sat. xiv. l. 321;
The formula is borrowed from the Stoic philosophy, so popular in Rome. Burke often had in mind the description of his favourite author, Lucan;
Secta fuit; servare modum, finemque tenere,
Naturamque sequi, patriaeque impendere vitam;
Non sibi, sed toti genitum se credere mundo.
—Phars. II. 380, &c.
The use Burke makes of the idea is, however, a relic of his study of the Essayists. See the Spectator, No. 404. It occurs more than once in Chesterfield's Essays in the "World." The doctrine is well put by Beccaria; "It is not only in the fine arts that the imitation of nature is the fundamental principle; it is the same in sound policy, which is no other than the art of uniting and directing to the same end the natural and immutable sentiments of mankind."
L. 28. A spirit of innovation. Burke does not mean a spirit of Reform. "It cannot, at this time, be too often repeated—line upon line; precept upon precept; until it comes into the currency of a proverb—to innovate is not to reform." Letter to a Noble Lord.
IBID. the result of a selfish temper, &c. This might well be illustrated by the attempted innovations on the constitution in the early part of the reign (see vol. i., passim), and by the history of the Stuarts. "Charles II.," says Clarendon, "had in his nature so little reverence and esteem for antiquity, and did in truth so much contemn old orders, forms, and institutions, that the objection of novelty rather advanced than obstructed any proposition."
L. 29. People will not look forward, &c. "Vous vivez tout entiers dans le moment présent; vous y êtes consignés par une passion dominante: et tout ce qui ne se rapporte pas à ce moment vous parait antique et suranné. Enfin, vous êtes tellement en votre personne et de coeur et d'esprit, que, croyant former à vous seuls un point historique, les ressemblances éternelles entre le
P. 122, L. 3. family settlement—mortmain. By which landed property is secured inalienably (subject to important legal restrictions) in families and corporations (in the legal sense) respectively.
L. 4. grasped as in a kind of mortmain (mortua manus, mainmorte). There is an allusion to the fanciful explanation of the term, "that it is called mortmaine by resemblance to the holding of a man's hand that is ready to die, for what he then holdeth he letteth not go till he be dead" (Co. Litt. 2 b). The tenure was really so called because it yielded no service to the superior lord.
L. 10. Our political system, &c. Compare with these weighty conclusions the opinion of Bacon; "Those things which have long gone together are, as it were, confederate within themselves.... It were good, therefore, if men, in their innovations, would follow the example of time itself, which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarcely to be perceived." Essay on Innovations. Cp. Hooker, Eccl. Pol., Book i. ch. 10, par. 9, last clause.
L. 20. never wholly new, &c. Cp. Introd. to vol. i. p. 29, l. 20, &c. Cp. also the theory of the true Social Contract, p. 192 infra.
L. 30. The germ of the argument is to be found in the 14th of South's Posthumous Sermons: "And herein does the admirable wisdom of God appear, in modelling the great economy of the world, so uniting public and private advantages, that those affections and dispositions of mind, that are most conducible to the safety of government and society, are also most advantageous to man in his personal capacity." The argument is amplified in Dr. Chalmers' Bridgewater Treatise.
P. 123, L. 9. a noble freedom. The epithet is not used in the moral sense, but indicates an aristocratic character. The image, however, is not intended to degrade but to elevate the character of popular liberty.
L. 27. possessed in some parts, &c. Burke carries on the idea of the last paragraph, likening the mass of the nation to a nobleman succeeding to his paternal estate.
L. 31. very nearly as good as could be wished. Was it so? This question was much debated before the meeting of the States-General. The Revolutionists wished for a constitution, to which the privileged classes replied that France already had a very good constitution, to which nothing was wanting but a restoration to its pristine vigour. This paradox is supported by Burke. A statesman so far removed from suspicion of prejudice as J. J. Mounier, is quite of another opinion. Burke likened the States-General
L. 33. low-born servile wretches. Notice the variation from an earlier opinion in vol. i. p. 107, l. 16. The passage of Rousseau quoted in the note to that place may be here appropriately refuted by stating, in the words of Burke, the steady policy of the French monarchy, which had subsisted, and even been strengthened, by the generation or support of republics. The Swiss republics grew under the guardianship of the French monarchy. The Dutch republics were hatched and cherished under the same incubation. A republican constitution was afterwards, under the influence of France, established in the Empire, against the pretensions of its chief; and while the republican protestants were crushed at home (cp. note to p. 97, l. 19, ante) the French monarchs obtained their final establishment in Germany as a law of the Empire, by the treaty of Westphalia. See the Second Letter on Regicide Peace (1796).
P. 125, L. 2. Maroon slaves. Maroon (borrowed from the French West Indies, Marron) means a runaway slave.
L. 20. looked to your neighbours in this land. But how impossible it was, very properly insists De Tocqueville, to do as England had done, and gradually to change the spirit of the ancient institutions by practice! By no human device can a year be made to do the work of centuries. The Frenchman felt himself every hour injured in his fortune, his comfort, or his pride, by some old law, some political usage, or some remnant of old power, and saw within his reach no remedy applicable to the particular
L. 12. a smooth and easy career. This is putting far too fair a face on the possibilities of the crisis. Any power capable of effectually controlling the antagonistic interests might have directed such a career; but where was such a power to be found?
L. 25. All other nations, &c. Cp. Burnet, History of his own Time, vol. i., on this characteristic in the Bohemian revolution.
End of Notes
France, by the perfidy of her leaders, has utterly *183disgraced the tone of lenient council in the cabinets of princes, and disarmed it of *184its most potent topics. She has sanctified the dark suspicious maxims of tyrannous distrust; and taught kings to tremble at (what will hereafter be called) the delusive plausibilities of moral politicians. Sovereigns will consider those who advise them to place an unlimited confidence in their people, as subverters of their thrones; as traitors who aim at their destruction, by leading their easy good-nature, under specious pretences, to admit combinations of bold and faithless men into a participation of their power. This alone, if there were nothing else, is an irreparable calamity to you and to mankind. Remember that
This was unnatural. The rest is in order. They have found their punishment in their success. Laws overturned; tribunals subverted; industry without vigour; commerce expiring; the revenue unpaid, yet the people impoverished; a church pillaged, and a state not relieved; civil and military anarchy made the constitution of the kingdom; every thing human and divine sacrificed to the idol of public credit, and *187national bankruptcy the consequence; and to crown all, the paper securities of new, precarious, tottering power, the discredited paper securities of impoverished fraud, and beggared rapine, held out as a currency for the support of an empire, in lieu of the two great recognised *188species that represent the lasting conventional credit of mankind, which disappeared and *189hid themselves in the earth from whence
Were all these dreadful things necessary? Were they the inevitable results of the desperate struggle of determined patriots, compelled to wade through blood and tumult, to the quiet shore of a tranquil and prosperous liberty? No! nothing like it. The *190fresh ruins of France, which shock our feelings wherever we can turn our eyes, are not the devastation of civil war; they are the sad but instructive monuments of rash and ignorant counsel in time of profound peace. They are the display of inconsiderate and presumptuous, because unresisted and irresistible authority. The persons who have thus squandered away the precious treasure of their crimes, the persons who have made this prodigal and wild waste of public evils (*191the last stake reserved for the ultimate ransom of the state) have met in their progress with little, or rather with no opposition at all. Their whole march was more like a triumphal procession than the progress of a war. *192Their pioneers have gone before them, and demolished and laid every thing level at their feet. Not one drop of their blood have they shed in the cause of the country they have ruined. They have made no sacrifices to their projects of greater consequence than *193their shoebuckles, whilst they were imprisoning their king, murdering their fellow citizens, and bathing in tears, and plunging in poverty and distress, thousands of worthy men and worthy families. Their cruelty has not even been the base result of fear. It has been the effect of their sense of perfect safety, in authorizing treasons, robberies, rapes, assassinations, slaughters, and burnings throughout their harrassed land. But the cause of all was plain from the beginning.
This unforced choice, this fond election of evil, would
After I had read over the list of the persons and descriptions elected into the Tiers Etat, nothing which they afterwards did could appear astonishing. Among them, indeed, I saw some of known rank; some of shining *196talents; but of any practical experience in the state, not one man was to be found. The best were only men of theory. But whatever the distinguished few may have been, it is the substance and mass of the body which constitutes its character, and must finally determine its direction. In all bodies, *197those who will lead, must also, in a considerable degree, follow.
To secure any degree of sobriety in the propositions made by the leaders in any public assembly, they ought to respect, in some degree perhaps to fear, those whom they conduct. To be led any otherwise than blindly, the followers must be qualified, if not for actors, at least for judges; they must also be judges of natural weight and authority. Nothing can secure a steady and moderate conduct in such assemblies, but that the body of them should be respectably composed, in point of condition in life, of permanent property, of education, and of such habits as enlarge and liberalize the understanding.
In the calling of the states general of France, the first thing which struck me, was a great departure from the antient course. I found the representation for the Third Estate composed of *198six hundred persons. They were equal in number to the representatives of both of the other orders. If the orders were to act separately, the number would not, beyond the consideration of the expence, be of much
Judge, Sir, of my surprize, when I found that *200a very great proportion of the Assembly (*201a majority, I believe, of the members who attended) was composed of *202practitioners in the law. It was composed *203not of distinguished magistrates, who had given pledges to their country of their science, prudence, and integrity; not of leading advocates, the glory of the bar; not of renowned professors in universities—but for the far greater part, as it must in such a number, of the *204inferior, unlearned, mechanical, merely instrumental members of the profession. There were *205distinguished exceptions; but the general composition was of obscure provincial advocates, of stewards of petty local jurisdictions, country attornies, notaries, and the whole train of the ministers of municipal litigation, the fomenters and conductors of the petty war of village vexation. From the moment I read the list I *206saw distinctly, and very nearly as it has happened, all that was to follow.
The degree of estimation in which any profession is held becomes the standard of the estimation in which the professors hold themselves. Whatever the personal merits of many individual lawyers might have been, and in many it was undoubtedly very considerable, in that military kingdom, no part of the profession had been much regarded, except the highest of all, who often united to their professional offices great family splendour, and were invested with great power and authority. These certainly were highly respected, and even with no small degree of awe. The next rank was not
Whenever the supreme authority is invested in a body so composed, it must evidently produce the consequences of supreme authority placed in the hands of men not taught habitually to respect themselves; who had no previous fortune in character at stake; who could not be expected to bear with moderation, or to conduct with discretion, a power which they themselves, more than any others, must be surprized to find in their hands. Who could flatter himself that these men, suddenly, and, as it were, by enchantment, snatched from the humblest rank of subordination, would not be intoxicated with their unprepared greatness? Who could conceive, that men who are habitually meddling, *207daring, subtle, active, of litigious dispositions and unquiet minds, would easily fall back into their old condition of obscure contention, and laborious, low, unprofitable chicane? Who could doubt but that, at any expence to the state, of which they understood nothing, they must pursue their private interests, which they understood but too well? It was not an event depending on chance or contingency. It was *208inevitable; it was necessary; it was planted in the nature of things. They must join (if their capacity did not permit them to lead) in any project which could procure to them a litigious constitution; which could lay open to them those innumerable lucrative jobs which follow in the train of all great convulsions and revolutions in the state, and particularly in all great and violent permutations of property. Was it to be expected that they would attend to the stability of property, whose existence had always depended upon whatever rendered property questionable, ambiguous, and insecure? Their objects would be enlarged with their elevation, but their disposition and habits, and mode of accomplishing their designs, must remain the same.
We know that the British house of commons, without shutting its doors to any merit in any class, is, by the *215sure operation of adequate causes, filled with every thing illustrious
*218After all, if the house of commons were to have an wholly professional and faculty composition, what is the power of the house of commons, circumscribed and shut in by the immoveable barriers of laws, usages, positive rules of doctrine and practice, counterpoized by the house of lords, and every moment of its existence at the discretion of the crown to continue, prorogue, or *219dissolve us? The power of the house of commons, direct or indirect, is indeed great; and long may it be able to preserve its greatness, and the spirit belonging
Having considered the composition of the third estate as it stood in its original frame, I took a view of the representatives of the clergy. There too it appeared, that full as little regard was had to the general security of property, or to the aptitude of the deputies for their public purposes, in the principles of their election. That election was so contrived as to send a very large proportion of *222mere country curates to the great and arduous work of new-modelling a state; men who never had seen the state so much as in a picture; men who knew nothing of the world beyond the bounds of an obscure village; who, immersed in *223hopeless
To observing men it must have appeared from the beginning, that the majority of the Third Estate, in conjunction with such a deputation from the clergy as I have described, whilst it pursued the destruction of the nobility, would inevitably become subservient to the worst designs of individuals in that class. In the spoil and humiliation of their own order these individuals would possess a sure fund for the pay of their new followers. To squander away the objects which made the happiness of their fellows, would be to them no sacrifice at all. *225Turbulent, discontented men of quality, in proportion as they are puffed up with personal pride and arrogance, generally despise their own order. One of the first symptoms they discover of a selfish and mischievous ambition, is a profligate disregard of a dignity which they
There were, in the time of our civil troubles in England (I do not know whether you have any such in your Assembly in France) several persons, like *229the then Earl of Holland, who by themselves or their families had brought an odium on the throne, by the prodigal dispensation of its bounties towards them, who afterwards joined in the rebellions arising from the discontents of which they were themselves the cause; men who helped to subvert that throne to which they owed, some of them, their existence, others all that power which they employed to ruin their benefactor. If any bounds are set to the rapacious demands of that sort of people, or that others are permitted to partake in the objects they would engross, revenge and envy soon fill up the craving void that is left in their avarice. Confounded by the complication of distempered passions, their reason is disturbed; their views become vast and perplexed; to others inexplicable; to themselves uncertain. They find, on all sides, bounds to their unprincipled ambition in any fixed order of things. But in the fog and haze of confusion all is enlarged, and appears without any limit.
*230When men of rank sacrifice all ideas of dignity to an ambition without a distinct object, and work with low instruments and for low ends, the whole composition becomes low and base. Does not something like this now appear in France? Does it not produce something ignoble and
Still as you rise, the state, exalted too,
These disturbers were not so much like men usurping power, as asserting their natural place in society. Their rising was to illuminate and beautify the world. Their conquest over their competitors was by outshining them.
The chancellor of France at the opening of the states,
I do not, my dear Sir, conceive you to be *243of that sophistical captious spirit, or of that uncandid dulness, as to require, for every general observation or sentiment, an explicit detail of the correctives and exceptions, which reason will presume to be included in all the general propositions which come from reasonable men. You do not imagine, that I wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood, and names, and titles. No, Sir. There is no qualification for government, but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive. Wherever they are actually found,
Notes for this chapter
IBID. They have seen, &c. Notice the strength of the antitheses. The whole section is a fine example of Burke's most powerful style.
P. 128, L. 6. national bankruptcy the consequence. Contentio. See note to vol. i. p. 167, l. 2.
L. 13. hid themselves in the earth from whence they came. The germ of this dignified figure is from the Parable of the Talents. There is a passage in Swift's Drapier's Letters, writes Arthur Young, which accounts fully for gold and silver so absolutely disappearing in France; I change only Wood's pence for assignats. "For my own part, I am already resolved what to do; I have a pretty good shop of stuffs and silks, and instead of taking assignats, I intend to truck with my neighbours, the butcher and baker, and brewer, and the rest, goods for goods; and the little gold and silver I have, I will keep by me like my heart's blood, till better times; till I am just ready to starve, and then I will buy assignats." Example of France a Warning to Britain, 3rd Edition, p. 127. The louis d'or (20 livres) was at one time worth 1800 livres in assignats! Much gold and silver was at first hoarded in concealment, but during the year 1791 the treasure of France began to be imported into England. The price of 3 per cent. Consols, which during the previous five years had averaged £75, at midsummer in that year stood at £88.
L. 20. fresh ruins of France. The rest of Europe was at this time under the extraordinary delusion that France was really ruined; in Burke's words, "not politically existing." This persuasion partly accounts for the terror and astonishment which soon succeeded it.
L. 28. the last stake reserved, &c. Cp. ante, p. 119, l. 2, and post, p. 176, l. 12. Burke means that insurrection and bloodshed are the extreme medicine of the state, and only to be used in the last resort, when everything
P. 129, L. 1. their shoe buckles. Alluding to the "patriotic donations" of silver plate. See p. 345.
L. 14. of ten thousand times greater consequence, &c. "They (the Jacobins) are always considering the formal distributions of power in a constitution; the moral basis they consider as nothing. Very different is my opinion; I consider the moral basis as everything; the formal arrangements, further than as they promote the moral principles of government, and the keeping desperately wicked persons as the subjects of laws, and not the makers of them, to be of little importance. What signifies the cutting and shuffling of cards, while the pack still remains the same?" Fourth Letter on Regicide Peace.
L. 29. lay their ordaining hands—promise of revelation. The allusion is to the practice of the Church (see Acts ch. viii).
P. 130, L. 2. talents—practical experience in the state. "Nous n'avons jamais manqué de philosophes et d'orateurs," says De Sacy, in his critique on Rathery's Histoire des États-Généraux; "nous n'avons eu faute que d'hommes d'état."
L. 7. those who will lead, &c. This canon was the result of Burke's observation of the English Parliament. Cp. vol. i. note to p. 208, l. 28. For the parallels in Greek and Roman life, see Plato, Rep., Book vi. p. 493, and Cicero, Rep., Book ii.
P. 131, L. 2. six hundred persons. The double representation of the Tiers État, advocated by Sieyès and D'Entragues, had already been admitted in the provincial assemblies. It was now adopted by Necker with the view of overbalancing the influence of the privileged orders, and overcoming their selfish and impolitic resistance to taxation, and their general determination to thwart the royal policy.
L. 11. soon resolved into that body. The states met on the 5th of May; and the Third Estate on the 17th of June, upon the motion of Sieyès, constituted itself the National Assembly. "The memorable decree of the 17th of June," says M. Mignet, "contained the germ of the 4th of August."
L. 14. a very great proportion, &c. The intervention of the lawyer in so many of the acts of civil life, and the complexity of the different bodies of common law (coûtumes), 300 in number, which prevailed in different parts of the country,* always greatly swelled the numbers of the profession.
L. 15. a majority of the members who attended. This cannot be correct. 652 members took their seats: and they were classed as follows:
L. 16. Cp. note to vol. i. p. 241, l. 10. The remarks of Dr. Ramsay in his History of the American Revolution, on the share of the lawyers in the revolt, are quoted very appositely in Priestley's second Letter to Burke, in answer to these remarks. See also vol. i. p. 249, ll. 8-11.
L. 17. not of distinguished magistrates. The magistrates of the supreme courts and bailliages belonged to the order of the Nobility, and were represented in its representation to the number of 28; and even if they had been eligible, the electors of the Third Estate would hardly have entrusted them with their interests. But 162 magistrates of other tribunals were among the representatives of the Third Estate. "La députation des communes," says Mounier, "était à-peu-pres aussi bien composée qu'elle pouvoit l'être, et il est difficile qu'elle le soit mieux, tant qu'on séparera la représentation des plébéiens de celle des gentilshommes." Recherches sur les causes, &c. Vol. i. p. 257.
L. 21. inferior... members of the profession. On the complaints against practising lawyers in parliament, and their exclusion in the 46th of Edward III, see Hallam, ch. viii. part 3. Cp. the Parliamentum Indoctorum, or lack-learning Parliament, of Henry IV. In Bacon's Draught for a Proclamation
L. 23. distinguished exceptions. There were one or two advocates of profound learning and in large practice, like Camus. There were others, like Mounier and Malouet, distinguished for the wisdom and moderation of their political views.
L. 28. saw distinctly—all that was to follow. Compare with the paragraphs which follow, the Thoughts on French Affairs, under the head "Effect of the Rota." Paine denies that these were the views of Burke at the time, and says that it was impossible to make him believe that there would be a revolution in France: his opinion being that the French had neither spirit to undertake it, nor fortitude to support it. This had been the opinion of the best informed statesmen since the failure of Turgot. Cp. note to p. 271, l. 9.
L. 9. traders—never known anything beyond their counting-house. The Memoirs of the bourgeois Hardy, Barbier, and Marais afford valuable illustrations of the views of affairs taken by peaceable men of useful and uniform lives, and evidence that their ideas were not bounded by their counting-house. There is no reason to think that they were exceptions in their class.
L. 16. pretty considerable. This expression has ceased to be classical in England, but survives in America. There were only 16 physicians in the Assembly.
L. 17. this faculty had not, &c. The French Ana are full of gibes upon the medical profession. Burke possibly had in mind the constant ridicule of the faculty of medicine by his favourite French author, Molière. Cp. infra, p. 349, l. 25.
L. 32. natural landed interest. But how unreasonable to expect it! The natural landed interest was surely sufficiently represented in the nobility.
L. 35. sure operation of adequate causes, &c. Burke thought that the House of Commons was and ought to be something very much more than what was implied in the vulgar idea of a "popular representation"; that it contained within itself a much more subtle and artificial combination of parts and powers, than was generally supposed; and that it would task the leisure of a contemplative man to exhibit thoroughly the working of its mechanism. See Letter to a Member of the National Assembly.
L. 26. After all, &c. The defects of the preceding observations do not impair the justice of the censure contained in the concluding paragraph, which was amply established by events. Burke's glance was often too rapid to be quite exact, but it was unerring in its augury of the essential bearing of a movement.
P. 135, L. 1. breakers of law in India, &c. See the Speech on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts, in which Paul Benfield, who made (including himself) no fewer than eight members of Parliament, and others, are treated in a rhetorical strain of indignant irony which has no parallel in profane literature.
L. 27. mere country curates. (Curés.) Not in the modern sense of an assistant, but in the old and proper one of a beneficed clergyman or his substitute (vicaire). Bailey's dictionary has: Curate, a parson or vicar of a parish. The order of the clergy was represented by 48 archbishops and bishops, 35 abbots or canons, and 208 curates or parish priests. The income of a beneficed curé averaged £28 per annum: that of a vicaire, about half that sum.
L. 31. hopeless poverty. The Revolution, says Arthur Young, was an undoubted benefit to the lower clergy, who comprised five-sixths of the whole. They were not too numerously represented, if the representation were to mean anything at all.
L. 26. turbulent, discontented men of quality. These remarks, applying to the Duke of Orleans, Mirabeau, Talleyrand, the two Lameths, Duport, d'Aiguillon, de Noailles, &c., were indirectly aimed at contemporary English nobles of the class of the Duke of Bedford, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Stanhope, and Lord Lauderdale, who whilst inflated with exaggerated Whig sentiments of liberty, had long disavowed the Whig principle of acting in connexion, and effectually ruined the political power of the party to which they professed to belong. Cp. vol. i. pp. 150 sqq.
L. 32. the first principle of public affections. See p. 107, l. 9 sqq. The argument may be traced in Cic. De Officiis, Lib. i. c. 17. Since Burke's time, it has become a trite commonplace. Dr. Blair wrote a whole sermon upon it. So Robert Hall; "The order of nature is ever from particulars to generals. As in the operations of intellect we proceed from the contemplation of individuals to the formation of general abstractions, so in the developement of the passions in like manner we advance from private to public affections; from the love of parents, brothers, and sisters, to those more expanded regards which embrace the immense society of human kind." Sermon on Modern Infidelity. On the other hand, the private
P. 137, L. 7. the then Earl of Holland. "This (reprieving Lord Goring, and not Lord Holland) may be a caution to us against the affectation of popularity, when you see the issue of it in this noble gentleman, who was as full of generosity and courtship to all sorts of persons, and readiness to help the oppressed, and to stand for the rights of the people, as any person of his quality in this nation. Yet this person was by the representatives of the people given up to execution for treason; and another lord, who never made profession of being a friend to liberty, either civil or spiritual, and exceeded the Earl as much in his crimes as he came short of him in his popularity, the life of this lord was spared by the people." (Whitelock, March 8, 1649.) The bounties prodigally bestowed on him were a reward for his carrying out as chief-justice in eyre the illegal claims made by Charles I., in virtue of the forestal rights (cp. vol. i. p. 77, l. 7). He became one of the leaders of the Parliament party, but deserted them, and paid the penalty with his life. Hallam charges him with ingratitude to both king and queen.
L. 24. when men of rank, &c. The allusion is again to those noblemen who patronised the Revolution Society.
P. 138, L. 2. if the terror, the ornament of their age. Burke perhaps had in mind the well-known epitaph of Richelieu (cp. l. 25), by Des Bois, in which he is described as "Tam saeculi sui tormentum quam ornamentum."
The ornament and terror of the age.
—(Halifax, Lines on William III.)
L. 7. great bad men. So Pope, Essay on Man, iv. 284;
Burke perhaps had in mind Milton, Par. Lost, ii. 5;
To that bad eminence.
L. 8. a favourite poet. Waller; "Panegyric to my Lord Protector." After the Restoration, Waller made a panegyric upon Charles; and when the king satirically remarked that that on Cromwell was the better one, replied, with witty servility, that poets succeeded better in dealing with fiction than with truth. Waller was of kin to the Protector through his mother, a sister of John Hampden. Burke was familiar with the domestic history of the Wallers from the circumstance that his estate was in the same parish as theirs (Beaconsfield).
IBID. smote the country—communicated to it the force and energy, &c. Similarly Junius, Feb. 6, 1771; "With all his crimes, he (Cromwell) had the spirit of an Englishman. The conduct of such a man must always be an exception to vulgar rules. He had abilities sufficient to reconcile contradictions, and to make a great nation at the same time unhappy and formidable."
L. 29. how very soon France, &c. France has always been distinguished for the most elastic internal powers. Burke in after times quoted in illustration of this the lines,
Ducit opes animumque ferro.
L. 33. not slain the mind in their country. Mackintosh retorts this dignified figure on the ministers whom Burke after the Revolution conceived it to be his duty to support.
P. 139, L. 6. palsy. Fr. paralysie, now generally disused, in favour of the original term paralysis.
Ecclesiasticus, chap. xxxviii. verses 24, 25. "The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise." "How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough, and that glorieth in the goad; that driveth oxen; and is occupied in their labours; and whose talk is of bullocks?"
Ver. 27. "So every carpenter and work-master that laboureth night and day." &c.
Ver. 33. "They shall not be sought for in public counsel, nor sit high in the congregation: They shall not sit on the judges seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment: they cannot declare justice and judgment, and they shall not be found where parables are spoken."
Ver. 34. "But they will maintain the state of the world."
I do not determine whether this book be canonical, as the Gallican church (till lately) has considered it, or apocryphal, as here it is taken. I am sure it contains a great deal of sense, and truth.
L. 15. woe to the country, &c. Burke's support of the Test Act has been adduced to show how little practical meaning there was in this tirade. The question, however, here, is one of political, not religious disability. The term "religious" (l. 17) appears only to allude to the established church.
P. 141, L. 3. sortition or rotation. Harrington, the English constitution-monger, made the latter an essential principle in his scheme. Milton, however, wished "that this wheel, or partial wheel in state, if it be possible, might be avoided, as having too much affinity with the wheel of fortune." It will hardly be credited that a practical member of Parliament and shrewd thinker like Soame Jenyns, approved the principle of sortition, and deliberately proposed to have an annual ministry chosen by lot from 30 selected members of the House of Peers, and 100 of the House of Commons! See his "Scheme for the Coalition of Parties," 1782. Well might Burke call that "one of the most critical periods in our annals" (Letter to a Noble Lord). Had the then proposed parliamentary reforms taken place, Burke thought that "not France, but England, would have had the honour of leading up the death-dance of Democratic Revolution. Other projects, exactly coincident in time with those, struck at the very existence of the kingdom under any constitution" (ib.).
L. 7. road to eminence and power from obscure condition... not to be made too easy. There is here possibly an allusion to the preceding generation, and the career of men like Lord Melcombe. The road was always easy enough in England, and by this time in most other countries. Struensee had governed Denmark. Writers had busied themselves in vain to discover the
End of Notes
Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a state, that does not represent *248its ability, as well as its property. But as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it never can be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of all proportion, predominant in the representation. It must be represented too in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly protected. The characteristic essence of property, formed out of the combined principles of its acquisition
*250The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue; it *251grafts benevolence even upon avarice. The possessors of family wealth, and of the distinction which attends hereditary possession (as most concerned in it) are the natural securities for this transmission. With us, the house of peers is formed upon this principle. It is wholly composed of hereditary property and hereditary distinction; and made therefore the third of the legislature; and in the last event, the *252sole judge of all property in all its subdivisions. The house of commons too, though not necessarily, yet in fact, is always so composed in the far greater part. Let those large proprietors be what they will, and they have their chance of being amongst the best, they are at the very worst, the ballast in the vessel of the commonwealth. For though hereditary wealth, and the rank which goes with it, are too much idolized by creeping sycophants, and the blind abject admirers of power,
It is said, that twenty-four millions ought to prevail over two hundred thousand. True; if the *253constitution of a kingdom be a problem of arithmetic. This sort of discourse does well enough with the *254lamp-post for its second: to men who may reason calmly, it is ridiculous. The will of the many, and their interest, must very often differ; and great will be the difference when they make an evil choice. A government of five hundred country attornies and obscure curates is not good for twenty-four millions of men, though it were chosen by eight and forty millions; nor is it the better for being guided by a dozen of persons of quality, who have betrayed their trust in order to obtain that power. At present, you seem in everything to have strayed out of the high road of nature. The property of France does not govern it. Of course property is destroyed, and rational liberty has no existence. All you have got for the present is a paper circulation, and a stock-jobbing constitution: and as to the future, do you seriously think that the territory of France, under the republican system of eighty-three independent municipalities, (to say nothing of the parts that compose them) can ever be governed as one body, or can ever be set in motion by the impulse of one mind? When the National Assembly has *255completed its work, it will have accomplished its ruin. These commonwealths will not long bear a state of subjection to the republic of Paris. They will not bear that this one body should monopolize the captivity of the king, and the dominion over the assembly calling itself National. Each will keep its own portion of the spoil of the church to itself; and it will not suffer either
If this be your actual situation, compared to the situation to which you were called, as it were by the voice of God and man, I cannot find it in my heart to congratulate you on the choice you have made, or the success which has attended your endeavours. I can as little recommend to any other nation a conduct grounded on such principles, and productive of such effects. That I must leave to those who can see further into your affairs than I am able to do, and who best know how far your actions are favourable to their designs. The gentlemen of the Revolution Society, who were so early in their congratulations, appear to be strongly of opinion that there is some scheme of politics relative to this country, in which your proceedings may, in some way, be useful. For your Dr. Price, who seems
It is plain that the mind of this political Preacher was at the time big with some extraordinary design; and it is very probable, that the thoughts of his audience, who understood him better than I do, did all along run before him in his reflection, and in the whole train of consequences to which it led.
