Page images
PDF
EPUB

Gentlemen, I submit the whole to your judgment. Mr. Mayor, I thank you for the trouble you have taken on this occasion: in your state of health it is particularly obliging. If this company should think it advisable for me to withdraw, I shall respectfully retire ; if you think otherwise, I shall go directly to the Council-House and to the 'Change, and without a moment's delay begin my canvass.”

GROWTH OF THE AMERICAN TRADE.

THE trade with America alone is now within less than £500,000 of being equal to what this great commercial nation, England, carried on at the beginning of this century with the whole world! But, it will be said, is not this American trade an unnatural protuberance, that has drawn the juices from the rest of the body? The reverse. It is the very food that has nourished every other part into its present magnitude. Our general trade has been greatly augmented, and augmented more or less in almost every part to which it ever extended, but with this material difference,—that, of the six millions which in the beginning of the century constituted the whole mass of our export commerce, the colony trade was but one twelfth part ; it is now (as a part of sixteen millions) considerably more than a third of the whole. This is the relative proportion of the importance of the colonies at these two periods; and all reasoning concerning our mode of treating them must have this proportion as its basis, or it is a reasoning weak, rotten, and sophistical.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot prevail on myself to hurry over this great consideration. It is good for us to be here. We stand

6 Immediately after the close of this speech, a large meeting of Burke's friends was held in the Guildhall, with the Mayor in the chair, and resolutions were passed, declaring that he had done “all possible honour to himself as a senator and a man,” heartily approving his parliamentary course in all its parts, and carnestly requesting him to offer himself again as a candidate, with assurances of their cordial and full support. Thereupon he proceeded with the canvass for three days; and on the 9th, being satisfied that he should not win, he made another brief speech, calmly declining the election, and withdrawing srom the poll. One of the candidates, a Mr. Coombe, having suddenly died, he spoke of the circumstance as follows: “Gentlemen, the melancholy event of yesterday reads to us an awsul lesson against being too much troubled about any of the objects of ordinary ambition. The worthy gentleman who has been snatched from us at the moment of the election, and in the middle, of the contest, whilst his desires were as warm and his hopes as eager as ours, has feelingly told us what shadows we are and what shadows we pursue.”

where we have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds, indeed, and darkness, rest upon the future. Let us, however, before we descend from this noble eminence, reflect that this growth of our national prosperity has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For instance, my Lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was in 1704 of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old enough acta parentum jam legere, et quae sit poterit cognoscere virtus. Suppose, Sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate men of his age, had opened to him in vision that, when, in the fourth generation, the third prince of the House of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation which (by the happy issue of moderate and healing councils) was to be made Great Britain," he should see his son, Lord Chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to an higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one ; if, amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honour and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and, unfolding the rising glories of his country, and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small Seminal principle rather than a formed body, and should tell him, “Young man, there is America, -which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by succession of civilizing conquests and civilizing settlements in a series of seventeen hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life!” If this state of his country had been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man, he has lived to see it! Fortunate indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect, and cloud the setting of his day!—Speech on Conciliation with 4merica, 1775.

7. The parliamentary union of England and Scotland took place within the Period in question.

CHARACTER OF GEORGE GRENVILLE.8

No man can believe that, at this time of day, I mean to lean on the venerable memory of a great man, whose loss we deplore in common. Our little party differences have been long ago composed ; and I have acted more with him, and certainly with more pleasure with him, than ever I acted against him. Undoubtedly Mr. Grenville was a first-rate figure in this country. With a masculine understanding and a stout and resolute heart, he had an application undissipated and unwearied. He took public business, not as a duty which he was to fulfil, but as a pleasure he was to enjoy ; and he seemed to have no delight out of this House, except in such things as some way related to the business that was to be done within it. If he was ambitious, I will say this for him, his ambition was of a noble and generous strain. It was to raise himself, not by the low, pimping politics of a Court, but to win his way to power through the laborious gradations of public service, and to secure himself a well-earned rank in Parliament by a thorough knowledge of its constitution and a perfect practice in all its business.

