Edmund Burke: Quotations (1)

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Sublime & Beautiful (1756)
Laws against Popery (1763)
Present Discontents (1770)
Electors of Bristol (1774)
American Taxation (1774)
Conciliate America (1775)
Bristol Guildhall (1780)
To Sir H. Langrishe (1792)
Letter to Richard Burke (1793)
To a Noble Lord (1795)
On a Regicide Peace (1796)
Letter to Dr. Hussey (1796)
Affairs of Ireland (1797)

On the Penal Laws against Catholics: ‘All the penal laws of that unparalleled code of oppression which were made after the last event [1691] were manifestly the effects of national hatred and scorn towards a conquered people, whom the victors delighted to trample upon, and were not at all afraid to provoke. They were not the effect of their fear but that of their security Whilst that temper prevailed, and it prevailed in all its force to a time within our memory, every measure was pleasing and popular just in proportion as it tended to harass and ruin a set of people who were looked upon as enemies of God and man; indeed, as a race of savages, who were a disgrace to human nature itself.’ (Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, 3 Jan. 1792.)

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Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756): ‘[In the presence of the sublime] the qualities of beauty [lie] either dead or unoperative; or at most exerted to mollify the rigour and sternness of the terror’; ‘[J]udgement is for the greater part employed in throwing stumbling blocks in the way of the imagination, in dissipating the scenes of its enchantment, and in tying us down to the disagreeable yoke of our reason: for almost the only pleasure that men have in judging better than others, consists in a sort of conscious pride and superiority, which arises from thinking rightly’ (Philosophical Enquiry, ed. J. T. Boulton, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1958, p.25.)


‘The passions which belong to self-preservation, turn on pain and danger; […] they are delight when we have an idea of pain and danger, without actually being in such circumstances […] Whatever excites this delight, I call sublime’; ‘beauty is a name I shall apply to all such qualities in things as induce in us a sense of affection and tenderness, or some other passion the most nearly resembling these. The passion of love has its rise in positive pleasure.’ (ibid., p.33.)

‘Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling […] When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience.’ (ibid., p.40.) ‘terror is a passion which always produces delight when it does not press too close’ (p.46.)

‘[the venerability of the father] hinders us from having that entire love for him that we have for our mothers, where the parental authority is almost melted down into the mother’s fondness’ (p.159.)

‘[On ‘compound abstract’ words:] ‘These words, by having no application, ought to be unoperative; but when words commonly sacred to great occasions are used, we are affected by them even without occasions’ (p.166.) ‘[T]he shouting multitudes … by the sole strength of the sound, so amazes and confounds the imagination, that in this staggering, and hurry of the mind, the best established tempers can scarcely forbear being borne down, and joining in the common cry, and common resolution of the crowd.’ (ibid., p.182.)

‘[D]elightful terror [is] the most genuine effect, the truest test of the sublime’ (p.73.)

[The sublime causes] a sort of tranquillity tinged with terror; which as it belongs to self-preservation is one of the strongest of all passions.’ (p.136.)

‘Certain it is, that the influence of most things on our passions is not so much from the things themselves, as from our opinions concerning them; and these again depend very much on the opinions of other men, conveyable for the most part by words only […] there are many things of a very affecting nature, which can seldom occur in the reality, but the words which represent them often do; and thus they have an opportunity of making a deep impression and taking root in the mind […]. Besides, many ideas have never been at all presented to the senses of any man but by words, as God, angels, devils, heaven and hell, all of which have however a great influence over the passions […] by words we have it in our power to make such combinations as we cannot possibly do otherwise. By this power of combining we are able, by the addition of well-chosen circumstances, to give a new life and force to the simple object.’ (pp. 173-74.)

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Philosophical Enquiry (1756), Section VI: “POETRY not strictly an imitative art”; ‘poetry … cannot with strict propriety be called an art of imitation. it is indeed an imitation so far as it describes the manners and passions of men which their words can express; where animi motus effert interpret lingua [Horace, Ars Poetica, l.111]. There it is strictly imitation; and all merely dramatic poetry is of this sort. But descriptive poetry operates chiefly by substitution; by the means of sounds, which by custom have the effect of realities. Nothing is an imitation further than as it resembles some other thing; and words undoubtedly have no sort of resemblance to the ideas for which they stand.’

Philosophical Enquiry (1756), SECT. VII: “How WORDS influence the passions”, ‘Now, as words affect, not by any original power, but by representation, it might be supposed, that their influence over the passions should be but light; yet it is quite otherwise; for we find by experience that eloquence and poetry are as capable, nay indeed much more capable of making deep and lively impressions than any other arts, and even than nature itself in very many cases. And this arises chiefly from three causes. First, that we take an extraordinary part in the passions of others, and that we are easily affected and brought into sympathy by tokens which can express all the circumstances of most passions so fully as words; […] certain it is, that the influence of most things on our passions is not so much from the things themselves, as from our opinions concerning them; and these depend very much on the opinions of other men, conveyable for the most part by words only. Secondly; there are may things of a very affecting nature, which can seldom occur in the reality, but the words which represent them often do; and thus they have an opportunity of making a deep impression and taking root in the mind, which the idea of the reality was transient; and to some perhaps never really occurred in any shape, to whom it is notwithstanding very affecting, as war, death, famine, &c. … Thirdly; by words we have it in our power to make such combinations as we cannot do otherwise … to give a new life and force to the simple object.’ [cited in W. J. McCormack, Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1937 (OUP 1985; see also and Joep Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael (Rodopi 1986, q.p.)

Philosophical Enquiry (1756): ‘I call beauty a social quality; for when men and women, and not only they, but when others animals give us a sense of joy and pleasure in beholding them (and there are many that do so), they inspire us with sentiments of tenderness and affection towards their persons; we like ot have them near us, and we enter willingly into a kind of relation with them, unless we should have any strong reasons to the contrary.’ (Philosophical Enquiry, London 1906, Vol. 1, p.95; quoted by Terry Eagleton, ‘Aesthetics and Politics in Edmund Burke’, in Michael Kenneally, ed., Irish Literature and Culture Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992, p.27.) ‘I never remember that anything beautiful, whether a man, a beast, a bird, or a plant, was ever shown, though it were to a hundred people, that they did not all immediately [28] agree that it was beautiful.’ (Ibid., p.70; Eagleton, p.28.) ‘Whilst we consider taste merely according to its nature and species, we shall find its principles entirely uniform; but the degree in which these principles prevail, in the several individuals of mankind, is altogether as different as the principles themselves are similar.’ (Ibid., p.78; Eagleton, p.28.) ‘It is my imitation, far more than by precept, that we learn everything; and what we learn thus, we acquire not only more effectually, but more pleasantly. This forms our manners, our opinions, our lives. It is one of the strongest links of society; it is a species of mutual compliance, which all men yield to each other without constraint to themselves, and which is extremely flattering to all.’ (Ibid., p.101; Eagleton, p.29.) ‘Although imitation is one of the great instruments used by Providence in bringing our nature towards its perfection, yet if men gave themselves up to imitation entirely, [28] and each followed the other, and so on in an eternal circle, it is easy to see that there could never be any improvement amongst them.’ (Ibid., p.102; Eagleton, p.28-29.) ‘To prevent this, God has planted in man a sense of ambition, and a satisfaction arising from the contemplation of his excelling his fellows in something deemed valuable amongst them.’ (Ibid., p.102; Eagleton, p.29.) ‘We submit to what we admire, but we love what submits to us; in one case we are forced, in the other flattered, into compliance.’ (Ibid., p.161; Eagleton, p.29.) ‘The authority of the father, so useful to our well-being, and so justly venerable upon all accounts, hinders us from having thA entire love for him that we have for our mothers, where the parental authority is almost melted down into the mother’s fondness and indulgence.’ (Ibid. p.159; Eagleton, p.30.) ‘As common labour, which is a mode of pain, is the exercise of the grosser, a model of terror is the exercise of the finer parts of the system’ (Ibid., p.181; Eagleton, p.31.)

