Skip to main content

Full text of "Edmund Burke : selections from his political writings and speeches"

See other formats




iii 



lii 



7 / 






l^ 



^ 



,c^r\ 



Digitized by tine Internet Arcliive 

in 2008 witli funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



littp://www.arcliive.org/details/edmundburkeselecOOburk 




Edmund Burke. 



I5AAU huur 
LIBRARY 



INTRODUCTION. 



Burke's career is unique in the history both of 
English literature and of English politics. He 
was never in a Cabinet, and the highest office he 
ever held was the modest one of Paymaster- 
General. He developed early, publishing his 
Vindication of Natural Society at the age of twenty- 
six, but he did not enter Parliament till he was 
thirty-five, a late age in those days for one who 
hoped for a political career. He was admitted to 
be the most eloquent speaker of his time, but he 
was certainly not the most effective, and his 
speeches were prone to empty the House. All 
his life he stood a little apart from his contempo- 
raries, and his detachment gave him a curious 
distinction. He was never quite Whig and never 
quite Tory, but a kind of impersonal magazine of 
universal truths. He had none of the ordinary 
political aims, and in a generation of place-hunters 
scarcely deigned to think of the rewards of office. 
This detachment gave him immense force as an 
elevated and infallible mentor, but it made him im- 
possible as a party leader or even as an ordinary 
politician. His mind and temperament were not 
quite human. It was as if all his emotions had 
been universalized, and the whole world viewed 
' sub specie actcrnitatis.' He hated abstractions 



iv INTRODUCTION, 

on questions of public economy he was a keen 
reformer ; but on matters touching the constitution 
he saw no reason for change merely because a 
system was indefensible on grounds of pure reason. 
*The old building stands well enough, though 
part Gothic, part Grecian, and part Chinese, until 
an attempt is made to square it into uniformity. 
Then, indeed, it may come down upon our heads 
altogether in much uniformity of ruin, and great 
will be the fall thereof.' 

In the details of his political teaching Burke was 
not always consistent^ In 1770 liberty seemed to 
him to be the vital conception; in 1790 he was 
more enamoured of discipline and order. In his 
early works he is, in phraseology at least, more 
democratic. He declared that the House of Lords 
was a form of popular representation, while later 
he talked about its original and indefeasible rights. 
It is possible to harmonize these discrepancies, for 
they are often different facets of one truth ; but 
undoubtedly, under the influence of the French 
Revolution, his mind took on a more conservative 
colour. It is the later teaching which is his real 
contribution to the world's thought, for now he j 
is addressing, not an English party, but the whole 
thinking world. His earlier precepts, admirable as 
they may be, are too often local and temporal m 
their application, and to get at their value we must 
be very clear about his presuppositions. But his 
later doctrines are less an exposition of a party 
creed than of an eternal attitude of the human 
mind. Liberty without content is a barren dogma ; 



INTRODUCTION. v 

it must be a ' manly, moral, and regulated liberty.' 
It is order and discipline that bind a state to- 
gether. Civilization is no gift of Nature to man ; 
it is man's creation, and if the cohesive powers of 
Law be weakened, little will remain for Right. In 
politics we must look at facts and their historical 
relations, not at vague rules of reason or the specu- 
lations of theorists. Whatever is, has the presump- 
tion of right in its favour ; and before we alter it, let 
us be careful that we are altering in accordance 
with the organic conception of the state. Such, in 
a few sentences, is the gist of Burke's philosophy ; 
but never was a doctrine dressed in more imperial 
robes. He is the most eloquent of English prose 
writers ; for not only has each sentence its perfect 
rhythm, but the great argument rolls in a noble 
cadence to its climax. His wealth of fancy, his 
learning, his command of splendid and apposite 
images are inexhaustible. He is the ' fullest ' of 
thinkers, not only in thought and knowledge, but 
in mastery of golden and melodious words. 

Long ago Burke lost all party character. Even 
before his death he was regarded as an armoury 
from which both sides could draw their shafts. 
Erskine, who differed violently from him on the 
subject of Irish policy, could declare that he viewed 
Burke ' as upon an eminence too high to be ap- 
proached.' Canning owed to him nearly all the 
philosophical equipment which was at once his 
power and his weakness. Disraeli is, at his best, 
simply Burke with a more modern accent, and his 
extravagances, like his speech at Oxford in 1864, 



vi INTRODUCTION, 

are often singularly like the extravagances of his 
master. But, indeed, the thought of Burke is so 
woven into all English creeds that it is hard to 
say where his influence begins or ends. Gladstone, 
whose standpoint was ethical rather than historical, 
and who in many ways is Burke's antithesis, has a 
hundred passages of which the spirit and even the 
phrasing are due to this immense and enduring 
inspiration. 

It is specially difficult to select from Burke, 
for, as Hazlitt said truly, the only selections are 
all he wrote. It is hoped that the present volume 
will give the reader some idea of Burke's political 
teaching on the three subjects with which he was 
mainly concerned — the British Constitution, the 
British Empire (in the controversy with America), 
and the true relation of theory to practice in 
statesmanship, as exemplified in his Reflections on 
the French Revolution. This work has been ^ in- 
cluded in preference to the Letters on a Regicide 
Peace, for though the latter is in many ways the more 
mature and reasoned argument, it is concerned 
with a particular policy, whereas the former deals 
with the fundamental antagonism. J. B. 

Note.— The fullest selection from Burke is that published in the World's Classics 
(Frowde) in 6 vols. (is. net each). For the student, the three volumes of Burke s 
Select IVcrks (Oxford : Clarendon Press) may be recommended. The introductions 
' by the Editor, Mr. E. J. Payne, contain an admirable exposition of Burke's thought 
and influence. For the general history of the time, the works of Lord Stanhope 
and Lecky are useful, and Macaulay's Essays. The standard biographies are by 
Sir J. Prior '(Bohn, 3s. 6d.), and T. Macknight (3 vols.. Chapman and Hall, 50s.). 
For a criticism of Burke's constitutional doctrines see Professor M'llwaui's The 
High Court 0/ Parliament (1910, Frowde). Good general criticisms will be found 
in Lord Morley's Burke (Macmillan, 4s.), and very notably in Hazhtt's Polttical 
Essays. A complete edition of Burke's works is published in Bohn s Library of 
Standard Authors (6 vols., 5s. fid. each). 



CONTENTS. 



I. — The Governance of Britain. 

1. The True Democracy . . . , ii 

2. The Ethics of Party . . . .12 

3. The Value of Party . . . .17 

4. The Cure for Party . . . . .26 

5. The Position of a Member of Parliament 28 

6. Democracy and Independence . . 31 

7. Constitutional Reform .... 34 

8. The Grounds for Interference with Stand- 

ing Rights 45 

9. The Limits of State Interference . . 46 
10. False Sentiment and Social PolicJ^es . 49 

II. — America and the Colonies. 

1. Representation of the Colonies in the 

British Parliament .... 53 

2. Speech on American Taxation . . 57 

3. Speech on Conciliation with America . 120 

4. Address to the British Colonists in North 

America . . . . . .189 

III. — The French»Revolution. 

I. Reflections on the Revolution in Prance . 203 



BOOK I. 
THE GOVERNANCE OF BRITAIN. 



I. 

THE TRUE DEMOCRACY. 

[From Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents 

(1770.)] 

I AM not one of those who think that the people are 
never in the wrong. They have been so, frequently 
and outrageously, both in other countries and in this. 
But I do say, that in all disputes between them and 
their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par 
in favour of the people. Experience may perhaps 
justify me in going farther. When popular discontents 
have been very prevalent, it may well be affirmed and 
supported, that there has been generally something 
found amiss in the constitution, or in the conduct of 
government. The people have no interest in disorder. 
When they do wrong, it is their error, and not their 
crime. But with the governing part of the state, it is 
far otherwise. They certainly may act ill by design, 
as well as by mistake. ' Les revolutions qui arrivent 
dans les grands etats ne sont point un effect dii hazard, ni 
du caprice des peuples. Ricn ne rcvolte les grands d'un 
royatime comme un gou\'ernement foible et derange. 
Pour la populace, ce n'est jamais par envie d'attaqner 
quelle se souleve, mais par impatietice de sotiffrtr.' * 
These are the words of a great man ; of a minister of 
state ; and a zealous assertor of monarchy. They are 
applied to the system of favouritism which was adopted 
by Henry III. of France, and to the dreadful con- 
♦ Meia. de Sully, torn. i. p. 133. 



12 EDMUND BURKE. 

sequences it produced. What he says of revolutions, is 
equally true of all great disturbances. If this presump- 
tion in favour of the subjects against the trustees of 
power be not the more probable, I am sure it is the 
more comfortable speculation ; because it is more easy 
to change an administration, than to reform a people. 



II. 

THE ETHICS OF PARTY. 

[From Observations on a late publication intituled ' The 
Present State of the Nation' (1769). The pamphlet was 
by George Grenville.] 

I BELIEVE the instances are exceedingly rare of men 
immediately passing over a clear marked line of virtue 
into declared vice and corruption. There are a sort of 
middle tints and shades between the two extremes; 
there is something uncertain on the confines of the two 
empires which they first pass through, and which renders 
the change easy and imperceptible. There are even a 
sort of splendid impositions so well contrived, that, at 
the very time the path of rectitude is quitted for ever, 
men seem to be advancing into some higher and nobler 
road of public conduct. Not that such impositions are 
strong enough in themselves, but a powerful interest, 
often concealed from those whom it affects, works at 
the bottom, and secures the operation. Men are thus 
debauched away from those legitimate connections, 
which they had formed on a judgment, early perhaps 
but sufficiently mature, and wholly unbiassed. They 
do not quit them upon any ground of complaint, for 
grounds of just complaint may exist, but upon the 
flattering and most dangerous of all principles, that of 
mending what is well. Gradually they are habituated 



SELECTIONS. 13 

to other company ; and a change in their habitudes soon 
makes a way for a change in their opinions. Certain 
persons are no longer so very frightful when they come 
to be known and to be serviceable. As to their old 
friends, the transition is easy ; from friendship to 
civiUty, from civility to enmity : few are the steps from 
dereliction to persecution. 

People not very well grounded in the principles of 
public moraUty find a set of maxims in office ready 
made for them, which they assume as naturally and 
inevitably as any of the insignia or instruments of the 
situation. A certain tone of the solid and practical is 
immediately acquired. Every former profession of 
public spirit is to be considered as a debauch of youth, 
or, at best, as a visionary scheme of unattainable per- 
fection. The very idea of consistency is exploded. 
The convenience of the business of the day is to furnish 
the principle for doing it. Then the whole ministerial 
cant is quickly got by heart. The prevalence of faction 
is to be lamented. All opposition is to be regarded as 
the effect of envy and disappointed ambition. All 
administrations are declared to be alike. The same 
necessity justifies all their measures. It is no longer a 
matter of discussion, who or what administration is ; 
but that administration is to be supported is a general 
maxim. Flattering themselves that their power is 
become necessary to the support of all order and govern- 
ment ; everything which tends to the support of that 
power is sanctified, and becomes a part of the public 
interest. 

Growing every day more formed to affairs, and better 
knit in their limbs, when the occasion (now the only 
rule) requires it, they become capable of sacrificing 
those very persons to whom they had before sacrificed 
their original friends. It is now only in the ordinary 
course of business to alter an opinion, or to betray a 
connection. Frequently relinquishing one set of men 
and adopting anolher, they grow into a total indiffer- 
ence to human feeling, as they had before to moral 



14 EDMUND BURKE. 

obligation, until at length no one original impression 
remains upon their minds ; every principle is obliterated, 
every sentiment effaced. 

In the meantime that power, which all these changes 
aimed at securing, remains still as tottering and as 
uncertain as ever. They are dehvered up into the 
hands of those who feel neither respect for their per- 
sons nor gratitude for their favours; who are put 
about them in appearance to serve, in reality to govern 
them ; and, when the signal is given, to abandon and 
destroy them in order to set up some new dupe of 
ambition, who in his turn is to be abandoned and 
destroyed. Thus hving in a state of continual un- 
easiness and ferment, softened only by the miserable 
consolation of giving now and then preferments to 
those for whom they have no value ; they are unhappy 
in their situation, yet find it impossible to resign. 
Until, at length, soured in temper, and disappointed 
by the very attainment of their ends, in some angry, 
in some haughty, or some neghgent moment, they 
incur the displeasure of those upon whom they have 
rendered their very being dependent. Then perierunt 
tempora longi servitii ; they are cast off with scorn ; 
they are turned out, emptied of all natural character, 
of all intrinsic worth, of all essential dignity, and 
deprived of every consolation of friendship. Having 
rendered all retreat to old principles ridiculous, and 
to old regards impracticable, not being able to counter- 
feit pleasure, or to discharge discontent, nothing being 
sincere, or right, or balanced in their minds, it is more 
than a chance, that, in the delirium of the last^ stage 
of their distempered power, they make an insane 
poUtical testament, by which they throw all their 
remaining weight and consequence into the scale of 
their declared enemies, and the avowed authors of 
their destruction. Thus they finish their course. 
Had it been possible that the whole, or even a great 
part of these effects on their minds, I say nothing of 
the effect upon their fortunes, could have appeared to 



SELECTIONS. 15 

them in their first departure from the right hne, it is 
certain they would have rejected every temptation 
with horror. The principle of these remarks, like 
every good principle in morality, is trite ; but its 
frequent application is not the less necessary. 

As to others, who are plain, practical men, they have 
been guiltless at all times of all public pretence. 
Neither the author nor any one else has reason to be 
angry with them. They belonged to his friend for 
their interest ; for their interest they quitted him j 
and when it is their interest, he may depend upon it, 
they will return to their former connection. Such 
people subsist at all times, and, though the nuisance of 
all, are at no time a worthy subject of discussion. It 
is false virtue and plausible error that do the mischief. 

If men come to government with right dispositions, 
they ,have not that unfavourable subject which this 
author represents to work upon. Our circumstances 
are indeed critical ; but then they are the critical 
circumstances of a strong and mighty nation. If cor- 
ruption and meanness are greatly spread, they are not 
spread universally. Many public men are hitherto 
examples of public spirit and integrity. Whole parties, 
as far as large bodies can be uniform, have preserved 
character. However they may be deceived in some 
particulars, I know of no set of men amongst us, which 
does not contain persons on whom the nation, in a 
difficult exigence, may well value itself. Private life, 
which is the nursery of the commonwealth, is yet in 
general pure, and on the whole disposed to virtue ; 
and the people at large want neither generosity nor 
spirit. No small part of that very luxury, which is so 
much the subject of the author's declamation, but 
which, in most parts of life, by being well balanced 
and diffused, is only decency and convenience, has 
perhaps as many, or more, good than evil consequences 
attending it. It certainly excites industry, nourishes 
emulation, and inspires some sense of personal value 
into all ranks of people. What we want is to establish 



i6 EDMUND BURKE. 

more fully an opinion of uniformity, 'and consistency of 
character, in the leading men of the state ; such as will 
restore some confidence to profession and appearance, 
such as will fix subordination upon esteem. Without 
this, all schemes are begun at the wrong end. All 
who join in them are liable to their consequences. All 
men, who, under whatever pretext, take a part in the 
formation or the support of systems constructed in such 
a manner' as must, in their nature, disable them from 
the execution of their duty, have made themselves 
guilty of all the present distraction, and of the future 
ruin, which they may bring upon their country. 

It is a serious affair, this studied disunion in govern- 
ment. In cases where union is most consulted in the 
constitution of a Ministry, and where persons are best 
disposed to promote it, differences, from the various 
ideas of men, wiU arise ; and, from their passions, will 
often ferment into violent heats, so as greatly to disorder 
all public business. What must be the consequence 
when the very distemper is made the basis of the con- 
stitution ; and the original weakness of human nature 
is still further enfeebled by art and contrivance ? It 
must subvert government from the very foundation. 
It turns our public councils into the most mischievous 
cabals ; where the consideration is, not how the nation's 
business shall be carried on, but how those who ought to 
carry it on shall circumvent each other. In such a state 
of things, no order, uniformity, dignity, or effect, can 
appear in our proceedings, either at home or abroad. 
Nor will it make much difference, whether some of the 
constituent parts of such an administration are men of 
virtue or ability, or not ; supposing it possible that 
such men, with their eyes open, should choose to make 
a part in such a body. 

The effects of all human contrivances are in the 
hand of Providence. I do not like to answer, as our 
author so readily does, for the event of any speculation. 
But sure the nature of our disorders, if anything, must 
indicate the proper remedy. Men who act steadily on 



SELECTIONS. 17 

the principles I have stated may, in all events, be very 
serviceable to their country ; in one case, by furnishing 
(if their Sovereign should be so advised) an administra- 
tion formed upon ideas very different from those which 
have for some time been unfortunately fashionable 
But, if this should not be the case, they may be stiU 
serviceable ; for the example of a large body of men, 
steadily sacrificing ambition to principle, can never be 
without use. It will certainly be prolific, and draws 
others to an imitation. Vera gloria radices agit, atque 
etiam propagaiur. 

III. 
THE VALUE OF PARTY. 

[From Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents 

(1779)-] 

I DO not wonder that the behaviour of many parties 
should have made persons of tender and scrupulous 
virtue somewhat out of humour with all sorts of con- 
nexion in politics. I admit that people frequently 
acquire in such confederacies a narrow, bigoted, and 
proscriptive spirit ; that they are apt to sink the idea 
of the general good in this circumscribed and partial 
interest. But, where duty renders a critical situation 
a necessary one, it is our business to keep free from 
the evils attendant upon it ; and not to fly from the 
situation itself. If a fortress is seated in an unwhole- 
some air, an officer of the garrison is obliged to be atten- 
tive to his health, but he must not desert his station. 
Every profession, not excepting the glorious one of_ a 
soldier, or the sacred one of a priest, is liable to its 
own particular vices • which, however, form no argu- 
ment against those ways of life ; nor are the vices them- 
selves inevitable to every individual in those professions. 
Of such a nature are connexions in politics ; essen- 



i8 EDMUND BURKE. 

tially necessary for the full performance of our public 
duty, accidentally liable to degenerate into faction. 
Commonwealths are made of families, free common- 
wealths of parties also ; and we may as well affirm, 
that our natural regards and ties of blood tend inevi- 
tably to make men bad citizens, as that the bonds of our 
party weaken those by which we are held to our country. 
Some legislators went so far as to make neutrality in 
party a crime against the state. I do not know whether 
this might not have been rather to overstrain the prin- 
ciple. Certain it is, the best patriots in the greatest 
commonwealths have a,lways commended and pro- 
moted such connexions. Idem sentire de republica, 
was with them a principal ground of friendship and 
attachment ; nor do I know any other capable of form- 
ing firmer, dearer, more pleasing, more honourable, 
and more virtuous habitudes. The Romans carried 
this principle a great way. Even the holding of offices 
together, the disposition of which arose from chance, 
not selection, gave rise to a relation which continued 
for life. It was called necessitudo sortis ; and it was 
looked upon with a sacred reverence. Breaches of any 
of these kinds of civil relation were considered as acts 
of the most distinguished turpitude. The whole people 
was distributed into pohtical societies, in which they 
acted in support of such interests in the state as they 
severally affected. For it was then thought no cnme 
to endeavour by every honest means to advance to 
superiority and power those of your own sentiments and 
opinions. This wise people was far from imagining that 
those connexions had no tie and obliged to no duty ; 
but that men might quit them without shame, upon 
every call of interest. They believed private honour 
to be the great foundation of pubhc trust ; that friend- 
ship was no mean step towards patriotism ; that he 
who, in the common intercourse of life, showed he re- 
garded somebody besides himself, when he came to 
act in a pubhc situation might probably consult some 
other interest than his own. Never may we become 



SELECTIONS. 19 

Uus sages que les sages, as the French comedian has 
happily expressed it, wiser than all the wise and good 
men who had Uved before us. It was their wish, to 
see public and private virtues, not dissonant and jarrmg 
and mutually destructive, but harmoniously combined, 
growing out of one another in a noble and orderly grada- 
tion, reciprocally supporting and supported. In one of 
the most fortunate periods of our history this country 
was governed by a connexion ; I mean the great con- 
nexion of Whigs in the reign of Queen Anne. They 
were comphmented upon the principle of this connexion 
by a poet who was in high esteem with them. Addison, 
who knew their sentiments, could not praise them for 
what they considered as no proper subject of com- 
mendation. As a poet who knew his business, he could 
not applaud them for a thing which in general estimation 
was not highly reputable. Addressing himself to Britain, 

Thy favoiurites grow not up by fortune's sport, 

Or from the crimes or follies of a court. 

On the firm basis of desert they rise, 

From long-tried faith, and friendship s holy ties. 

The Whigs of those days beUeved that the only proper 
method of rising into power was through hard essays 
of practised friendship and experimented fidehty. At 
that time it was not imagined, that patriotism was 
a bloody idol, which required the sacrifice of children 
and parents, or dearest connexions in private hfe, and 
of all the virtues that rise from those relations, _ They 
were not of that ingenious paradoxical morality, to 
imagine that a spirit of moderation was properly shown 
in patiently bearing the sufferings of your friends, or 
that disinterestedness was clearly manifested at the 
expense of other people's fortune. They believed that 
no man could act with effect, who did not act m concert 5 
that no man could act in concert, who did not act with 
confidence; that no men could act with confidence, 
who were not bound together by common opinions, 
common affections, and common interests. 



