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dear, protected dependant. Emolument is taken from some ; patronage from others; objects of pursuit from all. Men forced into an involuntary independence will abhor the authors of a blessing which in their eyes has so very near a resemblance to a curse. When officers are removed, and the offices remain, you may set the gratitude of some against the anger of others, you may oppose the friends you oblige against the enemies you provoke. But services of the present sort create no attach:ments. The individual good felt in a public benefit is comparatively so small, comes round through such an involved labyrinth of intricate and tedious revolutions, whilst a present personal detriment is so heavy, where it falls, and so instant in its operation, that the cold commendation of a public advantage never was and never will be a match for the quick sensibility of a private loss; and you may depend upon it, Sir, that, when many people have an interest in railing, sooner or later they will bring a considerable degree of unpopularity upon any measure. So that, for the present at least, the reformation will operate against the reformers; and revenge (as against them at the least) will produce all the effects of corruption. This, Sir, is almost always the case, where the plan has complete success. But how stands the matter in the mere attempt? Nothing, you know, is more common than for men to wish and call loudly too, for a reformation, who, when it arrives, do by no means like the severity of its aspect. Reformation is one of those pieces which must be put at some distance in order to please. Its greatest favourers love it better in the abstract than in the substance. When any old prejudice of their own, or any interest that they value, is touched, they become scrupulous, they become captious ; and every man has his separate exception. Some pluck out the black hairs, some the gray; one point must be given up to one, another point must be yielded to another: nothing is suffered to prevail upon its own principle; the whole is so frittered down and disjointed, that scarcely a trace of the original scheme remains. Thus, between the resistance of power and the unsystematical process of popularity, the undertaker and the undertaking are both exposed, and the poor reformer is hissed off the stage both by friends and foes. Observe, Sir, that the apology for my undertaking (an apology which, though long, is no longer than necessary) is not grounded on my want of the fullest sense of the difficult and invidious nature of the task I undertake. I risk odium, if I Succeed, and contempt, if I fail. My excuse must rest in mine and your conviction of the absolute, urgent necessity there is that Something of the kind should be done. If there is any sacrifice to be made, either of estimation or of fortune, the smallest is the best. Commanders-in-chief are not to be put upon the forlorn hope. But, indeed, it is necessary that the attempt should be made. It is necessary from our own political circumstances; it is necessary from the operations of the enemy; it is necessary from the demands of the people, whose desires, when they do not militate with the stable and eternal rules of justice and reason, (rules which are above us and above them,) ought to be as a law to a House of Commons. As to our circumstances, I do not mean to aggravate the difficulties of them by the strength of any colouring whatsoever. On the contrary, I observe, and observe with pleasure, that our affairs rather wear a more promising aspect than they did on the opening of this session. We have had some leading successes." But those who rate them at the highest (higher a great deal, indeed, than I dare to do) are of opinion that, upon the ground of such advantages, we cannot at this time hope to make any treaty of peace which would not be ruinous and completely disgraceful. In such an anxious state of things, if dawnings of success serve to animate our diligence, they are good; if they tend to increase our presumption, they are worse than defeats. The state of our affairs shall, then, be as promising as any one may choose to conceive it : it is, however, but promising. We must recollect that, with but half of our natural strength, we are at war against confederated powers who have singly threatened us with ruin; we must recollect that, whilst we are left naked on one side, our other flank is uncovered by any alliance ; that, whilst we are weighing and balancing our successes against our losses, we are accumulating debt to the amount of at least fourteen millions in the year. That loss is certain. I have no wish to deny that our successes are as brilliant as any one chooses to make them ; our resources, too, may, for me, be as unfathomable as they are represented. Indeed, they are just whatever the people possess and will submit to pay. Taxing is an easy business. Any projector can contrive new impositions; any bungler can add to the old. But is it altogether wise to have no other bounds to your impositions than the patience of those who are to bear them 2 All I claim upon the subject of your resources is this, – that they are not likely to be increased by wasting them. I think I shall be permitted to assume that a system of frugality will not
6. The “successes” here referred to were those gained, in 1779, by the British troops under General Prevost, in Georgia and South Carolina; which were so considerable, that the cause of independence seemed well-nigh lost in those States.
lessen your riches, whatever they may be. I believe it will not be hotly disputed, that those resources which lie heavy on the subject ought not to be objects of preference,—that they ought not to be the very first choice, to an honest representative of the people. This is all, Sir, that I shall say upon our circumstances and our resources: I mean to say a little more on the operations of the enemy, because this matter seems to me very natural in our present deliberation. When I look to the other side of the water, I cannot help recollecting what Pyrrhus said, on reconnoitring the Roman camp : “These barbarians have nothing barbarous in their discipline.” When I look, as I have pretty carefully looked, into the proceedings of the French Ring, I am Sorry to say it, I see nothing of the character and genius of arbitrary finance, none of the bold frauds of bankrupt power, none of the wild struggles and plunges of despotism in distress, —no lopping off from the capital of debt, no suspension of interest, no robbery under the name of loan, no raising the value, no debasing the substance, of the coin. I see neither Louis the Fourteenth nor Louis the Fifteenth. On the contrary, I behold, with astonishment, rising before me, by the very hands of arbitrary power, and in the very midst of war and confusion, a regular, methodical system of public credit; I behold a fabric laid on the natural and solid foundations of trust and confidence among men, and rising, by fair gradations, order over order, according to the just rules of symmetry and art. What a reverse of things | Principle, method, regularity, economy, frugality, justice to individuals, and care of the people are the resources with which France makes war upon Great Britain. God avert the omen! But if we should see any genius in war and politics arise in France to second what is done in the bureau!—I turn my eyes from the consequences. The noble lord in the blue riband," last year, treated all this with contempt. He never could conceive it possible that the French Minister of Finance could go through that year with a loan of but seventeen hundred thousand pounds, and that he should be able to fund that loan without any tax." The second
7 So Burke commonly designates Lord North, who was then Prime Minister, and who seems to have worn “the blue riband ” as a badge of some high honour he had received; so that to designate him thus was merely an act of honest courtesy. . Lord North, though his long administration was a sad failure, was himself an able, pleasant, amiable man; and Burke and he were personally on good terms.