Sir, if such a man fell into errors, it must be from defects not intrinsical ; they must be rather sought in the particular habits of his life, which, though they do not alter the groundwork of character, yet tinge it with their own hue. He was bred in a profession. He was bred to the law, which is, in my opinion, one of the first and noblest of human sciences,—a science which does more to quicken and invigorate the understanding than all the other kinds of learning put together; but it is not apt, except in persons very happily born, to open and to liberalize the mind exactly in the same proportion. Passing from that study, he did not go very largely into the world, but plunged into business,— I mean into the business of office, and the limited and fixed methods and forms established there. Much knowledge is to be had, undoubtedly, in that line; and there is no knowledge which is not valuable. But it may be truly said, that men

8 Grenville became a member of the Bute Ministry in 1761, and bore a leading, perhaps I should say the leading, part in framing and carrying through the scheme of American policy which issued in the revolt, and finally in the independence of the colonies. As the cap-stone of this policy, in February, 1765, he moved upwards of fifty resolutions in the House of Commons, the fatal Stamp Act being among them. Burke, though not then a member of Parliament, was from the outset utterly opposed to that policy in all its parts; and, under the first Rockingham administration, in 1766, he did his part in procuring a repeal of the Acts passed in pursuance of it.—Grenville was a brother of Earl Templc, and died in November, 1770.

too much conversant in office are rarely minds of remarkable enlargement. Their habits of office are apt to give them a turn to think the substance of business not to be much more important than the forms in which it is conducted. These forms are adapted to ordinary occasions; and therefore persons who are nurtured in office do admirably well as long as things go on in their common order; but when the high-roads are broken up, and the waters out, when a new and troubled scene is opened, and the file affords no precedent, then it is that a greater knowledge of mankind, and a far more extensive comprehension of things is requisite, than ever office gave, or than office can ever give. Mr. Grenville thought better of the wisdom and power of human legislation than in truth it deserves. He conceived, and many conceived along with him, that the flourishing trade of this country was greatly owing to law and institution, and not quite so much to liberty; for but too many are apt to believe regulation to be commerce, and taxes to be revenue.—Speech 0n American Tazation, 1774.

LORD CHATHAM AND CHARLES TOWNSHEND.9

I HAVE done with the third period of your policy,+that of your repeal, and the return of your ancient system, and your ancient tranquillity and concord. Sir, this period was not as long as it was happy. Another scene was opened, and other actors appeared on the stage. The State, in the condition I have described it, was delivered into the hands of Lord Chatham, a great and celebrated name, a name that keeps the name of this country respectable in every other on the globe. It may be truly called

Clarum et venerabile nomen
Gentibus, et multum nostra quod proderat urbi.

Sir, the venerable age of this great man, his merited rank, his Superior eloquence, his splendid qualities, his eminent services, the vast space he fills in the eye of mankind, and, more than all

° The Rockingham Ministry continued in office something less than thirteen months, When Pitt was again called to the helm, and, for his Ministry, got up the rickety piece of patchwork which Burke here so vividly describes, Townshend being Chancellor of the Exchequer. In May, 1767, the ill-starred legislation so lately repealed was in substance revived, Townshend acting as chief engineer * the revival. That Ministry came to an end the Summer following, and Townshend died soon after. the rest, his fall from power, which, like death, canonizes and . sanctifies a great character, will not suffer me to censure any part of his conduct. I am afraid to flatter him ; I am sure I am not disposed to blame him. Let those who have betrayed him by their adulation insult him with their malevolence. But what I do not presume to censure I may have leave to lament. Tor a wise man, he seemed to me at that time to be governed too much by general maxims. I speak with the freedom of history, and I hope without offence. One or two of these maxims, flowing from an opinion not the most indulgent to our unhappy species, and surely a little too general, led him into measures that were greatly mischievous to himself, and for that reason, among others, perhaps fatal to his country,–measures, the effects of which, I am afraid, are for ever incurable. He made an administration so checkered and speckled, he put together a piece of joinery so crossly indented and whimsically dovetailed, a cabinet so variously inlaid, such a piece of diversified mosaic, such a tessellated pavement without cement, here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white, patriots and courtiers, King's friends and republicans, Whigs and Tories, treacherous friends and open enemies,<-that it was, indeed, a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch and unsure to stand on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards stared at each other, and were obliged to ask,- “Sir, your name?”—“Sir, you have the advantage of me.”—“Mr. Sucha-one.”—“I beg a thousand pardons.”—I venture to say, it did so happen that persons had a single office divided between them, who had never spoken to each other in their lives, until they found themselves, they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle-bed. Sir, in consequence of this arrangement, having put so much the larger part of his enemies and opposers into power, the confusion was such that his own principles could not possibly have any effect or influence in the conduct of affairs. If ever he fell into a fit of the gout, or if any other cause withdrew him from public cares, principles directly the contrary were sure to predominate. When he had executed his plan, he had not an inch of ground to stand upon. When he had accomplished his scheme of administration, he was no longer Minister. When his face was hid but for a moment, his whole system was on a wide sea without chart or compass. The gentlemen, his particular friends, who, with the names of various departments of Ministry, were admitted to seem as if they acted a part under him, with a modesty that becomes all men, and with a confidence in him which was justified even in its extravagance by his superior abilities, had never in any instance presumed upon

« PreviousContinue »