Philosophical Enquiry (1756): ‘But in the imagination, besides the pain and pleasure arising from the properties of teh natural object, a pleasure is perceived from the resemblance which the imitation has to the original: the imagination, I conceive, can have no pleasure but what results from one or other of these causes. And these causes operate pretty uniformly upon all men, because they operate by preinciples in nature […] (Collier edn., 1968; p.17.) ‘When two distinct objects are unlike each other, it is only what we expect; things are in their common way; and therefore make no impression on the imagination: but when two distinct objects have a resemblance, we are sturck, we attend to then, and we are pleased. The mind of man has naturally a far greater alacrity and satisfaction in tracing resemblanes than in searching for differences: because by making resemblances we produce new images; we unite, we create, we enlarge our stock.’ (Collier edn., idem; both quoted in W. E. Murphy, MPhil/PhD transfer, UU 2004.)

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Philosophical Enquiry (2nd Edn 1759), Preface: ‘I have endeavoured to make this edition something more full and satisfactory than the first. I have sought with the utmost care, and read with equal attention, everything which has appEared in public against my opinions; I have taken advantage of the candid liberty of My friends; and by these means I have been better enabled to discover the imperfections of the work, the indulgence it has received, imperfect as it was, furnished with a new motice to spare no reasonable pains for its improvement.’ (Charles Eliot, ed., On the Sublime and the Beautiful, NY: Collier 1968, p.7.) Further: ‘The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is astonishment; and astonishment is the state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that, far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible force. Astonishment, as I have said, is the effect of the sublime in its highest degree; the inferior effects are admiration, reverence, and respect.’ (Eliot edn., p.49; both of the foregoing quoted in Will Murphy, MA Diss., UUC 2004.)

A Philosophical Enquiry (2nd Edn., 1759), Sect. VI - “Of the passions which belong to SELF-PRESERVATION”: ‘Most of the ideas which are capable of making a strong impression on the mind, whether simply of Pain or Pleasure, or of the modifications of those, may be reduced very nearly to these two heads: i) self-preservation and society; to the ends of one or the other of which all our passions are calculated to answer. The passions which concern self-preservation, turn mostly on pain or danger. The ideas of pain, sickness, or death, fill the mind with strong emotions of horror; but life and health, though they put us in a capacity of being affected with pleasure, they make no such impression by the simple enjoyment. The passions therefore which are conversant about the preservation of the individual, turn chiefly on pain and danger, and they are the most powerful of the passions. […]’

A Philosophical Enquiry (2nd Edn., 1759): Section VII: “Of the SUBLIME”: ‘Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime ; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling. I say the strongest emotion because I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the part of pleasure. Without all doubt, the torments which we may be made to suffer, are much greater in their effect on the body and mind, than any pleasures which the most learned voluptuary could suggest, or the liveliest imagination, and the most sound and exquisitely sensible body could enjoy. Nay I am in great doubt, whether any man could be found who would earn a life of the most perfect satisfaction, at the price of ending it in the torments, which justice inflicted in a few hours on the late unfortunate regicide in France. But as pain is stronger in its operation than pleasure, so death is in general a much more affecting idea than pain; because there are very few pains, however exquisite, which are not preferred to death; nay, what generally makes pain itself, if I may say so, more painful, is, that it is considered as an emissary of this king of terrors. When pleasure or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience. The cause of this I shall endeavour to investigate hereafter.’ (See further extracts, infra.)

fuscous, adj.

“In buildings, when the highest degree of the sublime is intended, the materials and ornaments ought neither to be white, nor green, nor yellow, nor blue, not of a pale red, nor violet, nor spottd, but of a sad and fuscous colours, as black, or brown, or deep purple, and the like. (On the Sublime and Beautiful, sec. 16.)

Fuscous - word

Quoted in Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, or, Universal Dictionary of Knowledge / combining the two-fold advantages of a philosophical and alphabetical arrangement / with appropriate engraving, edited by Rev. Edward Smedley, MA, Late Fellow of Sidney College, Cambridge, Rev. Hugh James Rose, B.D., Principal of King's College, Rev. John Henry Rose, Late Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, Vol XIX, B. Fellows and J. Rivington [... et al.] 1845), p.415.

online; accessed 15.03.2017.

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Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763): ‘The happiness or misery of multitudes can never be a thing indifferent. A law against the majority of the people is in substance a law against the people itself; its extent determines its invalidity; it even changes its character as it enlarges its operations, it is not particular injustice, but general oppression; and can no longer be considered as a private hardship which might be borne, but spreads and grows up into the unfortunate importance of a national calamity. […] Now as a law directed against the mass of the nation has not the nature of a reasonable institution, so neither has it the authority, for in all forms of government the people is the true legislator; and whether the immediate and instrumental cause of the law be a single person or many, the remote and efficient cause is the consent of the people, either actual or implied; and such consent absolutely essential to its validity.’ (Works, VI, 320; Arnold, ed., Burke’s Letters, Tracts, and Speeches on Irish Affairs, 1881; facs. rep. [Cresset Press] 1988, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien, p.24; quoted in O’Brien, The Great Melody, 1992, p.41.) ‘Now, as a law directed against the mass of the nation has not the nature of a reasonable institution, so neither has it the authority; for in all forms of government the people is the true legislator; and whether the immediate and instrumental cause of the law be a single person or many, the remote and efficient cause is the consent of the people - either actual or implied - and such consent is absolutely essential to its validity. To the solid establishment of every law two things are essentially requisite: first, a proper and sufficient human power to declare and modify the matter of the [24] law; and next, such a fit and equitable constitution as they have a right to declare and render binding. With regard to the first requisite, the human authority, it is their judgment they give up, not their right The people, indeed, are presumed to consent to whatever the Legislature ordains for their benefit; and they are to acquiesce in it though they do not clearly see into the propriety of the means by which they are conducted to that desirable end. This they owe as an act of homage and just deference to a reason which the necessity of Government has made superior to their own. But though the means, and indeed the nature of a public advantage, may not always be evident to the understanding of the subject, no one is so gross and stupid as not to distinguish between a benefit and an injury. No one can imagine then an exclusion of a great body of men, not from favours, privileges, and trusts, but from the common advantages of society, can ever be a thing intended for their good, or can ever be ratified by any implied consent of theirs. If, therefore, at least an implied human consent is necessary to the existence of a law, such a constitution cannot in propriety be a law at all.’ (Burke, op. cit., seq.; also O’Brien, op. cit., pp.24-25.) [Cont.]

Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763) - cont.: ‘I am sensible that these principles in their abstract light will not be very strenuously opposed. Reason is never inconvenient but when it comes to be applied. Mere general truths interfere very little with the passions. They can, until they are roused by a troublesome application, rest in great tranquillity side by side with tempers and proceedings the most directly opposite to them. Men want to be reminded who do not want to be taught, because those original ideas of rectitude, to which the mind is compelled to assent when they are proposed, are not always as present to it as they ought to be. When people are gone, if not into a denial, at least into a sort of oblivion of those ideas, when they know them only as barren speculations, and not as practical motives for conduct, it will be proper to press as well as to offer them to the understanding, and when one is attacked by prejudices which aim to intrude [30] themselves into the place of law, what is left for us but to vouch and call to warranty those principles of original justice from whence alone our title to everything valuable in society is derived? Can it be thought to arise from a superfluous vain parade of displaying general and uncontroverted maxims, that we should revert at this time to the first principles of law, when we have directly under our consideration a whole body of statutes, which I say are so many contradictions, which their advocates allow to be so many exceptions from those very principles? Take them in the most favourable light, every exception from the original and fixed rule of equality and justice ought surely to be very well authorised in the reason of their deviation, and very rare in their use. For if they should grow to be frequent, in what would they differ from an abrogation of the rule itself? By becoming thus frequent, they might even go farther, and establishing themselves into a principle, convert the rule into the exception. It cannot be dissembled that this is not at all remote from the case before us, where the great body of the people are excluded from all valuable property, where the greatest and most ordinary benefits of society are conferred as privileges, and not enjoyed on the footing of common rights.’ (Burke, op. cit., seq.; also O’Brien, op. cit., pp.24-25.)

Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery(1763) - cont.: ‘[I]t supposes, what is false in fact, that it is in a man’s moral power to change his religion whenever his convenience requires it. If he be beforehand satisfied that our opinion is better than his, he will voluntarily come over to you, and without compulsion; and then your Law would be unnecessary; but if he is not so convinced, he must know that it is his duty in this point to sacrifice his interest here to his opinion of his eternal happiness, else he could have in reality no religion at all. In the former case, therefore, as your Law would be unnecessary; in the latter it would be persecuting; that is, it would put your penalty and his ideas of duty in the opposite scales; which is, or I know not what it is, the precise idea of persecution.’ (Works, VI, 331; O’Brien, op. cit., 42] ‘We found the people hereticks and idolators; we have, by way of improving their condition, rendered them slaves and beggars, they remain in all the misfortune of their old errors, and all the superadded misery of their recent punishment.’ (Works VI, p.341) The great prop of this whole system is not pretended to be its justice or its utility, but the supposed danger to the State which gave rise to it originally, and which they apprehend would return if this system were overturned … (Works, VI, 355.) [Cont.]

Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763) [discussing the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV]: ‘The privileges which the Protestants of that kingdom [France] enjoyed antecedent to this revo- cation were far greater than the Roman Catholics of Ireland ever aspired to under a contrary establishment. The number of their sufferers, if considered absolutely, is not half of ours; if considered relatively to the body of each community, it is not perhaps a twentieth part. And then the penalties and incapacities which grew from that revocation are not so grievous in their nature, nor so certain in their execution, nor so ruinous by a [34] great deal to the civil prosperity of the State, as those which we have established for a perpetual law in our unhappy country. It cannot be thought to arise firom afifectation, that I call it so. What other name can be given to a country which contains so many hundred thousands of human creatures reduced to a state of the most abject servitude? In putting this parallel I take it for granted that we can stand for this short time very clear of our parly distinctions. If it were enough by the use of an odious and unpopular word to determine the question, it would be no longer a subject of rational disquisition; since that very prejudice, which gives these odious names, and which is the party charged for doing so, and for the consequences of it, would then become the judge also.’ [Cont.]

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Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763) - cont. [immed.]: ‘But I flatter myself that not a few will be found who do not think that the names of Protestant and Papist can make any change in the nature of essential justice. Such men will not allow that to be proper treatment to the one of these denominations, which would be cruelty to the other; and which converts its very crime into the instrument of its defence. They will hardly persuade themselves that what was bad policy in France can be good in Ireland, or that what was intolerable injustice in an arbitrary monarch becomes, only by being more extended and more violent, an equitable procedure in a country professing to be governed by law. It is, however, impossible not to observe with some concern that there are many also of a different disposition — a number [35] of persons whose minds are so formed that they find the communion of religion to be a close and an endearing tie, and their country to be no bond at all; to whom common altars are a better relation than common habitations, and a common civil interest; whose hearts are touched with the distresses of foreigners, and are abundantly awake to all the tenderness of human feeling on such an occasion, even at the moment that they are inflicting the very same distresses, or worse, on their fellow-citizens, without the least sting of compassion or remorse.’ [cont.]

Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763) - cont. [immed.]: ‘To commiserate the distresses of all men suffering innocently, perhaps meritoriously, is generous, and very agreeable to the better part of our nature — a disposition that ought by all means to be cherished. But to transfer humanity from its natural basis — our legitimate and homebred connections; to lose all feeling for those who have grown up by our sides, in our eyes, the benefit of whose cares and labours we have partaken from our birth, and meretriciously to hunt abroad after foreign affections, is such a disarrange- ment of the whole system of our duties, that I do not know whether benevolence so displaced is not almost the same thing as destroyed, or what effect bigotry could have produced that is more fatal to society. This no one could help observing, who has seen our doors kindly and bountifully thrown open to foreign sufferers for conscience, whilst through the same ports were issuing fugitives of our own, driven from their country for a cause which to an indifferent person would seem [36] to be exactly similar, whilst we stood by, without any sense of the impropriety of this extraordinary scene, accusing, and practising injustice.’ (pp.36-37.)

Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763) - cont. [immed.]: ‘It is proper to recollect that this religion, which is so persecuted in its members, is the old religion of the country and the once established religion of the State - the very same which had for centuries received the countenance and sanction of the laws, and from which it would at one time have been highly penal to have dissented.’ (p.41.) ‘[…] it is a great alleviation of guilt, which may be mingled with their misfortune, that the error is none of their forging; that they received it on as good a footing as they can receive your laws and your legislative authority, because it was handed down to them from their ancestors. The opinion may be erroneous, but the principle is undoubtedly right, and you punish them for acting upon a principle which, of all others, is perhaps the most necessary for preserving society - an implicit admiration and adherence to the establishments of their forefathers.’ (p.43.)

Tract Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763) - sundry sentences: ‘This confinement of landed property to one set of hands and preventing its free circulation through the community is a most leading article of ill policy; because it is one of the most capital discouragements to all that industry which may be employed on the improvement of the soil, or is any way conversant about land [...] Allow a man but temporary possession, lay it down as a maxim that he shall never have any other, and you immediately and infallibly turn him to temporary enjoyments; and these enjoyments are never the pleasures of labour and free industry, whose quality it is to famish the present hours, and squander all upon prospect and futurity; they are, on the contrary, those of a thoughless, loitering and dissipated life. The people must inevitably be disposed to such pernicious habits merely from the short duration of thier tenure which the law has [60] allowed.’ (Ibid., p.60-61.) ‘If it can be shown that the great rebellions of Ireland have arisen from attempts to reduce the natives to the state to which they are now reduced, it will show that an attempt to continue them in that state will rather be disadvantageous to the public peace than any kind of security to it.’ (p.64.) [See full-text versions at Internet Archive online, or in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index or attached.)

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Thoughts Upon the Present Discontents (1770): ‘[...] I am no friend to aristocracy, in the sense at least in which that word is usually understood. If it were not a bad habit to moot cases on the supposed ruin of the constitution, I should be free to declare, that if it must perish, I would rather by far see it resolved into any other form, than lost in that austere and insolent domination. But, whatever my dislikes may be, my fears are not upon that quarter. The question, on the influence of a court, and of peerage, is not, which of the two dangers is the more eligible, but which is the more imminent. He is but a poor observer, who has not seen, that the generality of peers, far from supporting themselves in a state of independent greatness, are but too apt to fall into an oblivion of their proper dignity, and to run headlong into an abject servitude. Would to God it were true, that the fault of our peers were too much spirit. It is worthy of some observation that these gentlemen, [458] so jealous of aristocracy, make no complaints of the power of those peers (neither few nor inconsiderable) who are always in the train of a court, and whose whole weight must be considered as a portion of the settled influence of the Crown. This is all safe and right; but if some peers (I am very sorry to they are not as many as they ought to be) set themselves, in the great concern of peers and commons, against a back-stairs influence and clandestine government, then the alarm begins; then the constitution is in danger of being forced into an aristocracy.’ (Works, London: Nimmo 1887, pp.458-59; see longer extracts from Routledge Edn of 1919, infra.)