20 EDMUND BURKE. 

These wise men, for such I must call Lord Sunderland, 
Lord Godolphin, Lord Somers, and Lord Marlborough, 
were too well principled in these maxims upon which 
the whole fabric of pubhc strength is built, to be blown 
off their ground by the breath of every childish talker. 
They were not afraid that they should be called an 
ambitious junto ; or that their resolution to stand or 
fall together should, by placemen, be interpreted into 
a scuffle for places. 

Party is a body of men united for promoting by their 
joint endeavours the national interest upon some par- 
ticular principle in which they are all agreed. For my 
part, I find it impossible to conceive, that any one 
believes in his own politics, or thinks them to be of 
any weight, who refuses to adopt the means of having 
them reduced into practice. It is the business of the 
speculative philosopher to mark the proper ends of 
government. It is the business of the poUtician, who is 
the philosopher in action, to find out proper means 
towards those ends, and to employ them with effect. 
Therefore every honourable connexion will avow it is 
their first purpose, to pursue every just method to put 
the men who hold their opinions into such a condition 
as may enable them to carry their common plans into 
execution, with all the power and authority of the 
state. As this power is attached to certain situations, 
it is their duty to contend for these situations. With- 
out a proscription of others, they are bound to give to 
their own party the preference in all things ; and by no 
means, for private considerations, to accept any offers 
of power in which the whole body is not included ; nor 
to suffer themsdves to be led, or to be controlled, or 
to be overbalanced, in office or in council, by those who 
contradict the very fundamental principles on which 
their party is formed, and even those upon which every 
fair connexion must stand. Such a generous con- 
tention for power, on such manly and honourable maxims, 
will easily be distinguished from the mean and inter- 
ested struggle for place and emolument. The very 



SELECTIONS. 21 

style of such persons will serve to discriminate them 
from those numberless impostors, who have deluded 
the ignorant with professions incompatible with human 
practice, and have afterwards incensed them b^ prac- 
tices below the level of vulgar rectitude. 

It is an advantage to all narrow wisdom and narrow 
morals that their maxims have a plausible air ; and, 
on a cursory view, appear equal to first principles. 
They are light and portable. They are as current as 
copper coin; and about as valuable. They serve 
equally the first capacities and the lowest ; and they 
are, at least, as useful to the worst men as to the best. 
Of this stamp is the cant of Not men, but measures ; a 
sort of charm by which many people get loose from 
every honourable engagement. When I see a man 
acting this desultory and disconnected part, with as 
much detriment to liis own fortune as prejudice to the 
cause of any party, I am not persuaded that he is 
right • but I am ready to beheve he is m earnest. 1 
respect virtue in all "its situations ; even when it is 
found in the unsuitable company of weakness. I 
lament to see qualities, rare and valuable, squandered 
away without any public utility. But when a gentle- 
man with great visible emoluments abandons the party 
in which he has long acted, and tells you, it is because 
he proceeds upon his own judgment ; that he acts on 
the merits of the several measures as they arise ; and 
that he is obliged to follow his own conscience, and not 
that of others ; he gives reasons which it is impossible 
to controvert, and discovers a character which it is 
impossible to mistake. What shall we think of him 
who never differed from a certain set of men until the 
moment thev lost their power, and who never agreed 
with them in a single instance afterwards ? Would not 
such a coincidence of interest and opinion be rather 
fortunate? Would it not be an extraordinary cast 
upon the dice, that a man's connexions should degene- 
rate into faction, precisclv at the critical moment when 
they lose their power, or he accepts a place ^ When 



22 EDMUND BURKE. 

people desert their connexions, the desertion is a rnani- 
fest fact, upon which a direct simple issue lies, triable 
by plain men. Wliether a measure of government be 
right or wrong, is no matter of fact, but a mere affair 
of opinion, on which men may, as they do, dispute 
and wrangle without end. But whether the individual 
thinks the measure right or wrong, is a point at still a 
greater distance from the reach of ah human decision. 
It is therefore very convenient to politicians, not to 
put the judgment of their conduct on overt-acts, cog- 
nizable in any ordinary court, but upon such matter 
as can be triable only in that secret tribunal, where they 
are sure of being heard with favour, or where at worst 
the sentence will be only private whipping. 

I believe the reader would wish to find no substance 
in a doctrine which has a tendency to destroy all test 
of character as deduced from conduct. He will there- 
fore excuse my adding something more, towards the 
further clearing up a point, which the great convenience 
of obscurity to dishonesty has been able to cover with 
some degree of darkness and doubt. 

In order to throw an odium on political connexion 
these politicians suppose it a necessary incident to it 
that you are blindly to follow the opinions of your 
party, when in direct opposition to your own clear 
ideas ; a degree of servitude that no worthy man could 
bear the thought of submitting to ; and such as, I 
believe, no connexions (except some court factions) 
ever could be so senselessly tyrannical as to impose. 
Men thinking freely will, in particular instances, think 
differently. But still as the greater part of the measures 
which arise in the course of public business are related to, 
or dependent on, some great, leading general principles 
in government, a man must be peculiarly unfortunate in 
the choice of his political company, if he does not agree 
with them at least nine times in ten. If he does not 
concur in these general principles upon which the party 
is founded, and which necessarily draw on a concurrence 
in their application, he ought from the beginning to 



SELECTIONS. 23 

have chosen some other, more conformable to his opinions 
When the question is in its nature doubtful or not 
very material, the modesty which becomes an mdividual, 
and (in spite of our court moralists) that partiality 
which becomes a well-chosen friendship, will frequently 
bring on an acquiescence in the general sentiment 
Thus the disagreement will naturally be rare ; it will 
be only enough to indulge freedom, without violating 
concord, or disturbing arrangement. And this is ail 
that ever was required for a character of the greatest 
uniformity and steadiness in connexion. How men can 
proceed without any connexion at all, is to me utterly 
incomprehensible. Of what sort of materials must that 
man be made, how must he be tempered and put together, 
who can sit whole years in parliament, with five hundred 
and fifty of his fellow-citizens, amidst the storm of such 
tempestuous passions, in the sharp conflict of so many 
wits and tempers and characters, m the agitation ot 
such mighty questions, in the discussion of such vast 
and ponderous interests, without seeing any one sort 
of men, whose character, conduct, or disposition, would 
lead him to associate himself with them, to aid and be 
aided, in any one system of public utility ? 

I remember an old scholastic aphorism, which says, 
' that the man who lives wholly detached from others 
must be either an angel or a devil.' When I see in 
any of these detached gentlemen of our times the angehc 
purity power, and beneficence, I shall admit them to 
be angels. In the meantime we are born only to be 
men. We shall do enough if we form ourselves to be 
good ones. It is therefore our business carefully to 
cultivate in our minds, to rear to the most perfect vigour 
and maturity, every sort of generous and honest feeling 
that belongs to our nature. To bring the dispositions 
that are lovely in private life into the ser\'ice and con- 
duct of the commonwealth ; so to be patriots, as riot 
to forget we are gentlemen. To cultivate friendships, 
and to incur enmities. To have both strong, but both 
selected ; in the one, to be placable ; m the other im- 



24 EDMUND BURKE, 

movable. To model our principles to our duties and 
our situation. To be fully persuaded that all virtue 
which is impracticable is spurious ; and rather to run 
the risk of falling into faults in a course which leads 
us to act with effect and energy, than to loiter out our 
days without blame and without use. Pubhc life is 
a situation of power and energy ; he trespasses against 
his duty who sleeps upon his watch, as well as he that 
goes over to the enemy. 

There is, however, a time for all things. It is not 
every conjuncture which calls with equal force upon 
the activity of honest men ; but critical exigencies now 
and then arise ; and I am mistaken, if this be not one 
of them. Men will see the necessity of honest combina- 
tion ; but they may see it when it is too late. They 
may embody, when it will be ruinous to themselves, 
and of no advantage to the country ; when, for want 
of such a timely union as may enable them to oppose 
in favour of the laws, with the laws on their side, they 
may at length find themselves under the necessity of 
conspiring, instead of consulting. The law, for which 
they stand, may become a weapon in the hands of its 
bitterest enemies ; and they will be cast, at length, 
into that miserable alternative between slavery and 
civil confusion, which no good man can look upon 
without horror ; an alternative in which it is impossible 
he should take either part, with a conscience perfectly 
at repose. To keep that situation of guilt and remorse 
at the utmost distance is, therefore, our first obligation. 
Early activity may prevent late and fruitless violence. 
As yet we work in the light. The scheme of the enemies 
of public tranquillity has disarranged, it has not de- 
stroyed us. . 

If the reader believes that there really exists such 
a faction as I have described ; a faction ruling by the 
private inclinations of a court, against the general 
sense of the people ; and that this faction, whilst it 
pursues a scheme for undermining all the foundations 
of our freedom, weakens (for the present at least) all the 



SELECTIONS. 25 

powers of executory government, rendering us abroad 
contemptible, and at home distracted ; he will believe 
also that nothing but a firm combination of public 
men against this body, and that, too, supported by the 
hearty concurrence of the people at large, can possibly 
get the better of it. The people will see the necessity 
of restoring public men to an attention to the public 
opinion, and of restoring the constitution to its original 
principles. Above ah, they will endeavour to keep the 
House of Commons from assuming a character which 
does not belong to it. They will endeavour to keep 
that House, for its existence, for its powers,^ and its 
privileges, as independent of every other, and as de- 
pendent upon themselves, as possible. This servitude 
is to a House of Commons (like obedience to the divme 
law) 'perfect freedom.' For if they once quit this 
natural, rational, and liberal obedience, having deserted 
the only proper foundation of their power, they must 
seek a support in an abject and unnatural dependence 
somewhere else. When, through the medium of this 
just connexion with their constituents, the genuine 
dignity of the House of Commons is restored, it will 
be^in to think of casting from it, with scorn, as badges 
of servility, all the false ornaments of illegal power, 
with which it has been, for some time, disgraced. It 
will begin to think of its old office of Control. It will 
not suffer that last of evils to predominate m the coun- 
try • men without popular confidence, public opinion 
natural connexion, or mutual trust, invested with all 
the powers of government. 

When they have learned this lesson themselves, they 
will be wiUing and able to teach the court that it is 
the true interest of the prince to have but one administra- 
tion ; and that one composed of those who recommend 
themselves to their sovereign through the opinion of 
their country, and not by their obsequiousness to a 
favourite. Such men will serve their sovereign with 
affection and fidelity; because his choice of them, 
upon such principles, is a compliment to their virtue. 



26 EDMUND BURKE. 

They will be able to serve him effectually ; because 
they will add the weight of the country to the force of 
the executory power. They will be able to serve their 
king with dignity ; because they will never abuse his 
name to the gratification of their private spleen or 
avarice. This, with allowances for human frailty, may 
probably be the general character of a ministry, which 
thinks itself accountable to the House of Commons ; 
when the House of Commons thinks itself accountable 
to its constituents. If other ideas should prevail, 
things must remain in their present confusion, until 
they are hurried into all the rage of civil violence or 
until they sink into the dead repose of despotism. 



IV. 

THE CURE FOR PARTY. 

[From Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents 
(1770).] 

Our constitution stands on a nice equipoise, with steep 
precipices and deep waters upon all sides of it. In 
removing it from a dangerous leaning towards one side, 
there may be a risk of oversetting it on the other. 
Every project of a material change in a government so 
complicated as ours, combined at the same time with 
external circumstances still more complicated, is a 
matter full of difficulties : in which a considerate man 
will not be too ready to decide ; a prudent man too 
ready to undertake ; or an honest man too ready to 
promise. They do not respect the public nor them- 
selves, who engage for more than they are sure that 
they ought to attempt, or that they are able to perform. 
These are my sentiments, weak perhaps, but honest 
and unbiassed ; and submitted entirely to the opinion 
of grave men, well-affected to the constitution of their 



SELECTIONS. 27 

country, and of experience in what may best promote 
or hurt it. 

Indeed, in the situation in which we stand, with an 
immense revenue, an enormous debt, mighty estabUsh- 
ments, government itself a great banker and a great 
merchant, I see no other way for the preservation of 
a decent attention to pubhc interest in the representa- 
tives, but the interposition of the body of the people itself, 
whenever it shall appear, by some flagrant and notorious 
act, by some capital innovation, that these representa- 
tives are going to overleap the fences of the law, and 
to introduce an arbitrary power. This interposition 
is a most unpleasant remedy. But, if it be a legal 
remedy, it is intended on some occasion to be used; 
to be used then only, when it is evident that nothing 
else can hold the constitution to its true principles. 

The distempers of monarchy were the great subjects 
of apprehension and redress, in the last century ; in 
this, the distempers of parliament. It is not in par- 
liament alone that the remedy for parliamentary dis- 
orders can be completed ; hardly indeed can it begin 
there. Until a confidence in government is re-estab- 
lished, the people ought to be excited to a more strict 
and detailed attention to the conduct of their repre- 
sentatives. Standards for judging more systematically 
upon their conduct ought to be settled in the meetings 
of counties and corporations. Frequent and correct 
lists of the voters in all important questions ought to 
be procured. 

By such means something may be done. By such 
means it may appear who those are that, by an indis- 
criminate support of all administrations, have totally 
banished all integrity and confidence out of public 
proceedings ; have confounded the best men with the 
worst ; and weakened and dissolved, instead of strength- 
ening and compacting, the general frame of government. 
If any person is more concerned for government and 
order, than for the liberties of his country ; even he 
is equally concerned to put an end to this course of 



28 EDMUND BURKE. 

indiscriminate support. It is this blind and undis- 
tinguishing support that feeds the spring of those very 
disorders, by which he is frightened into the arms of 
the faction which contains in itself the source of all 
disorders, by enfeebling all the visible and regular 
authority of the state. The distemper is increased 
by his injudicious and preposterous endeavours, or 
pretences, for the cure of it. 



V. 

THE POSITION OF A MEMBER 
OF PARLIAMENT. 

[From Burke's Speech to the Electors of Bristol after 
the poll on November 3, 1774. This passage contains 
his famous doctrine of the nature of a representative, 
and his repudiation of any ' mandate ' theory.] 

I AM sorry I cannot conclude without saying a word 
on a topic touched upon by my worthy colleague. I 
wish that topic had been passed by at a time when I 
have so little leisure to discuss it. Biit since he has 
thought proper to throw it out, I owe you a clear ex- 
planation of my poor sentiments on that subject. 

He tells you that ' the topic of instructions has occa- 
sioned much altercation and uneasiness in this city ' ; 
and he expresses himself (if I understand him rightly) 
in favour of the coercive authority of such instructions. 

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness 
and glory of a representative to live in the strictest 
union, the closest correspondence, and the most un- 
reserved communication with his constituents. Their 
wishes ought to have great weight with him ; their 
opinion high respect ; their business unremitted atten- 



SELECTIONS. 29 

tion. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose Ins pleasures 
his satisfactions, to theirs; ^^^/^ove all ever and in 
all cases, to prefer their interest to his o^^^' .^^^^^^^^^^ 
unbiassed opinion, his mature l^^gment his enaghtened 
conscience, he ought not ^o sacrifice to you to ay 
man or to any set of men hvmg. These he does not 
Se lorn your pleasure; no nor f-- tne law and 
the constitution. They are a trust froni P^o^^denc^' 
for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable Your 
Syese'ntatWe owes you. not his industry only but 
his judgment ; and he betrays, mstead of servmg you, 
if he sacrifices it to your opinion. 

But government and legislation are matters of reason 
and iudement. and not of mclination ; and what soft 
of reSo^'s that, in which the determma ion preced^^ 
the discussion ; in which one set of men deliberate 
W another decide; and where those who form the 
^cllu^on are perhip^: three hundred miles distant 
from those who hear the arguments .^ _ 

To deliver an opinion is the right of all men ,_ tiiat 
of const tuents is a weighty and respectable opinion 
licra repi^^^^ ought always to rejoice to hear ; 

Tnd which he ought always most seriously to consider 
But :2^rtaHve llistructions, .--f ^^^rotv^t vot^l 
member is bound blindly and \n^Ph";/7,^i",^l',y;.47con: 
and to argue for, though contrary to the clea est con 
vktion of his udgment and conscience,- hese are 
thin^^uUer V unknown to the laws o this and, and 
wS aiS fi-om a fundamental mistake of the whole 
(irder and tenor of our constitution. , f _ 

"Tarhament is not a congress of ainbassadors from 
different and hostile interests; which interests eacli 
must maintain, as an agent and advocate agains o^^^^^^^^^^ 
agents and advocates; but parhament is a ^^^^^^^/'^^^^ 
assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the 



30 EDMUND BURKE, 

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 locPil 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 say- 
ing so much on this subject. I have been unwilhngly 
drawn into it j but I shall ever use a respectful frank- 
ness 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 pomt of m- 
structions, however, I think it scarcely possible we 
ever can have any sort of difference. Perhaps I may 
give you too much, rather than too Uttle trouble. 

From the first hour T was encouraged to court your 
favour, to this happy day of obtaining it, I have never 
promised you anything but humble and persevermg 
endeavours to do my duty. T^'^ weight of that duty, 
I confess, makes me tremble ; and whoever well con- 
siders what it is, of all things in the world, will fly from 
what has the least hkeness 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 so strong a disposition to run into the 
perilous extremes of servile comphance or wild popu- 
larity. To unite circumspection with vigour, is absohitely 
necessary ; but it is extremely difficult. We are now 
members for a rich commercial city ; this city, how- 
ever, is but a part of a rich commercial natioi, the 
interests of which are various, multiform, and intricate. 
We are members for that gi'eat nation, which, however, 
is itself but part of a great empire, extended by our 
virtue and our fortune to the farthest limits cf the east 
and of the west. All these widespread interests must 
be considered ; must be compared ; must be reconciled 



SELECTIONS. 3i 

if possible. We are members for a free country ; and 
surely we all know, that the machine of a free consti- 
tution is no simple thing ; but as intricate and as deli- 
cate as it is valuable. We are members m a great and 
ancient monarchy ; and we must preserve religiously the 
true legal rights of the sovereign, which form the key- 
stone that binds together the noble and well-constructed 
arch of our empire and our constitution. A constitution 
made up of balanced powers must ever be a critical thing. 
As such I mean to touch that part of it which comes 
within my reach. I know my inability, and I wish for 
support from every quarter. In particular I shall aim 
at the friendship, and shall cultivate the best corre- 
spondence, of the worthy colleague you have given me. 

I trouble you no farther than once more to thank 
you all • you, gentlemen, for your favours ; the can- 
didates, 'for their temperate and polite behaviour ; and 
the sheriffs, for a conduct which may give a model 
for all *vho are in public stations. 



VI. 

DEMOCRACY AND INDEPENDENCE. 

[The peroration of Burke's speech at Bristol in 1780, 
when he said farewell to his old constituents, with whom 
he had differed on questions Ukc Irish Trade and the 
relief for Roman Catholics.] 



We knew beforehand, or we were poorly instructed, 
that toleration is odious to the intolerant ; freedom to 
oppressors; property to robbers; and all kinds and 
degrees of prosperity to the envious. We knew that 
all these kinds of men would gladly gratify their evil 
dispositions under the sanction of law and rehgion, 



32 EDMUND BURKE, 

if they could : if they could not, yet, to make way to 
their objects, they would do their utmost to subvert all 
rehgion and all law. This we certainly knew. But 
knowing this, is there any reason, because thieves break 
in and steal, and thus bring detriment to you, and draw 
ruin on themselves, that I am to be sorry that you are 
in possession of shops, and of warehouses, and of whole- 
some laws to protect them ? Are you to build no houses, 
because desperate men may pull them down upon their 
own heads? Or, if a mahgnant wretch will cut his 
own throat because he sees you give alms to the necessi- 
tous and deserving ; shall his destruction be attributed to 
your charity, and not to his own deplorable madness? 
If we repent of our good actions, what, I pray you, is 
left for our faults and follies ? It is not the beneficence 
of the laws, it is the unnatural temper which beneficence 
can fret and sour, that is to be lamented. It is this 
temper which, by all rational means, ought to be sweet- 
ened and corrected. If forward men should refyse this 
cure, can they vitiate anything but themselves ? Does 
evil so react upon good, as not only to retard its motion, 
but to change its nature ? If it can so operate, then 
good men will always be in the power of the bad ; and 
virtue, by a dreadful reverse of order, must he under 
perpetual subjection and bondage to vice. 

As to the opinion of the people, which some think, in 
^ such cases, is to be imphcitly obeyed ; nearly two years' 
tranquillity, which followed the act, and its instant 
imitation in Ireland, proved abundantly, that the late 
horrible spirit was, in a great measure, the effect of 
insidious art, and perverse industry, and gross mis- 
representation. But suppose that the dislike had been 
much more deliberate, and much more general than I 
am persuaded it was — when we know, that the opinions 
of even the greatest multitudes are the standard of 
rectitude, I shall think myself obliged to make those 
opinions the masters of my conscience. But if it may be 
doubted whether Omnipotence itself is competent to 
alter the essential constitution of right and wrong, sure 



SELECTIONS. 33 

I am, that such things, as they and I, are possessed of 
no such power. No man carries farther than I do the 
policy of making government pleasing to the people. 
But the widest range of this politic complaisance is con- 
fined within the limits of justice. I would not only 
consult the interest of the people, but I would cheer- 
fully gratify their humours. We are all a sort of chil- 
dren that must be soothed and managed. I think I am 
not austere or formal in my nature. I would bear, I 
would even myself play my part in, any innocent buf- 
fooneries to divert them. But I never will act the 
tyrant for their amusement. If they will mix malice 
in their sports, I shall never consent to throw them 
any living, sentient creature whatsoever, no not so much 
as a kitling, to torment. 