8 To fund a loan or a debt, is to provide and set apart means, by special tax or otherwise, for regular payment of the interest on it.—M. Necker, at that time Minister of Finance to Louis the Sixteenth, was carrying forward various deep and comprehensive changes in his department, which seemingly promised a
year, however, opens the very same scene. A small loan, a loan of no more than two millions five hundred thousand pounds, is to carry our enemies through the service of this year also. No tax is raised to fund that debt; no tax is raised for the current services. I am credibly informed that there is no anticipation whatsoever. Compensations are correctly made.” Old debts continue to be sunk as in the time of profound peace. Even payments which their treasury had been authorized to suspend during the time of war are not suspended. A general reform, executed through every department of the revenue, creates an annual income of more than half a million, whilst it facilitates and simplifies all the functions of administration." The King's household—at the remotest avenues to which all reformation has been hitherto stopped, that household which has been the stronghold of prodigality, the virgin fortress which was never before attacked—has been not only not defended, but it has, even in the forms, been surrendered by the King to the economy of his Minister. No capitulation; no reserve. Economy has entered in triumph into the public splendour of the monarch, into his private amusements, into the appointments of his nearest and highest relations. Economy and public spirit have made a beneficent and an honest spoil: they have plundered from extravagance and luxury, for the use of substantial service, a revenue of near four hundred thousand pounds. The reform of the finances, joined to this reform of the Court, gives to the public nine hundred thousand pounds a-year, and upwards. The minister who does these things is a great man ; but the
new era of credit to the French government; and he had made such headway, that he could borrow, in the midst of war, on easier terms than previous Ministers had obtained in time of peace. Durke's glowing tribute to his spirit and his measures was no less sincere than eloquent. But Necker's bold and beneficent scheme soon broke down, though chiefly by reason of the corrupt interests and selfish prejudices with which it collided. 9 Compensations, as the word is here used, are equivalents made to persons whose offices are abolished, or who in any way suffer by new arrangements. 1 One of Necker's leading measures was to concentrate the responsibility of revenue officials, so as to come at an annual account of receipts and expenditures, which had long been impossible, because the responsibility was so widely scattered. And he had a general list of the pensions made out; which, by revealing the abuses and duplications of all kinds hidden in the financial confusion, induced the King to authorize a reform. He also reduced the number of receivers-general from forty-eight to twelve, and of treasurers of war from twenty-seven to two, and made them all immediately dependent on the Minister of Finance. These are some particulars of the simplification he introduced. Therewithal more than five hundred sinecure offices, involving special privileges with respect to taxation, were cut away in the King's household, the ICing himself cheerfully consenting to the measure.
king who desires that they should be done is a far greater. We must do justice to our enemies: these are the acts of a patriot king. I am not in dread of the vast armies of France ; I am not in dread of the gallant spirit of its brave and numerous nobility; I am not alarmed even at the great navy which has been so miraculously created. All these things Louis the Fourteenth had before. With all these things, the French monarchy has more than once fallen prostrate at the feet of the public faith of Great Britain. It was the want of public credit which disabled France from recovering after her defeats, or recovering even from her victories and triumphs. It was a prodigal Court, it was an ill-ordered revenue, that sapped the foundations of all her greatness. Credit cannot exist under the arm of necessity. Necessity strikes at credit, I allow, with a heavier and quicker blow under an arbitrary monarchy than under a limited and balanced government; but still necessity and credit are natural enemies, and cannot be long reconciled in any situation. From necessity and corruption, a free State may lose the spirit of that complex constitution which is the foundation of confidence. On the other hand, I am far from being sure that a monarchy, when once it is properly regulated, may not for a long time furnish a foundation for credit upon the solidity of its maxims, though it afford no ground of trust in its institutions. I am afraid I see in England, and in France, something like a beginning of both these things. I wish I may be found in a mistake. This very short and very imperfect state” of what is now going on in France (the last circumstances of which I received in about eight days after the registry of the edict”) I do not, Sir, lay before you for any invidious purpose. It is in order to excite in us the spirit of a noble emulation. Let the nations make war upon each other, (since we must make war,) not with a low and vulgar malignity, but by a competition of virtues. This is the only way by which both parties can gain by war. The French have imitated us: let us, through them, imitate ourselves, – ourselves in our better and happier days. If public frugality, under whatever men, or in whatever mode of government, is national strength, it is a strength which our enemies are in possession of before us. Sir, I am well aware that the state and the result of the French economy which I have laid before you are even now
2 State for statement; a frequent usage with Burke.
3 This “edict” was a decree of the Council, recorded as such January 9, 1780. The most important reform made thereby was a change from the old system of farming out the customs to a direct administration of them by the government. Martin says that by this change “the State gained on the spot 14,000,000 francs a year.”