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Appointed Paymaster General.- Reasons for not being in the
Cabinet.—Letters to Lord Charlemont.-Lord Shelburne. Coalition.—Reports of the Select Committee on Bengal.—Communication on the Arts to Barry.—India Bill.-Mr. Pitt.Mr. Burke elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. -Scotsmen.—Character of his Epitaph on Sir G. Saville.Reception in the new Parliament.-General Haviland and family.Jeu d'Esprit of Dean Marlay.-Letter to Miss Shackleton.-Anecdotes.
Thus had terminated the most hard and ablyfought party contest in our history, and with it virtually the war in which it originated ; but it did not leave Mr. Burke, as it found him, undisputed leader of his party.
Mr. Fox, his political pupil and friend, who had been for some time treading closely on his heels in Parliament, and who had now advanced to an equality in the conduct of business there, and to superior popularity out of doors, finally took the lead. For this there were some obvious reasons. Inferior to his tutor, as
a great and commanding orator, and what ought to be of more consequence to the
country—as a wise and sound statesman, he frequently excelled most men in vigour of debate; but more especially possessed a peculiar tact beyond all his contemporaries and all his predecessors without exception, for being at the head of a political party. He enjoyed all the weight which birth and connexion (and these are essential objects among .
the Whigs of England) could give : his acquaintance with the great was necessarily extensive, and his friendships nearly as general ; with the young, by community of pursuits and pleasures, with the old and staid, by community of information and talent. His fortune originally was considerable, had it not been squandered, his temper in general easy, his thirst for popularity excessive, his manners adapted to gain it, and his sacrifices to ensure it; his very faults and weaknesses were with many more matter of jest and favour than of censure. Some of his doctrines were more to the taste of the people, who placed confidence in his sincerity ; and with scarcely a shilling he could call his own, they were pleased to think him in spirit the most independent.
In all these points he had the advantage over his coadjutor, who also suffered some loss of weight by his rejection at Bristol, by his disregard of the popular voice when he thought it ill-directed, by a more uncompromising temper, by being supposed a dependant of Lord Rockingham, and, among a certain class, by being a native of Ireland. There was unquestionably a jealousy through life of the merits and influence of Mr. Burke, even among many who advocated the same cause, which nothing but very uncommon powers and exertions enabled him to surmount, and of which he frequently complained. Under all these disadvantages, however, he had kept the effective lead in the Commons for ten years; and, had Lord North fallen three years sooner, would have been made efficient Minister ; the common opinion, early expressed at the table of Lord Rockingham, being, that “ he was the only
man who could save the empire from dismemberment.” Even just before that Minister's resignation, he himself remarks he had obtained a considerable share of public confidence, notwithstanding the jealousy and obloquy which had assailed him during much of his career. “I do not say I saved my country-I am sure I did my country much service. There were few indeed that did not at that time acknowledge it."
That Mr. Fox should now prevail, with Westminster at his back, with unbounded popularity in the nation, and the advantage of that aristocratic feeling in his favour, obviously inherent in the public mind on all public matters, forms no cause for surprise. Mr. Burke, who considered humility in the estimate of ourselves a species of moral duty, submitted to the sense of his party without a murmur. A vain man would have resented this; a weak one complained of it; an ambitious or selfish one probably taken advantage of it on the first opportunity to quit the connexion for ever, and throw the weight of his name and talents into the opposite scale.
In the division of the spoil of office, his share was a seat in the Privy Council, and the Paymaster-Generalship of the Forces, then the most lucrative office in the State, and remarkable for having been held by Lords Chatham, Holland, North, and Charles Townshend, previous to their becoming first Ministers. Considerable surprise was expressed at his not being included in the Cabinet ; assigned for which was his desire to purge the office in question of its acknowledged impurities, though the real one perhaps was the necessities of his party,
which required the Cabinet offices for men of greater family and Parliamentary interest, though of far inferior talents; and also it should be added, for the gratification of Lord Shelburne and his friends, who enjoyed a much larger share of the royal favour. It is also true that Mr. Burke drove no bargain on the subject for himself, expressing to his friends sentiments similar to those of a great statesman of the present day,*-namely, his willingness to serve his country, not where ambition might dictate, but where the general interests of government required. His moderation will be still more esteemed, when it is known that the chief arrangements for the new Administration were committed to his direction by the Marquis of Rockingham. To this he alluded three months afterwards on the discussions produced by the elevation of the Earl of Shelburne to the head of the Treasury.
After all it may be doubted whether this moderation, forbearance, disinterestedness, or by whatever other name it may be designated, was not misplaced. Those who affect humility in political consequence will commonly be taken at their word by their associates; and an attentive inquirer will find that Mr. Burke constantly made this mistake throughout his public life. The pride of the Whig Aristocracy indeed had scarcely begun, as it has been well said, to thaw during the most active part of his career, and he was therefore perhaps constrained to give way to the more potent influence of birth and family influence; but whiggism was, and no doubt deserved to be, injured by the arrangement :-on the
Right Hon. George Canning-Speech at Liverpool, September, 1822.
present occasion he ought, beyond doubt, to have been in the Cabinet, and had he insisted upon it, a seat could not well have been refused. The omission certainly hurt his political reputation among many who could not know or appreciate the generosity of the sacrifice he had made; and even at the present day it is ignorantly urged as a kind of reproach, that though far superior in talents to any member of the Cabinet except Mr. Fox, he submitted to accept of an inferior office in administration.
Politics, however, unlike literature, is seldom a Republic. Party is Monarchy in miniature, where each must keep an appointed station for the benefit of all, and where other circumstances, such as great popularity, high rank, property, or weight in the country, independent of talents, must combine to constitute a chief suitable to the popular taste.
But were a man in this country, of great capacity and attainments, though of little influence or fortune, such for instance as Mr. Burke himself was, deliberately to choose his side in politics as he would a profession—that is, for the advantages it is likely to bring—he would probably not be a Whig. That numerous and powerful body is believed to be too tenacious of official consequence to part with it to talents alone—and too prone to consider high rank, leading influence, and great family connexion, rather than abilities of humbler birth, as of right entitled to the first offices of government. They are willing indeed to grant emolument, but not to grant power, to any other than lawyers, who do not materially interfere with their views on the chief departments of government ;—an opinion which, notwithstanding the profession of popular principles, is