Thoughts Upon the Present Discontents (1770): ‘The court party resolve the whole into faction Having said something before upon this subject, I shall only observe here, that, when they give this account of the prevalence of faction, they present no very favorable aspect of the confidence of the people in their own government. They may be assured, that however they amuse themselves with a variety of projects for substituting something else in the place of that great and only foundation of government, the confidence of the people, every attempt will but make their condition worse. When men imagine that their [481] food is only a cover for poison, and when they neither love nor trust the hand that serves it, it is not the name of the roast beef of Old England, that will persuade them to sit down to the table that is spread for them. When the people conceive that laws, and tribunals, and even popular assemblies, are perverted from the ends of their institution, they find in those names of degenerated establishments only new motives to discontent. Those bodies, which, when full of life and beauty, lay in their arms, and were their joy and comfort, when dead and putrid, become but the more loathsome from remembrance of former endearments. A sullen gloom and furious disorder prevail by fits; the nation loses its relish for peace and prosperity; as it did in that season of fulness which opened our troubles in the time of Charles the First. A species of men to whom a state of order would become a sentence of obscurity are nourished into a dangerous magnitude by the heat of intestine disturbances; and it is no wonder that, by a sort of sinister piety, they cherish, in their turn, the disorders which are the parents of all their consequence. Superficial observers consider such persons as the cause of the public uneasiness, when, in truth, they are nothing more than the effect of it.’ (Works, London: Nimmo 1887, pp.458-59.)

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Bristol Speech (November 3, 1774), on the duties of an MP: ‘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 unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, 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 judgement; 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 judgement, 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? […]’

Bristol Speech (November 3, 1774) - cont: ‘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 judgement 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 tenor of our Constitution. […] Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and 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. I beg pardon for saying so much on this subject. I have been unwillingly drawn into it; but I shall ever use a respectful frankness of communication with you. Your faithful friend, Your devoted servant, I shall be to the end of my life; a flatterer you do not wish for. On this point of instructions, however, I think it scarcely possible we can ever have any sort of difference. Perhaps I may give you too much, rather than too little, trouble. […]’ (Cont.)

Bristol Speech (November 3, 1774) - cont: ‘From the first hour I was encouraged to court your favour, to this happy day of obtaining it, I have never promised you anything but humble and persevering endeavours to do my duty. The weight of that duty, I confess, makes me tremble; and whoever well considers what it is of all things in the world, will fly front what has the least likeness to a positive and precipitate engagement. To be a good member of Parliament is, let me tell you, no easy task; especially at this time, when there is a strong disposition to run into perilous extremes of servile compliance or wild popularity. To unite circumspection with vigour, is absolutely necessary; but it is extremely difficult. we are now members for a rich commercial city; this city, however, is but a part of a rich commercial nation, the interests of which are various, multiform, and intricate. We are members for that great nation, which however is itself but a part of a great Empire, extended by our virtue and our fortune to the farthest limits of the east and of the west. All these wide-spread interests must be considered; must be compared; must be reconciled, if possible. We are members of a free country; and surely we all know that the machine of a free constitution is no simple thing; but as intricate and as delicate as it is valuable. [&c.]’ ((See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Note his remark: ‘It so happens that Popish Canada was the only place that preserved its fidelity.’ (Address to the Bristol Constituents.)

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American Taxation (House of Commons, 1774): ‘It is not a pleasant consideration; but nothing in the world can read so awful and so instructive a lesson as the conduct of the Ministry in this business, upon the mischief of not having large and liberal ideas in the management of great affairs. Never have the servants of the State looked at the whole of your complicated interests in one connected view. They have taken things by bits and scraps, some at one time and one pretence and some at another, just as they pressed, without any sort of regard to their relations or dependencies. They never had any kind of system, right or wrong; but only invented occasionally some miserable tale for the day, in order meanly to sneak out of difficulties into which they had proudly strutted. And they were put to all these shifts and devices, full of meanness and full of mischief, in order to pilfer piecemeal a repeal of an act which they had not the generous courage when they found and felt their error, honourably and to disclaim. By such management, by the irresistible operation of feeble counsels, so paltry a sum as Three-pence in the eye of a financier, so insignificant an article Tea in the eyes of the philosopher, have shaken the pillars of a commercial empire that circled the whole globe. […] Do you forget that in the very last year you stood on the precipice of general bankruptcy? Your danger was indeed great. You were distressed in the affairs of the East India Company; and you well know what sort of things are involved in the comprehensive energy of that significant appellation. I am not called upon to enlarge to you on that danger; which you thought proper yourselves to aggravate and to display to the world with all the parade of indiscreet declamation. The monopoly of the most lucrative trades and the possession of imperial revenue, had brought you to the verge of beggary and ruin. Such was your representation - such, in some measure, was your case. The vent of ten millions of pounds of this commodity, now locked up by the operation of an injudicious tax and rotting in the warehouses of the company, would have prevented all this distress, and all that series of desperate measures which you thought yourselves obliged to take in consequence of it. America would have furnished that vent which no other part of the world can furnish but America, where tea is next to a necessary of life and the demand grows upon the supply. I hope our bought East India Committees have done us at least so much good as to let us know that without a more extensive sale of that article, our East India revenues and acquisitions can have no certain connection with this It is through the American trade of tea that your India conquests are to be prevented from crushing you with their burden. They are ponderous indeed, and they must have that great country to lean upon, or they upon your head. It is the same folly that has lost you at once the benefit of the West and of the East. this folly has thrown open folding-doors to contraband, and will be the means of giving the profits of the trade of colonies to every nation but yourselves. Never did a people suffer so much for the empty words of a preamble. It must be given up. For on what principles does it stand? This famous revenue stands, at this hour, on all the debate, as a description of revenue not as yet known in all the comprehensive (but too comprehensive!) vocabulary of - a preambulatory tax. It is indeed a tax of sophistry, a tax of pedantry, a tax of disputation, a tax of war and rebellion, a tax for anything but benefit to the imposers or satisfaction to the subject. […]’ (Cont.)

American Taxation (House of Commons, 1774) - cont.: ‘Could anything be a subject of more just alarm to America than to see you go out of the plain high-road of finance, and give up your most certain revenues and your clearest interests, merely for the sake of insulting your colonies? No man ever doubted that the commodity of tea could bear an imposition of threepence. But no commodity will bear threepence, or will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irritated; and two millions of people are resolved not to pay. The feelings of the colonies were formerly the feelings of Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feelings of Mr. Hampden when called upon for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty Civilians have ruined Mr. Hampden’s fortune? No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it demanded, would have made him a slave. It is the weight of that preamble of which you are so fond, and not the weight of the duty, that the Americans are unable and unwilling to bear. […] It is then, sir, upon the principle of this measure, and nothing else, that we are at issue. It is a principle of Political expediency. Your Act of 1767 asserts that it is expedient to raise a revenue in America; your Act of 1769, which takes away that revenue, contradicts the Act of 1767, and by something much stronger than words asserts that it is not expedient. It is a reflection upon your wisdom to persist in a solemn Parliamentary declaration of the expediency of any object for which at the same time you make no sort of provision. And pray, sir, let not this circumstance escape you, - it is very material, that the preamble of this Act which we wish to repeal is not declaratory of a right, as some gentlemen to argue it; it is only a recital of the expediency of a certain exercise of a right supposed already to have been asserted; in exercise you are now contending for by ways and means which you confess, though they were obeyed, to be utterly insufficient for their purpose. You are therefore at this moment in the awkward situation of fighting for a phantom, a (quiddity, a thing that wants not only a substance, but even a name; for a thing which is neither abstract right nor profitable enjoyment. […] They tell you, sir, that your dignity is tied to it. I know not how it happens, but this dignity of yours is a terrible incumbrance [viz., emcumbrance] to you; for it has of late been ever at war with your interest, your equity, and every idea of policy. Show the thing you contend for to be reason; show it to be common-sense; show it to be the means of attaining some useful end, and then I am content to allow it what dignity you please. But what dignity is derived from perseverance in absurdity is more than ever I could discern. The honourable gentleman has said well - indeed, in most of his general observations I agree with him - he says that this subject does not stand as it did formerly. Oh, certainly not! Every hour you continue on this ill-chosen ground, your difficulties thicken on you -and therefore my conclusion is, remove from a bad position as quickly as you can. The disgrace and the necessity of yielding, both of them, grow upon you every hour of your delay.’