Before I read that sermon, I really thought I had lived in a free country; and it was an error I cherished, because it gave me a greater liking to the country I lived in. I was indeed aware, that a jealous, *257ever-waking vigilance, to guard the treasure of our liberty, not only from invasion, but from decay and corruption, was our best wisdom and our first duty. However, I considered that treasure rather as a possession to be secured than as a prize to be contended for. I did not discern how the present time came to be so very favourable to all exertions in the cause of freedom. The present time differs from any other only by the circumstance of what is doing in France. If the example of that nation is to have an influence on this, I can easily conceive why some of their proceedings which have an unpleasant aspect, and are not quite reconcileable to humanity, generosity, good faith, and justice, are palliated with so much *258milky good-nature towards the actors, and borne with so much *259heroic fortitude towards the sufferers. It is certainly not prudent to discredit the authority of an example we mean
I see that your example is held out to shame us. I know that we are supposed a *265dull sluggish race, rendered passive by finding our situation tolerable; and prevented by a mediocrity of freedom from ever attaining to its full perfection. Your leaders in France *266began by affecting to admire, almost to adore, the British constitution; but as they advanced they came to look upon it with a sovereign contempt. *267The friends of your National Assembly amongst us have full as mean an opinion of what was formerly thought the glory of their country. The Revolution Society *268has discovered that the English nation is not free. They are convinced that the inequality in our representation is a "defect in our constitution so gross and palpable, as to make it excellent chiefly in form and theory."*11 That a representation in the legislature of a kingdom is not only the basis of all constitutional liberty in it, but of "all legitimate government; that without it a government is nothing but an usurpation"; that "when the *269representation is partial, the kingdom possesses liberty only partially; and if extremely partial it gives only a semblance; and if not only extremely partial, but corruptly chosen, it becomes a nuisance." Dr. Price considers this inadequacy of representation as our fundamental grievance; and though, as to the corruption of this semblance of representation, he hopes it is not yet arrived to its full perfection of depravity; he fears that "nothing will be done towards gaining for us this essential blessing, until some great abuse of power again provokes our resentment, or some great calamity again alarms our fears, or perhaps till the acquisition of a pure and equal representation by other countries, whilst we are mocked with the shadow, kindles our shame." To this he subjoins a note in these words. "A representation, chosen
You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists, who, when they are not on their guard, *270treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power. It would require a long discourse to point out to you the many fallacies that lurk in the generality and equivocal nature of the terms "inadequate representation." I shall only say here, in justice to that old-fashioned constitution, *271under which we have long prospered, that our representation has been found *272perfectly adequate to all the purposes for which a representation of the people can be desired or devised. I defy the enemies of our constitution to show the contrary. To detail the particulars in which it is found so well to promote its ends, would demand a treatise on our practical constitution. I state here the doctrine of the Revolutionists, only that you and others may see, what an opinion these gentlemen entertain of the constitution of their country, and why they seem to think that some great abuse of power, or some great calamity, as giving a chance for the blessing of a constitution according to their ideas, would be much palliated to their feelings; you see why they are so much enamoured of your fair and equal representation, which being once obtained, the same effects might follow. You see they consider our house of commons as only "a semblance," "a form," "a theory," "a shadow," "a mockery," perhaps "a nuisance."
These gentlemen value themselves on being systematic; and not without reason. They must therefore look on this gross and palpable defect of representation, this fundamental grievance (so they call it), as a thing not only vicious in itself, but as rendering our whole government absolutely illegitimate,
*275Something they must destroy, or they seem to themselves to exist for no purpose. One set is for destroying the civil power through the ecclesiastical; another for demolishing the ecclesiastick through the civil. They are aware that the worst consequences might happen to the public in accomplishing this double ruin of church and state; but they are so heated with their theories, that they give more than hints, that this ruin, with all the mischiefs that must lead to it and attend it, and which to themselves *276appear quite certain, would not be unacceptable to them, or very remote from their wishes. *277A man amongst them of great authority, and certainly of great talents, speaking of a supposed *278alliance between church and state, says, "perhaps we must wait for the *279fall of the civil powers before this most unnatural alliance
It is no wonder therefore, that with these ideas of every thing in their constitution and government at home, either in church or state, as illegitimate and usurped, or, at best as a vain mockery, they look abroad with an eager and passionate enthusiasm. Whilst they are *281possessed by these notions, it is vain to talk to them of the practice of their ancestors, the fundamental laws of their country, the fixed form of a constitution, whose merits are confirmed by the *282solid test of long experience, and an increasing public strength and national prosperity. They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men; and as for the rest, they have *283wrought under-ground a mine that will blow up at one grand explosion all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament. They have "the rights of men." Against these there can be no prescription; against these no agreement is binding: these admit no temperament, and no compromise: any thing withheld from their full demand is so much of fraud and injustice. Against these their rights of men let no government look for security in the length of its continuance, or in the justice and lenity of its administration. The objections of these speculatists, if its forms do not quadrate with their theories, are as valid against such an old and beneficent government as against the most violent tyranny, or the greenest usurpation. They are always at issue with governments, not on a question of abuse, but a question of competency, and a question of title. I have nothing to say to the clumsy subtilty of their political metaphysics. Let them be their amusement in the schools.
Far am I from denying in theory; full as far is my heart from withholding in practice, (if I were of power to give or to withhold,) *287the real rights of men. In denying their false claims of right, I do not mean to injure those which are real, and are such as their pretended rights would totally destroy. If civil society be made for the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made become his right. It is an institution of beneficence; and law itself is only beneficence acting by a rule. Men have a right to live by that rule; they have a right to justice; *288as between their fellows, whether their fellows are in politic function or in ordinary occupation. They have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the *289means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the *290acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to *291instruction in life, and to consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do in his favour. *292In this partnership all men have equal rights; but not to equal things. He that has but five shillings in the partnership, has as good a right to it, as he that has five hundred pound has to his larger proportion. But he has not a right to an equal dividend in the product of the joint stock; and as to the share of power, authority, and direction which each individual ought to have in the management of the state, that I must *293deny to be amongst the direct original rights of man in civil society; for I have in my contemplation the civil social man, and no other. It is a thing to be settled by convention.
Government is *299not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it; and exist in much greater clearness, and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection: but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to every thing they want every thing. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that *300even in the mass and body as well as in the
The moment you abate any thing from the full rights of men, each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the constitution of a state, and the due distribution of its powers, a matter of the *303most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions. The state is to have *304recruits to its strength, and remedies to its distempers. *305What is the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor of metaphysics.
The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught à priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science; because the *306real effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is prejudicial
These metaphysic rights entering into common life, *310like rays of light which pierce into a dense medium, are, by the laws of nature, refracted from their straight line. Indeed in the gross and complicated mass of human passions and concerns, the primitive rights of men undergo such a variety of refractions and reflections, that it becomes absurd to talk of them as if they continued in the simplicity of their original direction. The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature, or to the quality of his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly *311ignorant of their trade, or totally negligent of their duty. The simple governments are fundamentally defective, to say no worse of them. If you were to contemplate society in but one point of view, all
The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes; and *312in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in governments are their advantages; and these are often in *313balances between differences of good; in compromises sometimes between good and evil, and sometimes, between evil and evil. Political reason is a computing principle; adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral *314denominations.
By these theorists the *315right of the people is almost always sophistically confounded with their power. The body of the community, whenever it can come to act, can meet with no effectual resistance; but till power and right are the same, the whole body of them has no right inconsistent with virtue, and the *316first of all virtues, prudence. Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit; for though a pleasant writer said, *317Liceat perire poetis, when *318one of them, in cold blood, is said to have leaped into the flames of a volcanic revolution, Ardentem frigidus Aetnam insiluit, I consider such a frolic rather as an unjustifiable poetic licence, than as one of the franchises of Parnassus; and whether he were poet, *319or divine, or politician, that chose to exercise this kind of right, I think that more wise, because more charitable thoughts would urge me rather
The kind of anniversary sermons, to which a great part of what I write refers, if men are not shamed out of their present course, in commemorating the fact, will cheat many out of the principles, and deprive them of the benefits of the Revolution they commemorate. I confess to you, Sir, I never liked this continual talk of resistance and revolution, or the practice of making the extreme medicine of the constitution its daily bread. It renders the habit of society dangerously valetudinary: it is taking periodical doses of mercury sublimate, and swallowing down repeated provocatives of *320cantharides to our love of liberty.
Notes for this chapter
L. 15. its ability as well as its property. "Jacobinism," wrote Burke several years afterwards, when the whole civilised world was in affright at the word, without understanding very well what it meant, "is the revolt of the enterprising talents of a country against its property."
L. 23. the great masses which excite envy, &c. Cp. the Letter to a Noble Lord, in which the vast property of the Duke of Bedford is used to illustrate this doctrine. The extract given in a previous note (to p. 113, l. 27) contains the substance of its argument.
P. 142, L. 1. the power of perpetuating our property in our families, &c. Burke alludes to the practice of family settlements.
L. 5. grafts benevolence, &c. Because it encourages a man to other objects than a selfish lavishment of his fortune on his private wishes. The expression is slightly altered from the 1st Edition.
L. 12. sole judge of all property, &c. See the motion relative to the Speech from the Throne, 14th June, 1784, in which this fact is used in justification of the disapproval, expressed by the Commons, of the corruption and intimidation employed by the ministers and peers. The judicial power of the Lords is historically traced by Hallam, ch. xiii.
L. 26. constitution of a kingdom—a problem in arithmetic. Notwithstanding the sarcasm, which became very popular, the principle has now been recognised not only in England, but in most constitutional governments.
Till each fair burgh, numerically free,
Shall choose its members by the Rule of Three.
—Canning, New Morality.
Rousseau's theory, however, referred not to the rule of three, but to the rule of the square root! See "Contrat Social," Liv. iii. ch. 1.
L. 28. lamp-post. (Lanterne), alluding to the summary executions by the mob (see infra, p. 166), which began, during the riots which preceded the 14th of July, with punishing thieves by dragging them to the Grève, and hanging them by the ropes which were used to fasten the lanterns. De Launay, De Losme, Solbay, and Flesselles, were soon afterwards "lynched" in the same way.
P. 143, L. 12. completed its work... accomplished its ruin. Cp. a similar expression, vol. i. p. 207, l. 11.
P. 145, L. 1. ever-waking vigilance. Cp. note to vol. i. p. 76, l. 30. The allusion is of course to the "fair Hesperian tree," which
Of dragon-watch and uninchanted eye.—Comus, l. 393.
L. 14. heroic fortitude towards the sufferers. Cp. note to vol. i. p. 149, l. 27. This idea, often repeated by Burke, is derived from the "Thoughts on Various Subjects," by Pope and Swift: "I never knew any man in my life, who could not bear another's misfortunes perfectly like a Christian."
L. 19. Is our monarchy, &c. By the next page it will be seen that Dr. Price had marked as the fundamental grievance of the English people the inadequacy of popular representation. Could Burke really wish to be understood as declaring that a reform of Parliament in England would lead to the changes here set out? If so, what is the meaning of the high praise he proceeds to bestow on the English people for their steadiness of temperament? It is, however, superfluous to point out all the logical excesses of a heated advocate.
L. 22. done away. Strictly correct. So to do out, do up, do off, do on (dout, dup, doff, don), &c. The modern phrase, to "do away with," has arisen from confusion with the interjectional expression, "Away with." Spenser;
L. 23. house of lords to be voted useless. Alluding to the Resolution of the Commons, Feb. 6, 1649, "That the House of Peers in Parliament is useless and dangerous, and ought to be abolished." On that day the Lords met, and adjourned "till ten o'clock to-morrow." That morrow, says Mr. Hallam, was the 25th of April, 1660.
L. 29. land-tax—malt-tax—naval strength. The land-tax and malt-duty were the only imposts included in the estimate of "ways and means" for raising the "supplies," which provided for the navy, ordnance, army, and miscellaneous services. Taken together, these imposts did rather more than pay for the navy, which then cost about two-and-half millions annually.
L. 16. dull sluggish race—mediocrity of freedom. Cp. Letter to Elliott; "My praises of the British government, loaded with all its incumbrances; clogged with its peers and its beef; its parsons and its pudding; its commons and its beer; and its dull slavish liberty of going about just as one pleases," &c.
L. 19. began by affecting to admire, &c. There was not much in this. The excellence of the British constitution consisted not in its formal, but in its moral basis; in the unity, the cordial recognition, and the substantial justice, which subsisted between class and class, and this was beyond the reach of French politicians. Formally regarded, not only the French leaders, but some English philosophers, not without a certain justice, always "looked upon it with a sovereign contempt." It is this moral basis which
L. 21. the friends of your National Assembly, &c. The theory of the English constitution was first systematically attacked by Bentham, in his Fragment on Government, 1775.
L. 24. has discovered, &c. It is notorious that England at this time was not free in the sense in which it has now been free for forty years.
Discourse on the Love of our Country, 3d edit. p. 39.
L. 31. representation is partial—possesses liberty only partially. For several years such phrases had been so dinned into the ears of the English nation, as to become a byword for the wits. Of the abstract principle that all men are born free, Soame Jenyns says, "This is so far from being true, that the first infringement of their liberty is being born at all; which is imposed upon them without their consent, given either by themselves or their representatives." Disquisition on Government and Civil Liberty.
P. 147, L. 15. treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt. Nowhere are more flagrant examples of this to be found than in Milton. When he finds or imagines the mass of the people to be with him, he treats them with the greatest respect; when there is a reaction, or a chance of it, they become "the blockish vulgar"—"the people, exorbitant and excessive in all their notions"—"the mad multitude"—"a miserable, credulous, deluded thing called the vulgar" (Eikonoklastes)—"a multitude, ready to fall back, or rather to creep back, to their once abjured and detested thraldom of kingship"—"the inconsiderate multitude" (Mode of Establishing a Free Commonwealth)—"the simple laity" (Tenure of Kings). The mild Spenser calls the people "the rascal many." So the chorus in Samson;
That wand'ring loose about,
Grow up and perish, like the summer flie,
Heads without name no more remembered.
"Tout peuple," wrote Marat, "est naturellement moutonnier" (Journal de Marat, Mars 5, 1793). On the contempt of the demagogues of the ancient world for their audience, cp. Arbuthnot's (Swift's?) paper "Concerning the Altercation or Scolding of the Ancients."
L. 22. under which we have long prospered. See Bentham's Book of Fallacies, or Sydney Smith's review of it, for a consideration of this trite argument.
L. 23. perfectly adequate, &c. "If there is a doubt, whether the House of Commons represents perfectly the whole commons of Great Britain (I think there is none) there can be no question but that the Lords and Commons together represent the sense of the whole people to the crown, and to the world." Third Letter on a Regicide Peace.
P. 148, L. 19. that house is no representative of the people at all, even in semblance or in form. Directly at variance with all constitutional history, Selden maintains that the Lords "sit for the commonwealth." In the "Present
L. 31. Something they must destroy, &c. Burke altered the commencement of this paragraph, which stands thus in the 1st Edition; "Some of them are so heated with their particular religious theories, that they give more than hints that the fall of the civil powers, with all the dreadful consequences of that fall, provided they might be of service to their theories, could not be unacceptable to them," &c. This was done to make clearer the serious charge here brought against Priestley, which was the beginning of the persecution which finally drove him from the country.
P. 149, L. 4. appear quite certain. Convinced, however, only by the harmless enthusiasm which thinks it necessary to attach a specific meaning to the visions of the seer in the Apocalypse. It was not until 1794 that Dr. Priestley offered this apology for it.
L. 6. a man... of great authority. Dr. Priestley. The offensive passage is that which concludes his formidable "History of the Corruptions of Christianity," and finishes the considerations addressed to the advocates for the civil establishment of religion, and especially to Bishop Hurd. It is as follows; "It is nothing but the alliance of the kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this world (an alliance which our Lord Himself expressly disclaimed) that supports the grossest corruptions of Christianity; and perhaps we must wait for the fall of the civil powers before this most unnatural alliance be broken. Calamitous, no doubt, will that time be. But what convulsion in the political world ought to be a subject of lamentation, if it
L. 7. alliance between church and state. The well-known doctrine of Bishop Warburton, alluded to post, p. 188, l. 7 sqq.
L. 8. fall of the civil powers. The meaning of this was not to be mistaken. Immediately before, Priestley has been asking why Lutheranism and Anglicanism had been established, while the Anabaptists of Münster, and the Socinians, had been persecuted? "I know of no reason why, but that the opinions of Luther and Cranmer had the sanction of the civil powers, which those of Socinus and others of the same age, and who were equally well qualified to judge for themselves, had not."
L. 10. Calamitous no doubt, &c. Dr. Priestley on the 28th of Feb., 1794, the day appointed for a general fast, preached at the Gravel-pit Meeting in Hackney a sermon, entitled "The Present State of Europe compared with Ancient Prophecies," in which he repeats and justifies the offensive paragraph, and warns his congregation of the "danger to the civil powers of Europe, in consequence of their connexion with antichristian ecclesiastical systems." He also apologised for it in a letter dated Northumberland, Nov. 10, 1802, addressed to the editor of the Monthly Magazine, by saying that it was not intended for England, but for Europe generally, "especially those European States which had been parts of the Roman Empire, but were then in communion with the Church of Rome.... Besides that the interpretation of prophecy ought to be free to all, it is the opinion, I believe, of every commentator that these states are doomed to destruction." In an Appendix to the Fast Sermon, he prints a long extract from Hartley's "Observations on Man" (1749), in which the fall of the civil and ecclesiastical powers was predicted with similar coolness. "It would be great rashness," says Hartley in his conclusion, "to fix a time for the breaking of the storm that hangs over our heads, as it is blindness and infatuation not to see it, nor to be aware that it may break; and yet this infatuation has always attended all falling states."
L. 19. In the sense of diabolical possession. "An obstinate man," says Butler, "does not hold opinions, but they hold him; for when once he is possessed with an error, 'tis like the devil, not to be cast out but with great difficulty."
L. 25. wrought under-ground a mine... the "rights of men." Locke and Sidney were the founders of the school of the "Rights of Men," and first
L. 15. the real rights of men. The profound and just remarks which follow are a fine example of that "dower of spanning wisdom" in which Burke was so rich, and expressed with an unusual strength and simplicity of construction.
L. 24. means of making their industry fruitful—i. e. to the occupation of the soil, without prejudice to the rights of the owner. Cp. vol. i. p. 247, l. 26.
L. 25. acquisitions of their parents. Without prejudice, of course, to the right of the parent to dispose of it himself. Cp. ante, p. 142, l. 1.
L. 31. In this partnership, &c. This happy illustration is an after-thought, and is wanting in the First Edition.
P. 151, L. 3. deny to be amongst the direct original rights, &c. Equality of power might even be denied to be among the physical possibilities of civil society.
L. 7. offspring of convention. Burke here admits the fundamental doctrines relating to the Social Contract, and proceeds to show how they change their significance in practice.
L. 14. one of the first motives to civil society, &c. The process is traced with his usual clearness by Hooker, Ecc. Pol., Book i. § 10. Burke seems to have in mind Hooker's disciple Locke, Treat. of Government, Book ii. ch. 7, § 90; "For the end of civil society being to avoid and remedy those inconveniences of the state of nature, which necessarily follow from every man's being a judge in his own case," &c.
L. 16. judge in his own cause. Cp. vol. i. p. 252, l. 8, and the "Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol," in which the argument from this principle is expanded and applied to the relations of states between themselves. "When any community is subordinately connected with another, the great danger of
L. 22. rights of an uncivil and a civil state together. Cp. Lucretius, v. 1147;
Ulcisci, quam nunc concessum est legibus aequis,
Hanc ob rem est homines pertaesum vi colere aevum.
Other illustrations from the classics are given in Grotius, Lib. ii. c. 20.
L. 25. secure some liberty, makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it. "Il me semble que l'homme, sortant de l'état naturel, pour arriver à l'état social, perd son indépendance pour acquérir plus de sûreté. L'homme quitte ses compagnons des bois qui ne le gênent pas, mais qui peuvent le dévorer, pour venir trouver une société qui ne le dévorera pas, mais qui doit le gêner. Il stipule ses intérêts du mieux qu'il peut, et, lorsqu'il entre dans une bonne constitution, il céde le moins de son indépendance, et obtient le plus de sûreté qu'il est possible." Rivarol, Journal Politique. Liberty is a compromise between independence and security. This "surrender in trust" resembles the surrender, in the contract of insurance, of a portion of your property, for the security of the whole.
P. 152, L. 4. even in the mass and body, &c. "With all respect for popular assemblies be it spoken," says Swift, "it is hard to recollect one folly, infirmity, or vice, to which a single man is subjected, and from which a body of commons, either collective or represented, can be wholly exempt." Contests and Discussions in Athens and Rome, ch. iv.
L. 7. power out of themselves. Compare this with the trivial sophism of Sieyès, "Il ne faut pas placer le régulateur hors de la machine." Burke truly says elsewhere; "An ignorant man, who is not fool enough to meddle with his clock, is however sufficiently confident to think he can safely take to pieces, and put together at his pleasure, a moral machine of another guise, importance, and complexity, composed of far other wheels, and springs, and balances, and counteracting and co-operating powers. Men little think how immorally they act in meddling with what they do not understand." Rivarol says, in the same view, "Rien ne ressemble moins à une balance que la machine du gouvernement; rien ne ressemble moins à un équilibre que la marche des corps politiques," &c. Oeuvres, vol. iv. p. 265.
P. 153, L. 1. real effects of moral causes. "Moral" is used as commonly by Burke, for the contrary of "physical."
L. 16. pulling down an edifice. "To construct," wrote Burke six years before, "is a matter of skill; to demolish, force and fury are sufficient." Similar expressions are used by Soame Jenyns.
L. 21. like rays of light. An admirable illustration. Cp. Bacon's observation that the human understanding is not a "dry light," but imbued with the colours of the will and passions.
P. 154, L. 12. in proportion as they are metaphysically true, &c. Burke takes up a cant paradox of the day. Soame Jenyns; "It is a certain though a strange truth, that in politics all principles which are speculatively right, are practically wrong; the reason of which is, that they proceed on a supposition that men act rationally; which being by no means true, all that is built on so false a foundation, on experiment falls to the ground." Reflections on Several Subjects. "Metaphysics" was commonly applied as a term of reproach by English writers after the promulgation of the philosophy of Locke, and especially so used by the Essayists.
L. 27. first of all virtues, prudence = &phgr;r&oacgr;n&eegr;siς. Cp. Arist. Eth., Lib. vi. c. 8, &c. In a previous work Burke calls prudence "the God of this lower world," perhaps in allusion to Juv. Sat. x. 365.
IBID. one of them. Empedocles. The allusion is of course to him in his philosophical rather than his poetical character.
L. 34. or divine. The allusion is to Dr. Price, as may be seen from the opening of the next paragraph. Burke means that at the end of an honourable career, Price was playing the fool, like the philosopher in the legend. Cp. Butler, Fragments;
Leapt into Aetna, with his sandals shod,
That b'ing blown out, discover'd what an ass
The great philosopher and juggler was,
That to his own new deity sacrific'd,
And was himself the victim and the priest.
So Milton, Par. Lost, iii. 469;
A god, leap'd fondly into Aetna flames,
End of Notes
This distemper of remedy, grown habitual, *321relaxes and wears out, by a vulgar and prostituted use, the spring of that spirit which is to be exerted on great occasions. It was in the most patient period of Roman servitude that themes of tyrannicide made the ordinary exercise of boys at school—*322cum perimit saevos classis numerosa tyrannos. In the ordinary state of things, it produces in a country like ours the worst effects, even on the cause of that liberty which it abuses with the dissoluteness of an extravagant speculation. *323Almost all the high-bred republicans of my time have, after a short space, become the most decided, thorough-paced courtiers; they soon left the business of a tedious, moderate, but practical resistance, to *324those of us whom, in the pride and intoxication of their theories, they have slighted, as not much better than tories. *325Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent. But even in cases where rather levity than fraud was to be suspected in these ranting speculations, the issue has been much the same. These professors, finding their extreme
In France you are now in the crisis of a revolution, and in the transit from one form of government to another—you cannot see that character of men exactly in the same situation in which we see it in this country. With us it is militant; with you it is triumphant; and you know how it can act when its power is commensurate to its will. I would not be supposed to confine those observations to any description of men, or
This famous sermon of the Old Jewry breathes nothing but this spirit through all the political part. Plots, massacres, assassinations, seem to some people a trivial price for obtaining a revolution. A cheap, bloodless reformation, a guiltless liberty, appear flat and vapid to their taste. There must be a great change of scene; there must be a magnificent stage effect; there must be a grand spectacle to rouze the imagination, grown torpid with the lazy enjoyment of sixty years security, and the *329still unanimating repose of public prosperity. The Preacher found them all in the French revolution. This inspires a juvenile warmth through his whole frame. His enthusiasm kindles as he advances; and when he arrives at his peroration, it is in a full blaze. Then viewing, from the *330Pisgah of his pulpit, the free, moral, happy, flourishing, and glorious state of France, as in a bird-eye landscape of a promised land, he breaks out into the following rapture:
Before I proceed further, I have to remark, that Dr. Price seems rather to over-value the great acquisitions of light which he has obtained and diffused in this age. The last century appears to me to have been quite as much enlightened. It had, though in a different place, a triumph as memorable as that of Dr. Price; and some of the great preachers of that period partook of it as eagerly as he has done in the triumph of France. On the trial of the Rev. Hugh Peters for high treason, it was deposed, that when King Charles was brought to London for his trial, the Apostle of Liberty in that day conducted the triumph. "I saw," says the witness, "his majesty in the coach with six horses, and Peters riding before the king triumphing." Dr. Price, when he talks as if he had made a discovery, only follows a precedent; for, after the commencement of the
After this sally of the preacher of the Old Jewry, which differs only in place and time, but agrees perfectly with the spirit and letter of the rapture of 1648, the Revolution Society, the fabricators of governments, the heroic band of cashierers of monarchs, electors of sovereigns, and leaders of kings in triumph, strutting with a proud consciousness of the diffusion of knowledge, of which every member had obtained so large a share in the donative, were in haste to make a generous diffusion of the knowledge they had thus gratuitously received. To make this bountiful communication, they adjourned from the church in the Old Jewry, to the London Tavern; where the famous Dr. Price, in whom the fumes of his oracular tripod were not entirely evaporated, moved and carried the resolution, or address of congratulation,
I find a preacher of the gospel prophaning the beautiful and prophetic ejaculation, commonly called "nunc dimittis," made on the first presentation of our Saviour in the Temple, and applying it, with an inhuman and unnatural rapture, to the most horrid, atrocious, and afflicting spectacle, that perhaps ever was exhibited to the pity and indignation of mankind. This "leading in triumph," a thing in its best form *332unmanly and irreligious, which fills our Preacher with such unhallowed transports, must shock, I believe, the moral taste of every *333well-born mind. Several English were the stupified and indignant spectators of that triumph. It was, unless we have been strangely deceived, a spectacle more resembling a *334procession of American savages, *335entering into Onondaga, after some of their murders called victories, and leading into hovels hung round with scalps, their captives, overpowered with the scoffs and buffets of *336women as ferocious as themselves, much more than it resembled the triumphal pomp of a civilized martial nation—if a civilized nation, or any men who had a sense of generosity, were capable of a personal triumph over the fallen and afflicted.
This, my dear Sir, was not the triumph of France. I must believe that, as a nation, it overwhelmed you with shame and horror. I must believe that the National Assembly find themselves in a state of the greatest humiliation, in not being able to punish the authors of this triumph, or the actors in it; and that they are in a situation in which any enquiry they may make upon the subject, must be destitute even of the appearance of liberty or impartiality. The apology of that Assembly is found in *337their situation; but when we approve what they must bear, it is in us the degenerate choice of a vitiated mind.
The Assembly, their organ, acts before them the farce of deliberation with as little decency as liberty. They act like the comedians of a fair before a riotous audience; they act amidst the tumultuous cries of a mixed mob of ferocious men, and of women lost to shame, who, according to their insolent fancies, direct, control, applaud, *347explode them; and sometimes mix and take their seats amongst them; domineering over them with a strange mixture of servile petulance and proud presumptuous authority. As they have inverted order in all things, the *348gallery is in the place of the house. This Assembly, which overthrows kings and kingdoms, has not even the physiognomy and aspect of a grave legislative body—*349nec color imperii, nec frons erat ulla senatus. They have a *350power given to them, like that of the evil principle, to subvert and destroy; but *351none to construct, except such machines as may be fitted for further subversion and further destruction.
Who is it that admires, and from the heart is attached to national representative assemblies, but must turn with horror and disgust from such a profane burlesque, and abominable perversion of that sacred *352institute? Lovers of monarchy, lovers of republicks, must alike abhor it. The members of your Assembly must themselves groan under the tyranny of which they have all the shame, none of the direction, and little of the profit. I am sure many of the members who compose even the majority of that body, must feel as I do, notwithstanding the applauses of the Revolution Society. Miserable king! miserable Assembly! How must that assembly
This address was made with much good-nature and affection, to be sure. But among the revolutions in France, must be reckoned a considerable revolution in their ideas of politeness. In England we are said to learn manners at second-hand from your side of the water, and that we dress our behaviour in the *357frippery of France. If so, we are *358still in
A man is fallen indeed, when he is thus flattered. The anodyne draught of oblivion, thus drugged, is well calculated to preserve a galling wakefulness, and to feed the living ulcer of a corroding memory. Thus to administer the opiate potion of amnesty, powdered with all the ingredients of scorn and contempt, is to hold to his lips, instead of "the *361balm of hurt minds," the cup of human misery full to the brim, and to force him to drink it to the dregs.
