Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

I fear this will be difficult. The former scheme would no ways answer, and I wish I had entirely thrown it aside, as it has embarrassed me a good deal. The whole attack on Pitt's conduct must be omitted, or we shall draw the cry of the world upon us, as if we meant directly to quarrel with all mankind.'

Burke wished the responsibility of the pamphlet to be divided fairly with all the other supporters of Lord Rockingham:

In order that it should be truly the common cause, make it at your meeting what you please. Let me know what ought to be left out, what softened, and what strengthened. On reading it to Will and Dick, they thought some things a little too ludicrous. I thought much otherwise, for I could rather wish that more had occurred to me (as more would, had my spirits been high) for I know how ill a long detail of politics, not animated by a direct controversy, wants every kind of help to make it tolerable.'

Burke, in his desire to remove the responsibility as far as possible from himself, even suggested to the party 'whether a thing of this nature should appear at all;' on the ground that it attacked the dearest objects of the court, did nothing to conciliate the Grenville party, and at the same time avowed doctrines which were the reverse of popular. He continued his work at the pamphlet in November. He then writes :

I find I must either speak very broad, or weaken the matter, and render it vulgar and ineffectual. I find some difficulties as I proceed; for what appear to me self-evident propositions, the conduct and pretences of people oblige one formally to prove; and this seems to me, and to others, a dull and needless labour. However, a good deal of it will soon be ready, and you may dispose of it as you please. It will, I am afraid, be long?' A week after this he writes:

I cannot now send the rest of my pamphlet. It is not in order, nor quite finished even in the scheme; but I wish that, if you approve what is done, you may send it back, for it ought not now to have a moment's delay.'

The conclusion was written, and the whole submitted to Lord Rockingham in December, about the time of the appearance of Junius' celebrated Letter to the King. On the 23rd of that

1 Burke's brother Richard, and distant kinsman William Burke.
? Burke to Rockingham, Nov. 6, 1769.

month Rockingham sent the manuscript to Dowdeswell. Rockingham writes: 'I wish it was possible that this work could soon make its appearance. I am only fearful that my own delay may have made it difficult.' The Duke of Portland warmly approved of the work, but justly remarked that the king was not so absolute a thing of straw' as he was represented in it. He objects also to the softening or sliding over the conduct of the Earl of Bute. The Duke writes 1:

'I myself can speak of Lord Bute's public avowal of the principles on which the present Court system is formed, at least eighteen years agone (a time that you will think his professions must have been remarkable to have struck so young a boy as I then was); and though he may possibly not have had sense enough to form all the plan himself, he has had villany enough to adopt it, and introduce it in a manner that perhaps nobody had the means of doing so effectually as himself.'

In reply to the question of the policy of the publication, the Duke of Portland says:

"What hurt the publication can do, I can't foresee. “It will make you enemies." So it will; but those only, that for your own sake you would be ashamed to call friends, except one?, who never will like you till he sees he can't go on without you; and when that is the case, if he has as much honesty as sense, he will feel and own a pleasure that he never as yet can have experienced. As to serious, thinking people, men of weight and property either in a landed or commercial way, what injury can it do you in their opinions? Don't they see and feel every day the mischiefs of the present system? You join with them in their complaint; you shew exactly where the sore arises, and point out the remedy; nay, pledge yourself (at least I hope the pamphlet may be understood in that light) to apply it. And as to the young men of property and independent people in both Houses, it is holding out a banner for them to come to, where, surely, interest cannot be said to point out the way, and where nothing but public good is to be sought for on the plainest, honestest, and most disinterested terms.'

Internal evidence shows that the work was accommodated to circumstances which occurred early in 1770, and it does not appear to have been published until the month of April. Two quarto and two octavo editions were sold in that year, besides an

1 Rock. Mem. ii. 145.

The King

Irish reprint. A fifth edition was published in 1775, and a sixth in 1784.

The pamphlet contains indications of that relaxation of the formal literary manner which we have noted above. A literary friend in Ireland remarked that the business of the House of Commons had had its effect on Burke's style, and that the phraseology was not so elegant as usual.' He erred, however, in ascribing this to the author's admitting insertions from other hands, to which he did not take the trouble to give his own colouring ; for every line of the work is unmistakeably from the pen of Burke.

The pamphlet had little or no effect on the position of the Court party. They were even pleased with the liberal hostility it displayed 1. Compared with the scorpionlike flagellations of Junius, the stripes of Burke seemed like the chastisement of one who loved them. It was otherwise with the popular party. The • Answer' of Mrs. Macaulay, which was published in May 1770?, embodies their opinions of it. This otherwise worthless production is valuable as a testimony to Burke's political consistency. In it he is considered to be as determined and formidable an enemy to democracy as in the Rights of Man,' twenty years afterwards.