On Townsend’s Budget (House of Parliament, 22 March 1775): ‘It is simple peace, sought in its natural course and in its ordinary haunts. It is peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in principles purely pacific ... My hold on the colonies is in the close affection with grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges and equal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill togehter ... We ought to elevante our minds to the greatness of that task to which the order of Providence has called us.’ (Quoted in Edward Grierson, The Imperial Dream: The British Commonwealth and Empire 1775-1969, Newtown Abbot 1973, p.24.) [See further quotations and remarks under Grierson > Commentary - supra.]

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Conciliation with America (House of Commons, 1775): ‘To restore order and repose to an empire so great and so distracted as ours, is, merely in the attempt, an undertaking that would ennoble the flights of the highest, genius and obtain pardon for the efforts of the meanest understanding. Struggling a good while with these thoughts, by degrees I felt myself more firm. I derived at length confidence from what in other circumstances usually produces timidity. I grew less anxious, even from the idea of my own insignificance. For, judging of what you are by what you ought to be, I persuaded myself that you would not reject a reasonable proposition because it had nothing but its reason to recommend it. On the hand, being totally destitute of all shadow of natural or adventitious, I was very sure that if my proposition were futile or dangerous, if it were weakly or improperly timed, there was nothing exterior to it of power to awe, dazzle, or delude you. You will see it just as it is; and you will treat it just as it deserves. / The proposition is Peace. Not Peace to be hunted through the medium of War; not Peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations; not Peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from all parts of the empire; nor Peace to depend on the juridical determination of perplexing questions, or the precise marking the shadowy boundaries of a complex government. It is simple Peace, sought in its natural course and in its ordinary haunts. It is Peace sought in the spirit of Peace, and laid in principles purely pacific. I propose by removing the ground of the difference, and by restoring the former its unsuspecting confidence of the colonies, in the mother country, to give permanent satisfaction to your people; and (far from a scheme of ruling by discord) to reconcile them to each other in the same act and by the bond of the very same interest which reconciles them to British government. / My idea is nothing more. Refined policy ever has been the parent of confusion, and ever will be so, as long as the world endures. Plain good intention, which is as easily discovered at the first view as fraud is surely detected at last, is, let me say, of no mean force in the government of mankind. Genuine simplicity of heart is an healing and cementing principle. My plan, therefore, being formed upon the most simple grounds imaginable, may disappoint some people when they hear it. It has nothing to recommend it to the pruriency of curious ears. There is nothing at all new and captivating in it. It has nothing of the splendour of the project which has been lately laid upon your table by the noble lord in the blue ribbon. It does not propose to fill your lobby with squabbling colony agents, who will require the interposition of your mace at every instant to keep the peace amongst them. It does not institute a magnificent auction of finance, where captivated provinces come to general ransom by bidding against each other, until you knock down the hammer, and determine a proportion of payments beyond all the powers of algebra to equalise and settle. / The plan which I shall presume to suggest derives, however, one great advantage from the proposition and registry of that noble lord’s project. The idea of conciliation is admissible. First, the House, in accepting the resolution moved by the noble lord, has admitted - notwithstanding the Menacing front of our address, notwithstanding our heavy bills of pains and penalties - that we do not think ourselves precluded from all ideas of free grace and bounty.’ [Cont.]

Conciliation with America (House of Commons, 1775)- cont [next para.]: ‘The House has gone farther, it has declared conciliation admissible previous to any submission on the part of America. It has even shot a good deal beyond that mark, and has admitted that the complaints of our former mode of exerting the right of taxation were not wholly unfounded. That right, thus exerted, is allowed to have something reprehensible in it - something unwise, or something grievous, since in the midst of our heat and resentment we of ourselves have proposed a capital alteration, and in order to get rid of what seemed so very exceptionable have instituted a mode that is altogether new; one that is indeed wholly alien from all the ancient methods and forms of Parliament. / The principle of this proceeding is large enough, for my purpose. The means proposed by the noble lord for carrying his ideas into execution, I think indeed are very indifferently suited to the end; and this I shall endeavour to show you before I sit down. But for the present I take my ground on the admitted principle. I mean to give peace. Peace implies reconciliation; and where there has been a material dispute, reconciliation does in a manner always imply concession on the one part or on the other. In this state of things, I make no difficulty in affirming that the proposal ought to originate from us. Great and acknowledged force is not impaired, either in effect or in opinion, by an unwillingness to exert itself. The superior power may offer peace with honour and safety. Such an offer from such a power will be attributed to magnanimity. But the concessions of the weak are the signs of fear. When such a one is disarmed, he is wholly at the mercy of his superior, and he loses forever that time and those chances which, as they happen to ill men, are the strength and resources of all inferior power.’ [Cont.]

Conciliation with America (House of Commons, 1775) - cont. [next para.]: ‘The capital leading questions on which you must this day decide are these two, First, whether you ought to concede; and secondly, what your concession ought to be. On the first of these questions we have gained (as I have just taken the liberty of observing to you) some ground. But I am sensible that a good deal more is still to be done. Indeed, sir, to enable us to determine both on the one and the other of these great questions with a firm a precise judgement, I think it may be necessary to consider distinctly the true nature and the peculiar circumstances or the object which we have before us. Because after all our the struggle, whether we will or not, we must govern America according to that nature and to those circumstances, and not according to our own imaginations nor according to abstract ideas of right; by no means according to mere general theories of government, the resort to which appears to me, in our present situation, no better than arrant trifling. I shall therefore endeavour, with your leave, to lay before you some of the most material of these circumstances in as full and as clear a manner as I am able to state them.’ Further: ‘It was [not] English arms, but the English Constitution, that conquered Ireland. From that time, Ireland has ever had a general Parliament, as she had before a partial Parliament. You changed the people, you altered the religion, but you never touched form or the vital substance of free government in that kingdom. You deposed the kings; you restored them; you altered the succession to theirs, as well as to your own crown; but you never altered their Constitution the principle of which was respected by usurpation, restored with the restoration of monarchy, and established, I trust, forever by the glorious Revolution. This has made Ireland the great and flourishing kingdom that it is, and, from a disgrace and burden intolerable to this nation, has rendered her a principal part of our strength and ornament.’ (Works, II, p.147; quoted in C. C. O’Brien, The Great Melody, 1992, q.p.)

Conciliation with America (1775): ‘In every arduous enterprise we consider what we are to lose as well as what we are to gain, and the more and better stake of liberty every people possess the less they will hazard in a vain attempt to make it more. These are the cords of man. Man acts from ade- quate motives relative to his interest, and not on meta- physical speculations. [Here Burke refers to Aristotle.] The Americans will have no interest contrary to the grandeur and glory of England, when they are not op- pressed by the weight of it; and they will rather be inclined to respect the acts of a superintending legislature, when they see them the acts of that power which is itself the security, not the rival, of their secondary importance. In this assurance my mind most perfectly acquiesces: and I confess I feel not the least alarm from the discontents which are to arise from putting people at their ease, nor do I apprehend the destruction of this empire from giving, [132] by an act of free grace and indulgence, to two millions of my fellow-citizens some share of those rights upon which I have always been taught to value myself.’ (Rep. in Hugh Law, intro., Speeches and Letters on American Affairs, London: J. M. Dent 1908, Dent 1908, pp.130-31; available at Open Library [online].)