Yielding to reasons at least as forcible as those which were so delicately urged in the compliment on the new year, the king of France will probably endeavour to forget these events, and that compliment. But history, who keeps a durable record of all our acts, and exercises her awful censure over the proceedings of all sorts of sovereigns, will not forget either those events or the aera of this liberal refinement in the intercourse of mankind. History will
This king, to say no more of him, and this queen, and their infant children (who once would have been the pride and hope of a great and generous people) were then forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most splendid palace in the world, which they left swimming in blood, polluted by massacre, and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcases. Thence they were conducted into the capital of their kingdom. *365Two had been selected from the unprovoked, unresisted, promiscuous slaughter, which was made of the gentlemen of birth and family who composed the king's body guard. These two gentlemen, with all the parade of an execution of justice, were cruelly and publickly dragged to the block, and beheaded in the great court of the palace. Their heads were stuck upon spears, and led the procession; whilst the royal captives who followed in the train were slowly moved along, amidst the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and frantic dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable abominations of the furies
Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars? to be commemorated with grateful thanksgiving? to be offered to the divine humanity with fervent prayer and enthusiastick ejaculation? These Theban and Thracian Orgies, acted in France, and applauded only in the Old Jewry, I assure you, kindle prophetic enthusiasm in the minds but of very few people in this kingdom; although a saint and apostle, who may have revelations of his own, and who has so completely vanquished all the mean superstitions of the heart, may incline to think it pious and decorous to compare it with the entrance into the world of the Prince of Peace, proclaimed in an holy temple by a venerable sage, and not long before not worse announced by the voice of angels to the quiet innocence of shepherds.
At first I was at a loss to account for this fit of unguarded transport. I knew, indeed, that the sufferings of monarchs make a delicious repast to some sort of palates. There were reflexions which might serve to keep this appetite within some bounds of temperance. But when I took one circumstance into my consideration, I was obliged to confess, that much allowance ought to be made for the Society, and that the temptation was too strong for common discretion. I mean, the circumstance of the Io Paean of the triumph, the animating cry which called "for all the BISHOPS to be hanged on the lamp-posts,"*15 might well have brought forth a burst of enthusiasm on the foreseen
I hear that the august person, who was the principal object of our preacher's triumph, though he supported himself, felt much on that shameful occasion. As a man, it became him to feel for his wife and his children, and the faithful guards of his person, that were massacred in cold blood about him. As a prince, it became him to feel for the strange and frightful transformation of his civilized subjects, and to be more grieved for them, than solicitous for himself. It derogates little from his fortitude, while it adds infinitely to the honour of his humanity. I am very sorry to say it, very sorry indeed, that such personages are in a situation in which it is not unbecoming in us to praise the virtues of the great.
I hear, and I rejoice to hear, that the great lady, the other object of the triumph, has borne that day (one is interested that beings made for suffering should suffer well) and that she bears all the succeeding days, that she bears the imprisonment of her husband, and her own captivity, and the exile of her friends, and the insulting adulation of addresses, and the whole weight of her accumulated wrongs, with a serene patience, in a manner suited to her rank and race, and becoming the *370offspring of a sovereign distinguished for her piety and her courage; that like her she has lofty sentiments; that she feels with the dignity of a *371Roman matron; *372that in the last extremity she will save herself from the last disgrace, and that if she must fall, she will fall by no ignoble hand.
This mixed system of opinion and sentiment had its origin in the antient chivalry; and the principle, though varied in its appearance by the varying state of human
But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions, which made power gentle, and *388obedience liberal, which harmonized the different shades of life, and which, by a *389bland assimilation, incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the *390decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the *391superadded ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, *392which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our naked shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.
On this scheme of things, a king is but a man; a queen is but a woman; a woman is but an animal; and an animal not of the highest order. All homage paid to the sex in general as such, and without distinct views, is to be regarded
On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of *393cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom, as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, *394laws are to be supported only by their own terrors, and by the concern which each individual may find in them from his own private speculations, or can spare to them from his own private interests. In the groves of their academy, at the end of every *395visto, you see *396nothing but the gallows. Nothing is left which engages the affections on the part of the commonwealth. On the principles of this *397mechanic philosophy, our institutions can never be embodied, if I may use the expression, in persons; so as to create in us love, veneration, admiration, or attachment. But that sort of reason which banishes the affections is incapable of filling their place. These public affections, combined with manners, are required sometimes as supplements, sometimes as correctives, always as aids to law. The precept given by a wise man, as well as a great critic, for the construction of poems, is equally true as to states. *398Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. There ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
*399But power, of some kind or other, will survive the shock in which manners and opinions perish; and it will find other and worse means for its support. The usurpation which, in order to subvert antient institutions, has destroyed antient
When antient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment we have no compass to govern us; nor can we know distinctly to what port we steer. Europe undoubtedly, taken in a mass, was in a flourishing condition the day on which your Revolution was compleated. How much of that *402prosperous state was owing to the spirit of our old manners and opinions is not easy to say; but as such causes cannot be indifferent in their operation, we must presume, that, on the whole, their operation was beneficial.
We are but too apt to consider things in the state in which we find them, without sufficiently adverting to the causes by which they have been produced, and possibly may be upheld. *403Nothing is more certain, than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners, and with civilization, have, in *404this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion. The nobility and the clergy, the one by profession, the other by patronage, kept learning in existence, even in the midst of arms and confusions, and whilst governments were rather in their causes than formed. Learning paid back what it received to
If, as I suspect, modern letters owe more than they are always willing to own to antient manners, so do other interests which we value full as much as they are worth. Even commerce, and trade, and manufacture, the gods of our oeconomical politicians, are themselves perhaps but creatures; are themselves but effects, which, as first causes, we choose to worship. They certainly grew under the same shade in which learning flourished. They too may decay with their natural protecting principles. With you, for the present at least, they all threaten to disappear together. Where trade and manufactures are wanting to a people, and the spirit of nobility and religion remains, sentiment supplies, and not always ill supplies their place; but if commerce and the arts should be lost in an experiment to try how well a state may stand without these old fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must be a nation of gross, stupid, ferocious, and at the same time, poor and sordid barbarians, destitute of religion, honour, or manly pride, possessing nothing at present, and hoping for nothing hereafter?
I wish you may not be going fast, and by the shortest cut, to that horrible and disgustful situation. Already there appears a poverty of conception, a coarseness and vulgarity in all the proceedings of the assembly and of all their
It is not clear, whether in England we learned those grand and decorous principles, and manners, of which considerable traces yet remain, from you, or *406whether you took them from us. But *407to you, I think, we trace them best. You seem to me to be "*408gentis incunabula nostrae." France has always more or less influenced manners in England; and *409when your fountain is choaked up and polluted, the stream will not run long, or not run clear with us, or perhaps with any nation. This gives all Europe, in my opinion, but too close and connected a concern in what is done in France. Excuse me, therefore, if I have dwelt too long on the atrocious spectacle of the sixth of October 1789, or have given too much scope to the reflections which have arisen in my mind on occasion of the most important of all revolutions, which may be dated from that day, I mean *410a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions. As things now stand, with every thing respectable destroyed without us, and an attempt to destroy within us every principle of respect, one is almost *411forced to apologize for harbouring the common feelings of men.
Why do I feel so differently from the Reverend Dr. Price, and those of his lay flock, who will choose to adopt the sentiments of his discourse? *412For this plain reason—*413because it is natural I should; because we are so made as to be affected at such spectacles with melancholy sentiments upon the unstable condition of mortal prosperity, and the tremendous uncertainty of human greatness; because in those natural feelings we learn great lessons; because in events like these our passions instruct our reason; because when kings are hurled from their thrones by the Supreme Director of this great drama, and become the objects of
Indeed the theatre is a better school of moral sentiments than churches, where the feelings of humanity are thus outraged. Poets, who have to deal with an audience not yet graduated in the school of the rights of men, and who must apply themselves to the moral constitution of the heart, would not dare to produce such a triumph as a matter of exultation. There, where men follow their natural impulses, they would not bear the odious maxims of a Machiavelian policy, whether applied to the attainment of monarchical or democratic tyranny. They would reject them on the modern, *416as they once did on the antient stage; where they could not bear even the hypothetical proposition of such wickedness in the mouth of a personated tyrant, though suitable to the character he sustained. No theatric audience in Athens would bear what has been borne, in the midst of the real tragedy of this triumphal day; a principal actor weighing, as it were in scales hung in a shop of horrors, so much actual crime against so much contingent advantage, and after putting in and out weights, declaring that the balance was on
But the Reverend Pastor exults in this "leading in triumph," because, truly, Louis the XVIth was "an arbitrary monarch"; that is, in other words, neither more nor less, than because he was Louis the XVIth, and because he had the misfortune to be born king of France, with the prerogatives of which, a long line of ancestors, and a long acquiescence of the people, without any act of his, had put him in possession. A misfortune it has indeed turned out to him, that he was born king of France. But misfortune is not crime, nor is indiscretion always the greatest guilt. I shall never think that a prince, the acts of whose whole reign were a series of concessions to his subjects, who was willing to
If it could have been made clear to me, that the king and queen of France (those I mean who were such before the triumph) were inexorable and cruel tyrants, that they had formed a deliberate scheme for massacring the National Assembly (I think I have seen something like the latter insinuated in certain publications) I should think their captivity just. If this be true, much more ought to have been done, but done, in my opinion, in another manner. The punishment of real tyrants is a noble and awful act of justice; and it has *423with truth been said to be consolatory to the human mind. But if I were to punish a wicked king, I should regard the dignity in avenging the crime. Justice is
If the French King, or *428King of the French, (or by whatever name he is known in the new vocabulary of your constitution) has in his own person, and that of his Queen, really deserved these unavowed but unavenged murderous attempts, and those subsequent indignities more cruel than murder, such a person would ill deserve even that subordinate executory trust, which I understand is to be placed in him; nor is he fit to be called chief of a nation which he has outraged and oppressed. A worse choice for such an office in a new commonwealth, than that of a deposed tyrant, could not possibly be made. But to degrade and insult a man as the worst of criminals, and afterwards to trust him in your highest concerns, as a faithful, honest, and zealous servant, is not consistent in reasoning, nor prudent in policy, nor safe in practice. Those who could make such an appointment must be guilty of a more flagrant breach of trust than any they have yet committed against the people. As this is the only crime in which your leading politicians could have acted inconsistently, I conclude that there is no sort of ground for these horrid insinuations. I think no better of all the other calumnies.
In England, we give no credit to them. We are generous enemies: we are faithful allies. We spurn from us with disgust and indignation the slanders of those who bring us their anecdotes with the attestation of the *429flower-de-luce on their shoulder. We have *430Lord George Gordon fast in Newgate; and neither his being a *431public proselyte to Judaism,
To tell you the truth, my dear Sir, I think the honour of our nation to be somewhat concerned in the disclaimer of the proceedings of this society of the Old Jewry and the London Tavern. I have no man's proxy. I speak only from myself; when I disclaim, as I do with all possible earnestness, all communion with the actors in that triumph, or with the admirers of it. When I assert anything else, as
I almost venture to affirm, that not one in a hundred amongst us participates in the "triumph" of the Revolution Society. If the king and queen of France, and their children, were to fall into our hands by the chance of war, in the most acrimonious of all hostilities (*438I deprecate such an event, I deprecate such hostility) they would be treated with
You see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess, that we are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages. *451Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, (and they seldom fail) they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an
Notes for this chapter
L. 14. relaxes the spring. Burke often employs this image, which was very fashionable in the times when the most usual illustration of a government was some piece of inanimate mechanism.
L. 22. almost all the high-bred republicans—i. e. extreme. Cp. vol. i. p. 76, l. 11, &c., and note. The Bedford Whigs, the Grenville Whigs (excepting their head, Lord Temple), and finally the party of Lord Chatham, had yielded in succession to the attraction of the Court party. This high-bred republicanism, extending even to equality of rank and property, seems to have been much in vogue in the reign of Anne, when it was often advanced in Parliament, fortified by the abstract reasoning to which Burke was so hostile. Its currency was commonly laid to the account of the writings of Locke; but it is easy to trace it to much earlier and more general causes. A democratical tone was frequently assumed by Whig politicians in the succeeding reigns, in order to conciliate popular favour.
L. 34. civil and legal resistance. Cp. with this paragraph, the passage in the "Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol" in which the Party system is defended against the attacks of "those who pretend to be strong assertors of liberty." "This moral levelling is a servile principle. It leads to practical passive obedience far better than all the doctrines which the pliant accommodation of theology to power has ever produced. It cuts up by the roots, not only all idea of forcible resistance, but even of civil opposition."
P. 156, L. 4. think lightly of all public principle. See the description of the process of Ratting at the end of the "Observations on a late State of the Nation" (1769).
L. 23. still unanimating repose of public prosperity. "Still" is an adverb = ever. Cp. ante, note to p. 146, l. 16.
*x1Another of these reverend gentlemen, who was witness to some of the spectacles which Paris has lately exhibited—expresses himself thus; "A king dragged in submissive triumph by his conquering subjects is one of those appearances of grandeur which seldom rise in the prospect of human affairs, and which, during the remainder of my life, I shall think of with wonder and gratification." These gentlemen agree marvellously in their feelings.
State Trials vol. ii. p. 360, p. 363.
L. 26. Peters had not the fruits, &c. He was tried at the Restoration, and executed with other regicides at Charing Cross.
L. 5. procession of American savages. A reminiscence of Burke's reading in the preparation of one of his early works, the "Account of European Settlements in America." See that work, part ii. ch. 4.
IBID. entering into Onondaga. An Indian village in the western part of what
L. 8. women as ferocious as themselves. "The women, forgetting the human as well as the female nature, and transformed into something worse than furies, act their parts, and even out-do the men in this scene of horror." Sett. in America, vol. i. p. 198. It is unnecessary to illustrate this by the incidents of the Revolution.
L. 26. whose constitution, &c. The municipal government of Paris, which had passed out of the hands of the 300 electors, was at this time shared between 60 departments. Each department was a caricature of a Greek democratic state, was considered by its inhabitants as a sovereign power, and passed resolutions, which had the force of laws within its limits. This division into 60 departments was first introduced to facilitate the election to the States-General; but the easy means which it afforded of summoning the people of each district upon short notice, and of communicating a show of regularity and unanimity to their proceedings, made it too useful a system to be discarded. Much of that appearance of order and government which characterises the first year of the Revolution is due rather to this device, than to that self-restraint which made "anarchy tolerable" in Massachusetts. (See vol. i. pp. 244-45.)
L. 26. emanated neither from the charter of their king, &c. Having arisen out of temporary and mechanical arrangements. Necker, however, had by a grave error in policy recognised the 300 electors as a legal body. Their functions properly extended only to the choosing of representatives in the States-General; and they were entrusted with power by the people on the 13th of July merely because they were the only body in whom the public could immediately confide.
L. 28. an army not raised either by the authority, &c. The National Guards, formed in haste after the dismission of Necker on the 11th of July. "Thirty thousand citizens, totally unaccustomed to arms, were soon seen armed at all points, and in a few hours training assumed some appearance of order and discipline. The French Guards now shewed the benefits of their late education and improvements; they came in a body to tender their services to the people."
L. 31. There they sit, &c. The first edition represented all the moderate members as having been driven away. "There they sit, after a gang of assassins had driven away all the men of moderate minds and moderating authority among them, and left them as a sort of dregs and refuse, under the apparent lead of those in whom they do not so much as pretend to
P. 161, L. 4. decided before they are debated. The clubs governed in the departments of Paris, and through them, in the National Assembly.
L. 9. all conditions, tongues and nations. Aristocrats and clergymen joined and even took the lead in these assemblies. Germans, Italians, Englishmen, Swiss, and Spaniards were found among them. The greater part of the Central Committee at the Évêché were not Frenchmen.
L. 14. Academies... set up in all the places of public resort. The allusion is to the Conciliabules. "The Parisians," says Mercier, "have wished to imitate the English, who meet in taverns, and discuss the most important affairs of the state; but that did not take, because every one wished to preside at these meetings."
L. 24. Embracing in their arms, &c. Burke refers to the circumstances attending the condemnation, for a bank-note forgery, of the brothers Agasse, which occurred in the middle of January, 1790. Dr. Guillotin had some time previously proposed to the Assembly to inflict the punishment of death in a painless manner, and to relieve the relations of the criminal from the feudal taint of felony. The Abbé Pépin, on this occasion, procured the enactment of the last of these changes; and while the criminals lay under sentence of hanging, their brother and cousin, with the view of marking this triumph of liberty, were promoted to be lieutenants in the Grenadier Company of the Battalion of National Guards for the district of St. Honoré, on which occasion, in defiance of public decency and natural feeling, they were publicly feasted and complimented. See Mr. Croker's Essay on the Guillotine in the Quarterly Review for December, 1843.
L. 5. Nec color imperii, &c. Lucan, Phars. ix. 207 (erat for erit). From
L. 6. power given them... to subvert and to destroy. The allusion seems to be to the expression so common in the Apocalypse (see ch. xiii. 7, &c.).
L. 8. none to construct. See the Second Part of the work, in which their efforts to construct are criticised.
ll. 22, 24. "Un beau jour." "That the vessel of the state," &c. Bailly and Mirabeau, infra, p. 167, note.
6th of October, 1789.
L. 29. slaughter of innocent gentlemen in their houses. Foulon and Berthier, who were, however, murdered by the lanterne at the Grève, "with every circumstance of refined insult and cruelty which could have been exhibited by a tribe of cannibals."
L. 30. the blood spilled was not the most pure. The remark of Barnave, when Lally-Tollendal was describing this horrid scene, and Mirabeau told him "it was a time to think rather than to feel."
P. 163, L. 6. felicitation on the present New Year. Alluding to the address presented to the king and queen on the 3rd of January by a deputation of 60 members of the Assembly. "They (the Assembly) look forward to the happy day, when appearing in a body before a prince, the friend of the people, they shall present to him a collection of laws calculated for his happiness, and the happiness of all the French; when their respectful affection shall entreat a beloved king to forget the disorders of a tempestuous epoch," &c.
L. 18. frippery. In the proper sense of old clothing furbished up for second sale. Cp. the French words, friper, fripier, friperie.
IBID. still in the old cut. "Those French fashions, which of late years have brought their principles, both with regard to religion and government, a little in question." Lord Chesterfield, The World, No. 146 (1755).
L. 34. leze nation. The new name given by the Assembly to the offence of treason against the nation, which was put under the cognisance of the Chatelet. It is imitated from the name lèse majesté (laesa majestas, treason).
L. 22. the centinel at her door. M. de Miomandre. "After bravely resisting for a few minutes, finding himself entirely overpowered, he opened the queen's door, and called out with a loud voice, Save the queen, her life is aimed at! I stand alone against two thousand tigers! He soon after sunk down covered with wounds, and was left for dead."
Tous les Évêques à la lanterne.
P. 166, L. 16. fifth monarchy. Cp. note to p. 149, l. 6, ante. The fifth monarchy was the dream of a large sect of enthusiasts in the Puritan times.
L. 18. in the midst of this joy. An allusion to Lucretius, iv. 1129;
Surgit amari aliquid, quod in ipsis floribus angat.
L. 24. a groupe of regicide... What hardy pencil, &c. Burke only too clearly foresaw what was to happen. In his next piece on French affairs, the "Letter to a Member of the National Assembly," he repeats his belief that they would assassinate the king as soon as he was no longer necessary to their design. He thought, however, that the queen would be the first victim. Cp. infra, p. 169, l. 17. In the Second Letter on a Regicide Peace, he defends his anticipation on this point. "It was accident, and the momentary depression of that part of the faction, that gave to the husband the happy priority in death."
It is proper here to refer to a letter written upon this subject by an eye-witness. That eye-witness was one of the most honest, intelligent, and eloquent members of the National Assembly, one of the most active and zealous reformers of the state. He was obliged to secede from the assembly; and he afterwards became a voluntary exile, on account of the horrors of this pious triumph, and the dispositions of men, who, profiting of crimes, if not causing them, have taken the lead in public affairs.
"Parlons du parti que j'ai pris; il est bien justifié dans ma conscience. Ni cette ville coupable, ni cette assemblée plus coupable encore, ne méritoient que je me justifie; mais j'ai à coeur que vous, et les personnes qui pensent comme vous, ne me condamnent pas. Ma santé, je vous jure, me rendoit mes fonctions impossibles; mais meme en les mettant de côté il a été au-dessus de mes forces de supporter plus long-tems l'horreur que me causoit ce sang,—ces têtes,—cette reine presque égorgée,—ce roi, amené esclave, entrant à Paris, au milieu de ses assassins, et précédé des têtes de ses malheureux gardes,—ces perfides janissaires,—ces assassins,—ces femmes cannibales,—ce cri de, TOUS LES ÉVÊQUES À LA LANTERNE, dans le moment ou le roi entre sa capitale avec deux évêques de son conseil dans sa voiture. Un coup de fusil, que j'ai vu tirer dans un des carosses de la reine. M. Bailly appellant cela un beau jour. L'assemblée ayant déclaré froidement le matin, qu'il n'étoit pas de sa dignité d'aller toute entière environner le roi. M. Mirabeau disant impunément dans cette assemblée, que le vaisseau de l'état, loins d'être arrêté dans sa course, s'élanceroit avec plus de rapidité que jamais vers sa régénération. M. Barnave, riant avec lui, quand des flots de sang couloient autour de nous. Le vertueux Mounier* échappant par miracle à vingt assassins, qui avoient voulu faire de sa tête un trophée de plus.
"Voilà ce qui me fit jurer de ne plus mettre le pied dans cette caverne d'Anthropophages [the National Assembly] ou je n'avois plus de force d'élever la voix, ou depuis six semaines je l'avois élevée en vain. Moi, Mounier, et tous les honnêtes gens, ont pensé que le dernier effort à faire pour le bien étoit d'en sortir. Aucune idée de crainte ne s'est approchée de moi. Je rougirois de m'en défendre. J'avois encore reçû sur la route de la part de ce peuple, moins coupable que ceux qui l'ont enivré de fureur, des acclamations, et des applaudissements, dont d'autres auroient été flattés, et qui m'ont fait frémir. C'est à l'indignation, c'est à l'horreur, c'est aux convulsions physiques, que le seul aspect du sang me fait éprouver que j'ai cédé. On brave une seule mort; on la brave plusieurs fois, quand elle peut être utile. Mais aucune puissance sous le ciel, mais aucune opinion publique ou privée n'ont le droit de me condamner à souffrir inutilement mille supplices par minute, et à périr de désespoir, de rage, au milieu des triomphes, du crime que je n'ai pu arrêter. Ils me proscriront, il confisqueront mes biens. Je labourerai la terre, et je ne les verrai plus.—Voilà ma justification. Vous pourrez la lire, la montrer, la laisser copier; tant pis pour ceux qui ne la comprendront pas; ce ne sera alors moi qui auroit eu tort de la leur donner."
This military man had not so good nerves as the peaceable gentlemen of the Old Jewry.—See Mons. Mounier's narrative of these transactions; a man also of honour and virtue, and talents, and therefore a fugitive.
L. 18. It is now, &c. Burke to Sir P. Francis, Feb. 20, 1790; "I tell you again, that the recollection of the manner in which I saw the Queen of France, in the year 1774, and the contrast between that brilliancy, splendour, and beauty, with the prostrate homage of a nation to her—and the abominable scene of 1789, which I was describing, did draw tears from me, and wetted my paper. These tears came again into my eyes, almost as often as I looked at the description; they may again. You do not believe this fact, nor that these are my real feelings: but that the whole is affected, or, as you express it, downright foppery."
L. 34. the age of chivalry is gone. This famous theatrical passage has been perhaps too roughly handled by the critics. The lament for chivalry is as old as the birth of what we regard as modern ideas. See the famous stanzas of Ariosto on the loyalty and frankness of the old knightly days.
P. 170, L. 2. generous loyalty. Some readers of M. Taine may have been startled by his comment on the term loyalty—"MOT INTRADUISIBLE, qui désigne le sentiment de subordination, quand il est noble" (Les Écrivains Anglais Contemporains, p. 318). So completely has the idea been effaced from the French mind! The word "loyauté" has a different meaning.
L. 3. proud submission. The "modestie superbe" of the courtier is mentioned by Montesquieu, Liv. iv. ch. 2.
L. 6. nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone. "Ces vertus mâles qui nous seraient le plus nécessaires et que nous n'avons presque plus—un véritable esprit d'indépendance, le goût des grandes choses, la foi en nous-mêmes et dans une cause." De Tocqueville, Preface to Ancien Régime, p. ix.
L. 8. that chastity of honour. Bowles, Verses to Burke;
Mourns for the spirit of high Honour fled;
Mourns that Philosophy, abstract and cold,
With'ring should smite life's fancy-flowered mould;
And many a smiling sympathy depart,
That graced the sternness of the manly heart.
IBID. felt a stain like a wound—A reminiscence of South. "And if the conscience has not wholly lost its native tenderness, it will not only dread the infection of a wound, but also the aspersion of a blot." Sermon lxiv (Deliverance from Temptation the Privilege of the Righteous).
L. 10. ennobled whatever it touched. An allusion to the well-known expression in Johnson's Epitaph on Goldsmith, usually, but incorrectly, quoted as "Nihil tetigit quod non ornavit."
L. 11. lost half its evil, &c. One of Burke's old phrases, borrowed from the essayists. In Sett. in America, vol. i. p. 200, he says that civilisation, if it has "abated the force of some of the natural virtues," by the luxury which attends it, has "taken out likewise the sting of our natural vices, and softened the ferocity of the human race without enervating their courage." Cp. p. 240, l. 14. So Fourth Letter on Regicide Peace; "The reformed and perfected virtues, the polished mitigated vices, of a great capital." Cp. generally with this famous passage the following from the Fourth Letter on a Regicide Peace; "Morals, as they were—decorum, the great outguard of the sex, and the proud sentiment of honour, which makes virtue more respectable where it is, and conceals human frailty where virtue may not be, will be banished from this land of propriety, modesty, and reserve." The passage is cleverly plagiarised by Macaulay, Ess. on Hallam; "We look in vain for those qualities which lend a charm to the errors of high and ardent natures, for the generosity, the tenderness, the chivalrous delicacy, which ennoble appetites into passions, and impart to vice itself a portion of the majesty of virtue."
L. 33. bland assimilation = digestion. Two of Milton's phrases are here blended. Par. Lost, v. 4, 5, 412.
P. 171, L. 2. decent drapery of life, &c. The notion is Johnson's. "Life," he would say, "is barren enough surely, with all her trappings: let us therefore be cautious how we strip her." Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes. It is curious to trace here the influence which Johnson, with his zeal for subordination, his hatred to innovation, and his reverence for the feudal times, exercised upon Burke in his early years.
L. 3. superadded ideas, &c. Bowles, in his Verses to Burke, says of chivalry—
To decorate, but not disguise, the heart:
To nurse the tender sympathies that play
In the short sunshine of life's early way;
For female worth and meekness to inspire
Homage and love, and temper rude desire.
L. 5. which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies. There seems here to be a reminiscence of Bishop Horsley's Sermon on the Poor (Sermon xxxv), May 18, 1786; "For although I should not readily admit that the proof of moral obligation cannot in any instance be complete unless the connection be made out between the action which the heart naturally approves, and that which a right understanding of the interests of mankind would recommend, (on the contrary—to judge practically of right and wrong, we should feel rather than philosophise; and we should act from sentiment rather than from policy) yet we surely acquiesce with the most cheerfulness in our duty, when we perceive how the useful and the fair are united in the same action."
L. 21. cold hearts and muddy understandings. A good parallel to Burke's observations on the philosophers is to be found in the fourth Book of the Dunciad, which shadows forth the ruin of society by men furnished with
Pope and Burke agree in making moral and intellectual decay proceed together under the delusion of improvement.
L. 23. laws to be supported only by their own terrors... nothing is left which engages the affections. On this subject see the wise doctrines of Bishop Horsley, Sermon xii.
IBID. nothing but the gallows. A curious coincidence with an old Italian poet:
Risiede in mezzo il paretaio de Nemi
D'un pergolato, il quale a ogni corrente
Sostien, con quattro braccia di cavezza
Penzoloni, che sono una bellezza.
—Lippi, Malmantile Racquistato, cant. vi. st. 50.
"Paretaio de Nemi" is slang for gallows or gibbet.
P. 172, L. 3. Non satis est, &c. Hor. de Arte Poet. 99. A "Spectator" motto (No. 321). Cp. p. 311, l. 8 sqq.
L. 7. But power, &c. If in the concluding sentence we read "rulers" for "kings," we have a forcible statement of an ordinary historical process, which was about to be repeated in France.
L. 13. by freeing kings from fear, &c. The idea is borrowed from Hume; "But history and experience having since convinced us that this practice (tyrannicide) increases the jealousy and cruelty of princes, a Timoleon and a Brutus, though treated with indulgence on account of the prejudice of their times, are now considered as very improper models for imitation." Dissertation on the Passions. It may be remarked that Burke follows the fashion of his age, in treating "kings" as a political species. Selden, more profound in his distinctions, says, "Kings are all individual, this or that king: there is no species of kings."
L. 19. Kings will be tyrants, &c. This paragraph is quoted by Dr. Whately, in his Rhetoric, as a fine example of Method. Cp. note to vol. i. p. 123, l. 30.