' But if I profess all this impolitic stubbornness, I 
may chance never to be elected into parliament.' It is 
certainly not pleasing to be put out of the public service. 
But I wish to be a member of parliament, to have my 
share of doing good and resisting evil. It would there- 
fore be absurd to renounce my objects, in order to obtain 
my seat. I deceive myself indeed most grossly, if I had 
not much rather pass the remainder of my life hidden 
in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding my 
mind even with the visions and imaginations of such 
tilings, than to be placed on the most splendid throne 
of tiie universe, tantalized with a denial of the practice 
of all which can make the greatest situation any other 
than the greatest curse. Gentlemen, I have had my day. 
I can never sufficiently express my gratitude to you for 
having set me in a place, wherein I could lend the slight- 
est help to great and laudable designs. If I have 
had my share in any measure giving quiet to private 
]:iroperty and private conscience ; if by my vote I have 
aided in securing to families the best possession, peace ; 
if I have joined in reconciling kings to their subjects, 
and subjects to their prince ; if I have assisted to loosen 
the foreign holdings of the citizen, and taught him to 
look for his protection to the laws of his country, and 

2 



34 EDMUND BURKE. 

for his comfort to the goodwill of his countrymen ;— if 
I have thus taken my part with the best of men m the 
best of their actions, I can shut the book ;— I might 
wish to read a page or two more— but this is enough for 
my measure. — I have not Hved in vain. 



VII. 

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. 

[Speech on a motion in the House of Commons, the 
7th of May, 1782, for a committee to inquire mto the 
state of the representation of the Commons i^ Parliament.] 

We have now discovered, at the close of the eighteenth 
century, that the constitution of England, which for 
a series of ages had been the proud distinction of this 
country, always the admiration, and sometimes the envy 
of the wise and learned in every other nation, we have 
discovered that this boasted constitution, m the niost 
boasted part of it, is a gross imposition upon the under- 
standing of mankind, an insult to their feelings, and 
acting by contrivances destructive to the best and 
most valuable interests of the people. Our political 
architects have taken a survey of the fabric of the 
British constitution. It is singular that they report 
nothing against the crown, nothing against the lords j 
but in the House of Commons every thing is unsound ; it 
is ruinous in every part. It is infested by the dry rot, 
and ready to tumble about our ears without their im- 
mediate help. You know by the faults they find what 
are their ideas of the alteration. As all government 
stands upon opinion, they know that the way utterly 
to destroy it is to remove that opinion, to take away 
all reverence, all confidence from it ; and then, at the 
first blast of public discontent and popular tumult, it 
tumbles to the ground. 



SELECTIONS. 35 

In considering this question they who oppose it oppose 
it on different grounds ; one is, in the nature of a pre- 
vious question ; that some alterations may be expedient, 
but that this is not the time for making them. The 
other is, that no essential alterations are at all want- 
ing : and that neither now, nor at a7iy time, is it prudent 
or safe to be meddling with the fundamental principles, 
and ancient tried usages of our constitution — that our 
representation is as nearly perfect as the necessary 
imperfection of human affairs and of human creatures 
will suffer it to be ; and that it is a subject of prudent 
and honest use and thankful enjoyment, and not of cap- 
tious criticism and rash experiment. 

On the other side there are two parties, who proceed 
on two grounds, in my opinion, as they state them, 
utterly irreconcilable. The one is juridical, the other 
political. The one is in the nature of a claim of right 
oil the supposed rights of man as man ; this party 
desire the decision of a suit. The other ground, as far 
as I can divine what it directly means, is, that the 
representation is not so politically framed as to answer 
the theory of its institution. As to the claim of right 
the meanest petitioner, the most gross and ignorant, 
is as good as the best ; in some respects his claim is 
more favourable on account of his ignorance ; his weak- 
ness, his poverty, and distress, only add to his titles ; 
he sues in forma pauperis ; he ought to be a favourite 
of the court. But when the other ground is taken, when 
the question is political, when a new constitution is to 
be made on a sound theory of government, then the 
presumptuous pride of didactic ignorance is to be ex- 
cluded from the counsel in this high and arduous matter, 
which often bids defiance to the experience of the wisest. 
The first claims a personal representation, the latter 
rejects it with scorn and fervour. The language of the 
first party is plain and intelligible ; they who plead 
an absolute right cannot be satisfied with any thing 
short of personal representation, because all natural 
rights must be the rights of individuals ; as by nature 



36 EDMUND BURKE. 

there is no such thing as poUtic or corporate personality ; 
all these ideas are mere fictions of law, they are 
creatures of voluntary institution ; men as men are 
individuals, and nothing else. They, therefore, who re- 
iect the principle of natural and personal representation, 
Le essentially and eternally at variance with those who 
claim it As to the first sort of reformers, it is ridicu- 
lous to 'talk to them of the British constitution upon 
any or upon all of its bases ; for they lay it down that 
every man ought to govern himself, and that where he 
cinnot go himself, he must send his representative ; 
that all other government is usurpation, and is so lar 
from having a claim to our obedience it is not only our 
right but our duty to resist it. Nine-tenths of the 
reformers argue thus, that is, on the natural right. It is 
impossible not to make some reflection on the nature 
of this claim, or avoid a comparison between the extent 
of the principle and the present object of the demand. 
If this claim be founded, it is clear to what it goes. 
The House of Commons, in that light, undoubtedly is 
no representative of the people, as a collection of mdi- 
viduals. Nobody pretends it, nobody can justify such 
an assertion. When you come to examine into this 
claim of right, founded on the right of self-government 
in each individual, you find the thing demanded infim- 
tively short of the principle of the demand. What! 
one-third only of the legislature, and of. the government 
no share at all ? What sort of treaty of partition is 
this for those who have an inherent right to the whole i 
Give them all they ask, and your grant is still a cheat ; 
for how comes only a third to be their younger children s 
fortune in this settlement ? How came they neither to 
have the choice of kings, or lords, or judges, or generals, 
or admirals, or bishops, or priests, or ministers, or jus- 
tices of peace? Why, what have you to answer m 
favour of the prior rights of the crown and peerage 
but this— our constitution is a prescriptive constitu- 
tion • it is a constitution whose sole authority is, that 
it has existed time out of mind. It is settled in these 



SELECTIONS. 37 

two portions against one, legislatively ; and in the whole 
of the judicature, the whole of the federal capacity, of 
the executive, the prudential and the financial adminis- 
tration, in one alone. Nor was your House of Lords 
and the prerogatives of the crown settled on any adjudica- 
tion in favour of natural rights, for they could never be 
so partitioned. Your king, your lords, your judges, your 
juries, grand and little, are all prescriptive ; and what 
proves it, is, the disputes not yet concluded, and never 
near becoming so, when any of them first originated. 
Prescription is the most solid of all titles, not only to 
property, but, which is to secure that property, to gov- 
ernment. They harmonize with each other, and give 
mutual aid to one another. It is accompanied with 
another ground of authority in the constitution of the 
human mind, presumption. It is a presumption in 
favour of any settled scheme of government against 
any untried project, that a nation has long existed and 
flourished under it. It is a better presumption even 
of the choice of a nation, far better than any sudden 
and temporary arrangement by actual election. Be- 
cause a nation is not an idea only of local extent 
and individual momentary aggregation, but it is an 
idea of continuity which extends in time as well as in 
numbers and in space. And this is a choice not of 
one day, or one set of people, not a tumultuary and 
giddy choice ; it is a deliberate election of ages and of 
generations ; it is a constitution made by what is ten 
thousand times better than choice, it is made by the 
peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, 
and moral, civil, and social habitudes of the people, 
which disclose themselves only in a long space of time. 
It is a vestment which accommodates itself to the body. 
Nor is prescription of government formed upon blind 
unmeaning prejudices — for man is a most unwise and a 
most wise being. The individual is foolish. The mul- 
titude, for the moment, is fooUsh when they act without 
deliberation ; but the species is wise, and when time 
is given to it, as a species, it almost always acts right. 



38 EDMUND BURKE. 

The reason for the crown as it is, for the lords as they 
are IS r^y reason for the commons as they are the 
eStors^s they are. Now if the crown, and the lords, 
fnd ?he 3^d.catlres, are all prescriptive so is the House 
of Commons of the very same origm, and ot no otner 
We anZur electors have their powers and pnvileges both 
made and circumscribed by prescription, as much to the 
Tun as the other parts; and as such we hav^ alway 
claimed them, and on no other ^itle. The House o^ 
Commons is a legislative body corporate by pre cap 
tion not made upon any given theory, but existing 
prescriptivdyHust like the rest. This prescription has 
S TesseLaV what it is, an aggregate -llec^^^^^^^^^ 
three parts knights, citizens, burgesses. 1 he question 

s whether'thislas been always so, since the H-se^ 
Commons has taken its presen ^^ape and c.rcum 
stances, and has ^e- - essentif o^^^^^^^^^^ 
constitution ; which, I take it, it nas oeen lui 

' mrA^'oK myself in the affirmative : and then 
anIthL question arise^, whether this Ho-e stands firm 
upon its\ncient foundations, and 1%^°^.' ^yJ'^Va^t 
accidents, so declined from its Perpendicular as t^t 
the hand of the wise and experienced architects of the 
day to set it upright again, and to F°P ^^^^^^}^f^^\"'^ 
it up for duration ;-whether it continues true to the 
principles upon which it has hitherto ^tood -whether 
this be de facto the constitution of the House of Com 
mons as it has been since the time that the House ot 
Commons W, without dispute become a necessary and 
an efficient part of the British constitution ? io asK 
whether a thCng which has always been the ^^^^'^.t 
to its usual principle, seems to me to be perfectly ab 
surd • for how do you know the principles but Irom tne 
construction? and^if that remains the same he prin- 
ciples remain the same. It is true that to say your 
constitution is what it has been, is ^o ^^^^^^^^f^^^'^ 
for those who say it is a bad constitution. It is an 
answer to those who say that it is a degenerate constitu- 



SELECTIONS. 39 

tion. To those who say it is a bad one, I answer, look 
to its effects. In all moral machinery, the moral results 
are its test. 

On what grounds do we go to restore our constitution 
to what it has been at some given period, or to reform 
and re-construct it upon principles more conformable 
to a sound theory of government ? A prescriptive gov- 
ernment, such as ours, never was the work of any legis- 
lator, never was made upon any foregone theory. It 
seems to me a preposterous way of reasoning, and a 
perfect confusion of ideas, to take the theories which 
learned and speculative men have made from that gov- 
ernment, and then supposing it made on those theories 
which were made from it, to accuse the government as 
not corresponding with them. I do not vilify theory 
and speculation — no, because that would be to vilify 
reason itself. Neque decipitur ratio, neque decipit un- 
quam. No ; whenever I speak against theory, I mean 
always a weak, erroneous, fallacious, unfounded, or im- 
perfect theory ; and one of the ways of discovering that 
it is a false theory, is by comparing it with practice. 
This is the true touchstone of all theories which regard 
man and the affairs of men — does it suit his nature in 
general ; — does it suit his nature as modified by his 
habits ? 

The more frequently this affair is discussed, the 
stronger the case appears to the sense and the feelings 
of mankind. I have no more doiibt than I entertain of 
my existence that this very thing, which is stated as 
a horrible thing, is the means of the preservation of our 
constitution whilst it lasts \ of curing it of many of the 
disorders which, attending every species of institution, 
would attend the principle of an exact local representa- 
tion, or a representation on the principle of numbers. 
If you reject personal representation, you are pushed 
upon expedience ; and then what they wish us to do is, 
to prefer their speculations on that subject to the happy 
experience of this country of a growing liberty and a 
growing prosperity for five hundred years. Whatever 



40 EDMUND BURKE. 

resoect I have for their talents, this, for one, I ^^ill not 
do Then what is the standard of expedience ? Ex- 
pedience is that which is good for the community and 
Sood for every individual in it. Now this expedience 
^t\.Tdes^deIatum, to be sought either without the 
exnerience of means, or with that experience. If with- 
nS as in case of (he fabrication of a new common- 
wealth I wm hear the learned arguing what promises 
to be exped ent • but if we are to judge of a common- 
wealth aCall/ex^ the first thing J. inquire ^S' 
what ha^ been /ow^^ expedient or inexpedient ? And 
Twm not take tLir pro^^se rather than the periormance 

«^?%^°"*^%'urno, this was not the cause of the dis- 
contents I went through most of the northern parts 
^?he Yorkshire election was then ragmg ; the year 
belore, through most of the westeryounties-B^^^^^ 
Rri^tnl Gloucester,— not one word, either m tne xowiib 
S^country on the' subject of representation , much on 
?herecept'tax something on Mr. Fox's ambition ; much 

grLter aV^^^ of danger ^^^^^^^^V^te'^S 

STnt of reoresentation. One would thmk that the bal- 
ra:t"'of tS^^was shifted with us, and that our con- . 
Q+itntion had the gunnel under water, but can you 
drly and dttmctfy point out what one evil or griev- 
ance^as happened, which you can refer o hej^p^ 
sentative not following the opinion of his constituents 
mat one symptom do we find of this inequality ? But 
U is not an Arithmetical inequahty with which we ought 
+n trouble ourselves. If there be a moral a political 
equahty tWs s the des^deratum in our constitution and 
tn every constitution in the world. Moral ineqnahty is 
as between places and between classes. Now, I ask 
what Tdvantage do you find that the places, which 
abold m'?ep?esentatLn, possess over others m which 
i+ i^ more scanty, in security for freedom, m security 
or luTtice or i/ any one of those means of procuring 
temS prosperity and eternal happiness the ends for 
wSsocFety^ was formed ? Are the local interests of 



SELECTIONS. 41 

Cornwall and Wiltshire, for instance, their roads, canals, 
their prisons, their police, better than Yorkshire, Warwick- 
shire, or Staffordshire ? Warwick has members ; is War- 
wick or Stafford more opulent, happy, or free, than New- 
castle, or than Birmingham ? Is Wiltshire the pampered 
favourite, whilst Yorkshire, like the child of the bond- 
woman, is turned out to the desert ? This is like the 
unhappy persons who live, if they can be said to live, in 
the statical chair ; who are ever feeling their pulse, and 
who do not judge of health by the aptitude of the body 
to perform its functions, but b}^ their ideas of what 
ought to be the true balance between the several secre- 
tions ? Is a committee of Cornwall, etc., thronged, 
and the others deserted ? No. You have an equal 
representation, because you have men equally inter- 
ested in the prosperity of the whole, who are involved 
in the general interest and the general sympathy ; and, 
perhaps, these places, furnishing a superfluity of public 
agents and administrators, (whether in strictness they 
ai"e representatives or not, I do not mean to inquire, 
but they are agents and administrators,) will stand 
clearer of local interests, passions, prejudices, and cabals, 
than the others, and therefore preserve the balance of 
the parts, and with a more general view, and a more 
steady hand, than the rest. ***** 
In every political proposal we must not leave out of 
the question the political views and object of the pro- 
poser ; and these we discover, not by what he says, but 
by the principles he lays down. I mean, says he, a 
moderate and temperate reform ; that is, I mean to do 
as little good as possible. If the constitution be what 
you re])rcsent it, and there be no danger in the change, 
you do wrong not to make the reform commensurate 
to the abuse. Fine reformer indeed ! generous donor ! 
What is the cause of this parsimony of the liberty which 
you dole out to the people ? Why all this limitation 
in giving blessings and benefits to mankind ? You 
admit tliat there is an extreme in liberty, which may 
t)e infinitely noxious to those who are to receive it, 



42 EDMUND BURKE, 

and which in the end wiU leave themno liberty at all. 
I think so too; they know it, and they feel it. ihe 
question is then what is the standard of that extreme? 
What that gentleman, and the associations or some 
parts of their phalanxes, think proper ? Then our 
liberties are in their pleasure ; it depends on their 
arbitrary will how far I shall be free. I will have none 
of that freedom. If. therefore, the standard of modera- 
tion be sought for, I will seek for it Where ? Not m 
their fancies, nor in my own ; I will seek for it where 
I know it is to be found, in the constitution I actuaUy 
eniov Here it says to an encroaching prerogative,— 
vour sceptre has its length, you cannot add a hair to 
vour head, or a gem to your crown, but what an eternal 
law has given to it. Here it says to an overweemng 
peerage —your pride finds banks that it cannot over- 
flow • here to a tumultuous and giddy people,— there 
is a bound to the raging of the sea. Our constitution 
is like our island, which uses and restrains its subject 
sea • in vain the waves roar. In that constitution I 
knoW and exultingly I feel, both that I am free, and 
that I am not free dangerously to myself or to others. I 
know that no power on earth, acting as I ought to do, 
can touch my life, my liberty, or my property. I have 
that inward and dignified consciousness of my own 
security and independence, which constitutes, and is 
the only thing which does constitute, the proud and 
comfortable sentiment of freedom in the human breast. 
I know too, and I bless God for, my safe mediocrity j 
I know that, if I possessed all the talents of the gentle- 
men on the side of the House I sit, and on the other, 
I cannot by royal favour, or by popular delusion, or 
by oligarchical cabal, elevate myself above a certain very 
limited point, so as to endanger my own fall, or the rum 
of my country. I know there is an order that keeps 
things fast in their place 5 it is made to us, and we are 
made to it. Why not ask another wife, other children, 
another body, another mind ? 

The great object of most of these reformers is to pre- 



SELECTIONS. 43 

pare the destruction of the constitution, by disgracing 
and discrediting the House of Commons. For they 
think, prudently, in my opinion, that if they can per- 
suade the nation that the House of Commons is so 
constituted as not to secure the public liberty ; not to 
have a proper connexion with the public interests ; so 
constituted, as not either actually or virtually to be the 
representative of the people, it will be easy to prove that 
a government composed of a monarchy, an oligarchy 
chosen by the crown, and such a House of Commons, 
whatever good can be in such a system, can by no 
means be a system of free government. 

The constitution of England is never to have a quietus; 
it is to be continually vilified, attacked, reproached, 
resisted ; instead of being the hope and sure anchor in 
all storms, instead of being the means of redress to all 
grievances, itself is the grand grievance of the nation, 
our shame instead of our glory. If the only specific 
plan proposed, individual personal representation, is 
directly rejected by the person who is looked on as the 
great support of this business, then the only way of 
considering it is a question of convenience. An hon- 
ourable gentleman prefers the individual to the present. 
He therefore himself sees no middle term whatsoever, 
and therefore prefers of what he sees the individual : this 
is the only thing distinct and sensible that has been 
advocated. He has then a scheme, which is the indi- 
vidual representation ; he is not at a loss, not incon- 
sistent — which scheme the other right honourable gentle- 
man reprobates. Now what does this go to, but to lead 
directly to anarchy ? For to discredit the only gov- 
ernment, which he either possesses or can project, what 
is this but to destroy all government ; and this is an- 
archy. My right honourable friend, in supporting this 
motion, disgraces his friends and justifies his enemies, in 
order to blacken the constitution of his country, even 
of that House of Commons which supported him. There 
is a difference between a moral or political exposure of 
a public evil relative to the administration of govern- 



44 EDMUND BURKE. 

ment whether in men or systems, and a declaration of 
defecis real or supposed, in the fundamental constitu- 
tion of your country"^ The first may be cured m the indi- 
vXal by the motives of rehgion, virtue, honour, fear 
Ihame ol interest. Men may be made to abandon also 
aSenis, by exposing their absurdity or mischievous 
tendency to their own better thoughts or to the con 
tempt o? indignation of the public ; and after all if they 
sSd exist, Ld.exist -corrected, they on^^^^^ 
individuals as fugitive opmions Bul i^/^^.^^^J ,°^^^^. 
wise with the frSme and constitution of the state , if 
that Ts disgraced, patriotism is destioyed m its very 
source No man has ever willingly obeyed, much less 
was desirous of defending with his ^^^o^ ^^^^^^'^^^^ 
and absurd scheme of government. Our hrst, our dear 
est most comprehensive relation, our country, is gone. 