Lord Chatham, the professed champion of an ideal anti-factious Whiggism, declared in a letter to Lord Rockingham, that the pamphlet had done much hurt to the cause.' On the back of this letter the following memorandum, dated July 13, 1792, was written by Burke:

Looking over poor Lord Rockingham's papers, I find this letter from a man wholly unlike him. It concerns my pamphlet (“ The Cause of the Discontents "). I remember to have seen this knavish letter at the time. The pamphlet is itself, by anticipation, an answer to that great artificer of fraud 3. He would not like it. It is pleasant to hear him talk of the great extensive public, who never conversed but with a parcel of low toad-eaters, Alas! alas! how different the real from the ostensible public man!

1 Burke's Correspondence, i. 229.

3. No heroine in Billingsgate can go beyond the patriotic scolding of our republican virago. You see I have been afraid to answer her.' Burke to Shackleton, Aug. 15, 1770. · 8 Milton (Par. Lost, iv, 121) names Satan · Artificer of Fraud.'

Must all this theatrical stuffing and raised heels be necessary for the character of a great man?

EDMUND BURKE.' "Oh! but this does not derogate from his great, splendid side. God forbid !

E. B.'

The Speech on American Taxation was delivered in the debate on the Repeal of the Tea-duty, the sole remnant of the taxes imposed by Townshend in 1767, purposely left to assert the right of taxation, when the rest were repealed in 1770, and in itself nothing, in the words of Lord Rockingham, but an uncommercial, unproductive, pepper-corn rent.' The attempted enforcement of this duty produced that resistance which terminated in American independence.

The first official notice of this resistance was contained in an ominous message from the throne, March 7, 1774, produced by the advices of the outrages committed on board the teaships at Boston. A mob, disguised as Mohawk Indians, had boarded the ships, broken open the tea-chests, and poured their contents into the sea. In this message, and the address which was voted upon it, the objects aimed to be secured by the Boston Port Bill were only too clearly shadowed forth. This fatal measure, which removed the custom-house officers of Boston, and prohibited the landing and discharging, lading and shipping of goods, wares and merchandizes at the said town of Boston or within the harbour thereof, passed the House on the 25th, was immediately carried up to the Lords, and received the royal assent on the 31st of March. The more statesmanlike politicians, however, entertained the gravest apprehensions of the results of this measure: and, with the concurrence of some who had voted for it on general grounds, the motion in the debate upon which this speech was made, which had been so often proposed in former sessions, was again brought forward. It was negatived: and the numbers in its favour were much smaller than upon former occasions. The policy of coercion was further followed up by the monstrous attempt to subvert the constitution of the province of which the offending port was the capital, which appeared in due time under the form of a ‘Bill for the better regulating government in the Province of Massachusett's Bay. The purpose of this bill was, in the words of Burke in

the Annual Register, 'to alter the constitution of that province as it stood in the charter of King William; to take the whole executive power out of the hands of the democratic port, and to vest the nomination of counsellors, judges, and magistrates of all kinds, including sheriffs, in the Crown, and in some cases in the King's governor, and all to be removable at the pleasure of the Crown.'

Burke consented to the publication of this speech at the earnest solicitation of his friends. It is difficult to realise the great effect which it seems to have produced. Colonel Barré declared, in his excitement, that if it could be written out, he would nail it on every church door in the kingdom. Sir George Savile called it the greatest triumph of eloquence within his memory. Governor Johnstone said on the floor of the House that it was fortunate for the noble lords (North and Germaine) that spectators had been excluded during that debate, for if any had been present, they would have excited the people to tear the noble lords in pieces on their way home.

It seems to have been from a generous wish to give the ministry an opportunity of doing their best to restore tranquillity,

and from an indisposition to appear in the light of a demagogue, · while equally unwilling to soften down the terms in which he had spoken, that Burke deferred the publication of the Speech until the beginning of the ensuing year. It was several times reprinted, and, like most of Burke's publications, provoked an • Answer,' which is not worthy of attention.

As to the Speech on Conciliation with America, and its relation to the former, the student is commended to the following note by Dr. Goodrich:

It would hardly seem possible that in speaking so soon again on the same subject, he could avoid making this speech to some extent an echo of his former one. But never were two productions more entirely different. His stand-point in the first was England. His topics were the inconsistency and folly of the ministry in their “miserable circle of occasional arguments and temporary expedients" for raising a revenue in America. His object was to recall the House to the original principles of the English colonial system-that of regulating the trade of the colonies and making it subservient to the interests of the mother country, while in other respects she left them “every characteristic mark of a free people in all their internal concerns."

« AnteriorContinuar »