L. 26. prosperous state... owing to the spirit of our old manners. Cp. the reflections of Cicero at the beginning of the Fifth Book of the Republic, which commences with the line of Ennius,
L. 34. Nothing is more certain, &c. The addition made to this conclusion by Hallam, though not insisted on by Burke in the present passage, is quite consonant with his general views; "There are, if I may say so, three powerful spirits, which have from time to time moved over the face of the waters, and given a predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of mankind. These are the spirits of LIBERTY, of RELIGION, and of HONOUR. It was the principal business of chivalry to cherish the last of these three." Middle Ages, chap. ix. part ii.
P. 173, L. 1. this European world of ours. The First Letter on a Regicide Peace contains a remarkable description of the unity of law, education, and manners in the Europe of the Middle Ages. "No citizen of Europe could be altogether an exile in any part of it. There was nothing more than a pleasing variety to recreate and instruct the mind, to enrich the imagination, and to meliorate the heart. When a man travelled or resided for health, pleasure, business, or necessity, from his own country, he never felt himself quite abroad."
[a. See the fate of Bailly and Condorcet, supposed to be here particularly alluded to. Compare the circumstances of the trial and execution of the former with this prediction.—*x2an editor.]
P. 174, L. 12. whether you took them from us. Such a view is inconsistent with a comparative knowledge of the facts of English and continental history. Burke perhaps alludes to the legendary chivalry of the Court of Arthur, of which Brittany had its share.
L. 14. gentis incunabula nostrae. (cunabula.) Virg. Aen. iii. 105. The writer perhaps had in mind the expression of Cicero, "Montes patrios, incunabula nostra." Ep. Att. ii. 15.
L. 15. when your fountain is choaked up, &c. This presage has not been verified. England and Germany are likely to transmit to future generations much that is worth preserving of the spirit of chivalry.
L. 24. a revolution in sentiments, &c. "Il y a une révolution générale qui change le goût des esprits, aussi bien que les fortunes du monde." Rochefoucault, Maximes. Burke went so far as to say that the present one amounted to a "revolution in the constitution of the human mind." The fact is that the sentimental basis on which the estimation of political institutions rested was passing away. The true way of regarding the question is in the light of the change in English public opinion between 1815-1830.
P. 175, L. 7. Our minds are purified, &c. From the well-known definition of Tragedy in the Poetics of Aristotle, ch. vi. 2. The work on the Sublime and Beautiful shows traces of the study of the Poetics. Cp. also Rhet., Lib. ii. ch. 8; Pol., Lib. viii. 7. 3.
L. 16. Garrick... Siddons. Burke was an enthusiastic lover of the stage. The former famous actor was among his most cherished friends. Fourth Letter on Regicide Peace; "My ever dear friend, Garrick, who was the most acute observer of nature I ever knew."
L. 28. as they once did in the antient stage. The allusion, as clearly appears by the context, is to the "hypothetical proposition" put by Euripides into the mouth of Eteocles (Phoen. 524);
k&aacgr;lliston &apsgr;dike&iivrgr;n, t&apsacgr;lla d' &epsgr;&upsgr;sebe&iivrgr;n χre&ohacgr;n.
Cicero (De Off. iii. 21) says that Caesar often repeated these lines. But
o&upsgr; &thgr;a&uivrgr;m', &epsacgr;r&ohgr;taς mυr&iacgr;oυς a&upsgr;t&eegrgr;n tr&eacgr;&phis;ein.
See Seneca, Epist. 115, Dindorf, Fr. Eur. No. 288, and Schlegel's Dramatic Literature, Lect. viii.
P. 176, L. 19. fear more dreadful than revenge. A striking prophecy of the horrors of the Reign of Terror.
L. 34. to remit his prerogatives, and to call his people to a share of freedom. If we regard the transactions between the king and the parliament of Paris, this is a clear misrepresentation. Such remissions of prerogative had been wrested from the king by the parliament. That body charged the king with having formed a fixed system for the overthrow of the established constitution, which had been in train ever since 1771. Burke, however, alludes to the institution of the provincial assemblies, and the work done by the Assembly of Notables (the abolition of the corvée, and of the restrictions on internal traffic, especially that in corn). The Notables also had before them a project for abolishing the gabelles.
P. 177, L. 5. provide force... the remnants of his authority. Alluding to the arrest of magistrates.
L. 14. look up with a sort of complacent awe, &c. The allusion is evidently to Frederick the Great.
L. 15. = know how. The expression is French. "Il est affreux," says Mounier, "penser qu'avec une âme moins bienfaisante, un autre prince eût peut-être trouvé les moyens de maintenir son pouvoir." Rech. sur les causes, &c., p. 25.
L. 31. with truth been said to be consolatory to the human mind. The allusion is to the fine chorus in Samson Agonistes;
To the spirits of just men long oppress'd,
When God into the hands of their deliverer
Puts invincible might," &c.
P. 178, L. 1. Louis the Eleventh. The founder of the absolute system completed by Louis XIV. His character abundantly indicates the genuine tyrant. See Commines, and the "Scandalous Chronicle."
IBID. Charles the Ninth. Who authorised and took a personal part in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, 1572.
L. 2. murder of Patkul. The Livonian patriot, surrendered to him under a treaty by Augustus of Poland, and judicially murdered in 1707. See Voltaire's History of Charles XII.
L. 3. murder of Monaldeschi. An Italian gentleman who had been a favourite of the queen, but in revenge for neglect had composed a book in which her intrigues were unveiled. She had him dragged into her presence,
L. 6. King of the French. So the king was styled after the 4th of August. The title of King of France was thought to savour of feudal usurpation.
L. 29. flower-de-luce on their shoulder. The notorious Lamotte, whose scandalous book appeared in London in 1788. She had been branded with the fleur-de-lis and the word voleuse on both shoulders.
L. 30. Lord George Gordon fast in Newgate. This mischievous maniac had been convicted June 6, 1787, amongst other things for a libel on the queen of France: but before the time fixed for coming up to receive sentence, he made off to the continent. He soon returned, and in August took up his residence in one of the dirtiest streets in Birmingham, when he became a proselyte to the religion, and assumed the dress and manners of the Jews. He was arrested there on the 7th of December on a warrant for contempt of court, and committed to Newgate, where his freaks were for some time a topic of public amusement, as may be seen from the contemporary newspapers.
L. 31. public proselyte. He had assumed the name and style of the Right Hon. Israel Bar Abraham George Gordon. He nourished a long beard, and refused to admit to his presence any Jew who appeared without one. See a ridiculous letter on the subject in the Public Advertiser, Oct. 16, 1789.
L. 33. raised a mob, &c. This is a mild description of the terrible No-Popery riots. On the evening of Tuesday, June 6, 1780, six-and-thirty fires were to be seen blazing in different parts of London. "During the whole night men, women and children were running up and down with such goods and effects as they wished most to preserve. The tremendous roar of the authors of these horrible scenes was heard at one instant, and at the next, the dreadful reports of soldiers' musquets, firing in platoons, and from different quarters; in short, every thing served to impress the mind with ideas of universal anarchy and approaching desolation." Ann. Register.
P. 179, L. 12. Dr. Price has shewn us, &c. In his Treatise on Reversionary Payments, and other economical works.
P. 180, L. 9. attempt to hide their total want of consequence, &c. Burke no doubt had in mind a passage in Hurd's Sermons on Prophecy, Serm. xii; "A few fashionable men make a noise in the world: and this clamour, being echoed on all sides from the shallow circles of their admirers, misleads the unwary into an opinion that the irreligious spirit is universal and uncontrollable." So Canning, Speech at Liverpool, March 18, 1820; "A certain number of ambulatory tribunes of the people, self-elected to that high function, assumed the name and authority of whatever plan they thought proper to select for a place of meeting; their rostrum was pitched, sometimes here, sometimes there, according to the fancy of the mob, or the patience of the magistrates: but the proposition and the proposer were in all places
L. 14. grasshoppers... make the field ring with their importunate chink. From Burke's favourite author, Virgil;
Et cantu querulae rumpent arbusta cicadae.
—Georg. iii. 327.
See also Ecl. ii. 13, Culex 151, &c. "Importunate" is a favourite epithet of Burke's. Cp. vol. i. p. 204, l. 2. The illustration is a relic of Boccalini's story of the foolish traveller who dismounted to kill the grasshoppers which disturbed his meditations as he journeyed. See The Craftsman, No. 73 (1727).
L. 15. thousands of great cattle... chew the cud and are silent. One of those quaint and strong images, so frequent in the later writings of Burke, which seem to the modern critic ridiculous or farfetched. On such points Burke perhaps has a claim to be judged by no other standard than himself.
L. 26. I deprecate such hostility. Rhetorical occultatio (cp. vol. i. note to p. 172, l. 17). From p. 258, l. 16, we see that Burke had already begun to contemplate that crusade which he heralded in the Letters on Regicide Peace.
L. 28. formerly have had a king of France, &c. John the Good, taken prisoner at the battle of Poitiers, Sept. 19, 1356.
L. 30. victor in the field. Edward the Black Prince. In the last century, when the main object of English policy was to triumph over France, the Black Prince was naturally exalted into a hero of the first rank. Cp. Warton, Ode xviii;
And Gallia's captive king, and Cressy's wreath renown'd.
L. 32. not materially changed. The persistence or continuity of the English national character which Burke here hints at would be no uninteresting matter of study. It is perhaps this, as much as anything, which makes the monuments of our literature, in a degree far higher than those of any other, living and speaking realities. To no Englishman can Chaucer and Shakspere, Addison and Fielding, ever become a dead letter.
P. 181, L. 1. generosity and dignity of thinking, &c. Bolingbroke speaks in this strain of the reign of Edward III, which was then considered the acme of Old English national life. Cp. Johnson, "London";
The land of heroes and of saints survey.
More accurate history ranks this particular period less highly. Professor Stubbs considers it to be characterised by a "splendid formal hollowness... the life, the genius, the spirit of all, fainting and wearing out under the incubus of
It is so rarely that we can detect any real variation of opinion in Burke, even between his earliest and his latest works, that it is worth while to note that in the beginning of the Account of European Settlements in America he declares the manners of Europe before the Renaissance to have been "wholly barbarous." "A wild romantic courage in the Northern and Western parts of Europe, and a wicked policy in the Italian states, was the character of that age. If we look into the manners of the courts, there appear but very faint marks of cultivation and politeness. The interview between our Edward IV and his brother of France, wherein they were both caged up like wild beasts, shews dispositions very remote from a true sense of honour, or any just ideas of politeness and humanity."
L. 3. Subtilized... into savages. A similar expression occurs in Goguet's character of the Spartans, inserted by Burke in the Annual Register for 1760. In the volume for 1761, he alludes to this as "the character of a famous nation, improved, if we may say so, by one styled a Philosopher, into brutes." The Philosopher is Lycurgus, the idol of Rousseau. "The project," writes Mercier, "was to form an entire new race of men; and we have been transformed into savages." New Picture of Paris, ch. 3. So Matthias, Pursuits of Literature, iv. 11;
A sage in sorrow nursed and gaunt with woe—
What time his work the citizen began,
And gave to France the social savage, Man.
L. 4. Rousseau... Voltaire... Helvetius. The spirit of free-thinking, which gives so distinct a character to the last century, was by no means the produce of that century. It had been militant for at least two centuries, before in the middle of that century it became triumphant. It came from Italy with the Renaissance. Lanoue, in his Discours (1585), calculates the atheists of France at a million. Père Mersenne, in 1636, reckons 50,000 in Paris alone; "Quae (Lutetia) si luto plurimum, multo tamen magis atheismo foetet." See more on this subject in M. Aubertin's Introduction, and cp. especially Burton's section on "Religious Melancholy in defect."
L. 7. no discoveries to be made in morality. So in the Letter to M. de Menonville, Burke insists that to effect a real reform, every vestige must be effaced of "that philosophy which pretends to have made discoveries in the terra australis of morality." This letter contains Burke's final judgment on Rousseau.
Σ&iacgr;ga, ka&igrgr; mel&eacgr;ta z&ohivrgr;n &epsacgr;ti t&ogrgr;n &thgr;&aacgr;naton.
The English are, I conceive, misrepresented in a Letter published in one of the papers, by a gentleman thought to be a dissenting minister. When writing to Dr. Price, of the spirit which prevails at Paris, he says, "The spirit of the people in this place has abolished all the proud distinctions which the king and nobles had usurped in their minds; whether they talk of the king, the noble, or the priest, their whole language is that of the most enlightened and liberal amongst the English." If this gentleman means to confine the terms enlightened and liberal to one set of men in England, it may be true. It is not generally so.
P. 182, L. 17. many of our men of speculation. Alluding to the school of English essayists, with Addison at its head; and especially to Dr. Johnson. See especially the "World," Nos. 112-114. Lord Chesterfield's Essays in the World, which appeared in Burke's younger days, evidently attracted his attention. The following extracts are from No. 112, which commences with the quotation of one of Bolingbroke's showy and shallow generalisations on the subject of prejudice, and is interesting from its bearing on the present text. "It is certain that there has not been a time when the prerogative of human reason was more freely asserted, nor errors and prejudices more ably attacked and exposed by the best writers, than now. But may not the principle of enquiry and detection be carried too far, or at least made too general? And should not a prudent discrimination of cases be attended to? A prejudice is by no means (though generally thought so) an error; on the contrary, it may be a most unquestioned truth, though it be still a prejudice in those who, without any examination, take it upon trust and entertain it by habit. There are even some prejudices, founded upon error, which ought to be connived at, or perhaps encouraged; their effects being more beneficial to society than their detection can possibly be.... The bulk of mankind have neither leisure nor knowledge sufficient to reason right; why then should they be taught to reason at all? Will not honest instinct prompt, and wholesome prejudices guide them, much better than half reasoning?... Honest, useful, home-spun prejudices... in themselves undoubted and demonstrable truths, and ought therefore to be cherished even in their coarsest dress."
End of Notes
Your literary men, and your politicians, and so do the whole clan of the enlightened among us, essentially differ in these points. They have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building run up in haste; because duration is no object to those who think little or nothing has been done before their time, and who place all their hopes in discovery. They conceive, very systematically, that all things which give perpetuity are mischievous, and therefore they are *453*454at inexpiable war with all establishments. They think that government may vary like modes of dress, and with as little ill effect. That there needs no principle of attachment, except a sense of present conveniency, to any constitution of the state. They always speak as if they were of opinion that there is a *455singular species of compact between them and their magistrates, which binds the magistrate, but which has nothing reciprocal in it, but that the majesty of the people has a right to dissolve it without any reason, but its will. Their attachment to their country itself, is only so far as it agrees with some of their fleeting projects; it begins and ends with that scheme of polity which falls in with their momentary opinion.
These doctrines, or rather sentiments, seem prevalent with
I hear it is sometimes given out in France, that what is doing among you is after the example of England. I beg leave to affirm, that scarcely any thing done with you has originated from the practice or the prevalent opinions of this people, either in the act or in the spirit of the proceeding. Let me add, that we are as unwilling to learn these lessons from France, as we are sure that we never taught them to that nation. The cabals here who take a sort of share in your transactions as yet consist but of an handful of people. If unfortunately by their intrigues, their sermons, their publications, and by a confidence derived from an expected union with the counsels and forces of the French nation, they should draw considerable numbers into their faction, and in consequence should seriously attempt any thing here in imitation of what has been done with you, the event, I dare venture to prophesy, will be, that, with some trouble to their country, they will soon accomplish their own destruction. This people *456refused to change their law in remote ages from respect to the infallibility of popes; and they will not now alter it from a pious implicit faith in the dogmatism of philosophers; though the former was armed with the anathema and crusade, and though the latter should act with the libel and the lamp-iron.
Formerly your affairs were your own concern only. We felt for them as men; but we kept aloof from them, because we were not citizens of France. But when we see the model held up to ourselves, we must feel as Englishmen, and feeling, *457we must provide as Englishmen. Your affairs, in spite of us, are made a part of our interest; so far at least as to keep at a distance your panacea, or your plague. If it be a panacea, we do not want it. We know the consequences
I hear on all hands that *458a cabal, calling itself philosophic, receives the glory of many of the late proceedings; and that their opinions and systems are the true actuating spirit of the whole of them. I have heard of no party in England, literary or political, at any time, known by such a description. It is not with you composed of those men, is it? whom the vulgar, in their blunt, homely style, commonly call Atheists and Infidels? If it be, I admit that we too have had writers of that description, who made some noise in their day. At present they repose in lasting oblivion. Who, born within the last forty years, has read one word of *459Collins, and Toland, and Tindal, and Chubb, and Morgan, and that whole race who called themselves Freethinkers? *460Who now reads Bolingbroke? Who ever read him through? Ask the booksellers of London what is become of all these lights of the world. In as few years their *461few successors will go to the *462family vault of "all the Capulets." But whatever they were, or are, with us, they were and are wholly unconnected individuals. With us they kept the common nature of their kind, and were not gregarious. They *463never acted in corps, nor were known as a faction in the state, nor presumed to influence, in that name or character, or for the purposes of such a faction, on any of our public concerns. Whether they ought so to exist, and so be permitted to act, is another question. As such cabals have not existed in England, so neither has the spirit of them had any influence in establishing the original frame of our constitution, or in any one of the several reparations and improvements it has undergone. The whole has been done under the auspices, and is confirmed by the sanctions of religion and piety. The whole
We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort.*19 In England we are so convinced of this, that there is *466no rust of superstition, with which the accumulated absurdity of the human mind might have crusted it over in the course of ages, that ninety-nine in an hundred of the people of England would not prefer to impiety. We shall never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the substance of any system to remove its corruptions, to supply its defects, or to perfect its construction. If our religious tenets should ever want a further elucidation, we shall not call on atheism to explain them. We shall not light up our *467temple from that unhallowed fire. It will be illuminated with other lights. It will be perfumed with other incense, than the infectious stuff which is imported by the smugglers of adulterated metaphysics. If our ecclesiastical establishment should want a revision, it is not avarice or rapacity, public or private, that we shall employ for the audit, or receipt, or application, of its consecrated revenue. Violently condemning neither the *468Greek nor the Armenian, nor, since heats are subsided, the Roman system of religion, we prefer the Protestant; not because we think it has less of the Christian
We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembick of hell, which in France is now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness by throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and among many other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition, might take place of it. For that reason, before we take from our establishment the natural human means of estimation, and give it up to contempt, as you have done, and in doing it have incurred the penalties you well deserve to suffer, we desire that some other may be presented to us in the place of it. We shall then form our judgment.
On these ideas, instead of quarrelling with establishments, as some do, who have made a philosophy and a religion of their hostility to such institutions, we cleave closely to them. We are resolved to keep an established church, an established monarchy, an established aristocracy, and an established democracy, each in the degree it exists, and in no greater. I shall shew you presently how much of each of these we possess.
It has been the misfortune, not as these gentlemen think it, the glory, of this age, that every thing is to be discussed; as if the constitution of our country were to be always a subject rather of altercation than enjoyment. For this reason, as well as for the satisfaction of those among you (if any such you have among you) who may wish to profit
First, I beg leave to speak of *470our church establishment, which is the first of our prejudices; not a prejudice destitute of reason, but involving in it profound and extensive wisdom. I speak of it first. It is first, and last, and midst in our minds. For, taking ground on that religious system, of which we are now in possession, we continue to act on the early received and uniformly continued sense of mankind. That sense not only, like a wise architect, hath built up the *471august fabric of states, but like a provident proprietor, to preserve the structure from prophanation and ruin, as a sacred temple, purged from all the impurities of fraud, and violence, and injustice, and tyranny, hath solemnly and for ever consecrated the commonwealth, and all that officiate in it. This consecration is made, that all who administer in the government of men, in which they stand in the person of God himself, should have high and worthy notions of their function and destination; that their hope should be full of immortality; that they should not look to the paltry pelf of the moment, nor to the temporary and transient praise of the vulgar, but to a solid, permanent existence, in the permanent part of their nature, and to a permanent fame and glory, in the example they leave as a rich inheritance to the world.
Such sublime principles ought to be infused into persons of exalted situations; and religious establishments provided, that may continually revive and enforce them. Every sort of moral, every sort of civil, every sort of politic institution, aiding the rational and natural ties that connect the human
This consecration of the state, by a state religious establishment, is necessary also to operate with an wholesome awe upon free citizens; because, in order to secure their freedom, they must enjoy some determinate portion of power. To them therefore a religion connected with the state, and with their duty towards it, becomes even more necessary than in such societies, where the people by the terms of their subjection are confined to private sentiments, and the management of their own family concerns. All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awefully impressed with an idea that they *472act in trust; and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great master, author and founder of society.
This principle ought even to be more strongly impressed upon the minds of those who compose the collective sovreignty than upon those of single princes. Without instruments, these princes can do nothing. Whoever uses instruments, in finding helps, finds also impediments. Their power is therefore by no means compleat; nor are they safe in extreme abuse. Such persons, however elevated by flattery, arrogance, and self-opinion, must be sensible that, whether covered or not by positive law, in some way or other they are accountable even here for the abuse of their trust. If they are not cut off by a rebellion of their people, they may be strangled by the very *473Janissaries kept
When the people have emptied themselves of all the lust of selfish will, which without religion it is utterly impossible they ever should, when they are conscious that they exercise, and exercise perhaps in an higher link of the order of delegation, the power, which to be legitimate must be according to that eternal immutable law, in which *477will and reason are the same, they will be more careful how they place power in base and incapable hands. In their nomination to office, they will not appoint to the exercise of authority, as to a pitiful job, but as to an holy function; not according to their sordid selfish interest, nor to their wanton caprice, nor to their arbitrary will; but they will *478confer that power (which any man may well tremble to give or to receive) on those only, in whom they may discern that predominant proportion of active virtue and wisdom, taken together and fitted to the charge, such, as in the great and inevitable mixed mass of human imperfections and infirmities, is to be found.
When they are habitually convinced that no evil can be acceptable, either in the act or the permission, to him whose essence is good, they will be better able to extirpate out of the minds of all magistrates, civil, ecclesiastical, or military, any thing that bears the least resemblance to a proud and lawless domination.
But one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and *479life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is
And first of all, the *483science of jurisprudence, the pride of the human intellect, which, with all its defects, redundancies, and errors, is the *484collected reason of ages, combining the principles of original justice with the infinite variety of human concerns, as a heap of old exploded errors, would be no longer studied. *485Personal self-sufficiency and arrogance, the certain attendants upon all those who have never experienced a wisdom greater than their own, would usurp the tribunal. Of course, no certain laws, establishing invariable grounds of hope and fear, would keep the actions of men in a certain course, or direct them to a certain end. Nothing stable in the modes of holding property, or exercising function, could form a solid ground on which any parent could speculate in the education of his offspring, or in a choice for their future establishment in the world. No principles would be early worked into the habits. As soon as the most able instructor had completed his laborious course of institution, instead of sending forth his pupil, accomplished in a virtuous discipline, fitted to procure him attention and respect, in his place in society, he would find everything altered; and that he had turned out a poor creature to the contempt and derision
To avoid therefore the evils of inconstancy and versatility, ten thousand times worse than those of obstinacy and the blindest prejudice, we have consecrated the state; *486that no man should approach to look into its defects or corruptions but with due caution; that he should never dream of beginning its reformation by its subversion; that he should approach to the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude. By this wise prejudice we are taught to look with horror on those children of their country who are prompt rashly to *487hack that aged parent in pieces, and put him into the kettle of magicians, in hopes that by their poisonous weeds, and wild incantations, they may regenerate the paternal constitution, and renovate their father's life.
Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts, for objects of mere occasional interest, may be dissolved at pleasure; but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, callico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest,
These, my dear Sir, are, were, and I think long will be the sentiments of not the least learned and reflecting part of this kingdom. They who are included in this description form their opinions on such grounds as such persons ought to form them. The less enquiring receive them from an authority which those whom Providence dooms to live on trust need not be ashamed to rely on. These two sorts of men move in the same direction, tho' in a different place. They both move with the order of the universe. They all know or feel this great antient truth: *490"Quod illi principi et praepotenti Deo qui omnem hunc mundum regit, nihil eorum quae quidem fiant in terris acceptius quam concilia et coetus hominum jure sociati quae civitates appellantur." They take this tenet *491of the head and heart, not from the *492great name which it immediately bears, nor from the *493greater from whence it is derived; but from that which alone can give true weight and sanction to any learned opinion, the common nature and common relation of men. Persuaded that all things ought to be done with reference, and referring all to the point of reference to which all should be directed, they think themselves bound, not only as individuals in the sanctuary of the heart, or as congregated in that personal capacity, to renew the memory of their high origin and *494cast; but also in their corporate character to perform their national homage to the institutor, and author and protector of civil society; without which civil society man could not by any possibility arrive at the perfection of which his nature is capable, nor even make a remote and faint approach to it. They conceive that He who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of its perfection. He willed therefore the state; He willed its connexion
Notes for this chapter
P. 183, L. 8. at inexpiable war with all establishments. Cp. infra, p. 187, l. 1. See the beginning of the famous article in the Encyclopédie on Foundations, written by Turgot. There are indications in subsequent works that Burke had read it. The author, not content with exposing the abuses and weak points of old establishments, avowedly endeavours "to excite an aversion to new foundations."
IBID. inexpiable war. A curious expression of Livy, which seems to have stuck in Burke's memory. "Ex quibus pro certo habeat, Patres, adversus quos tenderet, bello inexpiabili se persecuturos." Lib. iv. c. 35. It is repeated at p. 243, l. 3, and in the Letter to Mr. Baron Smith.
L. 13. singular species of compact. Bishop Horsley, after tracing the theory of an original compact of government to the Crito of Plato, says; "It is remarkable that this fictitious compact, which in modern times hath been made the basis of the unqualified doctrine of resistance, should have
P. 184, L. 7. refused to change their law, &c. Alluded to by Bolingbroke in his Remarks on the History of England. See Blackstone, vol. iv. ch. 8, and especially Milman, History of Latin Christianity, Book xiii. ch. 6; "Parliament with one indignant voice declared the surrender of the realm by John null and void, as without the consent of Parliament, and contrary to the king's coronation oath (40 Edw. III).... Parliament was as resolute against the other abuse (the possession of rich benefices by foreigners). The first Statute of Provisors had been passed in the reign of Edward I (35 Edw. I). Twice already in the reign of Edward III (in 1351 and 1353) was this law re-enacted, with penalties rising above one another in severity. It was [now, 1373] declared that the Court of Rome could present to no bishopric or benefice in England." "In the year 1390 (15 Rich. II) the Commons extorted the renewal of the Statute of Provisors in the strongest terms."
L. 16. we must provide as Englishmen. Cp. ante, note to p. 95, l. 13. Burke considered the rest of Europe as "linked by a contignation" with the political edifice of France.
L. 24. a cabal calling itself philosophic. The term "philosophic" then implied, as it perhaps still does in France, unbelief in Christianity. Coleridge's character of the philosophy brought into vogue by Voltaire, D'Alembert, Diderot, &c., is given here, not because it is altogether just, but because it illustrates the views of Burke, by which it was undoubtedly inspired;
L. 34. Collins and Toland, &c. All that is worth knowing of these writers may be read in Mr. Pattison's Essay on the "Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750." The representative man of the sect was Tindal. Cp. Pope, Imit. of Horace, i. 6;
One who believes as Tindal leads the way?
Who virtue and a church alike disowns,
Thinks that but words, and this but brick and stones?
P. 185, L. 2. Who now reads Bolingbroke? Cp. infra, p. 226, l. 11. It has been remarked that Burke is ungenerous to his literary master. Some, however, consider his obligations to Bolingbroke slighter than has been generally supposed, and look upon Addison as his literary parent. Cp. note to p. 182, l. 17, sup. The "Sublime and Beautiful" certainly bears the marks of much study of Addison, both as to style and as to matter. Burke repeats his opinion of Bolingbroke in the First Letter on a Regicide Peace; "When I was very young, a general fashion told me I was to admire some of the writings against that minister (Sir R. Walpole). A little more maturity taught me as much to despise them."
IBID. family vault of "all the Capulets." Romeo and Juliet, Act iv. sc. 1:
Where all the kindred of the Capulets lie.
L. 9. never acted in corps. With Burke, a sure sign of being worthless and abnormal excrescences of civil society. Vide "Present Discontents." This observation on the atheistical freethinkers is made by Bolingbroke himself! Burke has in mind the chorus in Samson;
For of such doctrine never was there school,
But the heart of the fool,
And no man therein doctor but himself.
L. 20. native plainness and directness of understanding. The English are remarkable for a rooted dislike to all chicanery and sophistication. Good miscellaneous illustrations of English character are the author of "Hudibras," as reflected in his writings, the Sir Roger de Coverly of Addison, the principal characters of Fielding, Boswell's portraiture of Dr. Johnson, and the "Christopher North" of Blackwood's Magazine (Professor John Wilson).
L. 22. those who have successively obtained authority among us. Burke evidently alludes to Sir Robert Walpole, Lord Chatham, and Lord Rockingham, denying, by implication, the same merit to those who had been in power since Rockingham's death.
Sit igitur hoc ab initio persuasum civibus, dominos esse omnium rerum ac moderatores, deos; eaque, quae gerantur, eorum geri vi. ditione, ac numine: eosdemque optime de genere hominum mereri; et qualis quisque sit, quid agat, quid in se admittat, qua mente, qua pietate colat religiones intueri; piorum et impiorum habere rationem. His enim rebus imbutae mentes haud sane abhorrebunt ab utili et a vera sententia. Cic. de Legibus, l. 2.
L. 28. no rust of superstition, &c. So Bacon, Essay of Atheism; "I had
P. 186, L. 7. temple... unhallowed fire. Alluding to the sacred fire on the altar of Vesta at Rome: possibly also to Numbers, ch. xvi.
L. 15. Greek—Armenian—Roman—Protestant. Burke speaks else where of the "four grand divisions of Christianity," evidently intending the same as here. (Letter to W. Smith, Esq.) He was of opinion that the "three religions, prevalent more or less in various parts of these islands, ought all, in subordination to the legal establishments, as they stand in the several countries to be countenanced, protected, and cherished; and that in Ireland particularly the Roman Catholic religion should be upheld in high respect and veneration... and not tolerated as an inevitable evil." The character of Burke by Shackleton, who, it should be remembered, was a Quaker, contains the following remarkable passage; "He believes the Papists wrong, he doubts if the Protestants are altogether right. He has not been favoured to find that church which would lead him to the indubitable certainty of true religion, undefiled with the mixture of human inventions." We trace here the line of thought which was adopted by Coleridge, and carried into practice by Irving. Cp. the Doctrine of Toleration, infra, pp. 253, 254.
