« FöregåendeFortsätt »
popular humour, of whose tendency he had the smallest doubt, although a contrary plan would have insured to him, as it did to others, a great increase of popularity; that he had an utter abhorrence of any thing resembling the undue exercise of power or arrogant domination, no matter from what quarter it proceeded; and that, by endeavouring to preserve a certain balance of powers in the state as well as in different orders of the community, and in the different interests, religious, political, and commercial, of the kingdom, by stepping in to the assistance of the weak against the strong, which is beyond dispute the duty of honest patriotism and sound wisdom, he incurred censure from the more violent or domineering of every class. He was assailed by the zealots of power for opposing the coercion of America, and for prosecuting Mr. Hastings : by the zealots of licentious freedom for opposing the French Revolution ; by zealots in religion for advocating the cause of the dissenters and Roman Catholics ; and by zealots of various descriptions in affairs of less moment. Many other reasons might be adduced why he was not always at the head of that party whose cause he chiefly espoused; the chief of which perhaps were, that he wanted that consequence from birth, fortune, and family connexion, which, along with great abilities, and some amiable private qualities, centred in Mr. Fox.
While, therefore, the two great divisions in politics of Whig and Tory, the former more especially, have deemed it a species of display of their allegiance to en
deavour to depress his name for the purposeof exalting
“ For what I have been," said he,
and habitudes which bind together and form the safeguard of the whole.
Misrepresentation, indeed, may answer its end for a time. And were it not indicative of something of a malevolent feeling, it would be sometimes amusing to observe the ignorance or prejudice respecting the sentiments of Mr. Burke on a variety of public matters which prevails among many persons, who at a venture attribute to him any thing that happens to beunpopular at the moment-circumstances in which he had no participation or interest, and principles which he repeatedly opposed and disclaimed. In this spirit à reverend president of a political society at Liverpool not long ago stigmatised him as adeserter from the cause of parliamentary reform: and more than one of the orators of the Common Council of London, amid a few other flying reproaches just as much founded in truth, repeated the accusation. At two or three of the county meetings held some time back, he was spoken of as a sinecure placeman and an enemy to liberty. At one of the largest book establishments in London, on inquiring for a volume in which it happened to be said there was something concerning him, “ a satire, sir, I suppose,” was the reply; as if satire was the legitimate coin with which his public labours deserved to be repaid.* In
A similar circumstance occurred again to the writer very lately at one (the very first perhaps) of these establishments. A volume containing some remarks upon him being handed down, « He was an extraordinary man,” observed the bibliopolist, “ but like all the rest of them, ready to change his opinions when it suited
a private company of that consideration in society in which the writer least expected to hear observations thrown out of an illiberal or wholly untrue description, the motives of Mr. Burke in the jinpeachment of Mr. Hastings were sharply arraigned by some members of what is called the Indian interest, though on being pushed for facts, none of the party could assign any thing like an improper motive. In another company, less select, but of some consideration, he was admitted to be a most surprising man, but unhappily opposed to the reformation of all abuses in government. In a third, he was an ingenious and able writer, but too flowery in his style. In a fourth, his political conduct was said to be regulated by regard merely to his own interests. In a fifth, probably from the want of some better handle for censure, it was gravely urged as a drawback upon his fame, that he originally possessed no private property ; nay, that he was humble enough to receive the profits of his literary labours, and that at length he accepted of a pension ;-50 that, by this ingenious and discriminating effort of logic, the original sin charged against him of want of fortune was not permitted to be remedied, either by the fair exertion of those talents with which Providence had endowed him, or by the public gratitude
his purpose." - These people keep books, but do not read them.Yet the estimate usually formed of the characters of all statesmen (some of the first living names came in, on this occasion, for a share of the censure) by persons who pass among their acquaintance as being sensible and well informed, is commonly of this description.
of his country. All these circumstances came lately under the eye and ear of the writer. They are samples of what is heard every day in the ill-r ad, or ill-considered, remarks of drawing-rooms and teatables ; and are only worthy of notice as coming occasionally from persons who assume a lead in conversation, and who would have felt not a little indignant at being told, what was nevertheless fact, that they were disseminating untruths or nonsense.
Another order of persons, of more influence and information, chiefly of the class of public writers, who have in view to exalt another great political name,* think it necessary for the accomplishment of their purpose to lower, though indirectly and circuitously, the reputation of Mr. Burke.
From these persons we hear of him frequently as a man of great genius, of many acquirements, of brilliant fancy, and amusing talents; carefully keeping out of view, as if they were wholly unknown, those more useful and more profound qualities of mind which constitute his chief claims to distinction. Sometimes, again, he is what they are pleased to term a philosophical politician, meaning by this to imply something different from a practical statesman; sometimes he is even admitted to be the greatest writer of the age, while scarcely an allusion is made to that parliamentary eloquence which made his name as an orator more celebrated on the continent of Europe, while he continued in
* Mr. Fox