It suggests melancholy reflections, m consequence of 
the strange course we have long held, that we are now 
no longer\uarrelling about the character, or about the 
conduit of^men, or the tenor of measures ; but we are 
g?own out of humour with the English constitution 
itself • this is become the object of the animosity of 
Englishmen. This constitution in ormer days used to 
be the admiration and the envy of the world it was 
the pattern for poUticians ; the theme of the eloquent 
the meditation of the philosopher m every part of the 
world. As to Enghshmen, it was their pride, their con- 
solation. By it they lived, for it they were ready to 
die Its defects, if it had any, were partly covered by 
partiality, and partly borne by prudence. Now all its 
Scellences are forgot, its faults are now forcibly di-agged 
into day, exaggerlted by every artifice of representa- 
tion It IS despised and rejected of men ; and every 
device and invention of ingenuity, or idleness set up 
in opposition or in preference to it. It is to this humour 
and it is to the measures growing out of it, that i set 
mvself (I hope not alone) in the most determined oppo- 
sition Never before did we at any time m this country 
m.eet upon the theory of our frame of government, to 



SELECTIONS. 45 

sit in judgment on the constitution of our country, 
to call it as a delinquent before us, and to accuse it of 
every defect and every vice ; to see whether it, an 
object of our veneration, even our adoration, did or did 
not accord with a preconceived scheme in the minds of 
certain gentlemen. Cast your eyes on the journals of 
parliament. It is for fear of losing the inestimable 
treasure we have, that I do not venture to game it out 
of my hands for the vain hope of improving it. I look 
with filial reverence on the constitution of my country 
and never will cut it in pieces, and put it into the kettle 
of any magician, in order to boil it, with the puddle of» 
their compounds, into youth and vigour. On the con- 
trary, I will drive away such pretenders ; I will nurse 
its venerable age, and with lenient arts extend a parent's 
breath. 



VIII. 

THE GROUNDS FOR INTERFERENCE 
WITH STANDING RIGHTS. 

TFrom the speech on Fox's East India bill, December i, 
1783.] 

To justify us in taking the administration of their 
affairs out of the hands of the East India Company, on 
my principles, I must see several conditions, ist. The 
object affected by the abuse should be great and im- 
portant. 2nd. The abuse affecting this great object ought 
to be a great abuse. 3rd. It ought to be habitual, and 
not accidental. 4th. It ought to l)e utterly incurable 
in the body as it now stands constituted. All this ought 
to be made as visible to me as the light of the sun be- 
fore I should strike off an atom of their charter. A 



46 EDMUND BURKE. 

right honourable gentleman * has said, and said I think 
but once, and that very slightly (whatever his ongmal 
demand for a plan might seem to '^^''f?)'}^^}}^^;^ 
are abuses in the company's government. it tnat were 
a l! ?he scheme of the mover of this bill, the scheme of 
his learned friend, and his own scheme of reformation 
'fhe h?s any), ar; all equally needless^ ^^^Xto no 
must be, abuses in all governments. It amounts to no 
more than a nugatory proposition. 

IX. 

THE LIMITS OF STATE 
INTERFERENCE. 

(From Thoughts and Details on Scarcity [m^), a letter 

' adLssed to the Prime Minister (Pitt). Burke intended 

to enlarge it into a work on rural economics, to be 

addressed to Arthur Young, but the project was never 

reahzed.] 

It is one of the finest problems in legislation, and what 
has often engaged my thoughts whilst I followed that 
p^o^etSTn,'' ihlt the' state^ught to take upon itself 
to direct by the pubhc wisdom, and what it o^^ght T 
leave with as httle interference as possible to mdi- 
vTdual discretion.' Nothing, certainly, can be laid down 
on the subject that will not admit of exceptions many 
n^rmanent some occasional. But the clearest hue of 
Sction' which I could draw, whilst I had my cha k 
to draw any line, was this: that the state ought to 
confine itself to what regards the state or the creature 
of the state, namely, the exterior establishment of its re 
ligion- its magistracy ; its revenue ; its military force 
by sea and laid; the corporations that owe their ex- 



* Mr. Pitt. 



SELECTIONS. 47 

istence to its fiat ; in a word, to everything that is 
truly and properly public, to the public peace, to the 
public safety, to the public order, to the public pros- 
perity. In its preventive police it ought to be sparing 
of its efforts, and to employ means, rather few, un- 
frequent, and strong, than many, and frequent, and, of 
course, as they multiply their puny politic race, and 
dwindle, small and feeble. Statesmen who know them- 
selves will, with the dignity which belongs to wisdom, 
proceed only in this the superior orb, and first mover 
of their duty steadily, vigilantly, severely, courageously : 
whatever remains will, in a manner, provide for itself. 
But as they descend from the state to a province, from 
a province to a parish, and from a parish to a private 
house, they go on accelerated in their fall. They can- 
not do the lower duty ; and, in proportion as they try 
it, they will certainly fail in the higher. They ought to 
know the different departments of things | what belongs 
to laws, and what manners alone can regulate. To 
these, great politicians may give a leaning, but they 
cannot give a law. 

Our legislature has fallen into this fault as well as 
other governments ; all have fallen into it more or less. 
The once mighty state, which was nearest to us locally, 
nearest to us in every way, and whose ruins threaten to 
fall upon our heads, is a strong instance of this error. 
I can never quote France without a foreboding sigh — 
ESETAi 'hmap! Scipio said it to his recording Greek 
friend amidst the flames of the great rival of his 
country. That state has fallen by the hands of the 
parricides of their country, called the revolutionists, and 
constitutionalists, of France ; a species of traitors, of 
whose fury and atrocious wickedness nothing in the annals 
of the frenzy and depravation of mankind had before 
furnished an example, and of whom I can never think 
or speak without a mixed sensation of disgust, of horror, 
and of detestation, not easy to be expressed. These 
nefarious monsters destroyed their country for what 
was good in it : for much good there was in the con- 



48 EDMUND BURKE. 

stitution of that noble monarchy, which, j^ ^ll^^^^j 
formed and nourished great men, and great patterns ot 
vir?ie to the world. But though its enemies were not 
Inemies to its faults, its faults furnished hem with 
r^ea^s for its destruction. My dear departed friend, 
whose loss is even greater to- the public han to me 
had often remarked that the leadmg vice of the French 
monarchy (which he had well studied) was m good m- 
teXn Ul-directed, and a restless desire of governing 
too much. The hind of authority was seen m every- 
thing, and in every place. All'/i^^^^^°^^' S^.^ ^^L 
pened amiss in the course even ^f domestic affairs was 
attributed to the government ; and as it always happens 
in this kind of officious universal mterference, what 
began in odious power ended alwajs I may say wi hou^^^ 
an exception, in contemptible imbecihty. For this rea 
son, as far as I can approve of any novelty, I thought 
well of the provincial administrations. Those it tne 
superior power had been severe, and vigilant, and vigor 
oul might have been of much use Po^^^if ly m 
government from many invidious details. But as every 
thing is good or bad, as it is related or combined gov- 
ern^ntleing relaxed above as it was relaxed below 
and the brains of the people growing m^^e and more 
addle with every sort of visionary speculation, the 
slSfngrof the scene in the provincial theatres became 
only preparatives to a revolution in the kingdom and 
the popular actings there only the rehearsals of the 
terrible drama of the republic. . 

Tyranny and cruelty may make men justly wish tne 
downfaU of abused powers, but I beheve that no gov- 
ernment ever yet perished from any other direct caus 
than its own weakness. My opimon is against an ov er- 
doing of any sort of administration, and more especially 
against this most momentous of all meddling on the pait 
of authority : the meddhng with the subsistence of the 
people. 



SELECTIONS. 49 

X. 

FALSE SENTIMENT AND SOCIAL 
POLICIES. 

[From Letteys on a Regicide Peace, No. III., (1797).] 

An untimely shower, or an unseasonable drought ; a 
frost too long continued, or too suddenly broken up, 
with rain and tempest ; the blight of the spring, or the 
smut of the harvest ; will do more to cause the distress 
of the belly, than all the contrivances of all statesmen 
can do to relieve it. Let government protect and 
encourage industry, secure property, repress violence, 
and discountenance fraud, it is all that they have to 
do. In other respects, the less they meddle in these 
affairs the better ; the rest is in the hands of our Master 
and theirs. We are in a constitution of things where- 
in — ' Modo sol nimius, mode corripit imher.' But I will 
push this matter no further. As I have said a good deal 
upon it at various times during my public service, and 
have lately written something on it, which may yet see 
the light, I shall content myself now with observing, ^ 
that the vigorous and laborious class of life has lately 
got, from the bon ton of the humanity of this day, the 
name of the ' labouring poor.' We have heard many 
plans for the relief of the ' labouring poor: This pulmg 
jargon is not as innocent as it is foolish. _ In meddlmg 
with great affairs, weakness is never innoxious. Hither- 
to the name of poor (in the sense in which it is used to 
excite compassion) has not been used for those who 
can, but for those who cannot, labour — for the sick 
and infirm, for orphan infancy, for languishing and de- 
crepid age ; but when we affect to pity, as poor, those 
who must labour, or the world cannot exist, we are 
trifling with the condition of mankind. It is the com- 
mon doom of man that he must eat his broad by the 



50 EDMUND BURKE. 

sweat of his brow, that is, by the sweat of his body, or 
the sweat of his mind. If this toil was inflicted as a 
curse, it is, as might be expected, from the curses of 
the Father of all blessings ; it is tempered with many 
alleviations, many comforts. Every attempt to fly from 
it, and to refuse the very terms of our existence, be- 
comes much more truly a curse ; and heavier pains and 
penalties fall upon those who would elude the tasks 
which are put upon them by the great Master Workman 
of the world, who, in his dealings with his creatures, 
sympathizes with their weakness, and speaking of a crea- 
tion wrought by mere will out of nothing, speaks of six 
days of labour, and one of rest. I do not call a healthy 
young man, cheerful in his mind and vigorous in his 
arms, I cannot call such a man poor / I cannot pity my 
kind as a kind, merely because they are men. This 
affected pity only tends to dissatisfy them with their 
condition, and to teach them to seek resources where 
no resources are to be found, in something else than their 
own industry, and frugality, and sobriety. Whatever 
may be the intention (which because I do not know, I 
cannot dispute) of those who would discontent mankind 
by this strange pity, they act towards us, in the conse- 
quences, as if they were our worst enemies. 



iJ 



BOOK II. 
AMERICA AND THE COLONIES. 



I. 

REPRESENTATION OF THE COLONIES 
IN THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT. 

[From Observations on a late Publication entitled 
' The Present State of the Nation' (1769). The ' publica- 
tion ' was written by George Grenville, and directed 
especially against the Rockingham Whigs, to which 
Burke belonged.] 

Now comes his American representation. Here too, 
as usual, he takes no notice of any difficulty, nor says 
anything to obviate those objections that must naturaUy 
arise in the minds of his readers. He throws you his 
politics as he does his revenue ; do you make some- 
thing of them if you can. Is not the reader a Httle 
astonished at the proposal of an American representa- 
tion from that quarter ? It is proposed merely as a 
project of speculative improvement ; not from the 
necessity in the case, not to add anything to the au- 
thority of Parliament, but that we may afford a greater 
attention to the concerns of the Americans, and give 
them a better opportunity of stating their grievances, 
and of obtaining redress. I am glad to find the author 
has at length discovered that we have not given a suf- 
ficient attention to their concerns, or a proper redress 
to their grievances. His great friend would once have 
been exceedingly displeased with any person who should 
tell him that he did not attend sufficiently to those 
concerns. He thought he did so, when he regulated 
. the colonies over and over again : he thought he did so, 
v,-h2n he formed two general systems of revenue ; one 



54 EDMUND BURKE. 

of port duties, and the other of internal taxation. These 
systems supposed, or ought to suppose, the greatest 
attention to, and the most detailed mformation of, 
all their affairs. However, by contendmg for the 
American representation, he seems at last driven vir- 
tually to admit, that great caution ought to be used 
in the exercise of all our legislative rights over an object 
so remote from our eye, and so little connected with 
our immediate feelings; that in prudence we ought 
not to be quite so ready with our taxes, until we can 
secure the desired representation m Parhament. Per- 
haps it may be some time before this hopeful scheme 
can be brought to perfect maturity, although the author 
seems to be nowise aware of any obstructions that he 
in the way of it. He talks of his union, ]ust as he does 
of his taxes and his savings, with as much sang froid 
and ease as if his wish and the enjoyment were exactly 
the same thing. He appears not to have troubled his 
head with the infinite difftculty of setthng that repre- 
sentation on a fair balance of wealth and numbers 
throughout the several provinces of America and the 
West Indies, under such an infinite variety of circum- 
stances. It costs him nothing to fight with nature and 
to conquer the order of Providence, which manifestly 
opposes itself to the possibility of such a Parhamentary 



union. 



[UUU. . r • J. A 

But let us, to indulge his passion for projects and 
power, suppose the happy time arrived when the author 
comes into the ministry, and is to reahze his specula- 
tions. The writs are issued for electing members for 
America and the West Indies. Some provinces re- 
ceive them in six weeks, some in ten, some m twenty. 
A vessel may be lost, and then some provinces may 
not receive them at all. But let it be that they all 
receive them at once, and in the shortest time. A 
proper space must be given for proclamation and tor 
the election ; some weeks at least. But the members 
are chosen ; and, if ships are ready to sail, m about 
six more they arrive in London. In the jneantune 



SELECTIONS. 55 

the Parliament has sat and business far advanced with- 
out American representatives. Nay, by this time it 
may happen that the ParUament is dissolved ; and 
then the members ship themselves again, to be again 
elected. The writs may arrive in America before the 
poor members of a Parliament in which they never sat 
can arrive at their several provinces. A new interest 
is formed, and they find other members are chosen 
whilst they are on the high seas. But, if the writs 
and members arrive together, here is at best a new 
trial of skill amongst the candidates, after one set of 
them have well aired themselves with their two voyages 
of 6000 miles. 

However, in order to facilitate everything to the 
author, we will suppose them all once more elected, 
and steering again to Old England, with a good heart, 
and a fair westerly wind in their stem. On their 
arrival, they find all in a hurry and bustle ; in and 
out ; condolence and congratulation ; the Crown is 
demised. Another Parliament is to be called. Away 
back to America again on a fourth voyage and to a 
third election. Does the author mean to rnake our 
kings as immortal in their personal as in their politic 
character ? or, whilst he bountifully adds to their life, 
will he take from them their prerogative of dissolving 
Parliaments, in favour of the American union ? or are 
the American representatives to be perpetual, and to 
feel neither demises of the Crown, nor dissolutions of 
Parliament ? 

But these things may be granted to him, without 
bringing him much nearer to his point. What does he 
think of re-election ? is the American member the 
only one who is not to take a place, or the only one to 
be exempted from the ceremony of re-election ? How 
will this great politician preserve the rights of electors, 
the fairness of returns, and the privilege of the House 
of Commons, as the sole judge of such contests ? It 
would undoubtedly be a glorious sight to have eight or 
ten petitions, or double returns, from Boston and Bar- 



56 EDMUND BURKE. 

badoes, from Philadelphia and Jamaica, the members 
returned, and the petitioners, with all their train of at- 
torneys, solicitors, mayors, select men, provost-marshals, 
and above five hundred or a thousand witnesses, come 
to the bar of the House of Commons. Possibly we 
might be interrupted in the enjoyment of this pleasing 
spectacle if a war should break out, and our constitu- 
tional fleet, loaded with members of Parliament, return- 
ing officers, petitions, and witnesses, the electors and 
elected, should become a prize to the French or Spaniards, 
and be conveyed to Carthagena or to La Vera Cruz, and 
from thence perhaps to Mexico or Lima, there to remain 
until a cartel for members of Parliament can be settled, 
or until the war is ended. 

In truth, the author has little studied this business ; 
or he might have known that some of the most con- 
siderable provinces of America, such for instance as 
Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay, have not in each 
of them two men who can afford, at a distance from 
their estates, to spend a thousand pounds a year. How 
can these provinces be represented at Westminster ? 
If their province pays them, they are American agents, 
with salaries, and not independent members of Parlia- 
ment. It is true, that formerly in England members 
had salaries from their constituents ; but they all had 
salaries, and were all, in this way, upon a par. If 
these American representatives have no salaries, then 
they must add to the list of our pensioners and de- 
pendants at Court, or they must starve. There is no 
alternative. 

Enough of this visionary union ; in which much 
extravagance appears without any fancy, and the 
judgment is shocked without anything to refresh the 
imagination. It looks as if the author had dropped 
down from the moon, without any knowledge of the 
general nature of this globe, of the general nature of 
its inhabitants, without the least acquaintance with the 
affairs of this country. Governor Pownal has handled 
the same subject. To do him justice, he treats it upon 



SELECTIONS. 57 

far more rational principles of speculation ; and much 
more like a man of business. He thinks (erroneously, 
I conceive ; but he does think) that our legislative 
rights are incomplete without such a representation. 
It^is no wonder, therefore, that he endeavours by every 
means to obtain it. Not like our author, who is always 
on velvet, he is aware of some difficulties ; and he pro- 
poses some solutions. But nature is too hard for both 
these authors ; and America is, and ever will be, without 
actual representation in the House of Commons; nor 
\vill any minister be wild enough even to propose such 
a representation in Parliament ; however, he may 
choose to throw out that project, together with others 
equally far from his real opinions and remote from his 
designs, merely to fall in with the different views, and 
captivate the affections, of different sorts of men. 



IT. 

SPEECH ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 

[Delivered and issued as a pamphlet, 1774.] 

During the last session of the last parliament, on April 
19, 1774, Mr. Rose Fuller, member for Rye, made the 
following motion : That an act made in the seventh year 
of the reign of his present majesty, intituled, 'An act 
for granting certain duties in the British colonics and 
plantations in America ; for allowing a drawback of the 
duties of customs upon the exportation from this king- 
dom of coffee and cocoa nuts, of the produce of the said 
colonics or plantations ; for discontinuing the drawbacks 
payable on china earthenware exported to America ; and 
for more effectually preventing the clandestine running 
of goods in the said colonies and plantations,' might 
be read. 



58 EDMUND BURKE. 

And the same being read accordingly; ^tiG njoved 
' That this House will, upon this day sevennight, resolve 
itself into a committee of the whole House, to take mto 
consideration the duty of 3^. per pound weight upon 
tea payable in all his majesty's dommions m America 
imposed by the said act ; and also the appropriation of 

the said duty.' •, . . 

On this latter motion a warm and interesting debate 
arose, in which Mr. Burke spoke as follows : 

Sir 
I agree 'with the honourable gentleman * who spoke last 
that this subject is not new in this House. Very dis- 
agreeably to this House, very unfortunately to this 
nation, and to the peace and prosperity of this whole 
empire, no topic has been more famihar to us. For nine 
long years, session after session, we have been lashed 
round and round this miserable circle of occasional argu- 
ments and temporary expedients. I am sure our heads 
must turn, and our stomachs nauseate with them. We 
have had them in every shape ; we have looked at them 
in every point of view. Invention is exhausted ; reason 
is fatigued ; experience has given judgment ; but obsti- 
nacy is not yet conquered. 

The honourable gentleman has made one endeavour 
more to diversify the form of this disgusting argument. 
He has thrown out a speech composed almost entirely 
of challenges. Challenges are serious things ; and as he 
is a man of prudence as well as resolution, I dare say 
he has very well weighed those challenges before he 
delivered them. I had long the happiness to sit at the 
same side of the House, and to agree with the honour- 
able gentleman on all the American questions. My senti- 
ments, I am sure, are well known to him ; and I thought 
I had been perfectly acquainted with his. Though I find 
myself mistaken, he will still permit me to use the privi- 
lege of an old friendship ; he wiU permit me to apply 

* Charles Wolfran Cornwall, Esq., lately appointed one of the lords 
of the treasury. 



SELECTIONS. 59 

myself to the House under the sanction of his authority ; 
and, on the various grounds he has measured out, to 
submit to you the poor opinions which I have formed 
upon a matter of importance enough to demand the 
fullest consideration I could bestow upon it. 

He has stated to the House two grounds of dehbera- 
tion ; one narrow and simple, and merely confined to 
the question on your paper ; the other more large and 
more compHcated ; comprehending the whole series of 
the parliamentary proceedings with regard to America, 
their causes, and their consequences. With regard to the 
latter ground, he states it as useless, and thinks it may 
be even dangerous, to enter into so extensive a field of 
inquiry. Yet, to my surprise, he had hardly laid down 
this restrictive proposition, to which his authority would 
have given so much weight, when directly, and with the 
same authority, he condemns it ; and declares it abso- 
lutely necessary to enter into the most ample historical 
detail. His zeal has thrown him a little out of hip usual 
accuracy. In this perplexity what shall we do, sir, who 
are walling to submit to the law he gives us ? He has 
reprobated in one part of his speech the rule he has laid 
down for debate in the other ; and, after narrowing 
the ground for all those who are to speak after him, he 
takes an excursion himself, as unbounded as the subject 
and the extent of his great abilities. 

Sir, when I cannot obey all his laws, I will do the 
best i can. I will endeavour to obey such of them as 
have the sanction of his example ; and to stick to that 
rule, which, though not consistent with the other, is 
the most rational. He was certainly in the right when 
he took the matter largely. I cannot prevail on myself 
to agree with him in his censure of his ow^n conduct. It 
is not, he will give me leave to say, either useless or 
dangerous. He asserts that retrospect is not w'isc ; ^and 
the proper, the only proper, subject of inquiry, is ' not 
how we got into this difficulty, but how we are to get 
out of it.' In other words, we are, according to him, 
to consult our iiwention, and to reject our experience. 



6o EDMUND BURKE. 

The mode of deliberation iie recommends is diametrically 
opposite to every rule of reason, and every principle of 
good sense established amongst mankind. For that sense 
and that reason, I have always understood, absolutely 
to prescribe, whenever we are involved m difficulties 
from the measures we have pursued, that we should 
take a strict review of those measures, m order to correct 
our errors, if they should be corrigible ; or at least to 
avoid a dull uniformity in mischief, and the unpitied 
calamity of being repeatedly caught m the same snare. 