P. 187, L. 16. in antient Rome. The allusion is to the constitution of the Decemvirate; the state visited was Athens, in the time of Pericles. Niebuhr discredited the story, but afterwards retracted his opinion.
L. 20. our church establishment. No student of history will allow this to be a fair statement of contemporary public opinion. It is totally opposed to the views of the Warburtonian school, which included the most thoughtful and practical churchmen of the time.
ll. 28, 30. august fabric... sacred temple. The "templum in modum arcis" of Tacitus, speaking of the temple of Jerusalem, which is alluded to in the passage quoted in note to p. 113, l. 27.
L. 24. the most shameless thing, &c. Cp. Dryden's Satire on the Dutch. See the arguments of the Athenians to the Melians, Thucydides, Book v. ch. 85.
L. 27. the people at large never ought, &c. Cp. vol. i. p. 74, p. 251, &c. "Quicquid multis peccatur inultum est," Lucan, Phars. v. 260. The quotation had been employed by Burke in his appeal for mercy on behalf of the convicted rioters of 1780. He often appeals to the general doctrine.
Quicquid multis peccatur inultum.
P. 190, L. 4. false shew of liberty—"Falsa species libertatis," from the passage in Tacitus (Hist. i. 1) quoted in vol. i. p. 125, l. 23.
L. 19. will and reason the same. The doctrine that reason and will are identical in the Divine mind is a conclusion of the Schoolmen often used by the English theologians.
P. 191, L. 5. Life-renters. Tenants for life, i. e. those who are entitled to receive the rents for life.
IBID. commit waste. The technical term for permanent injury done on a landed estate, as by pulling down houses, cutting timber, &c.
L. 20. science of jurisprudence. In the First Letter on a Regicide Peace, Burke says that Lord Camden shared his views on this point. "No man, in a public or private concern, can divine by what rule or principle her judgments are to be directed; nor is there to be found a professor in any university, or a practitioner in any court, who will hazard an opinion of what is or is not law in France, in any case whatever." He goes on to remark on that disavowal of all principles of public law which outlawed the French Republic in Europe.
L. 22. collected reason of ages. A similar vindication of law from the wit of a pert sciolist is attributed to Dr. Johnson. See that of Blackstone, vol. iii. ch. 22.
L. 25. Personal self-sufficiency, &c. So Daniel;
Than present counsels, customs, orders, laws;
And to the end to have them otherwise
The Commonwealth into confusion draws,
As if ordain'd to embroil the world with wit,
As well as grossness to dishonour it.
—Chorus to Tragedy of Philotas.
P. 192, L. 22. that no man should approach, &c.
To patch their flaws, and buttress up the wall,
So far is duty; but here fix the mark:
For all beyond it, is to touch the ark.
—Dryden, Abs. and Achit.
L. 29. hack that aged parent in pieces. So in Speech on Parliamentary Reform, 1782; "I look with filial reverence on the constitution of my country, and never will cut it in pieces, and put it into the kettle of any magician, in order to boil it, with the puddle of their compounds, into youth and vigour." Alluding to the legend of the daughters of Pelias, King of Thessaly, who "by the counsel of Medea, chopped him in pieces, and set him a boiling with I know not what herbs in a cauldron, but could not revive him again," Hobbes, De Corpore Politico, Part ii. cap. 8. Hobbes, like Burke, uses the story to illustrate "cutting the Commonwealth in pieces, upon pretence or hope of reformation." Cowley employs it in a similar way, in his famous Essay on the Government of Oliver
P. 193, L. 8. It is a partnership, &c. A fine example of Burke's way of taking an abused abstract principle, and correcting it in its application, while he enlarges and intensifies its signification. Burke exposes the fallacies involved in the French use of the term Société, which literally means "partnership" as well as "society."
L. 11. cannot be obtained in many generations. The germs of this profound argument are to be found in Cicero, but it was never put in shape so ably, nor enforced so powerfully, as in the present passage.
P. 194, L. 14. From the dream of Scipio, Cic. de Rep., Lib. vi. The passage is used as a motto on the title-page of Vattel's Law of Nations, a favourite authority of Burke's.
P. 195, L. 6. oblation of the state itself, as a worthy offering, &c. Perhaps a reminiscence of a passage in the Communion Service.
End of Notes
I assure you I do not aim at singularity. I give you opinions which have been accepted amongst us, from very early times to this moment, with a continued and general approbation; and which indeed are so worked into my mind, that I am unable to distinguish what I have learned from others from the results of my own meditation.
It is on some such principles that the majority of the people of England, far from thinking a religious national establishment unlawful, hardly think it lawful to be without one. In France you are wholly mistaken if you do not
This principle runs through the whole system of their polity. They do not consider their church establishment as convenient, but as essential to their state; not as a thing heterogeneous and separable; something added for accommodation; what they may either keep up or lay aside, according to their temporary ideas of convenience. They consider it as the foundation of their whole constitution, with which, and with every part of which, it holds an indissoluble union. Church and state are ideas inseparable in their minds, and scarcely is the one ever mentioned without mentioning the other.
Our education is so formed as to confirm and fix this impression. Our education is in a manner wholly in the hands of ecclesiastics, and in all stages from infancy to manhood. Even when our youth, leaving schools and universities, enter that most important period of life which begins to link experience and study together, and when with that view they visit other countries, instead of old domestics whom we have seen as governors to principal men from other parts, three-fourths of those who go abroad with our young nobility and gentlemen are ecclesiastics; not as austere masters, nor as mere followers; but as friends and companions of a graver character, and not seldom persons as well born as themselves. With them, as relations, they most commonly keep up a close connexion through life. By this connexion we conceive that we attach our gentlemen to the church; and we liberalize the church by an intercourse with the leading characters of the country.
It is from our attachment to a church establishment that the English nation did not think it wise to entrust that great fundamental interest of the whole to what they trust no part of their civil or military public service, that is, to the unsteady and precarious contribution of individuals. They go further. They certainly never have suffered and never will suffer the fixed *498estate of the church to be converted into a pension, to depend on the treasury, and to be delayed, withheld, or perhaps to be extinguished by fiscal difficulties; which difficulties may sometimes be pretended for political purposes, and are in fact often brought on by the extravagance, negligence, and rapacity of politicians. The people of England think that they have constitutional motives, as well as religious, against any project of turning their independent clergy into ecclesiastical pensioners of state. They tremble
From the united considerations of religion and constitutional policy, from their opinion of a duty to make a sure provision for the consolation of the feeble and the instruction of the ignorant, they have incorporated and identified the estate of the church with the mass of private property, of which the state is not the proprietor, either for use or dominion, but the guardian only and the regulator. They have ordained that the provision of this establishment might be as stable as the earth on which it stands, and should not fluctuate with the *499Euripus of *500funds and actions.
The men of England, the men, I mean, of light and leading in England, whose wisdom (if they have any) is open and direct, would be ashamed, as of a silly deceitful trick, to profess any religion in name, which by their proceedings they appeared to contemn. If by their conduct (the only language that rarely lies) they seemed to regard the great ruling principle of the moral and the natural world, as a *501mere invention to keep the vulgar in obedience, they apprehend that by such a conduct they would defeat the politic purpose they have in view. They would find it difficult to make others to believe in a system to which they manifestly gave no credit themselves. The Christian statesmen of this land would indeed first provide for the multitude; because it is the multitude; and is therefore, as such, the first object in the ecclesiastical institution, and in all institutions. They have been taught that the circumstance of the gospel's being *502preached to the poor was one of the great tests of its true mission. They think, therefore, that those do not believe it,
The English people are satisfied, that to the great the consolations of religion are as necessary as its instructions. *504They too are among the unhappy. They feel *505personal pain and domestic sorrow. In these they have no privilege, but are subject to pay their full contingent to the contributions levied on mortality. They want this sovereign balm under their gnawing cares and anxieties, which being less conversant about the limited wants of animal life, *506range without limit, and are diversified by infinite combinations in the wild and unbounded regions of imagination. Some charitable dole is wanting to these, our often very unhappy brethren, to fill the gloomy void that reigns in minds which have nothing on earth to hope or fear; something to relieve in the killing languor and over-laboured lassitude of those who have nothing to do; something to excite an appetite to existence in the palled satiety which attends on all pleasures
*507The people of England know how little influence the teachers of religion are likely to have with the wealthy and powerful of long standing, and how much less with the newly fortunate, if they appear in a manner no way assorted to those with whom they must associate, and over whom they must even exercise, in some cases, something like an authority. What must they think of that body of teachers, if they see it in no part above the establishment of their domestic servants? *508If the poverty were voluntary, there might be some difference. Strong instances of self-denial operate powerfully on our minds; and a man who has no wants has obtained great freedom and firmness, and even dignity. But as the mass of any description of men are but men, and their poverty cannot be voluntary, that disrespect which attends upon all lay poverty, will not depart from the ecclesiastical. Our provident constitution has therefore taken care that *509those who are to instruct presumptuous ignorance, those who are to be censors over insolent vice, should neither incur their contempt, nor live upon their alms; nor will it tempt the rich to a neglect of the true medicine of their minds. For these reasons, whilst we provide first for the poor, and with a parental solicitude, we have not relegated religion, like something we were ashamed to shew, to obscure municipalities or rustic villages. *510No! We will have her to exalt her mitred front in courts and parliaments. We will have her mixed throughout the whole mass of life, and blended with all the classes of society. The people of England will shew to the haughty potentates of the world, and to their talking sophisters, that a free, a generous, an
When once the commonwealth has established the estates of the church as property, it can, consistently, hear nothing of the more or the less. *515Too much and too little are treason against property. What evil can arise from the quantity in any hand, whilst the supreme authority has the full, sovereign superintendance over this, as over all property, to prevent every species of abuse; and, whenever it notably deviates, to give to it a direction agreeable to the purposes of its institution?
In England most of us conceive that it is envy and
With these ideas rooted in their minds, the commons of Great Britain, in the national emergencies, will never seek their resource from the confiscation of the estates of the church and poor. Sacrilege and proscription are not among the ways and means in our committee of supply. The Jews in Change Alley have not yet dared to hint their hopes of a mortgage on the revenues belonging to the see of Canterbury. I am not afraid that I shall be disavowed, when I assure you that there is not one public man in this kingdom, whom you would wish to quote; no not one of any party or description, who does not reprobate the dishonest, perfidious, and cruel confiscation which the national assembly has been compelled to make of that property which it was their first duty to protect.
I hope we shall never be so totally lost to all sense of the duties imposed upon us by the law of social union, as, upon any pretext of public service, to confiscate the goods of a single unoffending citizen. Who but a tyrant (a name expressive of every thing which can vitiate and degrade human nature) could think of seizing on the property of men, unaccused, unheard, untried, by whole descriptions, by hundreds and thousands together? who that had not lost every trace of humanity could think of casting down men of exalted rank and sacred function, some of them of an age to call at once for reverence and compassion—of casting them down from the highest situation in the commonwealth, wherein they were maintained by their own landed property, to a state of indigence, depression and contempt?
The confiscators truly have made some allowance to their victims from the scraps and fragments of their own tables from which they have been so *519harshly driven, and which have been so bountifully spread for a feast to the harpies of usury. But to drive men from independence to live on alms is itself great cruelty. That which might be a tolerable condition to men in one state of life, and not habituated to other things, may, when all these circumstances are altered,
But this act of seizure of property, it seems, is a judgment in law, and not a confiscation. They have, it seems, found out in the *520academies of the Palais Royal, and the Jacobins, that certain men had no right to the possessions which they held under law, usage, the decisions of courts, and the accumulated prescription of a thousand years. They say that ecclesiastics are fictitious persons, creatures of the state; whom at pleasure they may destroy, and of course limit and modify in every particular; that the goods they possess are not properly theirs, but belong to the state which created the fiction; and we are therefore not to trouble ourselves with what they may suffer in their natural feelings and natural persons, on account of what is done towards them in this their constructive character. Of what import is it, under what names you injure men, and deprive them of the just emoluments of a profession, in which they were not only permitted but encouraged by the state to engage; and
You do not imagine, Sir, that I am going to compliment this miserable distinction of persons with any long discussion. The arguments of tyranny are as contemptible as its force is dreadful. Had not your confiscators by their early crimes obtained a power which secures indemnity to all the crimes of which they have since been guilty, or that they can commit, it is not the syllogism of the logician, but the lash of the executioner, that would have refuted a sophistry which becomes an accomplice of theft and murder. The sophistick tyrants of Paris are loud in their declamations against the departed regal tyrants who in former ages have vexed the world. They are thus bold, because they are safe from the *521dungeons and iron cages of their old masters. Shall we be more tender of the tyrants of our own time, when we see them acting worse tragedies under our eyes? Shall we not use the same liberty that they do, when we can use it with the same safety? when to speak honest truth only requires a contempt of the opinions of those whose actions we abhor?
This outrage on all the rights of property was at first covered with what, on the system of their conduct, was the most astonishing of all pretexts—a regard to national faith. The enemies to property at first pretended a most tender, delicate, and scrupulous anxiety for keeping the king's engagements with the public creditor. These professors of the rights of men are so busy in teaching others, that they have not leisure to learn any thing themselves; otherwise they would have known that it is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title,
It is impossible to avoid some observation on the contradictions caused by the extreme rigour and the extreme laxity of the new public faith which influenced in this transaction, and which influenced not according to the nature of the obligation, but to the description of the persons to whom it was engaged. No acts of the old government of the kings of France are held valid in the National Assembly, except its pecuniary engagements; acts of all others of the most ambiguous legality. The rest of the acts of that royal government are considered in so odious a light, that to have a claim under its authority is looked on as a sort of crime. A pension, given as a reward for service to the state, is surely as good a ground of property as any security for money advanced to the state. It is a better; for money is paid, and well paid, to obtain that service. We have however seen multitudes of people under this description in France, who never had been deprived of their allowances by the most arbitrary ministers in the most arbitrary times, by this assembly of the rights of men robbed without mercy. They were told, in answer to their claim to the bread earned with their blood, that their services had not been rendered to the country that now exists.
It is not easy to conceive upon what rational principle the royal government should not, of the two, rather have possessed the power of rewarding service, and making treaties, in virtue of its prerogative, than that of pledging to creditors the revenue of the state actual and possible. The treasure of the nation, of all things, has been the least allowed to the prerogative of the king of France, or to the prerogative of any king in Europe. To mortgage the public revenue implies the sovereign dominion, in the fullest sense, over the public purse. It goes far beyond the trust even of a temporary and occasional taxation. The acts however of that dangerous power (the distinctive mark of a boundless despotism) have been alone held sacred. Whence arose this preference given by a democratic assembly to a body of property deriving its title from the most critical and obnoxious of all the exertions of monarchical authority? Reason can furnish nothing to reconcile inconsistency; nor can partial favour be accounted for upon equitable principles. But the contradiction and partiality which admit no justification, are not the less without an adequate cause; and that cause I do not think it difficult to discover.
By the vast debt of France a great monied interest had insensibly grown up, and with it a great power. By the antient usages which prevailed in that kingdom, the general circulation of property, and in particular the mutual convertibility
The monied property was long looked on with rather an evil eye by the people. They saw it connected with their distresses, and aggravating them. It was no less envied by the old landed interests, partly for the same reasons that rendered it obnoxious to the people, but much more so as it eclipsed, by the splendour of an ostentatious luxury, the unendowed pedigrees and naked titles of several among the nobility. Even when the nobility, which represented the more permanent landed interest, united themselves by marriage (which sometimes was the case) with the other description, the wealth which saved the family from ruin, was supposed to contaminate and degrade it. Thus the enmities and heart-burnings of these parties were encreased even by the usual means by which discord is made to cease, and quarrels are turned into friendship. In the mean time, the pride of the wealthy men, *526not noble or newly noble, encreased with its cause. They felt with resentment an inferiority, the grounds of which they did not acknowledge. There was no measure to which they were not willing to lend themselves, in order to be revenged of the outrages of this rival pride, and to exalt their wealth to what they considered as its natural rank and estimation. They struck at the nobility through the crown and the church. They attacked them particularly on the side on which they thought them the most vulnerable,
In this state of real, though not always perceived warfare between the noble antient landed interest, and the new monied interest, the greatest because the most applicable strength was in the hands of the latter. The monied interest is in its nature more ready for any adventure; and its possessors more disposed to new enterprizes of any kind. Being of a recent acquisition, it falls in more naturally with any novelties. It is therefore the kind of wealth which will be resorted to by all who wish for change.
Along with the monied interest, a new description of men had grown up, with whom that interest soon formed a close and marked union; I mean the political Men of Letters.
The literary cabal had some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they *529pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety. They were possessed with a spirit
The *531desultory and faint persecution carried on against them, more from compliance with form and decency than with serious resentment, neither weakened their strength, nor
Writers, especially when they act in a body, and with one direction, have great influence on the publick mind; the alliance therefore of these writers with the monied interest *23 had no small effect in removing the popular odium and envy which attended that species of wealth. These writers, like the propagators of all novelties, pretended to a great zeal for the poor, and the lower orders, whilst *532in their satires they rendered hateful, by every exaggeration, the faults of courts, of nobility, and of priesthood. They became a sort of demagogues.
As these two kinds of men appear principal leaders in all the late transactions, their junction and politics will serve to account, not upon any principles of law or of policy, but as a cause, for the general fury with which all the landed property of ecclesiastical corporations has been attacked; and the great care which, contrary to their pretended principles, has been taken, of a monied interest originating from the authority of the crown. All the envy against wealth and power, was artificially directed against other descriptions of riches. On what other principle than that which I have stated can we account for an appearance so extraordinary and unnatural as that of the ecclesiastical possessions, which had stood so many successions of ages and shocks of civil violences, and were guarded at once by justice, and by prejudice, being applied to the payment of debts, comparatively recent, invidious, and contracted by a decried and subverted government?
Was the public estate a sufficient stake for the publick debts? Assume that it was not, and that a loss must be incurred somewhere—When the only estate lawfully possessed, and which the contracting parties had in contemplation at the time in which their bargain was made, happens to fail, who, according to the principles of natural and legal equity, ought to be the sufferer? Certainly it ought to be either the party who trusted; or the party who persuaded him to trust; or both; and not third parties who had no concern with the transaction. Upon any insolvency they ought to suffer who were weak enough to lend upon bad security, or they who fraudulently held out a security that was not valid. Laws are acquainted with no other rules of decision. But by the new institute of the rights of men, the
What had the clergy to do with these transactions? What had they to do with any publick engagement further than the extent of their own debt? To that, to be sure, their estates were bound to the last acre. Nothing can lead more to the true spirit of the assembly, which sits for publick confiscation, with its new equity and its *533new morality, than an attention to their proceeding with regard to this debt of the clergy. The body of confiscators, true to that monied interest for which they were false to every other, have found the clergy competent to incur a legal debt. Of course they declared them legally entitled to the property which their power of incurring the debt and mortgaging the estate implied; recognising the rights of those persecuted citizens, in the very act in which they were thus grossly violated.
If, as I said, any persons are to make good deficiencies to the publick creditor, besides the publick at large, they must be those who managed the agreement. Why therefore are not the estates of all the *534comptrollers general confiscated? *24 Why not those of the long succession of ministers, financiers, and bankers who have been enriched whilst the nation was impoverished by their dealings and their counsels? Why is not the estate of *535Mr. Laborde declared forfeited rather than of the archbishop of Paris, who has had nothing to do in the creation or in the jobbing of the publick funds? Or, if you must confiscate old landed estates in favour of the money-jobbers, why is the penalty confined to one description? I do not know whether the expences of the *536duke de Choiseul have left any thing of the infinite sums which he had derived from the bounty of his master, during the transactions of a
Few barbarous conquerors have ever made so terrible a revolution in property. None of the heads of the Roman factions, when they established *544"crudelem illam hastam" in all their auctions of rapine, have ever set up to sale the
These Roman confiscators, who were yet only in the elements of tyranny, and were not instructed in the rights of men to exercise all sorts of cruelties on each other without provocation, thought it necessary to spread a sort of colour over their injustice. They considered the vanquished party as composed of traitors who had borne arms, or otherwise had acted with hostility against the commonwealth. They regarded them as persons who had forfeited their property by their crimes. With you, in your improved state of the human mind, there was no such formality. You seized upon five millions sterling of annual rent, and turned forty or fifty thousand human creatures out of their houses, because "such was your pleasure." The tyrant, *545Harry the Eighth of England, as he was not better enlightened than the Roman Marius's and Sylla's, and had not studied in your new schools, did not know what an effectual instrument of despotism was to be found in that grand magazine of offensive weapons, the rights of men. When he resolved to *546rob the abbies, as the club of the Jacobins have robbed all the ecclesiastics, he began by setting on foot a commission to examine into the crimes and abuses which prevailed in those communities. As it might be expected, his commission reported truths, exaggerations, and falsehoods. But, truly or
I can say nothing in praise of those acts of tyranny, which no voice has hitherto ever commended under any of their false colours; yet in these false colours an homage was paid by despotism to justice. The power which was above all fear and all remorse was not set above all shame. Whilst Shame keeps its watch, Virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will Moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants.
I believe every honest man sympathizes in his reflections with our political poet on that occasion, and will pray to avert the omen whenever these acts of rapacious despotism present themselves to his view or his imagination:
This same wealth, which is at all times treason and lese nation to indigent and rapacious despotism, under all modes of polity, was your temptation to violate property, law, and religion, united in one object. But was the state of France so wretched and undone, that no other resource but rapine remained to preserve its existence? On this point I wish to
If we give credit to him, it was not necessary to have recourse to any new impositions whatsoever, to put the receipts of France on a balance with its expences. He stated the permanent charges of all descriptions, including the interest of a new loan of four hundred millions, at 531,444,000 livres; the fixed revenue at 475,294,000, making the deficiency 56,150,000, or short of 2,200,000 sterling. But to balance it, he brought forward savings and improvements of revenue (considered as entirely certain) to rather more than the amount of that deficiency; and he concludes with these emphatical words (p. 39) "Quel pays, Messieurs, que celui, ou, sans impôts et avec de simples objêts inapperçus, on peut faire disparoître un deficit qui a fait tant de bruit en Europe." As to the reimbursement, the sinking of debt, and the other great objects of public credit and political arrangement indicated in Mons. Necker's speech, no doubt could be entertained, but that a very moderate and proportioned assessment on the citizens without distinction would have provided for all of them to the fullest extent of their demand.
If this representation of Mons. Necker was false, then the assembly are in the highest degree culpable for having forced the king to accept as his minister, and since the king's
Notes for this chapter
P. 197, L. 10. as ample and as early a share—modern world. Burke uses the word modern in its strict sense = the world of to-day. The "ample and early share" is not intended to extend beyond the age of Hooker and Bacon. In any more extended sense, except in the names of a few Schoolmen, and very rare cases like Chaucer, it would be difficult to justify the claim.
P. 198, L. 4. estate of the church... private property. In his Speech on the Petition against the Acts of Uniformity (1772), Burke maintained the contrary. He then held that the church was a voluntary society, favoured by the State, and endowed by it with the tithes as a public tax.
L. 9. Euripus. The strait between Boeotia and Euboea. The Mediterranean being in general almost tideless, the periodical rise and fall of the water here and in the Straits of Messina was a standing puzzle to the ancients.
L. 16. mere invention, &c. Cp. the well-known line, "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer."
L. 32. miserable great (great = rich, powerful). "Great persons," says South, "unless their understandings are very great too, are of all others the most miserable." So Gray, Ode to Spring;
How low, how little are the proud,
How indigent the great!
Nor fancy these escape the general doom;
Gay as they seem, be sure with them are hearts
With sorrow tried, there's sadness in their parts;
If thou could'st see them, when they think alone,
Mirth, music, friends, and these amusements gone;
Could'st thou discover every secret ill
That pains their spirit, or resists their will;
Could'st thou behold forsaken love's distress,
Or envy's pang at glory or success,
Or beauty, conscious of the spoils of time,
Or guilt alarm'd when memory shows the crime;
All that gives sorrow, terror, grief and gloom—
Content would cheer thee trudging to thine home.
L. 14. personal pain. The pleasure of wealth, says South, is so far from reaching the soul, that it scarce pierces the skin. "What would a man give to purchase a release, nay, but a small respite from the extreme pains of the gout or stone? And yet, if he could fee his physician with both the Indies, neither art nor money can redeem, or but reprieve him from his misery. No man feels the pangs and tortures of his present distemper (be it what it will) at all the less for being rich. His riches indeed may have occasioned, but they cannot allay them. No man's fever burns the gentler for his drinking his juleps in a golden cup." See the rest of this, the concluding argument of the fine sermon "On Covetousness."
L. 19. range without limit. This reminds us something of Pascal's gloomy observations on the secret instinct which leads man to seek diversion and employment in something outside himself.
L. 33. The people of England know, &c. These considerations are repeated from earlier Church politicians. "Where wealth is held in so great admiration as generally in this golden age it is, that without it angelical perfections are not able to deliver from extreme contempt, surely to make bishops poorer than they are, were to make them of less account and estimation than they should be." Hooker, Eccl. Pol., Book vii. ch. xxiv. 19. So also South, Sermon iv. (Ecclesiastical Policy the Best Policy): "The vulgar have not such logical heads, as to be able to abstract such subtile conceptions as to separate the man from the minister, or to consider the same person under a double capacity, and so honour him as a divine, while they despise him as poor.... Let the minister be abject and low, his interest inconsiderable, the Word will suffer for his sake. The message will still find reception according to the dignity of the messenger." Swift, Project for the Advancement of Religion; "It so happens that men of pleasure, who never go to church, nor use themselves to read books of devotion,
P. 200, L. 5. If the poverty were voluntary, &c. Hazlitt, Essay on the Want of Money: "Echard's book on the Contempt of the Clergy is unfounded. It is surely sufficient for any set of individuals, raised above actual want, that their characters are not merely respectable, but sacred. Poverty, when it is voluntary, is never despicable, but takes an heroical aspect."
L. 13. Those who are to instruct presumptuous ignorance, &c. "With what a face shall a pitiful underling encounter the solemn looks of an oppressing grandee? With what hope of success shall he adventure to check the vicious extravagances of a ruffling gallant? Will he dare to contradict the opinion, or disallow the practice of that wealthy or this powerful neighbour, by whose alms, it may be, he is relieved, and supported by his favour?" Barrow, Consecration Sermon on Ps. cxxxii. 16. For a remarkable instance of the indebtedness of modern politicians to Burke, compare with this passage Sir R. Peel's Speech at the Glasgow Banquet, 1837.
L. 20. No! we will have her to exalt her mitred front, &c. "Christ would have his body, the church, not meagre and contemptible, but replenished and borne up with sufficiency, displayed to the world with the beauties of fulness, and the most ennobling proportions." South, Posthumous Sermons, No. ii.
L. 34. They can see a bishop of Durham, &c. The argument is from what he elsewhere calls "the excellent queries of the excellent Berkeley." "If the revenues allotted for the encouragement of religion and learning were made hereditary in the hands of a dozen lay lords, and as many overgrown commoners, whether the public would be much the better for it?" Queries, No. 340. Similarly Swift, Arguments against Enlarging the Power of the Bishops: "I was never able to imagine what inconvenience would accrue to the public by one thousand or two thousand a year being in the hands of a protestant bishop, any more than of a lay person. The former, generally speaking, lives as piously and hospitably as the other, pays his debts as honestly, and spends as much of his revenue amongst his tenants; besides, if they are his immediate tenants, you may distinguish them at first sight, by their habits and horses, or, if you go to their houses, by their comfortable way of living."
P. 201, L. 2. this Earl, or that Squire. The argument is wittily amplified by Sydney Smith, in his Second Letter to Archdeacon Singleton: "Take, for instance, the Cathedral of Bristol, the whole estates of which are about equal to keeping a pack of foxhounds. If this had been in the hands of a
L. 3. So many dogs and horses are not kept, &c. The reader might fancy he had Cobbett before him instead of Burke. Burke was a true friend to the poor who lived near his estate. See Prior's Life of Burke, ch. xiv.
L. 8. It is better to cherish, &c. The principle had been put forth by Bishop Horsley in his Sermon on the poor not ceasing out of the land (Deut. xv. 11), May 18, 1786. He maintains that the best and most natural mode of relief is by voluntary contributions. "The law should be careful not to do too much."
L. 15. Too much and too little are treason against property. This striking aphorism is a type peculiar to Burke. Cp. note to vol. i. p. 186, l. 20.
P. 202, L. 3. We shall believe those reformers, &c. "If they abuse the goods of the Church unto pomp and vanity, such faults we do not excuse in them: only we wish it to be considered whether such faults be verily in them, or else but objected against them by such as gape after spoil, and therefore are no competent judges of what is moderate and what is excessive.... If the remedy for the disease is good, let it be unpartially applied. Interest reipublicae ut re suâ quisque bene utatur. Let all states be put to their moderate pensions, let their livings and lands be taken away from them, whosoever they be, in whom such ample possessions are found to have been matters of grievous abuse; were this just? would noble families think this reasonable?" Hooker, Eccl. Pol., Book vii. xxiv. 24. So Crabbe, "Religious Sects":
Our cool reformers wrought like men afraid—
We would have pulled her gorgeous temples down,
And spurned her mitre, and defiled her gown—
We would have trodden low both bench and stall,
Nor left a tithe remaining, great or small!" Let us be serious—should such trials come,
Are they themselves prepared for martyrdom?
P. 204, L. 6. academies of the Palais Royal. The court yard of the Palais Royal, surrounded by restaurants and shops, was and is still a noted place of meeting—the Forum of stump-orators and newsmongers. Mr.
