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express object of his abhorrence; 'a liberty unconnected with order, which could exist without honesty or virtue'? It was the principal boast of the party in which he had served and which he had commanded, to be the accurate and even the responsible representatives of the principles by which, in the English revolution of 1688, certain definite rights and securities were obtained for this country; could he, then, in the pursuit of vague and undefined freedom, consent to risk the loss of those defined and constitutional benefits? could he consider the doctrines and the practices, which he was, by every principle of his political creed, bound and sworn to condemn if they had been of English growth, as rendered pure and harmless by their importation from France ?
If a statesman can be proved to have been mercenary and treacherous, the remaining parts of his political character may be abandoned to their own merits; and these, therefore, are the favourite and laboured points of attack to the enemies of Burke.
The first charge resolves itself, upon a strict examination, into Mr. Burke's acceptance of a pension at the close of his public life; for, by all the preceding actions of that life, it is refuted in a manner as distinct and unanswerable as Mr. Thomas Moore himself could require. Some allowance, indeed, may be demanded for a scandalous story in certain unpublished papers of Lord Orford: but on the point of scandal purer authority may well be expected, and Mr. Moore has not suggested its existence. But let us come to facts. Nearly the first action of Burke in connection with his political life, when the condition of his private fortune gave the highest value to the sacrifice, was the voluntary abandonment of a pension obtained for him by Mr. Gerard Hamilton, who had made some proposal on the subject implying an expectation of political servitude, and therefore offensive to his feelings; and who will deny that the forbearance of Burke in never proclaiming this action, even as a defence of his supposed desertion of a friend and a patron, greatly enhances its merit? Again, in 1765, Lord Charlemont relates the offer made by Burke to resign his office of private secretary to Lord Rockingham, the moment he learned that prejudices were entertained against him by some of his lordship’s colleagues in the government. Lord Charlemont is not a mean authority on any question of political integrity; and it should be observed, that, at the period of this offer, this office was to Burke the only opening to parliament and to political distinction. Again, on the formation of Lord Chathani's administration, though urged by Lord Rockingham himself to accept the office of a lord of trade, Burke refused to abandon the fortunes of his earliest patron. Once more, the seat in parliament for Bristol, so honourably conferred on him, and in
itself an honour of which neither the value nor the effects should be estimated by the feelings of the present times, was risked and lost for no other reason but his intrepid avowal of principles more liberal than those of his constituents. And lastly, in 1782, when paymaster of the army, he voluntarily retrenched from his own emoluments various profits depending on the management of Chelsea Hospital—and the whole interest of the balances of public money, which had been enjoyed by all his predecessors; and even
years enjoyment of which (for the amount of the interest on these balances was actually upwards of £20,000 per annum) would have made himself infinitely a richer man than he ever was or hoped to be.
If to these unquestionable facts, not arguing corruption or laxity of principle, we add Burke's persevering refusal to accept any office after his junction with Mr. Pitt; if, moreover, we reflect that his pension,' the head and front of his offending, ' never solicited by himself, was not accepted before 1795, after his retirement from the active pursuits of his political career; that it was neither a retainer for future service in parliament, nor a bribe to indolence or to incapacity, but the hardly-earned recompense of a laborious public life and of many substantial services to the state : -If we look to the case in all its bearings as it really stands, we shall impute the charge rather to political malice than to political justice. At the worst, we shall hesitate to admit the propriety of the verdict which, on the ground of a single offence, would obliterate the merits and defame the character of a whole existence; and even find some difficulty in admiring the policy or the candour of those who reject, on this sole plea, the honour and the advantage which the long and disinterested attachment of a splendid genius might shed on their own cause.
With regard to the charge of political treachery, we shall be contented with one observation, and that we borrow from Mr. Moore's Life of Sheridan, of which a very unreasonable portion is filled with the most vulgar common-places of rancorous abuse against Burke. It is, in fact, an unconscious refutation of many of this sprightly partizan's own statements.
In general,' Mr. Moore remarks, political deserters lose their power and their value in the very act; and bring little more than their treason to the cause which they espouse; but Burke was mighty in either camp,' &c. &c.
What then was the true cause of this rare exception in the instance of Burke to the common fate of political deserters? Why did not his influence, his power and his character expire with his faith to his party? There is but one intelligible solution of this problem--that he deserved and received the credit, commonly
his labour and his care. Those who are not ignorant of the less liberal views of Mr. Fox, and of some of his greatest contemporaries on this subject, are bound to record that he always supported her interests at the sacrifice of his own; and that on the subject of her trade more especially, all the principles, by which the intercourse between the two countries has in the sequel been regulated and improved, were traced by his sagacity. His exertions in regard to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, what ever may be the natural differences of opinion on the great ques tion yet pending, cannot surely be perverted into proofs of his indifference to the civil rights of mankind. From them at least no evidence of an aristocratical or abstract love of oppression can be extorted. Long before the first relaxation of the penal laws in 1778; Mr. Burke had examined every branch of the subject, and had explained to the more leading statesmen of Ireland his feelings and his opinions. It is not possible to deny that before that period the whole system was odious and unwise, and incapable of producing any other results than those of hatred and turbulence on the one side, of insolence and of fear on the other. Of the first bill of relief, to which Sir George Savile's name was given, Mr. Burke was known to be the author; and after the greater bill of relief in 1792, he continued, to the moment of his death, to urge the policy of granting to the Roman Catholics the political privileges from which they still continued to be excluded. The man who acted thus, whatever else he might be, was not a bigoted advocate of the existing order of things: this Apostle of Institutions could consent without alarm to the removal of political restraints, when the case in his opinion justified such a concession.
