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want of sleep, and then addressed the citizens in a speech which met with great and general approbation.
After a contest protracted to the last moment, he was returned on the third of November. powerful address of thanks, delivered on the occasion, he exhibited what many thought too rigid a degree of independence on being pressed as to whether he meant to vote in Parliament according to his own opinion, or to the wishes of his constituents. The question at such a moment was vexatious enough, for a negative might imply on his part something like ingratitude ; but being above all evasion or temporizing, he respectfully, though firmly, claimed the privilege at all times of following the dictates of his own conscience. His reasons, among the more reflecting class of politicians, have set the question for ever at rest ; no one has thought it necessary to add to them, or prudent to answer them; though he complained at the moment of want of time and preparation for the discussion.
“ I am sorry I cannot conclude without saying a word on a topic touched upon by my worthy colleague. I wish that topic had been passed by, at a time when I have so little leisure to discuss it. But since he has thought proper to throw it out, I owe you a clear explanation of my poor sentiments on that subject.
“ He tells you that the topic of instructions has occasioned much altercation and uneasiness in this city; and he expresses himself, if I understand him rightly, in favour of the coercive authority of such instructions.
Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him ; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions to theirs ; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure ; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you,
if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours without question ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments ?
“ To deliver an opinion is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to
rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience; these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenour of our constitution.
“ Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different states and with hostile interests ; which interests each must maintain as an agent and advocate against other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation with one interest, that of the whole; where not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form an hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far as any other from any endeavour to give it effect.”
On another occasion (1780), he told them—“ I did not obey your instructions: No. I conformed to the instructions of truth and nature, and maintained your interest, against your opinions, with a constancy that became me. A representative worthy of you ought to be a person of stability. I am to look indeed to your opinions; but to such opinions as you and I must look to five years hence.
not to look at the flash of the day. I knew that you chose me, in my place, along with others, to be a pillar of the state, and not a weather-cock on the top of the edifice, exalted for my levity and versatility, and of no use but to indicate the shiftings of every popular gale.”
These speeches being circulated through the country, an unusual thing with election speeches of that day, met with general applause.
A ludicrous anecdote is recorded of his brother candidate, Mr. Cruger, a merchant chiefly concerned in the American trade, who, at the conclusion of one of Mr. Burke's eloquent harangues, finding nothing to add, or perhaps as he thought to add with effect, exclaimed earnestly in the language of the countinghouse, “ I say ditto to Mr. Burke—I say ditto to Mr. Burke.” With such an example before him, however, he must have improved materially in the art of delivering his sentiments in public, for in the succeeding session he spoke on American business several times with sufficient spirit.
Parliamentary Business.-Speech on American Conciliation.
Anecdotes of Drs. Franklin, Priestley, and Mr. Hartley.Round Robin on Goldsmith's Epitaph.—Epitaph on Mr. Dowdeswell.–Use of a good Speech in Parliament.-Letters to the Sheriffs and two Gentlemen of Bristol.—To Lord Charlemont, Barry, Mr. Francis, Mr. Fox, Dr. RobertsonSpeeches on the Address and Employment of the Indians.Statue proposed in Dublin.-Admiral Keppel.—Letter to Sir William Jones.
It was the common lot of Mr. Burke, during much of his political life, to see fulfilled in the recess the predictions he had made during the preceding session. So was it with the scheme for shutting up the port of Boston, which more than realized his worst anticipations, by giving birth to that concentration of the most turbulent spirits of the colonies into a congress, where almost at their first meeting, and wholly unknown to their constituents, was laid the plan of total separation from the mother-country.
A variety of petitions from the merchants and manufacturers, deprecating hostilities, flowed into the House of Commons, which were strenuously though ineffectually seconded by the Member for Bristol; being referred, not to a political committee, as he wished, but to a commercial one, which was wittily called by him, and afterwards generally known, as the Committee of Oblivion, from nothing having transpired from it.
The reports which exist of four or five of the speeches on these petitions, though extremely scanty,