Sir I will freely foUow the honourable gentleman m 
his historical discussion, without the least management 
for men or measures, further than as they shall seem to 
me to deserve it. But before I go into that large con- 
sideration, because I would omit nothing that can give 
the House satisfaction, I wish to tread the narrow 
ground to which alone the honourable gentleman, m 
one part of his speech, has so strictly confined us. 

He desires to know, whether, if we were to repeal 
this tax, agreeably to the proposition of the honourable 
gentleman who made the motion, the Americans would 
not take post on this concession, in order to make a 
new attack on the next body of taxes ; and whether 
they would not call for a repeal of the duty on wme as 
loudly as they do now for the repeal of the duty on 
tea ^ Sir, I can give no security on this subject. But 
I will do all that I can, and all that can be fairly de- 
manded. To the experience which the honourable 
gentleman reprobates in one instant and reverts to m 
the next ; to that experience, without the least waver- 
ing or hesitation on my part, I steadily appeal ,' and 
would to God there was no other arbiter to decide 
on the vote with which the House is to conclude this 

day ! ^ a ^ • xi 

When parliament repealed the Stamp Act m the year 
1766 I affirm, first, that the Americans did not m con- 
sequence of this measure call upon you to give up the 
former parliamentary revenue which subsisted m that 
country • or even 3.ny one of the articls which compose 



SELECTIONS. 6i 

it. I affirm also that when, departing from the maxims 
of that repeal, you revived the scheme of taxation, and 
thereby fHled the minds of the colonists with new jealousy 
and all sorts of apprehensions, then it was that they 
quarrelled with the old taxes, as well as the new ; then 
it was, and not till then, that they questioned all the 
parts of your legislative power ; and, by the battery of 
such questions, have shaken the soHd structure of this 
empire to its deepest foundations. 

Of those two propositions I shall, before I have done, 
give such con\dncing, such damning proof that, however 
the contrary may be whispered in circles, or bawled m 
newspapers, they never more will dare to raise their 
voices in tliis House. I speak with great confidence. I 
have reasons for it. The ministers are ^^dth me. They 
at least are convinced that the repeal of the Stamp Act 
had not, and that no repeal can have, the consequences 
which the honourable gentleman who defends their 
measures is so much alarmed at. To their conduct, I 
refer him for a conclusive answer to this objection. I 
carry my proof irresistibly into the very body of both 
ministry and parliament ; not on any general reasoning 
growing out of collateral matter, but on the conduct of 
the honourable gentleman's ministerial friends on the 
new revenue itself. 

The act of 1767, which grants this tea-duty, sets forth 
in its preamble, that it was expedient to raise a revenue 
in America, for the support of the civil government 
there, as well as for purposes still more extensive. To 
this support the act assigns six branches of duties. 
About two years after this act passed, the ministry, I 
mean the present ministry, thought it expedient to repeal 
live of the duties, and to leave (for reasons best known 
to themselves) only the sixth standing. Suppose any 
person, at the time of that repeal, had thus addressed 
the minister,* ' Condemning, as you do, the repeal of 
the Stamp Act, why do you venture to repeal the duties 
upon glass, paper, and painters' colours ? Let your 
* Lord North, then chancellor of the excheouer. 



62 EDMUND BURKE. 

pretence for the repeal be what it will, are you not 
thoroughly convinced that your concessions will pro- 
duce not satisfaction, but insolence m the Americans ; 
and that the giving up these taxes will necessitate the 
giving up of all the rest ? ' This objection was as pal- 
pable then as it is now ; and it was as good for pre- 
serving the five duties as for retaining the sixth. Besides, 
the minister will recollect, that the repeal of the Stamp 
Act had but just preceded his repeal ; and the ill pohcy 
of that measure (had it been so impolitic as it has been 
represented), and the mischiefs it produced, were quite 
recent. Upon the principles therefore of the honourable 
gentleman, upon the principles of the mmister himself, 
the minister has nothing at all to answer. He stands 
condemned by himself, and by all his associates old and 
new, as a destroyer, in the first trust of finance, of the 
revenues : and in the first rank of honour, as a betrayer 
of the dignity of his country. 

Most men, especially great men, do not always knovv 
their well-wishers. I come to rescue that noble lord 
out of the hands of those he calls his friends ; and even 
out of his own. I will do him the justice he is denied 
at home He has not been this wicked or imprudent 
man. He knew that a repeal had no tendency to pro- 
duce the mischiefs which give so much alarm to his 
honourable friend. His work was not bad m its prin- 
ciple but imperfect in its execution ; and the motion 
on vour paper presses him only to complete a proper 
plari, which, by some unfortunate and unaccountable 
error, he had left unfinished. i i ^. 

I hope sir, the honourable gentleman who spoke last, 
is thoroughly satisfied, and satisfied out of the proceed- 
ings of ministry on their own favourite act, that his 
fears from a repeal are groundless. If he is not, I leave 
him and the noble lord who sits by him, to settle the 
matter, as well as they can, together ; for if the repeal 
of American taxes destroys all our government m Amenca 
—He is the man !— and he is the worst of aU the repealers, 
because he is the last. 



SELECTIONS. 63 

But I hear it rang continually in my ears, now and 
formerly,—' the preamble ! what will become of the pre- 
amble, if you repeal this tax ? '—I am sorry to be com- 
pelled so often to expose the calamities and disgraces of 
parhament. The preamble of this law, standmg as it 
now stands, has the he direct given to it by the pro- 
visionary part of the act ; if that can be called pro- 
visionary which makes no provision. I should be afraid 
to express myself in this manner, especially in the face 
of such a formidable array of ability as is now drawn 
up before me, composed of the ancient household troops 
of that side of the House, and the new recruits from 
this, if the matter were not clear and indisputable. 
Nothing but truth could give me this firmness ; but 
plain trath and clear evidence can be beat down by 
the act, and to read this favourite preamble : 

Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should he raised 
in your majesty's dominions in America, for making a 
more certain a'}id adequate provision for defraying the 
charge of the administration of justice, and support of 
civil government, in such provinces where it shall he 
found necessary ■ and towards further defraying the ex- 
penses of defending, protecting, and securing the said 
dominions. 

You have heard this pompous performance. Now 
where is this revenue which is to do all these mighty 
things ? Five-sixths repealed — abandoned— sunk — gone 
—lost for ever. Does the poor solitary tea-duty sup- 
port the purposes of this preamble ? Is not the supply 
there stated as effectually abandoned as if the tea-duty 
had perished in the general wreck ? Here, Mr. Speaker, 
is a precious mockery — a preamble without an act — 
taxes granted in order to be repealed— and the reasons 
of the grant still carefully kept up ! This is raising a 
revenue in America ! This is preserving dignity in Eng- 
land ! If you repeal this tax in compliance with the 
motion, I readily admit that you lose tliis fair preamble. 
Estimate your loss in it. The object of the act is gone 
akeady ; and all you suffer is the purging the statute- 



64 EDMUND BURKE. 

book of the opprobrium of an empty, absurd, and false 

TP P 1 1^ r^ I 

It has been said again and again that the five taxes 
were repealed on commercial principles. It is so said 
in the paper in my hand ; * a paper which I constantly 
carry about ; which I have often used, and shall often 
use again. What is got by this paltry pretence of com- 
mercial principles I know not ; for, if your government 
in America is destroyed by the repeal of taxes, it is of 
no consequence upon what ideas the repeal is grounded. 
Repeal this tax too upon comm.ercial principles if you 
please. These principles will serve as well now as they 
did formerly. But you know that, either your objection 
to a repeal from these supposed consequences has no 
validity, or that this pretence never could remove it. 
This commercial motive never was believed by any man, 
either in America, which this letter is meant to soothe, 
or in England, which it is meant to deceive. It was 
impossible it should. Because every man, in the least 
acquainted with the detail of commerce, must know 
that several of the articles, on which the tax was repealed, 
were fitter objects of duties than almost any other articles 
that could possibly be chosen ; without comparison more 
so than the tea that was left taxed ; as infinitely less 
hable to be eluded by contraband. The tax upon red 
and white lead was of this nature. You have, m this 
kingdom, an advantage in lead that amounts to a 
monopoly. When you find yourself in this situation 
of advantage, you sometimes venture to tax even your 
own export. You did so, soon after the last war; 
when, upon this principle, you ventured to impose a 
duty on coals. In all the articles of American contra- 
band trade, who ever heard of the smugghng of red 
lead, and white lead ? You might, therefore, well enough, 
without danger of contraband, and without injury to 
commerce (if this were the whole consideration) have 
taxed these commodities. The same may be said of 

* I ord Hillsborough's circular letter to the governors of the colonies, 
conceraius the repeal of some of the duties laid lu the act of 1767., 



SELECTIONS. 65 

dass. Besides, some of the things taxed were so trivial 
that the loss of the objects themselves, and their utter 
annihilation out of American commerce, would have 
been comparatively as nothing. But is the article ot 
tea such an object in the trade of England, as not to be 
felt, or felt but slightly, like white lead and red lead, 
and painters' colours ? Tea is an object of far other 
importance. Tea is perhaps the most important object, 
taking it with its necessary connexions, of any m tne 
mighty circle of our commerce. If commercial principles 
had been the true motives of the repeal, or had they been 
at all attended to, tea would have been the last article 
we should have left taxed for a subject of controversy. 

Sir it is not a pleasant consideration ; but nothing 
in the world can read so awful and so instructive a 
lesson, as the conduct of ministry in this business, upon 
the mischief of not having large and liberal ideas m 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 relation or dependencies. They 
never had any kind of system, right or wrong , but 
only invented occasionally some miserable tae for the 
day in order meanly to sneak out of difhculties, 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 ot an 
act, which they had not the generous courage, when they 
found and felt their error, honourably and fairly to dis- 
claim. By such management, by the irresistible opera- 
tion of feeble councils, so paltry a sum as three-pence 
in the eyes of a financier, so insignificant an article as tea 
in the eyes of a 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 ? \ our danger 
was indeed great. You were distressed m the affairs ot 

3 



66 EDMUND BURKE. 

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 revenues, had brought you to the 
verge of beggary and ruin. Such was your representa- 
tion—such, in some measure, was your case, ihe vent 
of ten millions of this commodity, now locked up by the 
operation of pounds of an iniudicious 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 m con- 
sequence 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 ot lite ; 
and where the demand grows upon the supply, i hope 
our dear-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 connexion 
with this country. It is through the American trade 
of tea that your East India conquests are to be pre- 
vented from crushing you with their burden. They are 
ponderous indeed; and they must have that great 
country to lean upon, or they tumble upon your head. 
It is the same folly that has lost you at once the beneht 
of the west and of the east. This folly has thrown open 
folding-doors to contraband ; and will be the means ot 
mvin? the profits of the trade of your 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 principle does it stand .'' inis 
famous revenue stands, at this hour, on ah the debate, 
as a description of revenue not as yet known m aU the 
comprehensive (but too comprehensive) vocabulary ot 
finance— a prearAhulary tax. It is indeed a tax ot soph- 



SELECTIONS. 67 

htry, 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. 

Well ! but whatever it is, gentlemen will force the 
colonists to take the teas. You will force them ? Has 
seven years' struggle been yet able to force them ? 
Oh, but it seems ' we are in the right. — ^The tax is trifling 
— in effect it is rather an exoneration than an imposi- 
tion ; three-fourths of the duty formerly payable on 
teas exported to America is taken off ; the place of 
collection is only shifted ; instead of the retention of 
a shining from the drawback here, it is three-pence 
custom paid in America.' All this, sir, is very true. 
But this is the very folly and mischief of the act. In- 
credible as it may seem, you know that you have de- 
liberately thrown away a large duty which you held 
secure and quiet in your hands, for the vain hope of 
getting one three-fourths less, through every hazard, 
through certain litigation, and possibly through war. 

The manner of proceeding in the duties on paper and 
glass, imposed by the same act, was exactly in the 
same spirit. There are heavy excises on those articles 
when used in England. On export, these excises are 
drawn back. But instead of withholding the drawback, 
which might have been done with ease, without charge, 
without possibility of smuggling ; and instead of apply- 
ing the money (money already in your hands) according 
to your pleasure, you began your operations in finance 
by flinging away your revenue ; you allowed the whole 
drawback on export, and then you charged the duty 
(which you had before discharged) payable in the colonies ; 
where it was certain the collection would devour it to 
the bone ; if any revenue were ever suffered to be col- 
lected at all. One spirit pei-vades and animates the 
whole mass. 

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 interest, merely for the sake of insulting 



68 EDMUND BURKE. 

your colonies ? No man ever doubted that the commodity 
of tea could bear an imposition of three-pence. But 
no commodity will bear three-pence, 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 shillings have ruined Mr. Hamp- 
den's fortune ? No ! but the payment of half twenty 
shillings, on the principle it was 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 
rights as some gentlemen seem to argue it ; it is only 
a recital of the expediency of a certain exercise of a 
right supposed already to have been asserted ; an exer- 
cise 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 there- 
fore at this moment in the awkward situation of fight- 
ing 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. 



SELECTIONS. 69 

I know not how it happens, but this dignity of yours 
is a terrible incumbrance to you ; for it has of late 
been ever at war with your interest, your equity, and 
every idea of your 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 the perseverance in 
absurdity, is more than I ever 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. 

But will you repeal the act, says the honourable 
gentleman, at this instant when America is in open 
resistance to your authority, and that you have just 
revived your system of taxation ? He thinks he has 
driven us into a corner. But thus pent up, I am con- 
tent to meet him; because I enter the lists supported 
by my old authority, his new friends, the ministers 
themselves. The honourable gentleman remembers, that 
about five years ago as great disturbances as the present 
prevailed in America on account of the new taxes. The 
ministers represented these disturbances as treasonable ; 
and this House thought proper, on that representation, 
to make a famous address for a revival, and for a new 
application of a statute of Henry VHI. We besought 
the king, in that well-considered address, to inquire into 
treasons, and to bring the sujjposed traitors from America 
to Great Britain for trial. His majesty was pleased 
graciously to promise a compliance with our request. 
All the attempts from this side of the House to resist 
these violences, and to bring about a repeal, were treated 
with the utmost scorn. An apprehension of the very 



70 EDMUND BURKE. 

consequences now stated by the honourable gentleman, 
was then given as a reason for shutting the door against 
all hope of such an alteration. And so strong was the 
spirit for supporting the new taxes that the session con- 
cluded with the following remarkable dec aration. Alter 
stating the vigorous measures which had been pursued, 
the speech from the throne proceeds : 

You have assured, me of your firm support in the prose- 
cution of them. Nothing, in my .opinion, could be more 
likely to enable the well-disposed among my subjects m 
that part of the world, effectually to discourage and defeat 
the designs of the factious and seditious, than the hearty 
concurrence of every branch of the legislature, m main- 
taining the execution of the laws m every part of my 

do'yyit^'tO'yts ■% • 

After this, no man dreamt that a repeal under this 
ministry could possibly take place The honourable 
gentleman knows as well as I, that the idea was utterly 
exploded by those who sway the House This speech 
was made on the ninth day of May, 1769. Five days 
after this speech, that is, on the thirteenth of the same 
month, the pubhc circular letter, a part of which I am 
going to read to you, was written by Lord HiUsborough, 
secretary of state for the colonies. After reciting the 
substance of the king's speech, he goes on thus : 

'/ can take upon nte to assure you, notwithstanding 
insinuations to the contrary, from men with factious and 
seditious views, that his majesty's present admimstra- 
tion have at no time entertained a design to propose 
to parliament to lay any farther taxes upon America 
for the purpose of RAISING A REVENUE; and that 
it is at present theif intention to propose, the next session 
of Parliament, to take off the duties upon glass, paper, 
and colours, upon consideration of such duties having 
been laid contrary to the true principles of commerce. 

' These have always been, and stiU are, the sentiments 
of his majesty's present servants ; and by which their 
conduct in respect to America has been governed. And 
his majesty relies upon your prudence and fidelity for 



SELECTIONS. 71 

such an explanatioit of his measures, as may tend to remove 
the prejudices which have been excited by the misrepresenta- 
tions of those who are enemies to the peace and prosperity 
of Great Britain and her colonies ; and to re-establish 
that mutual confidence and affection, upon which the 
glory and safety of the British empire depend.' 

Here, sir, is a canonical book of ministerial scripture ; 
the general epistle to the Americans. WTiat does the 
gentleman say to it ? Here a repeal is promised ; prom- 
ised without condition ; and while your authority was 
actually resisted. I pass by the public promise of a 
peer relative to the repeal of taxes by this House. I 
pass by the use of the king's name in a matter of supply, 
that sacred and reserved right of the Commons. I con- 
ceal the ridiculous figure of parliament, hurling its 
thunders at the gigantic rebellion of America ; and then 
five days after, prostrate at the feet of those assemblies 
we affected to despise ; begging them, by the inter- 
vention of our ministerial sureties, to receive our sub- 
mission, and heartily promising amendment. These 
might have been serious matters formerly ; but we are 
grown wiser than our fathers. Passing, therefore, from 
the constitutional consideration to the mere policy, does 
not this letter imply that the idea of taxing America 
for the purpose of revenue is an abominable project ; 
when the ministry suppose that none but factious men, 
and with seditious views, could charge them with it ? 
does not this letter adopt and sanctify the American 
distinction of taxing for a revenue ? does it not formally 
reject all future taxation on that principle ? does it 
not state the ministerial rejection of such principle of 
taxation, not as the occasional, but the constant opinion 
of the Jung's servants ? docs it not say (I care not how 
consistently), but does it not say, that their conduct 
with regard to America has been always governed by 
this policy ? It goes a great deal further. These ex- 
cellent and trusty servants of the king, justly fearful 
lest they themselves should have lost all credit with the 
world, bring out the image of their gracious sovereign 



^2 EDML'ND BURKE. 

fr'om the inmost and most sacred shnne and they pa^^■n 
him as a secuntv for then: promises.- i^:s maicsv rehes 
T^^m prudence and Mehty for snch an explanation 
of his measures.' These sentiments of the mimster, ^d 
these measures of his majesty, can only relate to the 
principle and practice of taxing for a revenue and 
accorin-lv Lord Botetourt, stating it as such, did, vndi 
great propriety, and in the exact spirit of his mstruc- 
tion. endeav6ur to remove the fears of the \irgmian 
a^semblv, lest the sentiments which it seems (unkno^^^l 
to the world) had ali^-avs been those of the mmisters 
and bv which iheir conduct in respect to America had 
been governed, should by some possible revolution, fav- 
ourable to ^^icked -\merican taxes, be hereafter counter- 
acted. He addresses them m this manner : 

It may possiblv be objected, that as his majesty s present 
administration are not immortal, their successors may he 
inclined to attempt to undo i.'hat the present ministers shall 
have attempted to perform ; and to that objection I can 
aive but this ansuer; that it is my prm opinion hat 
the Plan I have stated to you nill certainly take place 
and that it will never be departed from ; and so determined 
am I for rver to abide by it, that I will he content to be 
declared infamous, if I do not, to the last hour of my life 
at all times, in all places, and upon all occasions exert 
rverv power with which I either am, or ever shall be legally 
invested in order to obtain and maintain for tJie continent^ 
of -imerica that satisfaction which I have been authorised 
to promise this day, by the confidential servants of our 
oracious sovereign, who to my certain knowledge^ ra^es his 
honour so high, that he would rather part with his cro%vn, 
than preser\-e it by deceit.* 

* A material point is omitted by Mr. Burke in this speech, viz tt^ 
manner in uhkh the continent received tkis r<>yal i^Sina nee The js- 
semblv of Virginia, in their address m answer to Lord Botetourt ^ 
Tp^l eWre^ themselves thus: 'We wiU -<^t suffer our prgeut 
hopes, ariskig from the pleasing prospect >;ourlord^ip hath so kindl> 
opLed and displayed to us, to be dashed by the bitter redection that 
aiv future administration vrill entertam a wish to depart drom that 
iton which afiords the surest and most permanent toundation of 
public ttiiquillitv and happiness. No, my lord, we are sure our most 



SELECTIONS. 73 

A glorious and true character I which (since we suffer 
his ministers with impunity to answer for his ideas of 
taxation) we ought to make it our business to enable his 
majesty to presence in all its lustre. Let him have 
character, since ours is no more ! Let some part of 
government be kept in respect ! 

This epistle was not the letter of Lord Hillsborough 
solely ; though he held the official pen. It was the 
letter of the noble lord upon the floor.* and of all the 
king's then ministers, who (with I think the exception 
of two only) are his ministers at this hour. The ver\- 
first news "that a British government heard of what it 
was to do with the duties which it had given and granted 
to the king was by the publication of the votes of Ameri- 
can assembhes. It was in America that your resolu- 
tions were pre-declared. It was from thence that we 
knew to a certainty, how much exactiy, and not a scruple 
more or less, we were to repeal. \\'e were unworthy to 
be let into the secret of our own conduct. The assemblies 
had confidential communication from his majesty's con- 
fidoUial ser\-ants. We were nothing but instruments. 
Do you, after this, wonder, that you have no weight 
and no respect in the colonies ? After this, are you 
surprised, that parhament is ever^• day and ever\-\vhere 
losing (I feel it with sorrow, I utter it with reluctance) 
that reverential affection, which so endearing a name 
of authority ought ever to earn*- with it ; that you are 
obeyed solely from respect to the bayonet ; and that 
this House, the ground and pillar of freedom, is itself 
held up only by the treacherous under-pinning and 
clumsy buttresses of arbitrar\' power ? 