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Speech at the Guildhall in Bristol (1780): [...] ‘From war and blood we went to submission; and from submission plunged back again to war and blood - to desolate and be desolated, without measure, hope, or end. I am a Royalist; I blushed for this degradation of the Crown. I am a Whig; I blushed for the dishonour of Parliament I am a true Englishman; I felt to the quick for the disgrace of England. I am a man; I felt for the melancholy reverse of human affairs in the fall of the first power in the world. / To read what was approaching in Ireland, in the black and bloody characters of the American war, was a painful, but it was a necessary part of my public duty. For, gentlemen, it is not your fond desires or mine that can alter the nature of things; by contending against which, what have we got, or shall ever get, but defeat and shame? I did not obey your instructions: No. I conformed to the instructions of truth [134] 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 have five years hence. I was not to look to 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 weathercock on the top of the edifice, exalted for my levity and versatility, and of no use but to indicate the shiftings of every fashionable gale.’ (Letters, Speeches and Tracts on Irish Affairs, ed. Matthew Arnold, London: Macmillan 1881; facs. rep. Cresset, with an introduction by Conor Cruise O’Brien, London: Cresset Press 1988, pp.133-34.) [Cont.]

Speech at the Guildhall in Bristol (1780) - cont.: [...] ‘In this situation men not only shrink from the frowns of a stern magistrate; but they are obliged to fly from their very species. The seeds of destruction are sown in civil intercourse, in social habitudes. The blood of wholesome kindred is infected. Their tables and beds are surrounded with snares. All the means given by Providence to make life safe and comfortable are perverted into instruments of terror and torment. This species of universal subserviency, that makes the very servant who waits behind your chair the arbiter of your life and fortune, has such a tendency to degrade and abase mankind, and to deprive them of that assured and liberal state of mind which alone can make us what we ought to be, that I vow to God I would sooner bring myself to put a man to immediate death for opinions I disliked, and so to get rid of the man and his opinions at once, than to fret him with a {150} feverish being, tainted with the jail-distemper of a contagious servitude, to keep him above ground - an animated mass of putrefaction, corrupted himself, and corrupting all about him.’ (Letters, [...] on Irish Affairs, ed. Arnold, 1881; rep. Cresset Press 1988, pp.149-50.) [Cont.]

Speech at the Guildhall in Bristol (1780) - cont.: ‘This way of proscribing the citizens by denominations and general descriptions, dignified by the name of reason of State, and security for constitutions and commonwealths, is nothing better at bottom than the miserable invention of an ungenerous ambition which would fain hold the sacred trust of power without any of the virtues or any of the energies that give a title to it - a receipt of policy made up of a detestable compound of malice, cowardice, and sloth [...] Crimes are the acts of individuals and not of denominations; and therefore arbitrarily to class men under general descriptions, in order to proscribe and punish them in the lump for a presumed delinquency, of which perhaps but a part, perhaps none at all, are guilty, is indeed a compendious method, and saves a world of trouble about proof; but such a method, instead of being law, is an act of unnatural rebellion against the legal dominion of reason and justice; and this vice in any constitution that entertains it at one time or other will certainly bring on its ruin.’ (Letters, [...] on Irish Affairs, ed. Arnold, 1881; rep. Cresset Press 1988, pp.174-75.)

Speech at the Guildhall in Bristol (1780) - cont.: ‘The diversified but connected fabric of universal justice is well cramped and bolted together in all its parts, and, depend upon it, I never have employed, and I never shall employ, any engine of power which may come into my hands, to wrench it asunder. All shall stand, if I can help it, and all shall stand connected. After all, to complete this work, much remains to be done; much in the east, much in the west. But, great as the work is, if our will be ready, our powers are not deficient.’ ((Letters, [...] on Irish Affairs, ed. Arnold, 1881; rep. Cresset Press 1988, pp.176.)

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Letters to Sir Hercules Langrishe, Bart., M.P., On the Subject of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, the Propriety of Admitting Them to the Elective Franchise, Consistently with the Principles of the Constitution, as Established at the Revolution (1792) [on the Protestant Ascendancy]: ‘A plebeian oligarchy is a monster, and no people, not absolutely domestic or predial slaves, will long endure it. The Protestants of Ireland are not alone sufficiently the people to form a democracy; and they are too numerous to answer the ends and purposes of an aristocracy.’ […] ‘Admiration, the first source of obedience, can only be the claim or the imposture of the few. I hold it to be absolutely impossible for two millions of plebeians, composing certainly a very clear and decided majority in that class, to become so far in love with six or seven hundred thousand of their fellow citizens (to all outward appearance plebeians like themselves, and with many of them tradesmen, servants, and otherwise inferior to some of them), as to see with satisfaction, or even with patience, an exclusive power vested in them, by which constitutionally they become the absolute masters; and, by the manners derived from their circumstances, must be capable of exercising upon them, daily and hourly, an insulting and vexatious superiority.’ (Works, 1877, Vol. 3, pp.304-05; quoted in Seamus Deane, ‘Edmund Burke and the Ideology of Irish Liberalism’, in The Irish Mind, ed. Richard Kearney, Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1985, p.147; see also W. J. McCormack, Burke to Beckett, 1994.)

Letters to Sir Hercules Langrishe (3 Jan. 1792) [Protestant Ascendancy]: ‘As little shall I detain you with matters that can as little obtain admission into a mind like yours; such as fear, or the pretence of fear, that, in spite of your own power, and the trifling power of Great Britain, you may be conquered by the Pope; or that this commodious bugbear (who is infinitely more use to those who pretend to fear, than to those who love him) will absolve His Majesty’s subjects from their allegiance, and send over the Cardinal of York to rule as his viceroy; or that, by the plenitude of his power, he will take that fierce tyrant, the King of the French, out of his jail, and arm that nation (which on all occasions treats his Holiness so very politely) with his bulls and pardons, to invade poor old Ireland, to reduce you to Popery and slavery, and to force the free-born, naked feet of your people into the wooden shoes of that arbitrary monarch. I do not believe that discourses of this kind are held, or that anything like them will be held, by any who walk about without a keeper. Yet I confess that, on occasions of this nature, I am the most afraid of the weakest reasoning, because they discover the strongest passions. These things will never be brought out in definite propositions. They would not prevent pity towards any persons; they would only cause it for those who were capable of talking in such a strain. But I know, and am sure, that such ideas as no man will distinctly produce to another, or hardly venture to bring in any plain shape to his own mind - he will utter in obscure, ill-explained doubts, jealousies, surmises, fears, and apprehensions; and that, in such a fog, they will appear to have a good deal of size, and will make an impression, when, if they were clearly brought forth and defined, they would meet with nothing but scorn and derision.’ (‘First Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe’; Burke’s Irish Affairs, O’Brien Edn., 1988, pp.248-49; cited in Introduction, pp.xxiv-xxv.)

Letters to Sir Hercules Langrishe (3 Jan. 1792): ‘[...] Reflect seriously on the possible consequences of keeping in the heart of your country a bank of discontent, every hour accumulating, upon [295] which every description of seditious men may draw at pleasure. They whose principles of faction will dispose them to the establishment of an arbitrary monarchy will find a nation of men who have no sort of interest in freedom, but who will have an interest in that equality of justice or favor with which a wise despot must view all his subjects who do not attack the foundations of his power. Love of liberty itself may, in such men, become the means of establishing an arbitrary domination. On the other hand, they who wish for a democratic republic will find a set of men who have no choice between civil servitude and the entire ruin of a mixed Constitution. / Suppose the people of Ireland divided into three parts. Of these, (I speak within compass,) two are Catholic; of the remaining third, one half is composed of Dissenters. There is no natural union between those descriptions. It may be produced. If the two parts Catholic be driven into a close confederacy with half the third part of Protestants, with a view to a change in the Constitution in Church or State or both, and you rest the whole of their security on a handful of gentlemen, clergy, and their dependents - compute the strength you have in Ireland, to oppose to grounded discontent, to capricious innovation, to blind popular fury, and to ambitious, turbulent intrigue.’ (Works, London: Nimmo 1887, pp.295-96.).