But-to leave Ireland—if the claims of Mr. Burke to be ranked with the most successful friends of English liberty, had rested on the single foundation of his reforms in the public offices, and the public expenditure of the country, the most sincere alarmist on the influence of the crown must surely hesitate to reject them. For he must be sensible that it cannot be deemed the same enterprize, requiring the same spirit, or opposed by the same difficulties, to have attacked the very citadel of royal influence in the year 1780, which it would be considered in the year 1826. He must feel some respect for the hand, which inflicted the first serious wound on the system of sinecures; which deprived the crown of so many sources of influence and means of corruption; which so largely exaited the character, by increasing the independence, of parliament. We have observed that a very narrow and unfair estimate of the national service accomplished by these reforms, is too frequently admitted. It is supposed to consist in fixing a limit to the pension
tist, in reducing the accounts of the civil list to the system of all other parliamentary accounts, and in suppressing the unlimited use of the balances of public money. But difficult and praiseworthy as were these services, they form but a small and an inferior part of the whole. For to the laws for which we are indebted to Mr. Burke, and to the public discussions by which he introduced them, a total change in the feelings and the conduct of all public accountants may be distinctly ascribed. Without any arrogant pretension to an immaculate purityin ourown times, one cannot consider the habits and practices of the public departments before those reforms, without many emotions of shame, and some of disgust and of indignation. The exorbitant fortunes amassed by the
possessors of offices, and amassed by means that would not bear description; the studied and ingenious profusion of expense in all the details of official business; the unsparing application of the large balances of the revenue to private emolument; these are some of the features of that ancient system, which the single arm of Burke combated and destroyed. Some lovers of antiquity may certainly regret, that the old distinction between a public and a private account is no longer maintained, and that so much of the clearness, the simplicity and the precision of the latter has been introduced into the former. But those who reflect, how much the risks of embezzlement and the temptations to dishonesty were at once retrenched, how many resources of a sinister influence were for ever severed from the crown, may well be startled by the statement that the original parent of all this national good was himself, above all other men, the zealot of corruption and power, the most bigoted and relentless of all the systematic advocates of thrones and dominions.
Nearly at the same period—when the intense interest of domestic politics absorbed the attention of every other mind that of Burke, soaring above the scene of his personal interests, and the contests of his party, calmly examines the whole system of negro slavery, and exposes it to public inquiry and to public reprobation. Not satisfied with declamation on a topic as yet unhackneyed, or rather untouched, he frames a code of regulations so admirably adapted to the case, that after the experience of forty years it has been made the model and the ground-work of the measures recently adopted by the English ministers. The scheme of Burke proposes, by gradually raising the condition and above all promoting the instruction of the slave, to render his ultimate manumission at once conducive to his own welfare, and safe to his master. Sensible of the risk, and indeed of the inevitable failure of any sudden alteration in such a peculiar state of society, Burke calculated his system for the same end, GG 2
and sketched out nearly the same means, that have found favour with the present government. But while popular applause is lavished on vulgar intellects incapable of originating anything, and equally incapable of treading in, without trampling into inutility, any path marked out by such a mind as this, the man who first directed the attention of England to the condition of the negros is utterly forgotten.
We may take this opportunity of pausing for a moment on a popular notion regarding Mr. Burke, which has been partly refuted by the better experience of his countrymen, but which still exists to a very considerable extent: we allude to the habit of discarding and vilifying him as an extravagant theorist,—as one, whose barren generalities are unfit for the test of practice and of real life. That this clamour should be echoed and re-echoed by sheer ignorance, or by the malice of those to whom such theorists as Burke are always dangerous, cannot be the subject of any reasonable surprize. But the charge sometimes proceeds from more respectable quarters. It is, in fact, the favourite topic of those mechanical statesmen' who treat with majestic contempt every thing in politics beyond the bustling intrigue, the exclusive attention to details, valued in proportion to their minuteness, on which their own chances of fortune and of reputation are wholly founded. These make their own horizon the boundary of the political universe. The party-battle of the day, the routine of official or of parliamentary duty, presents to their imagination the whole circle of political science. They regard the excursions of such a mind as Burke's with the same feelings which some men apply to the invention of balloons; that is to say, with a faint emotion of wonder, and a much stronger one of contempt. No subject can be named, on which an indulgence in general topics, and in the mere Aights of oratory, is more tempting or more pardonable, than the slavery of so large a portion of mankind, with all its attendant evils, and its peculiar sufferings. Yet may we observe that here too, as on the great questions of America, of civil reform, of Indian abuses, and of religious libertythe attention of Burke, this mighty theorist, is devoted to the practical mitigation of evils, of which not his own ignorance or incapacity, but the state of national feeling at the time on the one hand, and his own knowledge of the nature of man and the history of the world on the other, forbad him to attempt the total and immediate abolition. He not only penetrates but methodizes the minutest details of this inquiry, then not less novel than intricate; and is able to chain down even his expansive genius to the strictest * forms of business. Let us not conclude that this was simply a proof of his industry or his intellect; it is the best evidence that