If this dignity, which is to stand in the place of just 
policy and common sense, had been consulted, there 
was a time for preserving it and for reconciling it with 

gracious sovereign, under whatever changes may happen in his con- 
fidential ser\ants, will remain immutable in the ways of truth and 
justice, and that he is incapable of deceiving his faithful subjects; and 
we esteem your lordship's information not only as warranted, but even 
sa.'ictified ^v the royal word.' 
* LocdNortli. 



74 EDMUND BURKE. 

any concession. If in the session of 1768, that session 
of idle terror and empty menaces, you had, as you were 
often pressed to do, repealed these taxes ; then your 
strong operations would have come justified and enforced, 
in case your concessions had been returned by outrages. 
But, preposterously, you began with violence ; and 
before terrors could have any effect, either good or bad, 
your ministers immediately begged pardon, and promised 
that repeal to the obstinate Americans, which they had 
refused in an easy, good-natured, complying British 
parliament. The assemblies, which had been publicly 
and avowedly dissolved for their contumacy, are called 
together to receive your submission. Your ministerial 
directors blustered like tragic tyrants here ; and then 
went mumping with a sore leg in America, canting and 
whining and complaining of faction, which represented 
them as friends to a revenue from the colonies. I hope 
nobody in this House will hereafter have the impudence 
to defend American taxes in the name of ministry. The 
moment they do, with this letter of attorney m my 
hand, I will tell them, in the authorized terms, they are 
wretches, ' with factious and seditious views ; enemies 
to the peace and prosperity of the mother country and 
the colonies,' and subverters ' of the mutual affection 
and confidence on which the glory and safety of the 
British empire depend.' 

After this letter, the question is no more on propriety 
or dignity. They are gone already. The faith of your 
sovereign is pledged for the political principle. The 
general declaration in the letter goes to the whole of it. 
You must therefore either abandon the scheme of tax- 
ing ; or you must send the ministers tarred and feathered 
to America, who dared to hold out the royal faith for a 
renunciation for all taxes for revenue. Them you must 
punish, or this faith you must preserve. The preserva- 
tion of this faith is of more consequence than the duties 
on red lead, ox white lead, or on broken glass, or atlas- 
ordinary, or demy-fine, or blue-royal, or bastard, or fools- 
cap, which you have given up ; or the three-pence on 



SELECTIONS. 75 

tea which you retained. The letter went stamped with 
the pubhc authority of this kingdom. The instructions 
for the colony government go under no other sanction ; 
and America cannot believe, and will not obey you, if 
you do not preserve this channel of communication 
sacred. You are now punishing the colonies for acting 
on distinctions, held out by that very ministry which 
is here*shining in riches, in favour, and in power ; and 
urging the punishment of the very offence to which they 
had themselves been the tempters. 

Sir, if reasons respecting simply your own commerce, 
which is your own convenience, were the sole ground 
of the repeal of the five duties ; why does Lord Hills- 
borough, in disclaiming in the name of the king and 
ministry their ever having had an intent to tax for 
revenue, mention it as the means ' of re-establishing the 
confidence and affection of the colonies ? ' Is it a way 
of soothing others, to assure them that you will take 
good care of yourself ? The medium, the only medium, 
for regaining their affection and confidence, is, that you 
will take off something oppressive to their minds. Sir, 
the letter strongly enforces that idea : for though the 
repeal of the taxes is promised on commercial principles, 
yet the means of counteracting ' the insinuations of men 
with factious and seditious views,' is, by a disclaimer 
of the intention of taxing for revenue, as a constant 
invariable sentiment and rule of conduct in the govern- 
ment of America. 

I remember that the noble lord on the floor, not in 
a former debate to be sure (it would be disorderly to 
refer to it, I suppose I read it somewhere), but the 
noble lord was pleased to say, that he did not conceive 
how it could enter into the head of man to impose such 
taxes as those of 1767; I mean those taxes which he 
voted for imposing, and voted for repealing ; as being 
taxes contrary to all the principles of commerce, laid 
on British manufactures. 

I dare say the noble lord is perfectly well read, because 
the duty of his particular office requires he should be 



76 EDMUND BURKE. 

so, in all our revenue laws ; and in the policy which 
is to be collected out of them. Now, sir, when he had 
read this act of American revenue, and a httle recovered 
from his astonishment, I suppose he made one step 
retrograde (it is but one) and looked at the act which 
stands just before in the statute-book. The American 
revenue act is the forty-fifth chapter ; the other to 
which I refer is the forty-fourth of the same session. 
These two acts are both to the same purpose ; both 
revenue acts ; both taxing out of the kingdom ; and 
both taxing English manufactures exported. As the 
forty-fifth is an act for raising a revenue in America, 
the forty-fourth is an act for raising a revenue m the 
Isle of Man. The two acts perfectly agree m all respects, 
except one. In the act for taxing the Isle of Man, the 
noble lord will find (not, as in the American act, four or 
five articles) but almost the whole body of British manu- 
factures, taxed from two and a half to fifteen per cent., 
and some articles, such as that of spirits, a great deal 
higher. You did not think it uncommercial to tax the 
whole mass of your manufactures, and, let me add, your 
agriculture too ; for, I now recollect, British corn is 
there also taxed up to ten per cent., and this too in the 
very headquarters, the very citadel of smuggling, the 
Isle of Man. Now will the noble lord condescend to 
tell m.e why he repealed the taxes on your manufactures 
sent out to America, and not the taxes on the manu- 
factures exported to the Isle of Man ? The principle 
was exactly the same, the objects charged infinitely more 
extensive, the duties, without comparison, higher. \Vhy ? 
Why, notwithstanding all his childish pretexts, because 
the taxes were quietly submitted to in the Isle of Man ;, 
and because they raised a flame in America. Your 
reasons were political, not commercial. The repeal was 
made, as Lord Hillsborough's letter well expresses _ it, 
to regain ' the confidence and affection of the colonies, 
on which the glory and safety of the British Empire de- 
pend.' A wise and just motive surely, if ever there was 
such. But the mischief and dishonour is that you have 



SELECTIONS. ^^ 

not done what you had given the colonies just cause 
to expect, when your ministers disclaimed the idea of 
taxes for a revenue. There is nothing simple, nothing 
manly, nothing ingenuous, open, decisive, or steady, in 
the proceeding, with regard either to the continuance 
or the repeal of the taxes. The whole has an air of 
littleness and fraud. The article of tea is slurred over 
in the circular letter, as it were by accident — nothing 
is said of a resolution either to keep that tax, or to 
give it up. There is no fair deahng in any part of the 
transaction. 

If you mean to follow your true motive and your 
public faith, give up your tax on tea for raising a 
revenue, the principle of which has, in effect, been 
disclaimed in your name ; and which produces you 
no advantage ; no, not a penny. Or, if you choose 
to go on with a poor pretence instead of a solid reason, 
and will still adhere to your cant of commerce, you 
have ten thousand times more strong commercial reasons 
for giving up this duty on tea, than for abandoning the 
five others that you have already renounced. 

The American consumption of teas is annually, 
I believe, worth ;^3oo,ooo at the least farthing. If 
you urge the American violence as a justification of 
your perseverance in enforcing this tax, you know that 
you can never answer this plain question — Why did 
you repeal the others given in the same act, whilst the 
very same violence subsisted ?— But you did not find 
the violence cease upon that concession. — No ! because 
the concession was far short of satisfying the principle 
which Lord Hillsborough had abjured ! or even the 
pretence on which the repeal of the other taxes was 
announced ; and because, by enabling the East India 
Company to open a shop for defeating the American 
resolution not to pay that specific tax, you manifestly 
showed a hankering after the principle of the act which 
you formerly had renounced. Whatever road you take 
leads to a compliance with this motion. It opens to 
you at the end of every vista. Your commerce, your 



78 EDMUND BURKE. 

policy, your promises, your reasons, your pretences, 
your consistency, your inconsistency — all jointly oblige 
you to this repeal. 

But still it sticks in our throats, if we go so far, the 
Americans will go farther. — We do not know that. We 
ought, from experience, rather to presume the contrary. 
Do we not know for certain that the Americans are 
going on as fast as possible, whilst we refuse to gratify 
them ? Can they do more, or can they do worse, if we 
yield this point ? I think this concession will rather fix 
a turnpike to prevent a further progress. It is impos- 
sible to answer for bodies of men. But I am sure the 
natural effect of fidehty, clemency, kindness in gover- 
nors is peace, good-will, order, and esteem, on the part 
of the governed. I would certainly, at least, give these 
fair principles a fair trial ; which, since the making of 
this act to this hour, they never have had. 

Sir, the honourable gentleman having spoken what 
he thought necessary upon the narrow part of the 
subject, I have given him, I hope, a satisfactory 
answer. He next presses me by a variety of direct 
challenges and obUque reflections to say something on 
the historical part, I shall, therefore, sir, open myself 
fully on that important and delicate subject ; not for 
the sake of telling you a long story (which, I know, 
Mr. Speaker, you are not particularly fond of), but for 
the sake of the weighty instruction that, I flatter myself, 
will necessarily result from it. It shall not be longer, 
if I can help it, than so serious a matter requires. 

Permit me then, sir, to lead your attention very far 
back ; back to the act of navigation ; the corner-stone 
of the policy of this country with regard to its colonies. 
Sir, that policy was, from the beginning, purely com- 
mercial and the commercial was wholly restrictive. 
It was the system of a monopoly. No trade was 
let loose from that restraint, but merely to enable 
the colonists to dispose of what, in the course of your 
trade, you could not take ; or to enable them to dispose 
of such articles as we forced upon them, and for which, 



SELECTIONS. 79 

without some degree of liberty, they could not pay. 
Hence all your specific and detailed enumerations: 
hence the innumerable checks and counterchecks : 
hence that infinite variety of paper chains by which 
you bind together this comphcated system of the 
colonies. This principle of commercial monopoly runs 
through no less than twenty-nine acts of parUament, 
from the year 1660 to the unfortunate period of 1764. 

In all those acts the system of commerce is estab- 
lished, as that, from whence alone you proposed to 
make the colonies contribute (I mean directly and by 
the operation of your superintending legislative power) 
to the strength of the empire. I venture to say, that 
during that whole period a parhamentary re venue from 
thence was never once in contemplation. Accordingly, 
in all the number of laws passed with regard to the 
plantations, the words which distinguish revenue 
laws, specifically as such, were, I think, premeditately 
avoided. I do not say, sir, that a form of words alters 
the nature of the law, or abridges the power of the law- 
giver. It certainly does not. However, titles and for- 
mal preambles are not always idle words ; and the 
lawyers frequently argue from them. I state these 
facts to show, not what was your right, but what has 
been your settled pohcy. Our revenue laws have 
usually a title, purporting their being grants ; and the 
words give and grant usually precede the enactmg parts. 
Although duties were imposed on America in acts of 
King Charles II, and in acts of King William, no one of 
title of giving ' an aid to his majesty,' or any other of 
the usual titles to revenue acts, was to be found in 
any of them till 1764 ; nor were the words ' give and 
grant ' in any preamble until the sixth of George II. 
However the title of this act of George II, notwithstand- 
ing the words of donation, considers it merely as a 
regulation of trade, 'An Act for the better secunng 
of the trade of his majesty's sugar colonies in America.' 
This act was made on a compromise of all, and at the 
express desire of a part, of the colonies themselves. 



8o EDMUND BURKE. 

It was therefore in some measure with their consent ; 
iand having a title directly purporting only a commercial 
regulation, and being in truth nothing more, the words 
were passed by, at a time when no jealousy was 
entertained, and things were little scrutinized. Even 
Governor Bernard, in his second printed letter, dated 
in 1763, gives it as his opinion, that ' it was an act of 
prohibition, not of revenue.' This is certainly true, 
that no act avowedly for the purpose of revenue, and 
with the ordinary title and recital taken together, is 
found in the statute book until the year I have men- 
tioned ; that is the year 1764. All before this period 
stood on commercial regulation and restraint. The 
scheme of a colony revenue by British authority ap- 
peared therefore to the Americans in the light of 
a great innovation ; the words of Governor Bernard's 
ninth letter, written in November, 1765, state this idea 
very strongly : ' It must,' says he, ' have been sup- 
posed, such an innovation as a parliamentary taxation 
would cause a great alarm, and meet with much op- 
position in most parts of America ; it was quite new 
to the people, and had no visible bounds set to it.' 
After stating the weakness of government there, he 
says, ' Was this a time to introduce so great a novelty 
as a parliamentary inland taxation in America ? ' 
Whatever the right might have been, this mode of 
using it was absolutely new in policy and practice. 

Sir, they who are friends to the schemes of American 
revenue say, that the commercial restraint is full as 
hard a law for America to live under. I think so too. 
I think it, if uncompensated, to be a condition of as 
rigorous servitude as men can be subject to. But 
America bore it from the fundamental act of naviga- 
tion until 1764. — Why ? because men do bear the 
inevitable constitution of their original nature with 
all its infirmities. The act of navigation attended 
the colonies from their infancy, grew with their growth, 
and strengthened with their strength. They were con- 
firmed in obedience to it, even more by usage than by 



SELECTIONS. 8i 

law. They scarcely had remembered a time when 
they were not subject to such restraint. Besides, they 
were indemnified for it by a pecuniary compensation. 
Their monopolist happened to be one of the richest men 
in the world. By his immense capital (primarily 
employed, not for their benefit, but his own) they were 
enabled to proceed with their fisheries, their agriculture, 
their shipbuilding (and their trade too within the 
limits), in such a manner as got far the start of the 
slow, languid operations of unassisted nature. This 
capital was a hot-bed to them. Nothing in the history 
of mankind is like their progress. For my part, I never 
cast an eye on their flourishing commerce, and their 
cultivated and commodious hfe, but they seem to me 
rather ancient nations grown to perfection through 
a long series of fortunate events, and a train of success- 
ful industry, accumulating wealth in many centuries, 
than the colonies of yesterday ; than a set of miserable 
outcasts, a few years ago, not so much sent as thrown 
out, on the bleak and barren shore of a desolate wilder- 
ness, three thousand miles from all civilized inter- 
course. 

All this was done by England, whilst England pur- 
,sued trade, and forgot revenue. You not only acquired 
commerce, but you actually created the very objects 
of trade in America ; and by that creation you raised 
the trade of this kingdom at least fourfold. America 
had the compensation of your capital, which made 
her bear her servitude. She had another compensation, 
which you are now going to take away from her. She 
had, except the commercial restraint, every charac- 
teristic mark of a free people in all her internal con- 
cerns. She had the image of the British constitution. 
She had the substance. She was taxed by her own 
representatives. She chose most of her own magis- 
trates. She paid them all. She had in effect the sole 
disposal of her own internal government. This wliole 
state of commercial servitude and civil liberty, taken 
together, is certainly not perfect freedom ; but com- 



82 EDMUND BURKE. 

paring it with the ordinary circumstances of human 
nature, it was a happy and a liberal condition. 

I know, sir, that great and not unsuccessful pains 
have been taken to inflame our minds by an outcry, in 
this House, and out of it, that in America the act of 
navigation neither is, or never was, obeyed. But if 
you take the colonies through, I affirm, that its author- 
ity never was disputed ; that it was nowhere disputed 
for any length of time ; and, on the whole, that it was 
well observed. Wherever the act pressed hard, many 
individuals indeed evaded it. This is nothing. These 
scattered individuals never denied the law, and never 
obeyed it. Just as it happens whenever the laws of 
trade, whenever the laws of revenue, press hard upon 
the people of England ; in that case all your shores 
are full of contraband. Your right to give a monopoly 
to the East India Company, your right to lay immense 
duties on French brandy, are not disputed in England. 
You do not make this charge on any man. But you 
know that there is not a creek from Pentland Frith to 
the Isle of Wight, in which they do not smuggle immense 
quantities of teas. East India goods, and brandies. 
I take it for granted, that the authority of Governor 
Bernard in this point is indisputable. Speaking of 
these laws as they regarded that part of America now 
in so unhappy a condition, he says, ' I believe they 
are nowhere better supported than in this province ; 
I do not pretend that it is entirely free from a breach 
of these laws ; but that such a breach, if discovered, is 
justly punished.' What more can you say of the 
obedience to any laws in any country ? An obedience 
to these laws formed the acknowledgment, instituted 
by yourselves, for your superiority ; and was the pay- 
ment you originally imposed for your protection. 

Whether you were right or wrong in establishing the 
colonies on the principles of commercial monopoly, 
rather than on that of revenue, is at this day a problem 
of mere speculation. You cannot have both by the 
same authority. To join together the restraints of 



SELECTIONS. 83 

an universal internal and external monopoly, with an 
universal internal and external taxation, is an un- 
natural union ; perfect, uncompensated slavery. You 
have long since decided for yourself and them ; and you 
and they have prospered exceedingly under that decision. 

This nation, sir, never thought of departing from 
that choice until the period immediately on the close 
of the last war. Then a scheme of government new 
in many things seemed to have been adopted. I saw, 
or thought I saw, several symptoms of a great change, 
whilst I sat in your gallery, a good while before I had 
the honour of a seat in this House. At that period the 
necessity was established of keeping up no less than 
twenty new regiments, with twenty colonels capable of 
seats in this house. This scheme was adopted with 
very general applause from ah sides, at the very time 
that, by your conquests in America, your danger from 
foreign attempts in that part of the world was much 
lessened, or indeed rather quite over. When this huge 
increase of military establishment was resolved on, 
a revenue was to be found to support so great a burden. 
Country gentlemen, the great patrons of economy, and 
the great resisters of a standing arnied force, would not 
have entered with much alacrity into the vote for so 
large and so expensive an army, if they had been very 
sure that they were to continue to pay for it. But 
hopes of another kind were held out to them ; and in 
particular, I well remember, that Mr. Townshend, in 
a brilliant harangue on this subject, did dazzle them 
by playing before their eyes the image of a revenue to 
be raised in America. 

Here began to dawn the first glimmerings of this new 
colony system. It appeared more distinctly after\vards, 
when it was devolved upon a person to whom, on other 
accounts, this country owes very great obligations. I 
do believe that he had a very serious desire to benefit 
the public. But with no small study of the detail, he 
did not seem to have his view, at least equally, carried 
to the total circuit of our affairs. He generally con- 



$4 EDMUND BURKE, 

sidered his objects in lights that were rather too detached. 
Whether the business of an American revenue was 
imposed upon him altogether ; whether it was entirely 
the result of his own speculation ; or, what is more prob- 
able, that his own ideas rather coincided with the 
instructions he had received ; certain it is, that with the 
best intentions in the world, he first brought this fatal 
scheme into form, and established it by act of parlia- 
ment. 

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 differ- 
ences 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 



SELECTIONS. 85 

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 know- 
ledge which is not valuable. But it may be truly said, 
that men 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 busi- 
ness 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 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 insti- 
tution, and not quite so much to liberty ; for but too 
many are apt to believe regulation to be commerce, and 
taxes to be revenue. Among regulations, that which 
stood first in reputation, was his idol. I mean the act of 
navigation. He has often professed it to be so. The 
policy of that act is, I readily admit, in many respects 
well understood. But I do say that, if the act be suffered 
to run the full length of its principle, and is not changed 
and modified according to the change of times and the 
fluctuation of circumstances, it must do great mischief, 
and frequently even defeat its own purpose. 

After the war, and in the last years of it, the trade of 
America had increased far beyond the speculations of 
the most sanguine imaginations. It swelled out on 



86 EDMUND BURKE. 

every side. It filled all its proper channels to the brim. 
It overflowed with a rich redundance and, breaking its 
banks on the right and on the left, it spread out upon 
some places, where it was indeed improper, upon others 
where it was only irregular. It is the" nature of all 
greatness not to be exact, and great trade will always 
be attended with considerable abuses. The contraband 
will always keep pace in some measure with the fair 
trade. It should stand as a fundamental maxim, that 
no vulgar precaution ought to be employed in the cure 
of evils, which are closely connected with the cause of 
our prosperity. Perhaps this great person turned his 
eyes somewhat less than was just, towards the incredible 
increase of the fair trade ; and looked with something 
of too exquisite a jealousy towards the contraband. 
He certainly felt a singular degree of anxiety on the 
subject ; and even began to act from that passion 
earlier than is commonly imagined. For whilst he 
was first lord of the admiralty, though not strictly 
called upon in his official hne, he presented a very strong 
memorial to the lords of the treasury (my Lord Bute 
was then at the head of the board) heavily complaining 
of the growth of the illicit commerce in America. Some 
mischief happened even at that time from this over- 
earnest zeal. Much greater happened afterwards, when 
it operated with greater power in the highest depart- 
ment of the finances. The bonds of the act of naviga- 
tion were straitened so much, that America was on the 
point of having no trade, either contraband or legiti- 
mate. They found, under the construction and execu- 
tion then used, the act no longer tying but actually 
strangling them. All this coming with new enumerations 
of commodities ; with regulations which in a manner 
put a stop to the mutual coasting intercourse of the 
colonies ; with the appointment of courts of admiralty 
under various improper circumstances ; with a sudden 
extinction of the paper currencies ; with a compulsory 
provision for the quartering of soldiers ; the people of 
America thought themselves proceeded against as 



SELECTIONS. 87 

deKnquents, or, at best, as people under suspicion of 
delinquency ; and in such a manner, as they imagined, 
their recent services in the war did not at all merit. 
Any of these innumerable regulations, perhaps, would 
not have alarmed alone ; some might be thought reason- 
able ; the multitude struck them with terror. 