Letters to Sir Hercules Langrishe (3 Jan. 1792): ‘You hated the old system as early as I did. Your first juvenile lance was broken against that giant. I think you were even the first who attacked the grim phantom. You have an exceedingly good understanding, very good humor, and the best heart in the world. The dictates of that temper and that heart, as well as the policy pointed out by that understanding, led you to abhor the old code. You abhorred it, as I did, for its vicious perfection. For I must do it justice: it was a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the debasement, in them, of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man. It is a thing humiliating enough, that we are doubtful of the effect of the medicines we compound,—we are sure of our poisons. My opinion ever was, (in which I heartily agree with those that admired the old code,) that it was so constructed, that, if there was once a breach in any essential part of it, the ruin of the whole, or nearly of the whole, was, at some time or other, a certainty. For that reason I honor and shall forever honor and love you, and those who first caused it to stagger, crack, and gape. Others may finish; the beginners have the glory; [305] and, take what part you please at this hour, (I think you will take the best,) your first services will never be forgotten by a grateful country. Adieu! Present my best regards to those I know,—and as many as I know in our country I honor. There never was so much ability, nor, I believe, virtue in it. They have a task worthy of both. I doubt not they will perform it, for the stability of the Church and State, and for the union and the separation of the people: for the union of the honest and peaceable of all sects; for their separation from all that is ill-intentioned and seditious in any of them. [End] ’ (Works, London: Nimmo 1887, pp.305-06; for full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index, or direct - or go Burke’s Speeches [&c. on] Irish Affairs, ed. Matthew Arnold (Macmillan 1881) at Internet Archive - online).

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Letter to Richard Burke [ on Ascendancy and Penal Laws]: ‘Liberty, such as deserves the name, is an honest, equitable, diffusive, and impartial principle. It is a great and enlarged virtue, and not a sordid, selfish, and illiberal vice.’ (Writings, Vol. IX, p.642.) Further on the penal laws: ‘it is neither more nor less than the resolution of one set of people in Ireland, to consider themselves as the sole citizens in the commonwealth, and to keep a dominion over the rest by reducing them to absolute slavery; and thus fortified in their power, to divide the public estate […]’ (p.644; here p.84.)

Further (Letter to Richard Burke): ‘What do the Irish Statutes? [Do they not] make a conformity to the established Religion, and to its doctrines and Practices, the condition of getting out of servitude […] Let three millions of the people but abandon all that they and their ancestors have been taught to believe sacred, and to forswear it publicly in terms the most degrading and scurrilous, and indecent for men of integrity and virtue, and to abuse the whole of their former lives, and to slander the education they have received, - nothing more is required of them.’ (Ibid., p. 646; all quoted in Will Murphy, MA Diss, UUC 2004.)

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Letter to a Noble Lord (1795): I know not how it has happened, but it really seems, that, whilst his Grace was meditating his well-considered censure upon me, he fell into a sort of sleep. Homer nods; and the Duke of Bedford may dream; and as dreams (even his golden dreams) are apt to be ill-pieced and incongruously put together, his Grace preserved his idea of reproach to me, but took the subject matter from the Crown grants to his own family. This is ‘the stuff of which his dreams are made.’ In that way of putting things together, his Grace is perfectly in the right. The grants to the House of Russell were so enormous, as not only to outrage economy, but even to stagger credibility. The Duke of Bedford is the Leviathian among all the creatures of the Crown. He tumbles about his unwieldy bulk; he plays and frolics in the ocean of the Royal bounty. Huge as he is, and whilst ‘he lies floating many a rood’, he is still a creature. His ribs, his fins, his whalebone, his blubber, the very spiracles through which he spouts a torrent of brine against his origin, and covers me all over with the spray, - everything of him and about him is from the Throne. Is it for him to question the dispensation of the royal favour? […] I really am at a loss to draw any sort of parallel between the public merits of his Grace, by which he justifies the grants he holds, and these services of mine on the favourable construction of which I have obtained what his Grace so much disapproves. In private life, I have not at all the honour of acquaintance with the noble Duke. But I thought to presume, and it costs me nothing, to do so, that he abundantly deserves the esteem and love of all who live with him. But as to public service, why truly it would not be more ridiculous for me to compare myself in rank in fortune, in splendid descent, in youth, in strength or figure, with the Duke of Bedford, than to make a parallel between his services and my attempts to be useful to my country. […] It would not be gross adulation, but uncivil irony, to say, that he has any public merit of his own to keep alive the idea of the services by which his vast landed Pensions were obtained. My merits, whatever they are, are original and personal, his are derivative. It is his ancestor, the original pensioner, that has laid up this inexhaustible fund of merit, which makes his Grace so very delicate and exceptions about the merit of all other grantees of the Crown. Had he permitted me to remain in quiet, I should have said ’tis his estate; that’s enough. It is his by law; what have I to do with it or its history? He would naturally have said on his side, ’tis this man’s fortune - he is as good now, as my ancestor was two hundred and fifty years ago. I am a young man with very old pensions; he is an old man with very young pension, - that’s all? […] Why will his Grace, by attacking me, force me reluctantly to compare my little merit with that which obtained from the Crown those prodigies of profuse donation by which he tramples on the mediocrity of humble and laborious individuals? I would willingly leave him to the Herald’s College, which the philosophy of the san culottes (prouder by far than all the Garters and Norroys and Clarencieux and Rouge Dragons that ever pranced in a procession of what his friends call aristocrats and despots) will abolish with contumely and scorn. These gentle historians, recorders, and blazoners of virtue and arms, differ wholly from that other description of historians, who never assign any act of politicians to a good motive. These gentle historians, on the contrary, dip their pens in nothing but the milk of human kindness. They seek no further for merit than the preamble of a patent, or the inscription on a tomb. With them every man created a peer is first an hero ready made. They judge of every man’s capacity for office by the offices he has filled; and the more offices the more ability. Every General-officer with them is a Marlborough; every statesman a Burleigh; every judge a Murray or a Yorke. They, who alive were laughed at or pitied by all their acquaintance, make as good a figure, as the best of them in the pages of Guillim, Edmonson, or Collins. To these recorders, so full of good nature to the great and prosperous, I would willingly leave the first Baron Russell and Earl of Bedford, and the merits of his grants. But the aulnager, the weigher, the meter of grants, will not suffer us to acquiesce in the judgement of the Prince reigning at the time when they were made. They are never good to those who earn them. Well then, since the new grantees have war made on them by the old, and that the word of the Sovereign is not to be taken, let us turn our eyes to history, in which great men have always a pleasure in contemplating the heroic origin of their house. […]’ (Cont.)

Letter to a Noble Lord (1795) - cont: ‘The first peer of the name, the first purchaser of the Grants was a Mr. Russell, a person of an ancient gentleman’s family raised by being a minion of Henry the Eighth. As there generally is some resemblance of character to create these relations, the favourite was in all likelihood much such another as his master. The first of those immoderate grants was not taken from the ancient demesne of the Crown, but from the recent confiscation of the ancient nobility of the land. The lion having sucked the blood of his prey, threw the carcass to the jackal in waiting. Having tasted once the food of confiscation, the favourites became fierce and ravenous. This worthy favourite’s first grant was from the lay nobility. The second, infinitely improving on the enormity of the first, was from the plunder of the church. In truth his Grace is somewhat excusable for his dislike to a grant like mine, not only in its quality, but in its kind so different from his own. […] Mine was from a mild and benevolent sovereign; his from Henry the Eighth. […] Mine bad not its fund in the murder of any innocent person of illustrious rank, or in the pillage of any body of unfolding men. His grants were from the aggregate and consolidated funds of judgements iniquitously legal, and from possessions voluntarily surrendered by the lawful proprietors with the gibbet at their door. […] The merit of the grantee whom he derives from, was that of being a prompt and greedy instrument of a levelling tyrant, who oppressed all descriptions of his people, but who fell with particular fury on everything that that was great and noble. Mine has been, in endeavouring to screen every man, in every class, from oppression, and particularly in defending the high and eminent, who in bad times of confiscating Princes, confiscating chief Governors, or confiscating Demagogues, are the most exposed to jealousy, avarice, and envy. […] The merit of the original grantee of his Grace’s pensions, was in giving his hand to the work, and partaking the spoil with a Prince, who plundered a part of his national church of his time and country. Mine was in defending, the whole of the national church of my own time and my own country, and the whole of the national churches of all countries from the principles and the example, which lead to ecclesiastical pillage, thence to contempt of all prescriptive titles, thence to the pillage of all property, and thence to universal desolation. […] The merit of the origin of his Grace’s fortune was in being a favourite and chief adviser to a Prince, who left no liberty to their native country. My endeavour was to claim liberty for the municipal country in which I was born, and for all descriptions and denominations in it - mine was to support with unrelaxing vigilance every right, every privilege, every franchise, in this my adopted, my dearer and more comprehensive country; and not only to preserve those rights in this chief seat of empire, but in every nation, in every land, in every climate, language, and religion, in the vast domain that still is under the protection, and the larger that was once under the protection, of the British Crown.