L. 35. dungeons and iron cages of their old masters. The allusion is to the cruelties of Louis XI, thus described by Commines: "Il est vray qu'il avoit fait de rigoureuses prisons, comme cages de fer et autres de bois, couvertes de plaques de fer par le dehors et par le dedans, avec terribles ferrures de quelques huict pieds de large, et de la hauteur d'un homme et un pied de plus. Le premier qui les devisa fut l'évesque de Verdun, qui en la première qui fut faite fut mis incontinent, et y a couché quatorze ans." Mém. Liv. vi. ch. 12.
P. 207, L. 17. Family settlements. In French technical language, substitutions fidei-commissaires, see p. 337, l. 2 (to be distinguished from the use of these terms in the civil law). Several coutumes, however, including those of Normandy and Brittany, disallowed them. The law on the subject had been fixed by an ordinance in 1741. In the Encyclopédie they are regarded like many other institutions, as useful in their day, but unsuited to the age. The writer of the article approves the English restrictions on settlements, which forbid their operation beyond the life of a person living at the time when they are made, and twenty-one years after. "On dit que le droit coutumier d'Angleterre abhorre les successions à perpetuité; et en conséquence, elles y sont plus limitées que dans aucune autre monarchie de l'Europe." The writer also looks enviously on the protection to leaseholders against entails, which was peculiar to Britain. In France the protection of the leaseholder against heirs and purchasers formerly extended only to nine years from the commencement of the lease, Louis XIV. having fixed this short limit in order to make the tax on alienations more frequently exigible. Among the reforms of Turgot, this period had been increased to twenty-seven years, but the Encyclopedist considers this too short.
L. 18. the jus retractus = droit de retrait, or right of recovery, usually known as prélation. The French law admitted more than twenty species of this right, the most important of which were the Retrait Seigneurial and the Retrait Lignager. By the former the lord could at any time compulsorily repurchase alienated lands which had once formed part of his fief. By the latter the heirs of a landowner could similarly repurchase any portion of their ancestors' estates which he had alienated. These rights prevailed not only in the pays coutumiers, but in the pays de droit écrit. Cp. the Assise of Jerusalem.
L. 19. mass of landed property held by the crown... unalienably. The private estates of the monarch had formerly been distinguished from the crown estates, and could be alienated: but after the Ordinance of Moulins (Ordonnance du domaine, 1566) the distinction disappeared, and all estates which came in any way to the monarch were united to the crown lands. The policy of non-alienation, however, dates from a time anterior to St. Louis. It was one of the weakest points of the ancien régime, and was
L. 21. vast estates of the ecclesiastic corporations. Their wealth had been much exaggerated. Some estimated it at one half, others at one third, of the rental of the kingdom. Condorcet, in his Life of Turgot, estimates it at less than a fifth.
P. 208, L. 7. not noble or newly noble. "Les gens d'esprit et les gens riches trouvaient donc la noblesse insupportable; et la plupart la trouvaient si insupportable qu'ils finissaient par l'acheter. Mais alors commençait pour eux un nouveau genre de supplice; ils étaient des anoblis, des gens nobles, mais n'étaient pas gentilshommes." Rivarol, Journal Politique.
P. 209, L. 7. two academies of France. The famous Académie des Sciences (The Academy), and the Académie des Inscriptions, so called because its special office was the devising of inscriptions in honour of the grand Monarque, and in celebration of his various civil and military triumphs.
IBID. vast undertaking of the Encyclopaedia. Commenced in 1751 by Diderot and D'Alembert. There had been Encyclopaedias ever since the middle of the sixteenth century: but the present work, in which may be traced the first form of "Positivism," purposed to purge the world of knowledge and practice of all that was obsolete or prejudicial. It was republished (1782 sq.) in sections, under the title of Encyclopédie Méthodique. "It was intended to comprise sketches, at once accurate and elementary, of the subjects of human knowledge: and to exhibit the most certain, the most useful and important truths, in the different branches of science. It was besides to contain a discussion of every question that interests the learned or the humane; opinions of the greatest universality or celebrity, with the origin and progress of those opinions, and the arguments, whether just or fallacious, on which they had been supported." Condorcet, Life of Turgot, ch. ii. It might have been added that the work was based on the labours of Ephraim Chambers, and was at first intended to be little more than a translation of his dictionary.
[b. This, down to the end of the first sentence in the next paragraph, and some other parts here and there, were inserted, on his reading the manuscript by my lost Son.—*x2p. 209.]
L. 31. bigotry of their own. The tone of the Encyclopédie, however, is far removed from open bigotry. The English Jacobins outdid their models. The London Corresponding Society are said to have resolved that the pernicious belief in a God was to be an exception to their general principle of toleration! (Sir J. Mackintosh, in the British Critic, Aug. 1800). Burke's meaning is well amplified by Dr. Liddon: "Religion does not cease to influence events among those who reject its claims: it excites the strongest passions, not merely in its defenders, but in its enemies. The claim to hold communion with an unseen world irritates, when it does not win and satisfy. Atheism has again and again been a fanaticism: it has been a missionary
P. 210, L. 11. desultory and faint persecution. Alluding to the proceedings against the Encyclopedists, commenced when seven volumes had been published, and weakened by being carried on by two parties so opposite as Jesuits and Jansenists. The former had proposed to contribute the theological articles, and were piqued at being repulsed. The Parliament of Paris in the end appointed a commission to supervise the publication. It is remarkable that the article on the Soul, which was marked in the Mémoires as the most offensive of all, was proved to have been written by a licentiate of the Sorbonne, whose orthodoxy was unimpeachable! This persecution caused a closer union between most of the members of the secte Encyclopédique, but it deprived them of the assistance of others, in particular of Turgot.
I do not chuse to shock the feeling of the moral reader with any quotation of their vulgar, base, and profane language.
P. 212, L. 21. new morality. The term was adopted by Canning as a title for his well-known satirical poem in the Anti-jacobin.
L. 33. comptrollers-general. Burke might have excepted from this sweeping denunciation one who lost the office, in part from the desperate opposition of the bankers whom his predecessors employed—Turgot. When Turgot had to resign, and his prudent and liberal policy was reversed, there was but one way in France. It was rather the farmers-general who should have been thus stigmatised.
P. 213, L. 4. Mr. Laborde. Jean Joseph (Marquis) de Laborde, a wealthy merchant of Bayonne, employed extensively as a banker and financial contractor by the government of Louis XV, first in the Seven Years' War. He was a Spaniard by birth, his proper name being Dort. He took the name of Laborde from an estate with which the marquisate urged on him by the Duc de Choiseul was connected. He acquired enormous wealth, chiefly, perhaps, as Burke hints, by his public jobs. He retired from affairs on the disgrace of Choiseul. He was condemned during the Reign of Terror for the exportation of bullion, with the supposed intent of depreciating assignats, and guillotined 18th April, 1794.
L. 14. to have been in Paris, &c. The circumstance is again alluded to, in connection with the partition of Poland, in the Second Letter on a Regicide Peace. See next note.
L. 16. Duke d'Aiguillon. The richest seigneur in France, after the king, and one of the few members of the noblesse who took up the cause of the Revolution in the Assembly. He had been Minister of Foreign Affairs to Louis XV, after the disgrace of Choiseul. He is immortal in history owing to the fact that from his supine and miserable policy, no opposition was offered to the partition of Poland, always an instrument of France, and whose
L. 20. The noble family of Noailles had long been servants, &c. For two centuries and a half. The Maréchal de Noailles had especially been distinguished in the War of the Austrian Succession, 1742-1748, and afterwards as a minister. His son Louis, duc de Noailles, was notorious as a private agent of Louis XVI. One of his sayings is worth quoting. Louis had said that the farmers-general were the support of the state: "Oui, Sire—comme la corde soutient le pendu." He died shortly after the execution of the King, and his widow, daughter, and granddaughter were afterwards guillotined, July 22, 1794. Burke here alludes particularly to the Vicomte de Noailles, a younger son, who took a prominent part, together with the Duc d'Aiguillon, in the debates of the Assembly, particularly in the proceedings of the 4th of August.
L. 25. Duke de Rochefoucalt. François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, often called duc de Liancourt, eminent as a political economist.
L. 31. his brother. See foot-note. Dominique de la Rochefoucauld, the Archbishop, was descended from a poor and unconsidered branch of the family. He was President of the Order of the Clergy in the States-general of 1789.
[e. Not his brother, nor any near relation; but this mistake does not affect the argument.—*x2p. 213.]
P. 214, L. 8. crudelem illam Hastam. Cicero, alluding to the sales under the confiscations of Sylla: "Nec vero unquam bellorum civilium semen et causa deerit, dum homines perditi hastam illam cruentam et meminerint et sperabunt." De Officiis, ii. 8, 29. So Fourth Philippic, 4, 9: "Quos non illa infinita hasta satiavit."
P. 215, L. 4. rob the abbies. Mr. Hallam is of opinion that the alienation of the abbey lands was on the whole beneficial to the country. His opinion was probably, however, modified by his doctrine that the property of a corporate body stands on a different footing from that of private individuals. Bolingbroke considers it a politic measure.
The rest of the passage is this—
Who having spent the treasures of his crown,
Condemns their luxury to feed his own.
And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shame
Of sacrilege, must bear Devotion's name.
No crime so bold, but would be understood
A real, or at least a seeming good,
Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name;
And, free from conscience, is a slave to fame.
Thus he the church at once protects, and spoils:
But princes' swords are sharper than their styles.
And thus to th' ages past he makes amends,
Their charity destroys, their faith defends.
Then did Religion in a lazy cell,
In empty aëry contemplations dwell;
And, like the block, unmoved lay: but ours,
As much too active, like the stork devours.
Is there no temprate region can be known,
Betwixt their frigid, and our torrid zone?
Could we not wake from that lethargic dream,
But to be restless in a worse extreme?
And for that lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a calenture?
Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance
So far, to make us wish for ignorance?
And rather in the dark to grope our way,
Than, led by a false guide, to err by day?
Who sees these dismal heaps, but would demand,
What barbarous invader sack'd the land?
But when he hears, no Goth, no Turk did bring
This desolation, but a Christian king;
When nothing, but the name of zeal, appears
'Twixt our best actions, and the worst of theirs,
What does he think our sacrilege would spare,
When such th' effects of our devotion are?
—COOPER'S HILL, by SIR JOHN DENHAM
Rapport de Mons. le Directeur-général des finances, fait par ordre du Roi à Versailles. Mai 5, 1789.
End of Notes
Was that contribution refused on a pretext of privilege, either on the part of the clergy or on that of the nobility? No certainly. As to the clergy, they even ran before the wishes of the third order. Previous to the meeting of the states, they had in all their instructions expressly directed their deputies to renounce every immunity, which put them upon a footing distinct from the condition of their fellow-subjects. In this renunciation the clergy were even more explicit than the nobility.
But let us suppose that the deficiency had remained at the 56 millions, (or £2,200,000 sterling) as at first stated by Mr. Necker. Let us allow that all the resources he opposed to that deficiency were impudent and groundless fictions; and that the assembly (or their lords of articles*28 at the Jacobins) were from thence justified in laying the whole burthen of that deficiency on the clergy—yet allowing all this, a necessity of £2,200,000 sterling will not support a confiscation to the amount of five millions. The imposition of £2,200,000 on the clergy, as partial, would have been oppressive and unjust, but it would not have been altogether
Perhaps persons, unacquainted with the state of France, on hearing the clergy and the noblesse were privileged in point of taxation, may be led to imagine, that previous to the revolution these bodies had contributed nothing to the state. This is a great mistake. They certainly did not contribute equally with each other, nor either of them equally with the commons. They both however contributed largely. Neither nobility nor clergy enjoyed any exemption from the excise on consumable commodities, from duties of custom, or from any of the other numerous indirect impositions, which in France as well as here, make so very large a proportion of all payments to the public. The noblesse paid the capitation. They paid also a land-tax, called the twentieth penny, to the height sometimes of three, sometimes of four shillings in the pound; both of them direct impositions of no light nature, and no trivial produce. The clergy of the provinces annexed by conquest to France, which in extent make about an eighth part of the whole, but in wealth a much larger proportion, paid likewise to the capitation and the twentieth penny, at the rate paid by the nobility. The clergy in the old provinces did not pay the capitation; but they had redeemed themselves at the expence of about 24 millions, or a little more than a million sterling. They were exempted from the twentieths; but then they made free gifts; they contracted debts for the state; and they were subject to some other charges, the whole computed at about a thirteenth part of their clear income. They ought to have paid annually about forty thousand pounds more, to put them on a par with the contribution of the nobility.
When the terrors of this tremendous proscription hung over the clergy, they made *547an offer of a contribution, through the archbishop of Aix, which, for its extravagance, ought
The madness of the project of confiscation, on the plan that was first pretended, soon became apparent. To bring this unwieldly mass of landed property, enlarged by the confiscation of all the vast landed domain of the crown, at once into market, was obviously to defeat the profits proposed by the confiscation, by depreciating the value of those lands, and indeed of all the landed estates throughout France. Such a sudden diversion of all its circulating money from trade to land, must be an additional mischief. What step was taken? Did the assembly, on becoming sensible of the inevitable ill effects of their projected sale, revert to the offers of the clergy? No distress could oblige them to travel in a course which was disgraced by any appearance of justice. Giving over all hopes from a general immediate sale, another project seems to have succeeded. They proposed to take stock in exchange for the church lands. In that project great difficulties arose in equalizing the objects to be exchanged. Other obstacles also presented themselves, which
The spoil of the church was now become the only resource of all their operations in finance; the vital principle of all their politics; the sole security for the existence of their power. It was necessary by all, even the most violent means, to put every individual on the same bottom, and to bind the nation in one guilty interest to uphold this act, and the authority of those by whom it was done. In order to force the most reluctant into a participation of their pillage, they rendered their paper circulation compulsory in all payments. Those who consider the general tendency of their schemes to this one object as a centre; and a centre from which afterwards all their measures radiate, will not
To cut off all appearance of connection between the crown and publick justice, and to bring the whole under implicit obedience to the dictators in Paris, the *549old independent judicature of the parliaments, with all its merits, and all its faults, was wholly abolished. Whilst the parliaments existed, it was evident that the people might some time or other come to resort to them, and rally under the standard of their antient laws. It became however a matter of consideration that the magistrates and officers, in the courts now abolished, had purchased their places at a very high rate, for which, as well as for the duty they performed, they received but a very low return of interest. Simple confiscation is a boon only for the clergy; to the lawyers some appearances of equity are to be observed; and they are to receive compensation to an immense amount. Their compensation becomes part of the national debt, for the liquidation of which there is the one exhaustless fund. The lawyers are to obtain their compensation in the new church paper, which is to march with the new principles of judicature and legislature. The dismissed magistrates are to take their share of martyrdom with the ecclesiastics, or to receive their own property from such a fund and in such a manner, as all those, who have been seasoned with the antient principles of jurisprudence, and had been the sworn guardians of property, must look upon with horror. Even the clergy are to receive their miserable allowance out of the depreciated paper which is stamped with the indelible character of sacrilege, and with the symbols of their own ruin, or they must starve. So violent an outrage upon credit, property, and liberty, as this compulsory paper currency, has seldom been exhibited by the alliance of bankruptcy and tyranny, at any time, or in any nation.
When all the frauds, impostures, violences, rapines, burnings, murders, confiscations, compulsory paper currencies, and every description of tyranny and cruelty employed to bring about and to uphold this revolution, have their natural effect, that is, to shock the moral sentiments of all virtuous and sober minds, the abettors of this philosophic system immediately strain their throats in a declamation against the old monarchical government of France. When they have rendered that deposed power sufficiently black, they then
I do not know under what description to class the present ruling authority in France. It affects to be a pure democracy,
But admitting democracy not to have that inevitable tendency to party tyranny, which I suppose it to have, and admitting it to possess as much good in it when unmixed, as I am sure it possesses when compounded with other forms; does monarchy, on its part, contain nothing at all to recommend it? I do not often quote *562Bolingbroke, nor have his works in general, left any permanent impression on my mind. He is a presumptuous and a superficial writer. But he has *563one observation, which, in my opinion, is not without depth and solidity. He says, that he prefers a monarchy to other governments; because you can better ingraft any description of republic on a monarchy than any thing of monarchy upon the republican forms. I think him perfectly in the right. The fact is so historically; and it agrees well with the speculation.
I know how easy a topic it is to dwell on the faults of departed greatness. By a revolution in the state, *564the fawning sycophant of yesterday is converted into the austere critic of the present hour. But steady independant minds, when they have an object of so serious a concern to mankind as government, under their contemplation, will disdain to assume the part of satirists and declaimers. They will judge of human institutions as they do of human characters. They will sort
Your government in France, though usually, and I think justly, reputed the best of the unqualified or ill-qualified monarchies, was still *565full of abuses. These abuses accumulated in a length of time, as they must accumulate in every monarchy not under the constant inspection of a popular representative. I am no stranger to the faults and defects of the subverted government of France; and I think I am not inclined by nature or policy to make a panegyric upon any thing which is a just and natural object of censure. But the question is not now of the vices of that monarchy, but of its existence. Is it then true, that the French government was such as to be incapable or undeserving of reform; so that it was of absolute necessity the whole fabric should be at once pulled down, and the area cleared for the erection of a theoretic experimental edifice in its place? *566All France was of a different opinion in the beginning of the year 1789. The instructions to the representatives to the states-general, from every district in that kingdom, were filled with *567projects for the reformation of that government, *568without the remotest suggestion of a design to destroy it. Had such a design been then even insinuated, I believe there would have *569been but one voice, and that voice for rejecting it with scorn and horror. Men have been sometimes led by degrees, sometimes hurried into things, of which, if they could have seen the whole together, they never would have permitted the most remote approach. When those instructions were given, there was no question but that abuses existed, and that they demanded a reform; nor is there now. In the interval between the instructions and the revolution, things changed their shape; and in consequence of that change, the true question at present is, Whether those who would have reformed, or those who have destroyed, are in the right?
Among the standards upon which the effects of government on any country are to be estimated, I must consider the *572state of its population as not the least certain. No country in which population flourishes, and is in progressive improvement, can be under a very mischievous government. About sixty years ago, the Intendants of the generalities of France made, with other matters, a report of the population of their several districts. I have not the books, which are very voluminous, by me, nor do I know where to procure them (I am obliged to speak by memory, and therefore the less positively) but I think the population of France was by them, even at that period, estimated at twenty-two millions of souls. At the end of the last century it had been generally calculated at eighteen. On either of these estimations France was not ill-peopled. Mr. Necker, who is an authority for his own time at least equal to the Intendants for theirs,
It is not universally true, that France is a fertile country. *573Considerable tracts of it are barren, and labour under other natural disadvantages. In the portions of that territory, where things are more favourable, as far as I am able to discover, the numbers of the people correspond to the indulgence of nature.*30 The *574Generality of Lisle (this I admit is the strongest example) upon an extent of 404½ leagues, about ten years ago, contained 734,600 souls, which
I do not attribute this population to the deposed government; because I do not like to compliment the contrivances of men, with what is due in a great degree to the bounty of Providence. But that decried government could not have obstructed, most probably it favoured, the operation of those causes (whatever they were) whether of nature in the soil, or in habits of industry among the people, which has produced so large a number of the species throughout that whole kingdom, and exhibited in some particular places such prodigies of population. I never will suppose that fabrick of a state to be the worst of all political institutions, which, by experience, is found to contain a principle favourable (however latent it may be) to the encrease of mankind.
The wealth of a country is another, and no contemptible standard, by which we may judge whether, on the whole, a government be protecting or destructive. France far exceeds England in the multitude of her people; but I apprehend that her comparative wealth is much inferior to ours; that it is not so equal in the distribution, nor so ready in the circulation. I believe the difference in the form of the two governments to be amongst the causes of this advantage on the side of England. I speak of England, not of the *575whole British dominions; which, if compared with those of France, will, in some degree, weaken the comparative rate of wealth upon our side. But that wealth, which will not endure a comparison with the riches of England, may constitute a very respectable degree of opulence. Mr. Necker's book published in 1785,*31 contains an accurate
It is impossible that Mr. Necker should be mistaken in the amount of the bullion which has been coined in the mint. It is a matter of official record. The reasonings of this able financier, concerning the quantity of gold and silver which remained for circulation, when he wrote in 1785, that is about four years before the deposition and imprisonment of the French King, are not of equal certainty; but they are laid on grounds so apparently solid, that it is not easy to refuse a considerable degree of assent to his calculation. He calculates the numéraire, or what we call specie, then actually existing in France, at about eighty-eight millions of the same English money. A great accumulation of wealth for one country, large as that country is! Mr. Necker was so far from considering this influx of wealth as likely to cease, when he wrote in 1785, that he presumes upon a future annual increase of two per cent. upon the money brought into France during the periods from which he computed.
Some adequate cause must have originally introduced all the money coined at its mint into that kingdom; and some cause as operative must have kept at home, or returned into its bosom, such a vast flood of treasure as Mr. Necker calculates to remain for domestic circulation. Suppose any
*591Whoever has examined into the proceedings of that deposed government for several years back, cannot fail to have observed, amidst the inconstancy and fluctuation natural to courts, an *592earnest endeavour towards the prosperity and improvement of the country; he must admit, that it had long been employed, in some instances, wholly to remove, in many considerably to correct, the abusive practices and usages that had prevailed in the state; and that even the unlimited power of the sovereign over the persons of his subjects, inconsistent, as undoubtedly it was, with law and liberty, had yet been every day growing more mitigated in the exercise. So far from refusing itself to reformation, that government was open, with a *593censurable degree of facility, to all sorts of projects and projectors on the subject. Rather too much countenance was given to the spirit of innovation, which soon was turned against those who fostered it, and ended in their ruin. It is but cold, and no very flattering justice to that fallen monarchy, to say, that, for many years, it *594trespassed more by levity and want of judgment in several of its schemes, than from any defect in diligence or in public spirit. To compare the government of France for the last fifteen or sixteen years with wise and well-constituted establishments, during that, or during any period, is not to act with fairness. But if in point of prodigality in the expenditure of money, or in point of rigour in the exercise of power, it be compared with any of the former reigns, I
Whether the system, if it deserves such a name, now built on the ruins of that antient monarchy, will be able to give a better account of the population and wealth of the country, which it has taken under its care, is a matter very doubtful. Instead of improving by the change, I apprehend that a long series of years must be *596told before it can recover in any degree the effects of this philosophic revolution, and before the nation can be replaced on its former footing. If Dr. Price should think fit, a few years hence, to favour us with an estimate of the population of France, he will hardly be able to make up his tale of thirty millions of souls, as computed in 1789, or the assembly's computation of twenty-six millions of that year; or even Mr. Necker's twenty-five millions in 1780. I hear that there are *597considerable emigrations from France; and that many, quitting that voluptuous climate, and that seductive *598Circean liberty, have taken refuge in the frozen regions, and under the British despotism, of Canada.
In the present disappearance of coin, no person could think it the same country, in which the present minister of the finances has been able to discover fourscore millions sterling in specie. From its general aspect one would conclude that it had been for some time past under the special direction of the *599learned academicians of Laputa and Balnibarbi.*34 Already the population of Paris has so declined, that Mr. Necker stated to the national assembly the provision
The advocates for this revolution, not satisfied with exaggerating the vices of their antient government, strike at the fame of their country itself, by painting almost all that could have attracted the attention of strangers, I mean their nobility and their clergy, as objects of horror. If this were only a libel, there had not been much in it. But it has practical consequences. Had your nobility and gentry, who formed the great body of your landed men, and the whole of your military officers, resembled *600those of Germany, at the period when the Hanse-towns were necessitated to confederate against the nobles in defence of their property—had they been like the *601Orsini and Vitelli in Italy, who used to sally from their fortified dens to rob the trader and traveller—had they been such as the *602Mamalukes in Egypt, or the *603Nayres on the coast of Malabar, I do admit, that too critical an enquiry
But did the privileged nobility who met under the king's precept at Versailles, in 1789, or their constituents, deserve to be looked on as the Nayres or Mamalukes of this age, or as the Orsini and Vitelli of antient times? If I had then asked the question, I should have passed for a madman. What have they since done that they were to be driven into exile, that their persons should be hunted about, mangled, and tortured, their families dispersed, their houses laid in ashes, that their order should be abolished, and the memory of it, if possible, extinguished, by ordaining them to change the very names by which they were usually known? Read their instructions to their representatives. They *606breathe the spirit of liberty as warmly, and they recommend reformation as strongly, as any other order. Their privileges relative to contribution were voluntarily surrendered; as the king, from the beginning, surrendered all pretence to a right of taxation. Upon a free constitution there was but one opinion in France. The absolute monarchy was at an end. It breathed its last, without a groan, without struggle, without convulsion. All the struggle, all the dissension arose afterwards upon the preference of a despotic democracy to a government of reciprocal controul. The triumph of the victorious party was over the *607principles of a British constitution.
If these panegyrists are in earnest in their admiration of Henry the Fourth, they must remember, that they cannot think more highly of him, than he did of the noblesse of
But the nobility of France are degenerated since the days of Henry the Fourth. This is possible. But it is more than I can believe to be true in any great degree. I do not pretend to know France as correctly as some others; but I have endeavoured through my whole life to make myself acquainted with human nature: otherwise I should be unfit to take even my humble part in the service of mankind. In that study I could not pass by a vast portion of our nature, as it appeared modified in a country but twenty-four miles from the shore of this island. On my best observation, compared with my best enquiries, I found your nobility for the greater part composed of men of an high spirit, and of a delicate sense of honour, both with regard to themselves individually, and with regard to their whole corps, over whom they kept, *610beyond what is common in other countries, a censorial eye. They were tolerably well bred; very *611officious, humane, and hospitable; in their conversation frank and open; with a good military tone; and reasonably tinctured with literature, particularly of the authors in their own language. Many had pretensions far above this description. I speak of those who were generally met with.
As to their behaviour to the inferior classes, they appeared to me to comport themselves towards them with good-nature, and with something more nearly approaching to familiarity, than is generally practised with us in the intercourse between the higher and lower ranks of life. *612To strike any person, even in the most abject condition, was a thing in a manner unknown, and would be highly disgraceful. Instances of other ill-treatment of the humble part of the community were rare; and as to *613attacks made upon the property or the personal liberty of the commons, I never
Denying, as I am well warranted to do, that the nobility had any considerable share in the oppression of the people, in cases in which real oppression existed, I am ready to admit that they were not without considerable faults and errors. *617A foolish imitation of the worst part of the manners of England, which impaired their natural character without substituting in its place what perhaps they meant to copy, has certainly rendered them worse than formerly they were. Habitual dissoluteness of manners continued beyond the
This separation, as I have already taken the liberty of suggesting to you, I conceive to be one principal cause of the destruction of the old nobility. The military, particularly, was too exclusively reserved for men of family. But after all, this was an error of opinion, which a conflicting opinion would have rectified. A permanent assembly, in which the commons had their share of power, would soon abolish whatever was too invidious and insulting in these distinctions; and even the faults in the morals of the nobility would have been probably corrected by the greater varieties of occupation and pursuit to which a constitution by orders would have given rise.
All this violent cry against the nobility I take to be a mere work of art. To be honoured and even privileged by the laws, opinions, and inveterate usages of our country, growing out of the prejudice of ages, has nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any man. Even to be too tenacious of those privileges, is not absolutely a crime. *620The strong struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what he has found to belong to him and to distinguish
*625It was with the same satisfaction I found that the result of my enquiry concerning your clergy was not dissimilar. It is no soothing news to my ears, that great bodies of men are incurably corrupt. It is not with much credulity I listen to any, when they speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated, when profit is looked for in their punishment. An enemy is a bad witness: a robber is a worse. Vices and abuses there were undoubtedly in that order, and must be. It was an old establishment, and not frequently revised.
If there had been any just cause for this new religious persecution, the atheistic libellers, who act as trumpeters to animate the populace to plunder, do not love any body so much as not to dwell with complacence on the vices of the existing clergy. This they have not done. They find themselves obliged to rake into the histories of former ages (which they have ransacked with a malignant and profligate industry) for every instance of oppression and persecution which has been made by that body or in its favour, in order to justify, upon very iniquitous, because very illogical principles of retaliation, their own persecutions, and their own cruelties. After destroying all other genealogies and family distinctions, they invent a sort of pedigree of crimes. It is not very just to chastise men for the offences of their natural ancestors; but to take the fiction of ancestry in a corporate succession, as a ground for punishing men who have no relation to guilty acts, except in names and general descriptions, is a sort of refinement in injustice belonging to the philosophy of this enlightened age. The assembly punishes men, many, if not most, of whom abhor the violent conduct of ecclesiastics in former times as much as their present persecutors can do, and who would be as loud and as strong in the expression of that sense, if they were not well aware of the purposes for which all this declamation is employed.