But the grand manoeuvre in that business of new 
regulating the colonies, was the 15th act of the fourth 
of George III ; which, besides containing several of 
the matters to which I have just alluded, opened a new 
principle : and here properly began the second period 
of the policy of this country with regard to the colonies ; 
by which the scheme of a regular plantation parlia- 
mentary revenue was adopted in theory, and settled 
in practice. A revenue not substituted in the place 
of, but superadded to, a monopoly : which monopoly 
was enforced at the same time with additional strictness, 
and the execution put into military hands. 

This act, sir, had for the first time the title of ' grant- 
ing duties in the colonies and plantations of America ' ; 
and for the first time it was asserted in the preamble, 
' that it was jusi and necessary that a revenue should 
be raised there.' Then came the technical words of 
' giving and granting,' and thus a complete American 
revenue act was made in all the forms, and with a full 
avowal of the right, equity, policy, and even necessity 
of taxing the colonies, without any formal consent of 
theirs. There are contained also in the preamble to 
that act these very remarkable words — the commons, 
&c. — ' being desirous to make some provision in the 
present session of parliament towards raising the said 
revenue.' By these words it appeared to the colonies 
that this act was but a beginning of sonows ; that 
every session was to produce something of the same kind ; 
that we were to go on, from day to day, in charging 
them with such taxes as we pleased, for such a military 
force as we should think proper. Had this plan been 
pursued, it was evident that the provincial assemblies, 
in which the Americans felt all their portion of im- 



88 EDMUND BURKE. 

portance and beheld their sole image of freedom, were 
ipso facto annihilated. This ill prospect before them 
seemed to be boundless in extent, and endless in dura- 
tion. Sir, they were not mistaken. The ministry 
valued themselves when this act passed, and when 
they gave notice of the Stamp Act, that both of the 
duties came very short of their ideas of American taxa- 
tion. Great was the applause of this measure here: 
In England we cried out for new taxes on America, 
whilst they cried out that they were nearly crushed 
with those which the war and their own grants had 
brought upon them. 

Sir, it has been said in the debate that, when the first 
American revenue act (the act in 1764, imposing the 
port-duties, passed, the Americans did not object to the 
principle. It is true they touched it but very tenderly. * 
It was not a direct attack. They were, it is true, as 
yet novices ; as yet unaccustomed to direct attacks 
upon any of the rights of parliament. The duties were 
port-duties, like those they had been accustomed to 
bear ; with this difference, that the title was not the 
same, the preamble not the same, and the spirit alto- 
gether unlike. But of what service is this observation 
to the cause of those that make it ? It is a full refuta- 
tion of the pretence for their present cruelty to America ; 
for it shows, out of their own mouths, that our colonies 
were backward to enter into the present vexatious and 
ruinous controversy. 

There is also another circulation abroad (spread with 
a malignant intention, which I cannot attribute to 
those who say the same thing in this House), that 
Mr. Grenville gave the colony agents an option for 
their assemblies to tax themselves, which they had 
refused. I find that much stress is laid on this, as 
a fact. However, it happens neither to be true nor 
possible. I will observe first, that Mr. Grenville never 
thought fit to make this apology for himself in the 
innumerable debates that were had upon the subject. 
He might have proposed to the colony agents, that 



SELECTIONS. 89 

they should agree in some mode of taxation as the 
ground of an act of parHament. But he never could 
have proposed that they should tax themselves on 
requisition, which is the assertion of the day. Indeed 
Mr. Gren^ ille well knew, that the colony agents could 
have no general powers to consent to it ; and they had 
no time to consult their assemblies for particular powers, 
before he passed his first revenue act. If you com- 
pare dates, you will find it impossible. Burdened as the 
agents knew the colonies were at that time, they could 
not give the least hope of such grants. His own favourite 
governor was of opinion that the Americans were not 
then taxable objects: 

' Nor was the time less favourable to the equity of such 
a taxation. I don't mean to dispute the reasonableness of 
America contributing to the charges of Great Britain when 
she is able ; nor, I believe, would the Americans them- 
selves have disputed it, at a proper time and season. 
But it should be considered, that the American govern- 
ments themselves have, in the prosecution of the late war, 
contracted very large debts ; which it will take some years 
to pay off, and in the meantime occasion very burden- 
some taxes for that purpose only. For instance, this 
government, ivhich is as much beforehand as any, raises 
every year £37,500 sterling for sinking their debt, and 
must continue it for four years longer at least before it 
will he clear.' 

These are the words of Governor Bernard's letter to 
a member of the old ministry, and which he has since 
printed. Mr. Grenville could not have made this pro- 
position to the agents, for another reason. He was of 
opinion, as he has declared in this House an hundred 
times, that the colonies could not legally grant any 
revenue to the crown ; and that infinite mischiefs would 
be the consequence of such a power. When Mr. Gren- 
ville had passed the first revenue act, and in the same 
session had made this House come to a resolution for 
laying a stamp-duty on America, between that time 
and the passing the Stamp Act into a law, he told a 



90 EDMUND BURKE. 

considerable and most respectable merchant, a member 
of this House, whom I am truly sorry I do not now see 
in his place, when he represented against this proceeding, 
that if the stamp-duty was disliked, he was willing 
to exchange it for any other equally productive ; but 
that, if he objected to the Americans being taxed by 
parliament, he might save himself the trouble of the 
discussion, as he was determined on the measure. This 
is the fact, and, if you please, I will mention a very un- 
questionable authority for it. 

Thus, sir, I have disposed of this falsehood. But 
falsehood has a perennial spring. It is said, that no 
conjecture could be made of the dislike of the colonies 
to the principle. This is as untrue as the other. After 
the resolution of the House, and before the passing 
of the Stamp Act, the colonies of Massachusett's Bay 
and New York did send remonstrances, objecting to 
this mode of parhamentary taxation. What was the 
consequence ? They were suppressed ; they were put 
under the table, notwithstanding an order of council 
to the contrary, by the ministry which composed the 
very council that had made the order : and thus the 
House proceeded to its business of taxing without the 
least regular knowledge of the objections which were 
made to it. But to give that House its due, it was not 
over-desirous to receive information, or to hear remon- 
strance. On the fifteenth of February, 1765, whilst 
the Stamp Act was under deliberation, they refused 
with scorn even so much as to receive four petitions 
presented from so respectable colonies as Connecticut, 
Rhode Island, Virginia, and Carolina ; besides one from 
the traders of Jamaica. As to the colonies, they had 
no alternative left to them, but to disobey ; or to 
pay the taxes imposed by that parliament which was 
not suffered, or did not suffer itself, even to hear them 
remonstrate upon the subject. 

This was the state of the colonies before his majesty 
thought fit to change his ministers. It stands upon 
no authority of mine. It is proved by uncontrover- 



SELECTIONS. 91 

tible records. The honourable gentleman has 
desired some of us to lay our hands upon our hearts, 
and answer to his queries upon the historical part 
of this consideration ; and by his manner (as well 
as my eyes could discern it) he seemed to address 
himself to me. 

Sir, I will answer him as clearly as I am able, and 
with great openness ; I have nothing to conceal. In 
the year 'sixty-five, being in a very private station, 
far enough from any Hne of business, and not having 
the honour of a seat in this House, it was my fortune, 
unknowing and unknown to the then ministry, by the 
intervention of a common friend, to become connected 
with a very noble person, and at the head of the treasury 
department. It was indeed in a situation of Httle 
rank and no consequence, suitable to the mediocrity 
of my talents and pretensions. But a situation near 
enough to enable me to see, as well as others, what was 
going on ; and I did see in that noble person such sound 
principles, such an enlargement of mind, such clear 
and sagacious sense, and such unshaken fortitude, 
as have bound me, as well as others much better than 
me, by an inviolable attachment to him from that time 
forward. Sir, Lord Rockingham very early in that 
summer received a strong representation from many 
weighty English merchants and manufacturers, from 
governors of provinces and commanders of men-of- 
war, against almost the whole of the American com- 
mercial regulations : and particularly with regard to 
the total ruin which was threatened to the Spanish trade. 
I beheve, sir, the noble lord soon saw his way in this 
business. But he did not rashly determine against 
acts which it might be supposed were the result of 
much deliberation. However, sir, he scarcely began 
to open the ground, when the whole- veteran body of 
office took the alarm. A violent outcry of all (except 
those who knew and felt the mischief) was raised 
against any alteration. On one hand, his attempt was 
a direct violation of treaties and public law ; on the 



92 EDMUND BURKE. 

other, the act of navigation and all the corps of trade 
laws were drawn up in array against it. 

The first step the noble lord took, was to have the 
opinion of his excellent, learned, and ever-lamented 
friend the late Mr. Yorke, then attorney-general, on the 
point of law. When he knew that formally and 
officially, which in substance he had known before, he 
immediately dispatched orders to redress the grievance. 
But I will say it for the then minister, he is of that 
constitution of mind, that I know he would have issued, 
on the same critical occasion, the very same orders, if 
the acts of trade had been, as they were not, directly 
against him ; and would have cheerfully submitted to 
the equity of parliament for his indemnity. 

On the conclusion of this business of the Spanish trade, 
the news of the troubles, on account of the Stamp 
Act, arrived in England. It was not until the end of 
October that these accounts were received. No sooner 
had the sound of that mighty tempest reached us in 
England, than the whole of the then opposition, instead 
of feeling humbled by the unhappy issue of their 
measures, seemed to be infinitely elated, and cried out 
that the ministry, from envy to the glory of their pre- 
decessors, were prepared to repeal the Stamp Act. 
Near nine years after, the honourable gentleman takes 
quite opposite ground, and now challenges me to put 
my hand to my heart and say whether the ministry 
had resolved on the repeal till a considerable time after 
the meeting of parliament. Though I do not very 
well know what the honourable gentleman wishes to 
infer from the admission, or from the denial, of this fact, 
on which he so earnestly adjures me ; I do put my 
hand on my heart and assure him that they did not 
come to a resolution directly to repeal. They weighed 
this matter as its difficulty and importance required. 
They considered maturely among themselves. They 
consulted with all who could give advice or informa- 
tion. It was not determined until a Uttle before the 
meeting of parliament ; but it was determined, and 



SELECTIONS. 93 

the main lines of their own plan marked out, before that 
meeting. Two questions arose (I hope I am not going 
into a narrative troublesome to the House). 

[A cry of ' Go on, go on. 'J 

The first of the two considerations was, whether the 
repeal should be total, or whether only partial ; taking 
out everything burthensome and productive, and re- 
serving only an empty acknowledgment, such as a 
stamp on cards or dice. The other question was, on 
what principle the act should be repealed ? On this 
head also two principles were started. One, that the 
legislative rights of this country, with regard to America, 
were not entire, but had certain restrictions and limita- 
tions. The other principle was, that taxes of this kind 
were contrary to the fundamental principles of com- 
merce on which the colonies were founded ; and con- 
trary to every idea of political equity ; by which equity 
we are bound, as much as possible, to extend the 
spirit and benefit of the British constitution to every 
part of the British dominions. The option, both of 
the measure, and of the principle of repeal, was made 
before the session ; and I wonder how any one can read 
the king's speech at the opening of that session, with- 
out seeing in that speech both the repeal and the declara- 
tory act very sui^ciently crayoned out. Those who 
cannot see this can see nothing. 

Surely the honourable gentleman will not think that 
a great deal less time than was then employed ought to 
have been spent in deliberation, when he considers that 
the news of the troubles did not arrive till towards the 
end of October. The parliament sat to fill the vacancies 
on the fourteenth day of December and on business the 
fourteenth of the following January. 

Sir, a partial repeal, or, as the bon ton of the court 
then was, a modification, would have satisfied a timid, un- 
systematic, procrastinating ministry, as such a meas- 
ure has since done such a ministry. A modification 
is the constant resource of weak, undeciding minds. 
To repeal by a denial of oiir right to tax in the preamble 



94 EDMUND BURKE, 

(and this too 'did not want advisers), would have cut, 
in the heroic style, the Gordian knot with a sword. 
Either measure would have cost no more than a day s 
debate. But when the total repeal was adopted ; and 
adopted on principles of poHcy, of equity, and ot com- 
merce • this plan made it necessary to enter into many 
and difficult measures. It became necessary to open 
a very large field of evidence commensurate to these 
extensive views. But then this labour did knights 
service. It opened the eyes of several to the true state 
of the American affairs ; it enlarged their ideas ; it 
removed prejudices ; and it conciHated the opinions 
and affections of men. The noble lord, who then took 
the lead in administration, my honourable Iriencl 
under me, and a right honourable gentleman t it (ne 
will not reject his share, and it was a large one, of this 
business), exerted the most laudable industry m bnng- 
ing before you the fullest, most impartial, and least- 
garbled body of evidence that ever was produced to 
this House. I think the inquiry lasted m the com- 
mittee for six weeks ; and, at its conclusion, this House 
by an independent, noble, spirited, and unexpected 
majority ; by a majority that wiU redeem all the acts 
ever done by majorities in parHament ; m the teeth o± 
all the old mercenary Swiss of state, in despite of all the 
speculators and augurs of pohtical events, m defiance 
of the whole embattled legion of veteran pensioners and 
practised instruments of a court, gave a total repeal 
to the Stamp Act, and (if it had been so permitted) 
a lasting peace to this whole empire. 

I state sir, these particulars, because this act ot 
spirit and fortitude has lately been, in the circulation 
of the season, and in some hazarded declamations m 
this House, attributed to timidity. If, sir the con- 
duct of ministry, in proposing the repeal had arisen 
from timidity with regard to themselves, it would have 
been greatly to be condemned. Interested timidity 
disgraces as much in the cabinet, as personal timidity 
* Mr. Dowdeswell. t General Conway. 



SELECTIONS. 95 

does in the field. But timidity, with regard to the 
well-being of our country, is heroic virtue. The noble 
lord who then conducted affairs and his worthy col- 
leagues, whilst they trembled at the prospect of such 
distresses as you have since brought upon yourselves, 
were not afraid steadily to look in the face that glaring 
and dazzling influence at which the eyes of eagles have 
blenched. He looked in the face one of the ablest, 
and, let me say, not the most scrupulous oppositions, 
that perhaps ever was in this House ; and withstood 
it, unaided by even one of the usual supports of ad- 
ministration. He did this when he repealed the 
Stamp Act. He looked in the face a person he had 
long respected and regarded, and whose aid was then 
particularly wanting ; I mean Lord Chatham. He did 
this when he passed the Declaratory Act. 

It is now given out for the usual purposes, by the 
usual emissaries, that Lord Rockingham did not con- 
sent to the repeal of this act until he was bullied into 
it by Lord Chatham ; and the reporters have gone so 
far as publicly to assert, in a hundred companies, that 
the honourable gentleman under the gallery,* who pro- 
posed the repeal in the American committee, had 
another set of resolutions in his pocket directly the 
reverse of those he moved. These artifices of a des- 
perate cause are at this time spread abroad, with in- 
credible care, in every part of the town, from the 
highest to the lowest companies; as if the industry of 
the circulation were to make amends for the absurdity 
of the report. 

Sir, whether the noble lord is of a complexion to be 
bullied by Lord Chatham, or by any man, I must sub- 
mit to those who know him. I confess, when I look 
back to that time, I consider him as placed in one of 
the most trying situations in which, perhaps, any man 
ever stood. In the House of Peers there were very 
few of the ministry, out of the noble lord's own par- 
ticular connexion (except Lord Egmont, who acted, 

* General Conway. 



96 EDMUND BURKE. 

as far as I could discern, an honourable and manly part) , 
that did not look to some other future arrangement, 
which warped his politics. There were in both Houses 
new and menacing appearances, that might very 
naturally drive any other, than a most resolute minister, 
from his measure or from his station. The household 
troops openly revolted. The allies of ministry (those, 
I mean, who supported some of their measures, but 
refused responsibility for any) endeavoured to under- 
mine their credit, and to take ground that must be 
fatal to the success of the very cause which they would 
be thought to countenance. The question of the repeal 
was brought on by ministry in the committee of this 
House, in the very instant when it was known that 
more than one court negotiation was carrying on with 
the heads of the opposition. Everything, upon every 
side, was full of traps and mines. Earth below shook ; 
heaven above menaced ; all the elements of ministerial 
safety were dissolved. It was in the midst of this 
chaos of plots and counterplots ; it was in the midst 
of this complicated warfare against public opposition 
and private treachery, that the firmness of that noble 
person was put to the proof. He never stirred from 
his ground ; no, not an inch. He remained fixed and 
determined, in principle, in measure, and in conduct. 
He practised no managements. He secured no retreat. 
He sought no apology. 

I will likewise do justice, I ought to do it, to the 
honourable gentleman who led us in this House.* Far 
from the duplicity wickedly charged on him, he acted 
his part with alacrity and resolution. We all felt 
inspired by the example he gave us, down even to 
myself, the weakest in that phalanx. I declare for 
one, I knew well enough (it could not be concealed 
from anybody) the true state of things ; but, in my life, 
I never came with so much spirits into this House. 
It was a time for a man to act in. We had powerful 
enemies ; but we had faithful and determined friends ; 

* General Conway. 



SELECTIONS. 97 

and a glorious cause. We had a great battle to fight j 
but we had the means of fighting ; not as now, when 
our arms are tied behind us. We did fight that day 
and conquer. 

I remember, sir, with a melancholy pleasure, the 
situation of the honourable gentleman * who made the 
motion for the repeal ; in that crisis, when the whole 
trading interest of this empire, crammed into your 
lobbies, with a trembling and anxious expectation, 
waited, almost to a winter's return of light, their fate 
from your resolutions. UTien, at length, you had 
determined in their favour, and your doors, thrown 
open, showed them the figure of their deliverer in the 
well-earned triumph of his important victory, from the 
whole of that grave multitude there arose an involun- 
tary burst of gratitude and transport. They jumped 
upon him like children on a long absent father. They 
clung about him as captives about their redeemer. All 
England, all America, joined to his applause. Nor did 
he seem insensible to the best of all earthly rewards, 
the love and admiration of his fellow-citizens. Hope 
elevated and joy brightened his crest. I stood near him ; 
and his face, to use the expression of the Scripture of the 
first martyr, ' his face was as if it had been the face of an 
angel.'_ I do not know how others feel ; but if I had 
stood in that situation, I never would have exchanged 
it for all that kings in their profusion could bestow. I 
did hope that that day's danger and honour would have 
been a bond to hold us all together for ever. But, alas ! 
that, with other pleasing visions, is long since vanished. 
Sir, this act of supreme magnanimity has been repre- 
sented, as if it had been a measure of an administration, 
that having no scheme of their own, took a middle line^ 
pilfered a bit from one side and a bit from the other! 
Sir, they took no middle lines. They differed funda- 
mentally from the schemes of both i)arties ; but they 
preserved the objects of both. They preserved the 
authority of Great Britain. They preserved the equity 

* General Conway. 

4 



98 " EDMUND BURKE. 

of Great Britain. They made the Declaratory Act ; 
they repealed the Stamp Act. They did both fully ; 
because the Declaratory Act was without qualifica- 
tion ; and the repeal of the Stamp Act total. This they 
did in the situation I have described. 

Now, sir, what will the adversary say to both these 
acts ? If the principle of the Declaratory Act was not 
good, the principle we are contending for this day is 
monstrous. If the principle of the repeal was not good, 
why are we not at war for a real, substantial, effective 
revenue ? If both were bad, why has this ministry 
incurred all the inconveniences of both and of all 
schemes ? Why have they enacted, repealed, enforced, 
yielded, and now attempt to enforce again ? 

Sir, I think I may as well now, as at any other time, 
speak to a certain matter of fact, not wholly unrelated 
to the question under your consideration. We, who 
would persuade you to revert to the ancient policy of 
this kingdom, labour under the effect of this short 
current phrase, which the court leaders have given out 
to all their corps, in order to take away the credit of 
those who would prevent you from that frantic war 
you are going to wage upon your colonies. Their cant 
is this : ' All the disturbances in America have been 
created by the repeal of the Stamp Act.' I suppress 
for a moment my indignation at the falsehood, base- 
ness, and absurdity of this most audacious assertion. 
Instead of remarking on the motives and character of 
those who have issued it for circulation, I will clearly 
lay before you the state of America, antecedently to that 
repeal ; after the repeal ; and since the renewal of the 
schemes of American taxation. 