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Letter on a Regicide Peace (1796): ‘Without the least ceremony or compliment, they have sent out of the world whole sets of laws and lawgivers. They have swept away the very constitutions under which the legislatures acted, and the laws were made.’ (Letters on a Regicide Peace, I.) [Regarding the use of ‘France’ formerly for the King and now for the National Assembly:] ‘This shifting of persons could not be done without the hocus-pocus of abstraction’; ‘manners are more important than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarise or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give the whole form and colour to our lives [… &c.]’ Further: ‘Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatever; but, as in the exercise of all virtues, there is an economy of truth. It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure, that he make speak it the longer.’ (3rd Letter on a Regicide Peace; all the foregoing quoted by Jim McCue in support of John Griffin’s forebodings about the way in which the British statute law is being trumped by European Convention Human Rights and the impact on the ‘whole accumulated body of statute and case law’ which is ‘therefore thrown in doubt’, in Times Literary Supplement, 11 May, 2001, Letters to the Editor, p.17.)

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Letter to Dr. [Thomas] Hussey (18 May 1795) [expressing his horror at the Jacobin tendency of a Catholic meeting at Francis St. chapel, held on 9 April 1795): ‘The language of the day went plainly to a separation of the two kingdoms. God forbid that anything like it should ever happen! They would both be ruined by it; but Ireland would suffer most and first. The thing, however, is impossible. Those who should attempt that improbability would be undone. If ever the arms, which, indirectly, these orators seem to menace, were to be taken up, surely the threat of such a measure is not wise, as it could add nothing to their strength, but would give every possible advantage to their enemies. It is a foolish language, adopted from the United Irishmen, that their grievances originate from England. [...; 403] in the name of God, what grievance has Ireland, as Ireland, to complain of with regard to Great Britain; unless the protection of the most powerful country upon earth - giving all her privileges, without exception, in common to Ireland, and reserving to herself only the painful preeminence of tenfold burdens, be a matter of complaint. The subject, as a subject, is as free in Ireland as he is in England. As a member of the empire, an Irishman has every privilege of a natural-born Englishman, in every part of it, in every occupation, and in every branch of commerce. No monopoly is established against him anywhere; and the great staple manufacture of Ireland is not only not prohibited, not only not discouraged, but it is privileged in a manner that has no example. The provision trade is the same; nor does Ireland, on her part, take a single article from England but what she has with more advantage than she could have it from any nation upon earth. I say nothing of the immense advantage she derives from the use of the English capital. In what country upon earth is it that a quantity of linens, the moment they are lodged in the warehouse, and before the sale, would entitle the Irish [404] merchant or manufacturer to draw bills on the terms, and at the time, in which this is done by the warehouseman on London? Ireland, therefore, as Ireland, whether it be taken civilly, constitutionally, or commercially, suffers no grievance. The Catholics, as Catholics, do; and what can be got by joining their real complaint to a complaint which is fictitious, but to make the whole pass for fiction and groundless pretence? [...] That Ireland would, in that case, come to make a figure amongst the nations, is an idea which has more of the ambition of individuals in it than of a sober regard to the happiness of a whole people. But if a people were to sacrifice solid quiet to empty glory, as on some occasions they have done - under the circumstances of Ireland, she, most assuredly, never would obtain that independent glory, but would certainly lose all her [405] tranquillity, all her prosperity, and even that degree of lustre which she has, by the very free and very honourable connection she enjoys with a nation the most splendid and the most powerful upon earth.’ (C. C. O’Brien, Introduction, Irish Affairs, ed. Matthew Arnold [1881], London Cresset 1988, pp.403-05.)

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Letter to Dr. Hussey (Dec. 1796): ‘You state, what has long been but too obvious, that it seems the unfortunate policy of the hour to put to the far largest portion of the king’s subjects in Ireland the desperate alternative between a thankless acquiescence under grievous oppression, or a refuge in Jacobinism, with all its horrors and all its crimes. You prefer the form[er] dismal part of the choice. There is no doubt but that you would have reason, if the election of one of these evils was at all a security against the other. But they are things very alliable, and as closely connected as cause and effect. That Jacobinism which is speculative in its origin, and which arises from wantonness and fullness of bread, may possibly be kept under by firmness and prudence. The very levity of character which produces it may extinguish it. But Jacobinism, which arises from penury and irritation, from scorned loyalty and rejected allegiance, has much deeper roots. They take their nourishment from the bottom of human nature, and the unalterable constitution of things, and not from humour and caprice, or the opinions of the day about privileges and liberties. These roots will be shot into the depths of hell, and will at last raise up their proud tops to heaven itself. This radical evil may baffle all attempts of heads much wiser than those are, who, in the petulance and riot of their drunken power, are neither ashamed nor afraid to insult and provoke those whom it is their duty, and ought be their glory, to cherish and protect / So then, the little wise men of the west, with every hazard of this evil, are resolved to persevere in the manly and well-timed resolution of a war against Popery.’ (Arnold, ed., Burke’s Irish Affairs, 1881 [rep. 1988], pp.417-18; quoted in C. C. O’Brien, Introduction, Irish Affairs, Cresset 1988, pp.xxv-vi.)

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Letter on the Affairs of Ireland (Feb. 1797): ‘If men have the real benefit of a sympathetic representation, none but those who are heated or intoxicated with theory will look for any other.’ ‘On the parts of the Catholics (that is to say, of the body of the people of the kingdom of Ireland) it is a terrible alternative, either to submit to the yoke of declared and insulting enemies; or to seek a remedy in plunging themselves into the horrors and crimes of that Jacobinism, which unfortunately is not disagreeable to the principles and inclinations of, I am afraid, the majority of what we call the Protestants of Ireland. The Protestant part of that kingdom is represented by the British Government itself to be, by whole counties, in nothing less than open rebellion. I am sure that it is everywhere teeming with dangerous conspiracy. […] I believe it will be found that though the principles of the Catholics, and the incessant endeavours of their clergy, nave kept them from being generally infected with the systems of this time, yet, whenever their situation brings them nearer into contact with the Jacobin Protestants, they are more or less infected with their doctrines’; ‘My poor opinion is that the closest connection between Great Britain and Ireland is essential to the well-being, I had almost said to the very being of the two kingdoms … Ireland, locally, civil, and commercially independent, ought politically to look up to Great Britain in all matters of peace or of war; in all those points to be guided by her, and, in a word, with her to live and to died. At bottom, Ireland has no other choice - I mean no other rational choice. […] I think, indeed, that Great Britain would be ruined by the separation of Ireland; but as there are degrees even in ruin, it would fall heaviest on Ireland. By such a separation Ireland would be the most completely undone country in the world, the most wretched, the most distracted, and, in the end, the most desolate part of the habitable globe.’ (Also called “Letter to Unknown” [prob. Thomas Hussey]; Corr., Vol. IX, pp.253-63; given in Matthew Arnold, ed., Burke’s Irish Affairs [1881], intro. C. C. O’Brien, 1988; pp.373-89; and cited in part in Do., Intro., pp.xxv-xxvi and likewise in The Great Melody, 1992 [q.p.].)

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