Corporate bodies are immortal for the good of the members, but not for their punishment. Nations themselves are such corporations. As well might we in England think of waging inexpiable war upon all Frenchmen for the evils which they have brought upon us in the several periods of our mutual hostilities. You might, on your part, think yourselves
We do not draw the moral lessons we might from history. On the contrary, *626without care it may be used to vitiate our minds and to destroy our happiness. In history a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind. It may, in the perversion, serve for a magazine, furnishing offensive and defensive weapons for parties in church and state, and supply the means of keeping alive, or reviving dissensions and animosities, and adding fuel to civil fury. History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetites, which shake the public with the same
These vices are the causes of those storms. *628Religion, morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men, are the pretexts. The pretexts are always found in some specious appearance of a real good. You would not secure men from tyranny and sedition, by rooting out of the mind the principles to which these fraudulent pretexts apply? If you did, you would root out every thing that is valuable in the human breast. As these are the pretexts, so the ordinary actors and instruments in great public evils are kings, priests, magistrates, senates, parliaments, national assemblies, judges, and captains. You would not cure the
Your citizens of Paris formerly had lent themselves as the ready instruments to slaughter the followers of Calvin, at the infamous massacre of St. Bartholomew. What should we say to those who could think of retaliating on the Parisians of this day the abominations and horrors of that time? They are indeed brought to abhor that massacre. Ferocious as
*630If your clergy, or any clergy, should shew themselves vicious beyond the fair bounds allowed to human infirmity, and to those professional faults which can hardly be separated from professional virtues, though their vices never can countenance the exercise of oppression, I do admit, that they would naturally have the effect of abating very much of our indignation against the tyrants who exceed measure and justice in their punishment. I can allow in clergymen, *631through all their divisions, some tenaciousness of their own
Undoubtedly, the natural progress of the passions, from frailty to vice, ought to be prevented by a watchful eye and a firm hand. But is it true that the body of your clergy had past those limits of a just allowance? From the general style of your late publications of all sorts, one would be led to believe that your clergy in France were a sort of monsters; an horrible composition of superstition, ignorance, sloth, fraud, avarice, and tyranny. But is this true? Is it true, that the lapse of time, the cessation of conflicting interests, the woeful experience of the evils resulting from party rage, have had no sort of influence gradually to meliorate their minds? Is it true, that they were daily renewing invasions on the civil power, troubling the domestic quiet of their country, and rendering the operations of its government feeble and precarious? Is it true, that the clergy of our times have pressed down the laity with an iron hand, and were in all places lighting up the fires of a savage persecution? Did they by every fraud endeavour to encrease their estates? Did they use to exceed the due demands on estates that were their own? Or, *633rigidly screwing up right into wrong, did they convert a legal claim into a vexatious extortion? When not possessed of power, were they filled with the vices of those who envy it? Were they enflamed with a violent litigious spirit of controversy? Goaded on with the *634ambition of intellectual sovereignty, were they ready to
These, or some of these, were the vices objected, and not wholly without foundation, to several of the churchmen of former times, who belonged to the *635two great parties which then divided and distracted Europe.
If there was in France, as in other countries there visibly is, a great abatement, rather than any increase of these vices, instead of loading the present clergy with the crimes of other men, and the odious character of other times, in common equity they ought to be praised, encouraged, and supported, in their departure from a spirit which disgraced their predecessors, and for having assumed a temper of mind and manners more suitable to their sacred function.
*636When my occasions took me into France, towards the close of the late reign, the clergy, under all their forms, engaged a considerable part of my curiosity. So far from finding (except from one set of men, not then very numerous, though very active) the complaints and discontents against that body, which some publications had given me reason to expect, I perceived little or no public or private uneasiness on their account. On further examination, I found the clergy in general, persons of moderate minds and decorous manners; I include the seculars, and the regulars of both sexes. I had not the good fortune to know a great many of the parochial clergy; but in general I received a perfectly good
You had before your revolution about *641an hundred and twenty bishops. A few of them were men of eminent sanctity, and charity without limit. When we talk of the heroic, of course we talk of rare, virtue. I believe the instances of *642eminent depravity may be as rare amongst them as those of transcendent goodness. Examples of avarice and of licentiousness may be picked out, I do not question it, by those who delight in the investigation which leads to such discoveries. A man, as old as I am, will not be astonished that several in every description, do not lead that perfect life of self-denial, with regard to wealth or to pleasure, which is wished for by all, by some expected, but by none exacted with more rigour, than by those who are the most attentive to their own interests, or the most indulgent to their own passions. When I was in France, I am certain that the number of vicious prelates was not great. Certain individuals among them not distinguishable for the regularity of their lives, made some amends for their want of the severe
In short, Sir, it seems to me, that this new ecclesiastical establishment is *646intended only to be temporary, and preparatory to the utter abolition, under any of its forms, of the Christian religion, whenever the minds of men are prepared for this last stroke against it, by the accomplishment of the plan for bringing its ministers into universal contempt. They who will not believe, that the philosophical fanatics who guide in these matters, have long entertained such a design, are utterly ignorant of their character and proceedings. These enthusiasts do not scruple to avow their opinion, that a state can subsist without any religion better than with one; and that they are able to supply the place of any good which may be in it, by a project of their own—namely, by a sort of education they have imagined, founded in a knowledge of the physical wants of men; progressively carried to an *647enlightened self-interest, which, when well understood, they tell us will identify with an interest more enlarged and public. The scheme of this education has been long known. Of late they distinguish it (as they have got an entire new nomenclature of technical terms) by the name of a *648Civic Education.
I hope their partizans in England, (to whom I rather attribute very inconsiderate conduct than the ultimate object in this detestable design) will succeed neither in the pillage of the ecclesiastics, nor in the introduction of a *649principle of popular election to our bishoprics and parochial cures. This, in the present condition of the world, would be the last corruption of the church; the utter ruin of the
Those of you who have robbed the clergy, think that they shall easily reconcile their conduct to all protestant nations; because the clergy, whom they have thus plundered, degraded, and given over to mockery and scorn, are of the Roman Catholic, that is, of their own pretended persuasion. I have no doubt that some miserable bigots will be found here as well as elsewhere, who hate sects and parties different from their own, more than they love the substance of religion; and who are more angry with those who differ from them in their particular plans and systems, than displeased with those who attack the foundation of our common hope. These men will write and speak on the subject in the manner that is to be expected from their temper and character. *650Burnet says, that when he was in France, in the year 1683, "the method which carried over the men of the finest parts to popery was this—they brought themselves to doubt of the whole Christian religion. When that was once done, it seemed a more indifferent thing of what side or form they continued outwardly." If this was then the ecclesiastic policy of France, it is what they have since but too much reason to repent of. They preferred atheism to a form of religion not agreeable to their ideas. They succeeded in destroying that form; and atheism has succeeded in
The teachers who reformed our religion in England bore no sort of resemblance to your present reforming doctors in Paris. Perhaps they were (like those whom they opposed) rather more than could be wished *651under the influence of a party spirit; but they were most sincere believers; men of the most fervent and exalted piety; ready to die, as some of them did die, like true heroes in defence of their particular ideas of Christianity; *652as they would with equal fortitude, and more chearfully, for that stock of general truth, for the branches of which they contended with their blood. These men would have disavowed with horror those wretches who claimed a fellowship with them upon no other titles than those of their having pillaged the persons with whom they maintained controversies, and their having despised the common religion, for the purity of which they exerted themselves with a zeal, which unequivocally bespoke their highest reverence for the substance of that system which they wished to reform. Many of their descendants have retained the same zeal; but, (as less engaged in conflict) with more moderation. They do not forget that *653justice and mercy are substantial parts of religion. Impious men do not recommend themselves to their communion by iniquity and cruelty towards any description of their fellow creatures.
We hear these new teachers continually boasting of their spirit of toleration. That those persons should tolerate all opinions, who think none to be of estimation, is a matter of small merit. Equal neglect is not impartial kindness. The species of benevolence, which arises from contempt, is no true charity. There are in England abundance of men who tolerate in the true spirit of toleration. They think the
Notes for this chapter
In the constitution of Scotland during the Stuart reigns, a committee sat for preparing bills; and none could pass but those previously approved by them. This committee was called lords of articles.
P. 220, L. 2. an offer of a contribution. The Archbishop, on behalf of the clergy, offered an unconditional surrender of the tithes, if they were
P. 221, L. 20. Bank of discount. The Caisse d'Escompte, planned by the masterly statesman Turgot, while Comptroller-general, and carried out by his successor.
P. 222, L. 2. old independent judicature of the parliaments. The position of king, parliaments, and people, will be best understood from the words of Mounier: "Dans le plupart des états de l'Europe, les différens pouvoirs se sont livrés des combats à mort, ou ont fait des traités de partage, de sorte que les sujêts savent clairement quels sont ceux qui ont le droit de commander, et dans quels cas ils doivent obéir. La France seule, peut-être, offroit le spectacle extraordinaire de deux autorités alternativement victorieuses ou soumises, concluant des trèves, mais jamais de traités définitifs; et dans le choc de leurs prétentions, dictant au peuple des volontés contraires. Ces deux autorités étoient celle du roi et celle des parlements ou tribunaux supérieurs." Recherches sur les causes, &c., pp. 10, 11.
P. 223, L. 5. sort of fine. Alluding to the practice of granting leases for lives or years at low rents, in consideration of a fine, or lump sum paid down at the commencement of the term.
L. 6. sort of gift. "Gift" (donum) is used in the technical sense in feudal law. The word dedi usually implied services to be rendered by the donee and his heirs to the donor and his heirs. It was of wider comprehension than other terms, and was considered by lawyers "the aptest word of feoffment."
IBID. hands habituated to the gripings of usury. Burke evidently has in mind the soucars of India. See Speech on Nabob of Arcot's Debts.
L. 32. advocates for servitude. Burke here answers by anticipation the reproaches which the work brought upon him from the English Whigs and Revolutionists.
L. 22. pure democracy... only tolerable form. The austere doctrine of Sieyès. It may now be said that the thinking world of Europe has thoroughly unlearnt this speculative dogma, the product of superficial knowledge and superficial reasoning.
L. 32. I reprobate no form of government, &c. The opinions contained in these lines are developed in the Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs. "He (Mr. Burke) never abused all republics. He has never professed himself a friend or an enemy to republics or to monarchies in the abstract. He thought that the circumstances and habits of every country, which it is always perilous and productive of the greatest calamities to force, are to decide upon the form of its government. There is nothing in his nature, his temper, or
L. 35. very few, and very particularly circumstanced. The Swiss confederation still survives, and the kingdom of the Netherlands is really a republic, as it was formerly in Burke's time. The republics of Genoa and Venice were also in existence when Burke wrote. The Italian republics established by Bonaparte (the Ligurian, Cisalpine, Roman, Parthenopean, &c.) were of short duration.
P. 225, L. 4. better acquainted with them. And their verdict was unanimously against them. A study of Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle will prove how little homage pure democracy met with from the best minds of the age when it was best understood.
When I wrote this I quoted from memory, after many years had elapsed from my reading the passage. A
T&ogrgr; &eepsivrgr;&thgr;oς t&ogrgr; a&upsgr;t&ogrgr;, ka&igrgr; &apsacgr;m&phis;&ohgr; despotik&agrgr; t&ohivrgr;n belti&oacgr;n&ohgr;n, ka&igrgr; t&agrgr; &psgr;&eegr;&phgr;&iacgr;smata, &ohdaacgr;sper &epsgr;ke&iivrgr; t&agrgr; &epsgr;pit&aacgr;gmata ka&igrgr; &odagr; d&eegr;mag&ohgr;g&ogrgr;ς ka&igrgr; &odagr; k&oacgr;lax, o&idagr; a&upsgr;to&igrgr; ka`i &apsgr;n&aacgr;logon˙ ka&igrgr; m&aacgr;lista &edagr;k&aacgr;teroi par' &edagr;kat&eacgr;roiς &ipsgr;sχ&uacgr;ousin, o&idagr; m&egrgr;n k&oacgr;lakeς par&agrgr; tυr&aacgr;nnoiς, o&idagr; d&egrgr; d&eegr;mag&ohgr;go&igrgr; par&agrgr; to&iivrgr;ς d&eeacgr;moiς to&iivrgr;ς toio&uacgr;toiς.
"The ethical character is the same; both exercise despotism over the better class of citizens; and decrees are in the one, what ordinances and arrêts are in the other: the demagogue too, and the court favourite, are not unfrequently the same identical men, and always bear a close analogy; and these have the principal power, each in their respective forms of government, favourites with the absolute monarch, and demagogues with a people such as I have described." Arist. Politic. lib. iv. cap. 4.
P. 226, L. 11. Bolingbroke.... presumptuous and superficial writer. See note ante, p. 185, l. 2. Not only Burke, but Pitt, learnt much from Bolingbroke. Pitt was recommended by his father to study parts of Bolingbroke's writings, and get them by heart.
L. 13. one observation. "Among many reasons which determine me to prefer monarchy to every other form of government, this is a principal one. When monarchy is the essential form, it may be more easily and more usefully tempered with aristocracy, or democracy, or both, than either of them, when they are the essential forms, can be tempered with monarchy. It seems to me, that the introduction of a real permanent monarchical power, or anything more than the pageantry of it, into either of these, must destroy them and extinguish them, as a greater light extinguishes a less. Whereas it may easily be shewn, and the true form of our government will demonstrate, without seeking any other example, that very considerable aristocratical and democratical powers may be grafted on a monarchical stock, without diminishing the lustre, or restraining the power and authority of the prince, enough to alter in any degree the essential form."—Patriot King, p. 98. So Dean Lockier in Spence's Anecdotes: "Whatever is good, either in monarchies or republics, may be enjoyed in limited monarchies. The whole force of the nation is as ready to be turned one way as in [absolute] monarchies; and the liberties of the people may be as well secured as in republics."
L. 21. the fawning sycophant of yesterday. Perhaps a hard criticism on
L. 32. full of abuses. Burke omits one most important link in the chain of causes which led to the Revolution. The great system of abuses had been thoroughly penetrated, and a comprehensive, gradual scheme for remedying them had been commenced by Turgot. The principles which guided this great man in the preparation of this scheme have been since tried, affirmed, and developed. They have given the key to the reforms of the present century in our own and other countries. But Turgot was only suffered to remain in office twenty months, and nearly everything which he had time to effect was reversed. The interested classes, the nobility, clergy, parliaments, and farmers-general, were too strong for him. If any body could have done what Burke blames the French for not doing, it was he. What was left, but a general convulsion, proceeding from lower sources, if oppression was to be thrown off at all? Irritated by hesitation, retrogression, and mistrust, the people had lost all faith in their established government: and in dealing with the monarchy, which they wished in some way to preserve, naturally went to extremes in the safeguards which they provided for the concessions they had extorted. Facts seem to strengthen the conclusion of Mackintosh, that under such circumstances the shock of a revolution is necessary to the accomplishment of great reforms.
P. 227, L. 9. All France was of a different opinion, &c. True; but the Cahiers only too clearly indicated what was smouldering beneath. They repeatedly affirm, on the part of the Tiers État, the right of Property, and demand for it the protection of the law, as a thing that was in great jeopardy. They prove that every principle of society had been universally made the subject of question, and that very various opinions were entertained as to what ought to be done. They reveal a Harringtonian spirit in every corner of the kingdom. No one who reads them can fail to see in the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" their inevitable sequel.
L. 12. projects for the reformation, &c. More than this—they are full of abstract ideas, of the passion for definition, uniformity, and paper government. The Cahiers, in the briefest summary or index of contents, are perfectly bewildering. M. de Tocqueville insists, however, that whoso wishes to understand the Revolution, must study incessantly the whole series of folios.
L. 13. without the remotest suggestion, &c. Calonne is nearer the mark; "C'est d'abord une puérilité que d'argumenter du mot régénérer le royaume, qui se trouve dans quelques-uns des cahiers, et peut-être aussi dans quelques phrases employées par le Roi; comme si l'on pouvoit en conclure que le Roi et les cahiers, en se servant de cette expression métaphorique, auroient entendu que l'Assemblée devoit culbuter la Monarchie de fond en comble, et créer un gouvernement absolument nouveau. 'Régénérer' est un terme de religion, qui loin de présenter l'idée d'une destruction universelle, n'annonce qu'une salutaire vivification. Le baptême régénère l'homme en effaçant la
L. 15. been but one voice. This is hardly justifiable. American independence had certainly raised similar hopes in France. Nor would it have been possible for the impulse to a republic to spring up and ripen in so short a time.
L. 29. Taehmas Kouli Khan. The military usurper whose exploits were a romance to the Western world in Burke's youth, and ended in the national prostration of Persia, from which the country has never recovered.
L. 35. human race itself melts away and perishes under the eye of the observer. "Men grow up thin," says Bacon, "where the Turcoman's horse sets his foot." Perhaps Burke had in mind the description of the miraculous smiting of the Philistines by Jonathan; "And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and behold, the multitude melted away," &c. 1 Sam. xiv. 16.
P. 228, L. 12. state of its population. The increase of the population, taken in connexion with the inequality of imposts, and the burdens of the poor, ought to have been estimated among the causes of the Revolution.
P. 229, L. 15. considerable tracts of it are barren. It was calculated in 1846 that nearly one-seventh of the whole superficies consisted of unproductive expanses of sand, heath, &c., chiefly lying near the seashores of Gascony and Languedoc, and in Champagne and French Flanders.
De l'Administration des Finances de la France, par Mons. Necker, vol. i. p. 288.
L. 19. Generality of Lisle. A Generality was the district under the official care of an Intendant-general. Lille was populous because it had been part of Flanders, the flourishing condition of which as compared with France was conspicuous in the Middle Ages. In Belgium the density of the population is still more than double that of the average of France; the former having 166, the latter 70 inhabitants to the square kilométre.
De l'Administration des Finances de la France, par M. Necker.
Vol. iii. chap. 8. and chap. 9.
P. 231, L. 25. when I consider the face of the kingdom of France. This Ciceronian page is well worth studying for its method, and the way in which the expressions which form the vehicle of the reflection are varied. The force of the argument is much enhanced by keeping in mind that this magnificent face of affairs had been mainly produced by the policy of Louis XIV. Thomson's description of the civilization of France clearly afforded Burke some hints:
O'er fair extents of land, the shining road:
The flood-compelling arch: the long canal,
The dome resounding sweet with infant joy,
From famine saved, or cruel-handed shame,
And that where valour counts his noble scars.
—"Liberty," Part V. 471.
L. 26. multitude and opulence of her cities. Then much greater in comparison with Britain. The British Isles now contain twice as many towns having more than 100,000 inhabitants, as France.
L. 27. useful magnificence of her spacious high roads, &c. In which respect France was at least half a century in advance of England. The principal "grands chemins" were made by the government in the times of Louis XIV and XV. It was imagined that they might facilitate invasion, an idea which is laughed to scorn in the Encyclopédie. It is certain that they facilitated the Revolution.
IBID. her artificial canals, &c. Canals were constructed in Italy in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, and had an almost equally early beginning in the Netherlands. The first French canal was that of Briare, joining the Seine and Loire, begun in 1605 and finished in 1642.
L. 29. opening the conveniences... through a solid continent. Alluding to the canal of Languedoc, the greatest work of the kind on the continent, reaching from Narbonne to Toulouse, and forming a communication between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It was begun and finished by Pierre Paul de Riquet, in the reign of Louis XIV, and cost above 1,300,000l. sterling. Corneille, says Sir J. Stephen, has celebrated the junction of the two seas in some noble verses, whose only fault is that they say far too much of Louis XIV, and nothing at all of Riquet or of Colbert.
L. 31. ports and harbours... naval apparatus. Especially the naval stations of Brest, Toulon, and Cherbourg. The navy of France was another creation of Colbert's.
L. 33. fortifications. Most of them designed and carried out at a vast expense by S. le Prestre de Vauban, to whom and other French writers, as Blondel, Belidor, &c., modern fortification and military engineering in general owe their origin almost exclusively.
P. 232, L. 1. impenetrable barrier. He has in mind especially the "iron frontier" towards the Netherlands.
L. 3. to what complete perfection, &c. Especially the vine, hardly known in Gaul until the Roman conquest.
L. 7. in some particulars not second. Burke alludes to the English silk manufacture, which was eclipsed by France, in consequence, as was shewn by Mr. Huskisson, of the prohibitive system established in favour of the weavers of Spitalfields.
L. 8. grand foundations of charity. The Hôtel-Dieu, École Militaire, Invalides, &c., of Paris; The Dames de la Charité, founded by St. Vincent de Paul, Redemptorists, Lazarists, and the numerous bodies of Hospitallers, &c., &c.
L. 10. men she has bred, &c. It would take up too much space to trace this out in its details, and compare France in this respect with the rest of Europe. It would be an easy and interesting task for the student. See Dr. Bridges' "Colbert and Richelieu," where, however, the worth of French intellect is overrated.
L. 27. Whoever has examined, &c. But the character of the monarch was against what Burke assumes to be the spirit of the monarchy. "Il commençait toutes les reformes par justice, et n'en achevant aucune par indolence, et par abandon de lui-même, irritant la passion d'innover sans la satisfaire, faisant entrevoir le bien sans l'opérer. Roi populaire dans les rues, il redevenait Roi gentilhomme à Versailles—reformateur auprès de Turgot et de Necker, honteux de ses reformes dans la société brillante et legère de Marie Antoinette; Roi constitutional par goût, Roi absolu par habitude," &c.—De Sacy.
L. 30. earnest endeavour towards the prosperity, &c. In spite, however, not in consequence, of the institutions Burke was defending. After the peace of 1763 (See Vol. i. "Present Discontents") a spirit of reformation had sprung up and spread over all parts of Europe, even to Constantinople. Agriculture and trade had been the special objects of this movement in France. "Another no less laudable characteristic (of the present times) is, that spirit of reform and improvement, under the several heads of legislation, of the administration of justice, the mitigation of penal laws, the affording some greater attention to the ease and security of the lower orders of the people, with the cultivation of those acts most generally useful to mankind, and particularly the public encouragement given to agriculture as an art, which is becoming prevalent in every part of Europe." Annual Register, 1786.
P. 233, L. 5. censurable degree of facility. "If in many respects the force of received opinions has in the present times been too much impaired, and perhaps too wide and indiscriminate a scope given to speculation on the domains of antiquity and practice, it is, however, a just cause of triumph, that prejudice and bigotry were the earliest victims. Happy will it be, if the blows which were aimed at the foundations and the buttresses, shall only shake off the useless incumbrances of the edifice. And this, we are to hope, will be the case." Ibid.
L. 11. trespassed more by levity and want of judgment, &c. For instance, the attempt suddenly to relieve the working classes from the disadvantages imposed on them by the system of industrial corporations. Rash and highsounding promises on many other points were issued in the name of the King, which stimulated the opposition of the privileged classes. In the quarrel of 1772 between the King and the Parliament of Toulouse, the latter body accused the government of endangering the people's means of subsistence
L. 20. dwell perpetually on the donation to favourites, &c. Burke alludes in the note to the publication of extracts from the famous Livre Rouge. Calonne shows that of the 228 millions of livres included in the accounts of this book for sixteen years, under different ministers, 209 millions were accountable for on other scores (foreign subsidies and secret service money, expenses of administration, personal expenses of the King and Queen, payment of the debts of the King's brothers, indemnities, &c.). The pamphlet circulated with so much industry is chiefly made up of scandalous reflections on the persons pensioned, and accounts of their lives and services. We find in it under the account of Mirabeau, 5000 liv. in 1776 for the "MS. of a work composed by him, entitled Des Lettres de Cachet"; and 195,000 liv. in 1789, "upon his word of honour [!] to counteract the plans of the National Assembly."
The world is obliged to M. de Calonne for the pains he has taken to refute the scandalous exaggerations relative to some of the royal expences, and to detect the fallacious account given of pensions, for the wicked purpose of provoking the populace to all sorts of crimes.
P. 234, L. 5. considerable emigrations. This was before the beginning of the great tide of emigration, which occasioned the decree against leaving the country, in 1791, pronouncing a sentence of civil death, and confiscation of goods, against the emigrant.
L. 14. learned Academicians of Laputa, &c. The satire of both Butler and Swift was much employed against what was called "virtuosodom," or the cultivation of the minute philosophy and natural science, in the infancy of those pursuits. Swift anticipates with curious foresight the situation of a country under the exclusive dominion of philosophers.
See Gulliver's Travels for the idea of countries governed by philosophers.
M. de Calonne states the falling off of the population of Paris as far more considerable; and it may be so, since the period of Mr. Necker's calculation.
When I sent this book to the press I entertained some doubt concerning the nature and extent of the last article in the above accounts, which is only under a general head, without any detail. Since then I have seen M. de Calonne's work. I must think it a great loss to me that I had not that advantage earlier. M. de Calonne thinks this article to be on account of general subsistence: but as he is not able to comprehend how so great a loss as upwards of £1,661,000 sterling could be sustained on the difference between the price and the sale of grain, he seems to attribute the enormous head of charge to secret expences of the revolution. I cannot say any thing positively on that subject. The reader is capable of judging, by the aggregate of these immense charges, on the state and condition of France; and the system of publick oeconomy adopted in that nation. These articles of account produced no enquiry or discussion in the National Assembly.
P. 236, L. 11. those of Germany, at the period, &c.—i. e. after the death of Frederick II, in 1250. "Every nobleman exercised round his castle a licentious independence; the cities were obliged to seek protection from their walls and confederacies; and from the Rhine and Danube to the Baltic, the names of peace and justice were unknown."—Gibbon.
L. 14. Orsini and Vitelli. Perhaps these particular names were put down without sufficient reflection. The Orsini were indeed distinguished in the twelfth century at Rome; but the Vitelli were first known as condottieri in the fifteenth, and the Orsini derive their chief celebrity in the same way. The two families were associated in resisting Pope Alexander VI. This was long after the period when robber knights "used to sally from their fortified dens," &c. Burke apparently, like his translator Gentz, thought they were famous in the wars of the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
IBID. Nayres on the coast of Malabar. The Nairs are the military caste who
P. 237, L. 6. breathe the spirit of liberty as warmly, &c. Not universally true, though not unjustifiable as a general statement.
L. 16. principles of a British constitution. Which was proposed as a model by Maury, Lally-Tollendal, Mounier, &c. The hostility of the victorious party to anything like the English constitution seemed a bond of union between them and the English Jacobins, at whom the present work is mainly levelled.
P. 238, L. 4. never abandoning for a moment, &c. M. Depont, to whom the work was addressed, objected to the severity of this part of the character of Henry IV, and Burke in a letter to him on the subject, justifies his view. The "scaffold" (l. 7) alludes to the execution of the Maréchal de Biron. "If he thought that M. de Biron was capable of bringing on such scenes as we have lately beheld, and of producing the same anarchy, confusion, and distress in his kingdom, as preliminary to the establishment of that humiliating as well as vexatious tyranny, we now see on the point of being settled, under the name of a constitution, in France, he did well, very well, to cut him off in the crude and immature infancy of his treasons. He would not have deserved the crown which he wore, and wore with so much glory, if he had scrupled, by all the preventive mercy of rigorous law, to punish those traitors and enemies of their country and of mankind. For, believe me, there is no virtue where there is no wisdom. A great, enlarged, protecting and preserving benevolence has it, not in its incidents and circumstances, but in its very essence, to exterminate vice, and disorder, and oppression from the world." Correspondence, iii. 160. The letter is printed at the end of Dupont's Translation.
L. 31. beyond what is common in other countries. The contrast especially applies to England, where the noblesse, as a body, did not exist, the greater part of the nobility being of middle class origin, and really commoners with coronets on their coats of arms.
L. 33. officious—i. e. disposed to do kind services. So Dr. Johnson's Epitaph on Levett;
Of every friendless name the friend.
L. 19. When the letting of the land was by rent. It would even appear that the tenant enjoyed a security in this respect unknown to English law. "Pareillement de même que la bonne foi ne permet pas au vendeur de vendre au-delà du juste prix, elle ne permet pas aussi au bailleur d'imposer par le bail la charge d'une rente trop forte qui excède le juste prix de l'héritage." Pothier, Traité du Contrat de Bail à Rente, p. 34. In addition, the rent reserved on a lease was commonly made redeemable, by a special clause, at a specified sum, or, in default, at a valuation.
L. 21. partnership with the farmer. Known as métairie, the farmer being called métayer. The usual form was that the landowner advanced the necessary stock, seed, &c., for carrying on the cultivation, and received as his share one half of the produce. This primitive contract is largely in use in India, Brazil, and other backward agricultural countries.
L. 30. much of the civil government, &c. See De Tocqueville, De l'Ancien Régime. The civil government had passed almost entirely out of the hands of the nobility into that of the central power; and the feudal dues and privileges which in former times had been cheerfully yielded to them when they had the responsibility of administration and police, were consequently grudged and resisted.
P. 240, L. 7. A foolish imitation, &c. "Anglomanie," which had been increasing in vogue all through the century. See the amusing description of it at the beginning of Mr. Carlyle's Hist. of the French Revolution. Previously the cry was against our following the example of the French,
Limps after, in base awkward imitation.
—Shakespeare, Rich. II.
L. 23. less than in Germany. Where the prejudice still subsists in all its force. The first question asked of a stranger in that country is, "Sind Sie von Adel?" The saying there goes that there are three bodies whose strength lies in their corporate cohesion, the Jews, the Jesuits, and the Nobility.
P. 241, L. 6. The strong struggle, &c. See Chalmer's Bridgewater Treatise, Chapter on "The Affections which conduce to the well-being of Society."
L. 12. civil order. A double meaning perhaps here flashed through Burke's mind—"order" signifying an architectural combination, as well as a state of political regulation.
L. 13. Corinthian capital. The Corinthian is the most graceful and ornamental of the orders of architecture.
Nobles look backward, and so lose the race.
L. 31. It was with the same satisfaction, &c. Throughout these pages Burke purposely confounds two distinct questions. "Mr. Burke has grounded his eloquent apology purely on their (the clergy) individual and moral character. This, however, is totally irrelative to the question; for we are not discussing what place they ought to occupy in society as individuals, but as a body. We are not considering the demerit of citizens whom it is fit to punish, but the spirit of a body which it is politic to dissolve. We are not contending that the Nobility and Clergy were in their private capacity bad citizens, but that they were members of corporations which could not be preserved with security to civil freedom."—Mackintosh.
P. 243, L. 14. without care it may be used, &c. History ought not to be written without a strong moral bias. Burke elsewhere censures the cold manner of Tacitus and Machiavelli in narrating crime and oppression. Macaulay is in this respect a good model.
L. 26. troublous storms, &c.
The private state, and make the life unsweet.
—Spenser, Faery Queene, Book ii. c. 7, st. 14.
L. 28. Religion, &c., the pretexts. "If men would say they took up arms for anything but religion, they might be beaten out of it by reason; out of that they never can, for they will not believe you whatever you say. The very arcanum of pretending religion in all wars is, that something may be found out in which all men may have interest. In this the groom has as much interest as the lord. Were it for lands, one has a thousand acres, and the other but one; he would not venture so far, as he that has a thousand. But religion is equal to both. Had all men land alike, by a lex agraria, then all men would say they fought for land."—Selden, Table-talk.
[f. This is on a supposition of the truth of this story, but he was not in France at the time. One name serves as well as another.—*x2p. 245.]
P. 246, L. 25. If your clergy, &c. One of those passages so common in Burke, which strike by their very temperance, and arrest attention by their mild and tolerant spirit.
P. 247, L. 6. I must bear with infirmities, &c. Notice the epigram, which appears also in Burke's Tracts on the Popery Laws. "The law punishes delinquents, not because they are not good men, but because they are
L. 25. rigidly screwing up right into wrong.
Entangle justice in her net of law,
And right, too rigid, harden into wrong.
—Pope, Essay on Man, iii. 191.
L. 29. ambition of intellectual sovereignty, &c. Burke clearly has in mind as a secondary object the Revolutionists at whom the whole work is levelled. Their enthusiasm resembled in a high degree that of the Protestant Reformers. Burke afterwards put this forward more clearly, in showing that the Revolution was one of speculative dogma, and that the war against it was one against that most formidable of opponent forces, an armed doctrine.
L. 15. When my occasions, &c. Burke speaks of nearly twenty years before. He refers to the subject in his "Remarks on the Policy of the Allies." It may be said that the prevalence of freethinking did no credit to the clergy, and that the emigrant nobility were equally followers of the philosophers. "The atheism of the new system, as opposed to the piety of the old, is one of the weakest arguments I have yet heard in favour of this political crusade."—Sheridan, Speech on the Address on the War with France, Feb. 12, 1793.
IBID. the bishop. M. de Cicé, under whose protection young Burke lived for some time at Auxerre. When the bishop came an impoverished and aged emigrant to England, the Burkes were able to requite his kindness.
L. 13. three clergymen. One of whom seems to have been the Abbé Vaullier. Correspondence, vol. i. p. 426.
P. 250, L. 5. an hundred and twenty Bishops. The exact number of Archbishops and Bishops was 131, of whom forty-eight had seats in the Assembly. The Assembly reduced them to eighty-three (assigning one to each department), which is the number now in existence.
L. 8. eminent depravity. Such examples may have been rare, but they were brought prominently into notice, by their existence in the midst of the society of Paris. Clermont, the Abbé of St. Germain des Prés, in the preceding generation, was a notorious instance. He enjoyed 2000 benefices, which he made a practice of selling. He devoted his revenues among other objects to the education of danseuses. Talleyrand was an obvious contemporary instance.
L. 32. pensionary = stipendiary, the salaries of church officials being made charges on the nation.
L. 29. intended only to be temporary. It was but temporary, but it is too much to say that it was intended to be so.
P. 252, L. 7. enlightened self-interest. An idea borrowed, like many others, from the English philosophers, but carried out to its consequences by the French, especially by Helvetius.
L. 12. Civic education. See the ideas on Public Education at the end of the work of Helvetius "De l'Esprit."
L. 16. principle of popular election. Burke evidently has in mind the discussion of the question by Dr. Johnson in his Tract on Lay Patronage: "But it is evident that, as in all other popular elections, there will be a contrariety of judgment, and acrimony of passion; a parish, upon every vacancy, would break into factions, and the contest for the choice of a minister would set neighbours at variance, and bring discord into families. The minister would be taught all the arts of a candidate, would flatter some, and bribe others... and it is hard to say what bitterness of malignity would prevail in a parish where these elections should happen to be frequent, and the enmity of opposition should be rekindled before it had cooled."
L. 29. as they would with equal fortitude, &c. This must be taken with some reservation. "Toute opinion est assez forte pour se faire épouser au prix de la vie," says Montaigne. Sectarian heat is often the fiercer the narrower the point of issue.
P. 254, L. 6. justice and mercy are substantial parts of religion. Micah vi. 8: "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
L. 17. dogmas of religion—all of moment. Cp. ante, note to p. 186, l. 15. See especially the Tracts on the Popery Laws. Perhaps the judgment of Bacon, acquiesced in by Burke, preferring the extreme of superstition to that of free-thought, may be reconsidered in the light of modern experience. The Rev. R. Cecil, an acute and philosophical divine, thought less of the dangers of Infidelity than of those of Popery. "Popery debases and alloys Christianity; but Infidelity is a furnace, wherein it is purified and refined. The injuries done to it by Popery are repaired by the very attacks of Infidelity." Remains, p. 136.
L. 25. common cause—common enemy. That of religion against principled non religionists. Experience, however, shows that the danger has been exaggerated. Notwithstanding the fluctuating prevalence of free-thought in different societies in Europe since the Italian Renaissance, it has nowhere taken root in such a way as to threaten the religion of the nation, from
End of Notes
You may suppose that we do not approve your confiscation of the revenues of bishops, and deans, and chapters, and parochial clergy possessing independent estates arising from land, because we have the same sort of establishment in England. That objection, you will say, cannot hold as to the confiscation of the goods of monks and nuns, and the abolition of their order. It is true, that this particular part of your general confiscation does not affect England, as a precedent in point: but the reason applies; and it goes a
When the *659Anabaptists of Münster, in the sixteenth century, had filled Germany with confusion by their system of levelling and their wild opinions concerning property, to
It is not the confiscation of our church property from this example in France that I dread, though I think this would be no trifling evil. The great source of my solicitude is, lest it should ever be considered in England as the policy of a state, to seek a resource in confiscations of any kind; or that any one description of citizens should be brought to regard any of the others as their proper prey.*42 Nations are
But it will be argued, that this confiscation in France ought not to alarm other nations. They say it is not made from wanton rapacity; that it is a great measure of national policy, adopted to remove an extensive, inveterate, superstitious mischief. It is with the greatest difficulty that I am able to separate policy from justice. *666Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.
*667When men are encouraged to go into a certain mode of life by the existing laws, and protected in that mode as in a lawful occupation—when they have accommodated all their ideas, and all their habits to it—when the law had long made their adherence to its rules a ground of reputation, and their departure from them a ground of disgrace and even of penalty—I am sure it is unjust in legislature, by an arbitrary act, to offer a sudden violence to their minds and their feelings; forcibly to degrade them from their state and condition, and to stigmatize with shame and infamy that character and those customs which before had been made the measure of their happiness and honour. If to this be added an expulsion from their habitations, and a confiscation of all their goods, I am not sagacious enough to discover how this despotic sport, made of the feelings, consciences, prejudices, and properties of men, can be discriminated from the rankest tyranny.
There are moments in the fortune of states when particular men are called to make improvements by great mental exertion. In those moments, even when they seem to enjoy the confidence of their prince and country, and to
But the institutions savour of superstition in their very principle; and they nourish it by a permanent and standing influence. This I do not mean to dispute; but this ought not to hinder you from deriving from superstition itself any resources which may thence be furnished for the public advantage. *673You derive benefits from many dispositions and many passions of the human mind, which are of as doubtful a colour in the moral eye, as superstition itself. It was your business to correct and mitigate every thing which was noxious in this passion, as in all the passions. But is superstition the greatest of all possible vices? In its possible excess I think it becomes a very great evil. It is, however, a moral subject; and of course admits of all degrees and all
For the present I postpone all considerations of the supposed public profit of the sale, which however I conceive
*676In every prosperous community something more is produced than goes to the immediate support of the producer. This surplus forms the income of the landed capitalist. It will be spent by a proprietor who does not labour. But this idleness is itself the spring of labour; this repose the spur to industry. The only concern of the state is, that the capital taken in rent from the land, should be returned again to the industry from whence it came; and that its expenditure should be with the least possible detriment to the morals of those who expend it, and to those of the people to whom it is returned.
In all the views of receipt, expenditure, and personal employment, a sober legislator would carefully compare the possessor whom he has recommended to expel, with the stranger who was proposed to fill his place. Before the inconveniences are incurred which must attend all violent revolutions in property through extensive confiscation, we ought to have some rational assurance that the purchasers of the confiscated property will be in a considerable degree more laborious, more virtuous, more sober, less disposed to extort an unreasonable proportion of the gains of the labourer, or to consume on themselves a larger share than is fit for the measure of an individual, or that they should be qualified to dispense the surplus in a more steady and equal mode, so as to answer the purposes of a politic expenditure, than the old possessors, call those possessors, bishops, or canons, or commendatory abbots, or monks, or what you please. "The monks are lazy." Be it so. Suppose them no otherwise employed than by singing in the choir. They are *677as usefully employed as those who neither sing nor say. As usefully even as those who sing upon the stage. They are
When the advantages of the possession, and of the project, are on a par, there is no motive for a change. But in the present case, perhaps they are not upon a par, and the difference is in favour of the possession. It does not appear to me, that the expences of those whom you are going to expel, do, in fact, take a course so directly and so generally leading to vitiate and degrade and render miserable those through whom they pass, as the expences of those favourites whom you are intruding into their houses. Why should the expenditure of a great landed property, which is a dispersion of the surplus product of the soil, appear intolerable to you or to me, when it takes its course through the accumulation of vast libraries, which are the history of the force and weakness
This comparison between the new individuals and the old corps is made upon a supposition that no reform could be made in the latter. But in a question of reformation, I always consider corporate bodies, *678whether sole or consisting of many, to be much more *679susceptible of a public direction by the power of the state, in the use of their property, and in the regulation of modes and habits of life in their members, than private citizens ever can be, or perhaps ought to be; and this seems to me a very material consideration for those who undertake any thing which merits the name of a politic enterprize. So far as to the estates of monasteries.
With regard to the estates possessed by bishops and canons, and *680commendatory abbots, I cannot find out for what reason some landed estates may not be held otherwise than by inheritance. *681Can any philosophic spoiler undertake to demonstrate the positive or the comparative evil, of having a certain, and that too a large portion of landed property, passing in succession thro' persons whose title to it is, always in theory, and often in fact, an eminent degree of piety, morals, and learning; a property which, by its destination, in their turn, and on the score of merit, gives to the noblest families renovation and support, to the lowest the means of dignity and elevation; a property, the tenure of which is the performance of some duty, whatever value you may choose to set upon that duty—and the character of whose proprietors demands at least an exterior decorum and gravity of manners; who are to exercise a generous but
*682This letter is grown to a great length, though it is indeed short with regard to the infinite extent of the subject. Various avocations have from time to time called my mind from the subject. I was not sorry to give myself leisure to observe whether, in the proceedings of the national assembly, I might not find reasons to change or to qualify some of my first sentiments. Every thing has confirmed me more strongly in my first opinions. It was my original purpose to take a view of the principles of the national assembly with regard to the great and fundamental establishments; and to compare the whole of what you have substituted in the place of what you have destroyed, with the several members of our British constitution. But this plan is of greater extent than at first I computed, and I find that you have
*683I have taken a review of what has been done by the governing power in France. I have certainly spoke of it with freedom. Those whose principle it is to despise the antient permanent sense of mankind, and to set up a scheme of society on new principles, must naturally expect that such of us who think better of the judgment of the human race than of theirs, should consider both them and their devices, as men and schemes upon their trial. They must take it for granted that we attend much to their reason, but not at all to their authority. They have not one of the great influencing prejudices of mankind in their favour. They avow their hostility to opinion. Of course they must expect no support from that influence, which, with every other authority, they have deposed from the seat of its jurisdiction.
I can never consider this assembly as any thing else than a voluntary association of men, who have availed themselves of circumstances, to seize upon the power of the state. They have not the sanction and authority of the character under which they first met. *684They have assumed another of a very different nature; and have completely altered and inverted all the relations in which they originally stood. They do not hold the authority they exercise under any constitutional law of the state. They have departed from the instructions of the people by whom they were sent; which instructions, as the assembly did not act in virtue of any antient usage or settled law, were the sole source of their authority. *685The most considerable of their acts have not been done by great majorities; and in this sort of near divisions, which carry
If they had set up this new experimental government as a necessary substitute for an expelled tyranny, mankind would anticipate the time of prescription, which, through long usage, mellows into legality governments that were violent in their commencement. All those who have affections which lead them to the conservation of civil order would recognize, even in its cradle, the child as legitimate, which has been produced from those principles of cogent expediency to which all just governments owe their birth, and on which they justify their continuance. But they will be late and reluctant in giving any sort of countenance to the operations of a power, which has derived its birth from no law and no necessity; but which on the contrary has had its origin in those vices and sinister practices by which the social union is often disturbed and sometimes destroyed. This assembly has hardly a year's prescription. We have their own word for it that they have made a revolution. *686To make a revolution is a measure which, prima fronte, requires an apology. To make a revolution is to subvert the antient state of our country; and no common reasons are called for to justify so violent a proceeding. The sense of mankind authorizes us to examine into the mode of acquiring new power, and to criticise on the use that is made of it, with less awe and reverence than that which is usually conceded to a settled and recognized authority.
In obtaining and securing their power, the assembly proceeds upon principles the most opposite from those which appear to direct them in the use of it. An observation on this difference will let us into the true spirit of their conduct. Every thing which they have done, or continue to do, in order to obtain and keep their power, is by the most common
We must always see with a pity not unmixed with respect, the errors of those who are timid and doubtful of themselves with regard to points wherein the happiness of mankind is concerned. But in these gentlemen there is nothing of the tender parental solicitude which fears to cut up the infant for the sake of an experiment. In the vastness of their promises, and the confidence of their predictions, they far outdo all the boasting of empirics. The arrogance of their pretensions, in a manner provokes, and challenges us to an enquiry into their foundation.
I am convinced that there are men of considerable parts among the popular leaders in the national assembly. Some of them display *688eloquence in their speeches and their writings. This cannot be without powerful and cultivated talents. But *689eloquence may exist without a proportionable degree of
It is this inability to wrestle with difficulty which has obliged the arbitrary assembly of France to commence their schemes of reform with abolition and total destruction.*44 But is it in destroying and pulling down that skill is displayed? *693Your mob can do this as well at least as your assemblies. The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand, is more than equal to that task. *694Rage and phrenzy will pull down more in half an hour, than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in an hundred years. *695The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice and the establishment together. The same lazy but restless disposition, which *696loves sloth and hates quiet, directs these politicians, when they come to work, for supplying the place of what they have destroyed. To make every thing the reverse of what they have seen is quite as easy as to destroy. No difficulties occur in what has never
At once to preserve and to reform is quite another thing. When the useful parts of an old establishment are kept, and what is superadded is to be fitted to what is retained, a vigorous mind, steady persevering attention, various powers of comparison and combination, and the resources of an understanding fruitful in expedients are to be exercised; they are to be exercised in a continued conflict with the combined force of opposite vices; with the obstinacy that rejects all improvement, and the levity that is fatigued and disgusted with every thing of which it is in possession. But you may object—"A process of this kind is slow. It is not fit for an assembly, which glories in performing in a few months the work of ages. Such a mode of reforming, possibly might take up many years." Without question it might; and it ought. It is one of the excellencies of a method in which time is amongst the assistants, that its operation is slow, and in some cases almost imperceptible. If circumspection and caution are a part of wisdom, when we work only upon inanimate matter, surely they become a part of duty too, when the subject of our demolition and construction is not brick and timber, but sentient beings, by the sudden alteration of whose state, condition, and habits, multitudes may be rendered miserable. But it seems as if it were the prevalent opinion in Paris, that an unfeeling heart, and an undoubting confidence, are the sole qualifications for a perfect legislator. Far different are my ideas of that high office. *698The true lawgiver ought to have an heart full of sensibility. He ought *699to love and respect his kind, and to fear himself. It may be allowed to his temperament to catch his ultimate object with an intuitive
To proceed in this manner, that is, to proceed with a presiding principle, and a prolific energy, is with me the criterion of profound wisdom. What your politicians think the marks of a bold, hardy genius, are only proofs of a deplorable want of ability. By their violent haste, and their defiance of the process of nature, they are delivered over blindly to every projector and adventurer, to every alchymist and empiric. They despair of turning to account any thing that is common. Diet is nothing in their system of remedy. The worst of it is, that this their despair of curing common distempers by regular methods, arises not only from defect of comprehension, but, I fear, from some malignity of disposition. Your legislators seem to have *705taken their opinions of all professions, ranks, and offices, from the declamations and buffooneries of satirists; who would themselves be astonished if they were held to the letter of their own descriptions. By listening only to these, your leaders regard all things only on the side of their vices and faults, and view those vices and faults under every colour of exaggeration. It is undoubtedly true, though it may seem paradoxical; but in general, *706those who are habitually employed in finding and displaying faults, are unqualified for the work of reformation: because their minds are not only unfurnished with patterns of the fair and good, but by habit they come to take no delight in the contemplation of those things. By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little. It is therefore not wonderful, that they should be indisposed and unable to serve them. From hence arises the *707complexional disposition of some of your guides to pull every thing in pieces. At this malicious game they display the whole of their *708quadrimanous activity. As to the rest, the *709paradoxes of eloquent writers, brought forth purely as a
Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability. But the physician of the state, who, not satisfied with the cure of distempers, undertakes to regenerate constitutions,
It is in the model of the sovereign and presiding part of this new republic, that we should expect their grand display. Here they were to prove their title to their proud demands. For the plan itself at large, and for the reasons on which it is grounded, I refer to the journals of the assembly of the 29th of September, 1789, and to the subsequent proceedings which have made any alterations in the plan. So far as in a matter somewhat confused I can see light, the system remains substantially as it has been originally framed. My few remarks will be such as regard its spirit, its tendency, and its fitness for framing a popular commonwealth, which they profess theirs to be, suited to the ends for which any commonwealth, and particularly such a commonwealth, is made. At the same time, I mean to consider its consistency with itself, and its own principles.
Old establishments are tried by their effects. If the people are happy, united, wealthy, and powerful, we presume the rest. We conclude that to be good from whence good is derived. In old establishments various *714correctives have been found for their aberrations from theory. Indeed they are the results of various necessities and expediences. They
The French builders, clearing away as mere rubbish whatever they found, and, *716like their ornamental gardeners, forming every thing into an exact level, propose to rest the whole local and general legislature on three bases of three different kinds; one geometrical, one arithmetical, and the third financial; the first of which they call the basis of territory; the second, the basis of population; and the third, the basis of contribution. For the accomplishment of the first of these purposes they divide the area of their country into eighty-three pieces, *717regularly square, of eighteen leagues by eighteen. These large divisions are called Departments. These they portion, proceeding by square measurement, into seventeen hundred and twenty districts called Communes. These again they subdivide, still proceeding by square measurement, into smaller districts called Cantons, making in all 6,400.
When these state surveyors came to take a view of their work of measurement, they soon found, that in politics, the most fallacious of all things was geometrical demonstration. They had then recourse to another basis (or rather buttress) to support the building which tottered on that false foundation. It was evident, that the goodness of the soil, the number of the people, their wealth, and the largeness of their contribution, made such infinite variations between square and square as to render mensuration a ridiculous standard of power in the commonwealth, and equality in geometry the most unequal of all measures in the distribution of men. However, they could not give it up. But *720dividing their political and civil representation into three parts, they allotted one of those parts to the square measurement, without a single fact or calculation to ascertain whether this territorial proportion of representation was
When they came to provide for population, they were not able to proceed quite so smoothly as they had done in the field of their geometry. Here their arithmetic came to bear upon their juridical metaphysics. Had they stuck to their metaphysic principles, the arithmetical process would be simple indeed. Men, with them, are strictly equal, and are entitled to equal rights in their own government. Each head, on this system, would have its vote, and every man would vote directly for the person who was to represent him in the legislature. "*722But soft—by regular degrees, not yet." This metaphysic principle, to which law, custom, usage, policy, reason, were to yield, is to yield itself to their pleasure. There must be many degrees, and some stages, before the representative can come in contact with his constituent. Indeed, as we shall soon see, these two persons are to have no sort of communion with each other. First, the voters in the Canton, who compose what they call primary assemblies, are to have a qualification. What! a qualification on the indefeasible rights of men? Yes; but it shall be a very small qualification. Our injustice shall be very little oppressive; only the local valuation of three days labour paid to the public. Why, this is not much, I readily admit, for any thing but the utter subversion of your equalising principle. As a qualification it might as well be let alone; for it answers no one purpose for which qualifications are established: and, on your ideas, it excludes from a vote, the man of all others whose natural equality stands the most in need of protection and defence; I mean the man who has nothing else but his natural equality to guard him.
The gradation proceeds. These primary assemblies of the Canton elect deputies to the Commune; one for every two hundred qualified inhabitants. Here is the first medium put between the primary elector and the representative legislator; and here a new turnpike is fixed for taxing the rights of men with a second qualification: for none can be elected into the Commune who does not pay the amount of ten days labour. Nor have we yet done. There is still to be another gradation.*45 These Communes, chosen by the Canton, choose to the Department; and the deputies of the Department choose their deputies to the National Assembly. Here is a third barrier of a senseless qualification. Every deputy to the national assembly must pay, in direct contribution, to the value of a mark of silver. Of all these qualifying barriers we must think alike; that they are impotent to secure independence; strong only to destroy the rights of men.
In all this process, which in its fundamental elements affects to consider only population upon a principle of natural right, there is a manifest attention to property; which, however just and reasonable on other schemes, is on theirs perfectly unsupportable.
When they come to their third basis, that of Contribution,
Here the principle of contribution, as taken between man and man, is reprobated as null, and destructive to equality; and as pernicious too; because it leads to the establishment of an aristocracy of the rich. However, it must not be abandoned. And the way of getting rid of the difficulty is to establish the inequality as between department and department, leaving all the individuals in each department upon an exact par. Observe, that this parity between individuals had been before destroyed when the qualifications
Now take it in the other point of view, and let us suppose their principle of representation according to contribution, that is according to riches, to be well imagined, and to be a necessary basis for their republic. In this their third basis they assume, that riches ought to be respected, and that justice and policy require that they should entitle men, in some mode or other, to a larger share in the administration of public affairs; it is now to be seen, how the assembly provides for the pre-eminence, or even for the security of the rich, by conferring, in virtue of their opulence, that larger measure of power to their district which is denied to them personally. I readily admit (indeed I should lay it down as a fundamental principle) that in a republican government, which has a democratic basis, the rich do require an additional security above what is necessary to them in monarchies. They are subject to envy, and through envy to oppression. On the present scheme, it is impossible to divine what advantage they derive from the aristocratic preference upon which the unequal representation of the masses is founded. The rich cannot feel it, either as a support to dignity, or as security to fortune: for the aristocratic mass is generated from purely democratic principles; and the prevalence given to it in the general representation has no sort of reference to or connexion with the persons, upon account of whose property this superiority of the mass is established. If the contrivers of this scheme meant any
Let us suppose one man in a district (it is an easy supposition) to contribute as much as an hundred of his neighbours. Against these he has but one vote. If there were but one representative for the mass, his poor neighbours would outvote him by an hundred to one for that single representative. Bad enough. But amends are to be made him. How? The district, in virtue of his wealth, is to choose, say, ten members instead of one: that is to say, by paying a very large contribution he has the happiness of being outvoted, an hundred to one, by the poor for ten representatives, instead of being outvoted exactly in the same proportion for a single member. In truth, instead of benefitting by this superior quantity of representation, the rich man is subjected to an additional hardship. The encrease of representation within his province sets up nine persons more, and as many more than nine as there may be democratic candidates, to cabal and intrigue, and to flatter the people at his expence and to his oppression. An interest is by this means held out to multitudes of the inferior sort, in obtaining a salary of eighteen livres a day (to them a vast object) besides the pleasure of a residence in Paris and their share in the government of the kingdom. The
Thus it must fare between the poor and the rich in the province deemed aristocratic, which in its internal relation is the very reverse of that character. In its external relation, that is, its relation to the other provinces, I cannot see how the unequal representation, which is given to masses on account of wealth, becomes the means of preserving the equipoise and the tranquillity of the commonwealth. For if it be one of the objects to secure the weak from being crushed by the strong (as in all society undoubtedly it is) how are the smaller and poorer of these masses to be saved from the tyranny of the more wealthy? Is it by adding to the wealthy further and more systematical means of oppressing them? When we come to a balance of representation between corporate bodies, provincial interests, emulations, and jealousies are full as likely to arise among them as among individuals; and their divisions are likely to produce a much hotter spirit of dissention, and something leading much more nearly to a war.
I see that these aristocratic masses are made upon what is called the principle of direct contribution. Nothing can be a more unequal standard than this. The indirect contribution, that which arises from duties on consumption, is in truth a better standard, and follows and discovers wealth more naturally than this of direct contribution. It is difficult indeed to fix a standard of local preference on account of the one, or of the other, or of both, because some provinces may pay the more of either or of both, on account of causes not intrinsic, but originating from those very districts over whom they have obtained a preference in consequence of their ostensible contribution. If the masses were independent sovereign bodies, who were to provide for a federative treasury by distinct contingents, and that the
It is very remarkable, that in this fundamental regulation, which settles the representation of the mass upon the direct contribution, they have not yet settled how that direct contribution shall be laid, and how apportioned. Perhaps there is some latent policy towards the continuance of the present assembly in this strange procedure. However, until they do this, they can have no certain constitution. It must depend at last upon the system of taxation, and must vary
To compare together the three bases, not on their political reason, but on the ideas on which the assembly works, and to try its consistency with itself, we cannot avoid observing, that the principle which the committee call the basis of population, does not begin to operate from the same point with the two other principles called the bases of territory and of contribution, which are both of an aristocratic nature. The consequence is, that where all three begin to operate together, there is the most absurd inequality produced by the operation of the former on the two latter principles. Every canton contains four square leagues, and is estimated to contain, on the average, 4,000 inhabitants, or 680 voters in the primary assemblies, which vary in numbers with the population of the canton, and send one deputy to the commune for every 200 voters. Nine cantons make a commune.
Now let us take a canton containing a sea-port town of trade, or a great manufacturing town. Let us suppose the population of this canton to be 12,700 inhabitants, or 2,193 voters, forming three primary assemblies, and sending ten deputies to the commune.
Oppose to this one canton two others of the remaining eight in the same commune. These we may suppose to have their fair population of 4,000 inhabitants, and 680 voters each, or 8,000 inhabitants and 1,360 voters, both together. These will form only two primary assemblies, and send only six deputies to the commune.
This inequality, striking as it is, will be yet highly aggravated, if we suppose, as we fairly may, the several other cantons of the commune to fall proportionably short of the average population, as much as the principal canton exceeds it. Now, as to the basis of contribution, which also is a principle admitted first to operate in the assembly of the commune. Let us again take one canton, such as is stated above. If the whole of the direct contributions paid by a great trading or manufacturing town be divided equally among the inhabitants, each individual will be found to pay much more than an individual living in the country according to the same average. The whole paid by the inhabitants of the former will be more than the whole paid by the inhabitants of the latter—we may fairly assume one third more. Then the 12,700 inhabitants, or 2,193 voters of the canton will pay as much as 19,050 inhabitants, or 3,289 voters of the other cantons, which are nearly the estimated proportion of inhabitants and voters of five other cantons. Now the 2,193 voters will, as I before said, send only ten deputies to the assembly; the 3,289 voters will send sixteen. Thus, for an equal share in the contribution of the whole commune, there will be a difference of sixteen voices to ten in voting for deputies to be chosen on the principle of representing the general contribution of the whole commune.
By the same mode of computation we shall find 15,875 inhabitants, or 2,741 voters of the other cantons, who pay one-sixth LESS to the contribution of the whole commune, will
Such is the fantastical and unjust inequality between mass and mass, in this curious repartition of the rights of representation arising out of territory and contribution. The qualifications which these confer are in truth negative qualifications, that give a right in an inverse proportion to the possession of them.
In this whole contrivance of the three bases, consider it in any light you please, I do not see a variety of objects, reconciled in one consistent whole, but several contradictory principles reluctantly and irreconcileably brought and held together by your philosophers, like wild beasts shut up in a cage, to claw and bite each other to their mutual destruction.
I am afraid I have gone too far into their way of considering the formation of a constitution. They have much, but bad, metaphysics; much, but bad, geometry; much, but false, proportionate arithmetic; but if it were all as exact as metaphysics, geometry, and arithmetic ought to be, and if their schemes were perfectly consistent in all their parts, it would make only a more fair and sightly vision. It is remarkable, that in a great arrangement of mankind, not one reference whatsoever is to be found to any thing moral or any thing politic; nothing that relates to the concerns, the actions, the passions, the interests of men. *724Hominem non sapiunt.
Notes for this chapter
P. 255, L. 18. I see, in a country very near us, &c. Cp. note to p. 95, l. 12. Burke here also pretends to the right to censure the unjust domestic policy of a neighbouring nation.
L. 23. one of the greatest of their own lawyers. I cannot point to any passage in the works of Domat, in which the second thesis, here attributed to him (l. 25), is maintained. Burke was apparently quoting from memory. Often as he makes verbal mistakes, it is rarely that he makes material ones. Here, however, seems to be a material error of memory. The doctrine of Domat is that the postulates of society are divisible into (1) Laws immutable, (2) Laws arbitrary. He refers the principle of prescription to the first, the ascertainment of its limits to the second. Civil Law in its Natural Order, bk. iii. tit. 7, sec. 4. Burke was perhaps thinking of Cicero, who repeats the ordinary notions as to the end of society being security of property: "Hanc ob causam maxime, ut sua tenerent, respublicae civitatesque constitutae sunt." De Off. lib. II. c. 21, sec. 73 (see also c. 23).
L. 27. If prescription be once shaken, &c. Burke's fears were needless. The principle was never shaken, nor has it ever been seriously threatened.
Speech of Mr. Camus, published by order of the National Assembly.
P. 257, L. 6. Anabaptists of Münster. Originally organised in the Netherlands, these fanatics were admitted by the citizens of Münster after the expulsion of their bishop. Münster saw the community of goods and wives carried out, and a tailor who took to himself seventeen wives, proclaimed King of the Universe.
L. 10. just cause of alarm. The policy of Luther, which steadily maintained the cause of the Reformation free from political revolutions, kept them in isolation.
Whether the following description is strictly true I know not; but it is what the publishers would have pass for true, in order to animate others. In a letter from Toul, given in one of their papers, is the following passage concerning the people of that district: "Dans la Révolution actuelle, ils ont résisté à toutes les séductions du bigo