It is said, that the disturbances, if there were any 
before the repeal, were slight ; and without difficulty 
or inconvenience might have been suppressed. For an 
answer to this assertion I will send you to the great 
author and patron of the Stamp Act, who certainly 
meaning well to the authority of this country, and fully 
apprised of the state of that, made, before a repeal 



SELECTIONS. 99 

was so much as agitated in this House, the motion 
which is on your journals ; and which, to save the 
clerk the trouble of turning to it, I will now read to 
you. It was for an amendment to the address of the 
17th of December, 1765 : 

To express our just resentment and indignation at the 
outrageous tumults and insurrections which have been 
excited and carried on in North America ; and at the 
resistance given, by open and rebellious jorce, to the 
execution of the laws in that part of his majesty's domin- 
ions. And to assure his majesty, that his faithful 
commons, animated with the warmest duty and attach- 
ment to his royal person and government, will firmly and 
effectually support his majesty in all such measures as 
shall be necessary for preserving and supporting the legal 
dependence of the colonies on the mother country, &c., &c.' 

Here was certainly a disturbance preceding the 
repeal ; such a disturbance as Mr. Grenville thought 
necessary to qualify by the name of an insurrection, and 
the epithet of a rebellious force : terms much stronger 
than any by which those, who then supported his 
motion, have ever since thought proper to distinguish 
the subsequent disturbances in America. They were 
disturbances which seemed to him and his friends to 
justify as strong a promise of support, as hath been 
usual to give in the beginning of a war with the most 
powerful and declared enemies. When the accounts 
of the American governors came before the House, 
they appeared stronger even than the warmth of public 
imagination had painted them ; so much stronger, 
that the papers on your table bear me out in saying, 
that all the late disturliances, which have been at one 
time the minister's motives for the repeal of five out 
of six of the new court taxes, and are now his pretences 
for refusing to repeal that sixth, did not amount — why 
do I compare them ? — no, not to a tenth part of the 
tumults and violence which prevailed long before the 
repeal of that act. 

Ministry cannot refuse the authority of the com- 



100 EDMUND BURKE. 

mander-in-chief. General Gage, who, in his letter of 
the 4th of November from New York, thus represents 
the state of things : — 

' It is difficult to say, from the highest to the lowest, 
who has not been accessory to this insurrection, either by 
writing or mutual agreements to oppose the act, by what 
they are pleased to term all legal opposition to it. Nothing 
effectual has been proposed, either to prevent or quell the 
tumult. The rest of the provinces are in the same 
situation as to a positive refusal to take the stamps ; and 
threatening those who shall take them, to plunder and 
murder them ; and this affair stands in all the provinces, 
that unless the act, from its own nature, enforce itself, 
nothing but a very considerable military force can do it.' 

It is remarkable, sir, that the persons who formerly 
trumpeted forth the most loudly the violent resolu- 
tions of assemblies ; the universal insurrections ; the 
seizing and burning the stamped papers ; the forcing 
stamp officers to resign their commissions under the 
gallows ; the rifling and pulling down of the houses 
of magistrates ; and the expulsion from their country 
of all who dared to write and speak a single word in 
defence of the powers of parliament ; these very 
trumpeters are now the men that represent the whole 
as a mere trifle, and choose to date all the disturbances 
from the repeal of the Stamp Act, which put an end to 
them. Hear your officers abroad, and let them refute 
this shameless falsehood, who, in all their correspond- 
ence, state the disturbances as owing to their true 
causes, the discontent of the people, from the taxes. You 
have this evidence in your own archives, and it will give 
you complete satisfaction, if you are not so far lost to all 
parliamentary ideas of information, as rather to credit 
the lie of the day, than the records of your own House. 

Sir, this vermin of court reporters, when they are 
forced into day upon one point, are sure to burrow in 
another ; but they shall have no refuge ; I will make 
them bolt out of all their holes. Conscious that they 
must be baffled, when they attribute a precedent dis- 



SELECTIONS. loi 

turbance to a subsequent measure, they take other 
ground, almost as absurd, but very common in modern 
practice, and very wicked ; which is, to attribute the 
ill-effect of ill-judged conduct to the arguments which 
had been used to dissuade us from it. They say, that 
the opposition made in parliament to the Stamp Act at 
the time of its passing, encouraged the Americans to 
their resistance. This has even formally appeared in 
print in a regular volume from an advocate of that 
faction, a Dr. Tucker. This Dr. Tucker is already a 
dean, and his earnest labours in this vineyard, will, 
I suppose, raise him to a bishopric. But this assertion, 
too, just Hke the rest, is false. In all the papers which 
have loaded your table ; in all the vast crowd of verbal 
witnesses that appeared at your bar, witnesses which 
were indiscriminately produced from both sides of the 
House ; not the least hint of such a cause of disturbance 
has ever appeared. As to the fact of a strenuous opposi- 
tion to the Stamp Act, I sat as a stranger in your gallery 
when the act was under consideration. Far from any- 
thing inflammatory, I never heard a more languid debate 
in this House. No more than two or three gentlemen, as 
I remember, spoke against the act, and that with great 
reserve, and remarkable temper. There was but one 
division in the whole progress of the bill ; and the 
minority did not reach to more than thirty-nine or 
forty. In the House of Lords I do not recollect that 
there was any debate or division at all. I am sure 
there was no protest. In fact, the affair passed with 
so very, very little noise, that in town they scarcely 
knew the nature of what they were doing. The opposi- 
tion to the bill in England never could have done this 
mischief, because there scarcely ever was less of opposi- 
tion to a bill of consequence. 

Sir, the agents and distributors of falsehoods have, 
with their usual industry, circulated another lie of the 
same nature with the former. It is this, that the dis- 
turbances arose from the account which had been 
received in America of the change in the ministry. 



102 EDMUND BURKE. 

No longer awed, it seems, with the spirit of the former 
rulers, they thought themselves a match for what our 
calumniators choose to qualify by the name of so feeble 
a ministry as succeeded. Feeble m one sense these 
men certainly may be called ; for, with all their efforts, 
and they have made many, they have not been able 
to resist the distempered vigour, and insane alacrity, 
with which you are rushing to your rum. But it does 
so happen, that the falsity of this circulation is (like the 
rest) demonstrated by indisputable dates and records 

So little was the change known in America, that the 
letters of your governors, giving an account of these 
disturbances long after they had arrived at their highest 
pitch, were all directed to the old ministry, and par- 
ticularly to the Earl of Halifax, the secretary of state 
corresponding with the colonies, without once m the 
smallest degree intimating the slightest suspicion of any 
ministerial revolution whatsoever. The ministry was not 
changed in England until the loth day of July, 1765. On 
the fourteenth of the preceding June, Governor Fauquier 
■ from Virginia, writes thus ; and writes thus to the 
Earl of Halifax : ' Government is set at defiance, _ not 
having strength enough in her hands to enforce obedience 
to the laws of the community. The private distress, which 
every man feels, increases the general dissatisfaction at 
the duties laid by the Stamp Act, which breaks out, and 
shows itself upon every trifling occasion ihe general 
dissatisfaction had produced some time before, that is, 
on the 2oth of May, several strong public resolves 
against the Stamp Act ; and these resolves are assigned 
by Governor Bernard as the cause of the insurrections 
id Massachusett's Bay, in his letter of the 15th of 
August, still addressed to the Earl of Hah ax ; and he 
continued to address such accounts to that minister 
quite to the 7th of September of the same year. Smi- 
lar accounts, and of as late a date, were sent from 
other governors, and all directed to Lord Halifax. Not 
one of these letters indicates the shghtest idea of a 
change, either known or even apprehended. 



SELECTIONS. • 103 

Thus are blown away the insect race of courtly false- 
hoods! Thus perish the miserable inventions of the 
wretched runners for a wretched cause, which they have 
fly-blown into every weak and rotten part of the country 
in vain hopes that when their maggots had taken wing 
their importunate buzzing might sound something like 
the public voice ! 

Sir, I have troubled you sufficiently with the state of 
America before the repeal. Now I turn to the honourable 
gentleman who so stoutly challenges us to tell whether, 
after the repeal, the provinces were quiet. This is 
coming home to the point. Here I meet him directly ; 
and answer most readily, They were quiet. And I, in 
my turn, challenge him to prove when, and where, and 
by Whom, and in what numbers, and with what violence, 
the other laws of trade, as gentlemen assert, were 
violated in consequence of your concession ? or that 
even your other revenue laws were attacked ? But 
I quit the vantage ground on which I stand, and where 
I might leave the burden of the proof upon him : I 
walk down upon the open plain, and undertake to 
show that they were not only quiet, but showed many 
unequivocal marks of acknowledgment and gratitude. 
And to give him every advantage, I select the obnoxious 
colony of Massachusett's Bay, which at this time (but 
^yithout hearing her) is so heavily a culprit before par- 
liament ; I will select their proceedings even under 
circumstances of no small irritation. For, a little 
imprudently, I must say. Governor Bernard mixed in 
the administration of the lenitive of the repeal no small 
acrimony arising from matters of a separate nature. 
Yet see, sir, the effect of that lenitive, though mixed 
with these bitter ingredients ; and how this rugged 
people can express themselves on a measure of con- 
cession. 

' // it is not in ottr poioer ' (say they in their address 
to Governor Bernard), ' in so full a manner as will be 
expected, to show our respectful gratitude to the mother 
country, or to make a dutiful and affectionate return to 



104 EDMUND BURKE. 

the indulgence of the king and parliament, it shall he no 
fault of ours ; for this we intend, and hope we shall he 
able fully to effect.' 

Would to God that this temper had been cultivated, 
managed, and set in action ! Other effects than those 
which we have since felt would have resulted from it. 
On the requisition for compensation to those who had 
suffered from the violence of the populace, in the same 
address they say, ' The recommendation enjoined hy 
Mr. Secretary Conway's letter, and in consequence thereof 
made to us, we will emhrace the first convenient oppor- 
tunity to consider and act upon.' They did consider ; 
they did act upon it. They obeyed the requisition. 
I know the mode has been chicaned upon ; but it was 
substantially obeyed, and much better obeyed than 
I fear the parliamentary requisitior of this session will 
be, though enforced by all your rigour and backed with 
all your power. In a word, the damages of popular 
fury were compensated by legislative gravity. Almost 
every other part of America in various ways demon- 
strated their gratitude. I am bold to say, that so 
sudden a calm recovered after so violent a storm is 
without parallel in history. To say that no other dis- 
turbance should happen from any other cause, is folly. 
But as far as appearances went, by the judicious 
sacrifice of one law, you procured an acquiescence in 
all that remained. After this experience, nobody shall 
persuade me, when a whole people are concerned, that 
acts of lenity are not means of conciliation, 

I hope the honourable genteman has received a fair 
and full answer to his question. 

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 



SELECTIONS. 105 

this country respectable in every other on the globe. 
It may be truly called, 

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

Sir, the venerable age of this great man, his merited 
rank, his superior eloquence, his splendid quahties, 
his eminent services, the vast space he fills in the eye 
of mankind, and, more than all 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. For 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 httle too general, 
led him into measures that were generally mischievous 
to himself, and for that reason, among others, perhaps 
fatal to this country ; — measures, the effect 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 dove-tailed ; a cabinet so variously in- 
laid ; such a piece of diversified mosaic ; such a tesse- 
lated 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 &tand 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. Such-a-one — 
I beg a thousand pardons ' 1 venture to say, it 



io6 EDMUND BURKE. 

did so happen that persons had a single office divided 

between them, who had never spoken to each other in 

their Uves ; 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 a 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 ad- 
mitted to seem as if they acted a part under him, 
with a modesty that becomes all men, and with a con- 
fidence in him which was justified even in its extrava- 
gance by his superior abilities, had never in any instance 
presumed upon ■ any opinion of their own. Deprived 
of his guiding influence, they were whirled about, the 
sport of every gust, and easily driven into any port ; 
and as those who joined with them in manning the 
vessel were the most directly opposite to his opinions, 
measures, and character, and far the most artful and 
most powerful of the set, they easily prevailed, so as to 
seize upon the vacant, unoccupied, and derelict minds 
of his friends, and instantly they turned the vessel 
wholly out of the course of his policy. As if it were to 
insult as well as to betray him, even long before the 
close of the first session of his administration, when 
everything was publicly transacted, and with great 

* Supposed to allude to the Right Honourable Lord North, and 
George Cooke, Esq., who were made joint paymasters in the summer 
of 1766, on the removal of the Rockingham administration. 



SELECTIONS. 107 

parade, in his name, _they made an act, declaring it 
highly just and expedient to raise a revenue in America. 
For even then, sir, even before this splendid orb was 
entirely set, _ and while the western horizon was in 
a blaze with his descending glory, on the opposite quarter 
of the heavens arose another luminary, and, for his 
hour, became lord of the ascendant. 

This light, too, is passed and set for ever. You 
understand, to be sure, that I speak of Charles Town- 
shend, officially the reproducer of this fatal scheme, 
whom I cannot even now remember without some 
degree of sensibility. In truth, sir, he was the delight 
and ornament of this House, and the charm of every 
private society which he honoured with his presence. 
Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any 
country, a man of a more pointed and finished wit, and 
(where his passions were not concerned) of a more 
refined, exquisite, and penetrating judgment. If he 
had not so great a stock, as some have had who flourished 
formerly, of knowledge long treasured up, he knew, 
better by far than any man I ever was acquainted 
with, how to bring together within a short time all 
that was necessary to establish, to illustrate, and to 
decorate that side of the question he supported. He 
stated his matter skilfully and powerfully. He par- 
ticularly excelled in a most luminous explanation, and 
display of his subject. His style of argument was 
neither trite nor vulgar, nor subtle and abstruse. He 
hit the House just between wind and water ; .and, not 
being troubled with too anxious a zeal for any matter 
in question, he was never more tedious or more earnest 
than the preconceived opinions and present temper of 
his hearers required, to whom he was always in perfect 
unison. He conformed exactly to the temper of the 
House ; and he seemed to guide, because he was always 
sure to follow it. 

I beg pardon, sir, if when I speak of this and of 
other great men, I appear to digress in saying something 
of their characters. In this eventful history of the 



io8 EDMUND BURKE. 

revolutions of America, the characters of such men are 
of much importance. Great men are the guide-posts 
and landmarks in the state. The credit of such men 
at court, or in the nation, is the sole cause of all the 
public measures. It would be an invidious thing (most 
foreign, I trust, to what you think my disposition) to 
remark the errors into which the authority of great 
names has brought the nation, without doing justice 
at the same time to the great qualities whence that 
authority arose. The subject is instructive to those 
who wish to form themselves on whatever of excellence 
has gone before them. There are many young members 
in the House (such of late has been the rapid succession 
of public men) who never saw that prodigy, Charles 
Townshend ; nor of course know what a ferment he 
w^as able to excite in everything by the violent ebullition 
of his mixed virtues and failings. For failings he had 
undoubtedly — many of us remember them ; we are this 
day considering the effect of them. But he had no 
failings which were not owing to a noble cause ; to an 
ardent, generous, perhaps an immoderate passion for 
fame ; a passion which is the instinct of all great souls. 
He worshipped that goddess wheresoever she appeared ; 
but he paid his particular devotions to her in her 
favourite habitation, in her chosen temple, the House 
of Commons. Besides the characters of the individuals 
that compose our body, it is impossible, Mr. Speaker, 
not to observe, that this House has a collective charac- 
ter of its own. That character too, however imperfect, 
is not unamiable. Like all great public collections of 
men, you possess a marked love of virtue, and an 
abhorrence of vice. But among vices there is none, 
which the House abhors in the same degree with 
obstinacy. Obstinacy, sir, is certainly a great vice ; 
and in the changeful state of political affairs it is 
ferquently the cause of great mischief. It happens, 
however, very unfortunately, that almost the whole 
line of the great and masculine virtues, constancy, 
gravity, magnanimity, fortitude, fidelity, and firmness, 



SELECTIONS. 109 

are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which 
you have so just an abhorrence ; and, in their excess, 
all these virtues very easily fall into it. He, who paid 
such a punctilious attention to all your feelings certainly 
took care not to shock them by that vice which is the 
most disgustful to you. 

That fear of displeasing those who ought most to 
be pleased betrayed him sometimes into the other 
extreme. He had voted, and, in the year 1765, had 
been an advocate for the Stamp Act. Things and the 
disposition of men's minds were changed. In short, 
the Stamp Act began to be no favourite in this House. 
He therefore attended at the private meeting, in which 
the resolutions moved by a right honourable gentleman 
were settled ; resolutions leading to the repeal. The 
next day he voted for that repeal ; and he would have 
spoken for it too, if an illness (not as was then given 
out, a political, but to my knowledge, a very real illness) 
had not prevented it. 

The very next session, as the fashion of this world 
passeth away, the repeal began to be in as bad an odour 
in this House as the Stamp Act had been in the session 
before. To conform to the temper which began to 
prevail, and to prevail mostly amongst those most in 
power, he declared, very early in the winter, that 
a revenue must be had out of America. Instantly he 
was tied down to his engagements by some, who had 
no objection to such experiments, when made at the 
cost of persons for whom they had no particular 
regard. The whole body of courtiers drove him 
onward. They always talked as if the king stood in 
a sort of humiliated state, until something of the kind 
should be done. 

Here this extraordinary man, then chancellor of the 
exchequer, found himself in great straits. To please 
universally was the object of his hfe ; but to tax and 
to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not 
given to men. However he attempted it. To render 
the tax palatable to the partisans of American revenue, 



no EDMUND BURKE, 

he made a preamble stating the necessity of such a 
revenue. To close with the American distinction, this 
revenue was external or port-duty ; but again, to soften 
it to the other party, it was a duty of supply. To gratify 
the colonists, it was laid on British manufactures ; to 
satisfy the merchants of Britain, the duty was trivial, 
and (except that on tea, which touched only the devoted 
East India Company) on none of the grand objects of 
commerce. To counterwork the American contraband, 
the duty on tea was reduced from a shilling to three- 
pence. But to secure the favour of those who would tax 
America, the scene of collection was changed, and, with 
the rest, it was levied in the colonies. What need I say 
more ? This fine-spun scheme had the usual fate of all 
exquisite policy. But the original plan of the duties, 
and the mode of executing that plan, both arose singly 
and solely from a love of our applause. He was truly the 
child of the House. He never thought, did, or said 
anything, but with a view to you. He every day 
adapted himself to your disposition ; and adjusted 
himself before it as at a looking-glass. 

He had observed (indeed it could not escape him) 
that several persons, infinitely his inferiors in all re- 
spects, had formerly rendered themselves considerable 
in this House by one method alone. They were a race 
of men (I hope in God the species is extinct) who, 
when they rose in their place, no man living could 
divine, from any known adherence to parties, to 
opinions, or to principles, from any order or system in 
their poHtics, or from any sequel or connexion in their 
ideas, what part they were going to take in any debate. 
It is astonishing how much this uncertainty, especially 
at critical times, called the attention of all parties on 
such men. All eyes were fixed on them, all ears open 
to hear them ; each party gaped and looked alternately 
for their vote, almost to the end of their speeches. While 
the House hung in this uncertainty, now the hear hints 
rose from this side — now they rebellowed from the 
other; and that party, to whom they fell at length 



SELECTIONS. iii 

from their tremulous and dancing balance, always 
received them in a tempest of applause. The fortune 
of such men was a temptation too great to be resisted 
by one, to whom a single whiff of incense withheld gave 
much greater pain, than he received delight, in the 
clouds of it, which daily rose about him from the 
prodigal superstition of innumerable admirers. He was 
a candidate for contradictory honours ; and his great 
aim was to make those agree in admiration of him who 
never agreed in anything else. 

Hence arose this unfortunate act, the subject of this 
day's debate ; from a disposition which, after making 
an American revenue to please one, repealed it to please 
others, and again revived it in hopes of pleasing a third, 
and of catching something in the ideas of all. 

This revenue act of 1767 formed the fourth period of 
American pohcy. How we have fared since then— 
what woeful variety of schemes have been adopted ; 
what enforcing, and what repeahng ; what bull)dng, 
and what submitting ; what doing, and undoing ; what 
straining and what relaxing ; what assemblies dis- 
solved for not obeying, and called again without obedience; 
what troops sent out to quell resistance, and, on meeting 
that resistance, recalled ; what shiftings, and changes, 
and jumblings of all kinds of men at home, which left 
no possibility of order, consistency, vigour, or even so 
much as a decent unity of colour in any one public 
measure. It is a tedious, irksome task. My duty may 
call me to open it out some other time ; * on a former 
occasion I tried your temper on a part of it ; for the 
present I shall forbear. 

After all these changes and agitations, your immediate 
situation upon the question on your paper is at length 
brought to this. You have an act of parliament, stating, 
that ' it is expcdient'io raise a revenue in America.' By 
a partial repeal you annihilated the greatest part of 
that revenue, which this preamble declares to be so ex- 
pedient. You have substituted no other in the place 
• Resolutions in May, 1770. 



112 EDMUND BURKE. 

of it. A secretary of state has disclaimed, in the king's 
name, all thoughts of such a substitution in future. The 
principle of this disclaimer goes to what has been left, as 
well as what has been repealed. The tax which lingers 
after its companions (under a preamble declaring an 
American revenue expedient, and for the sole purpose 
of supporting the theory of that preamble) militates 
with the assurance authentically conveyed to the colonies; 
and is an exhaustless source of jealousy and animosity. 
On this state, which I take to be a fair one ; not being 
able to discern any grounds of honour, advantage, peace 
or power, for adhering, either to the act or to the pre- 
amble, I shall vote for the question which leads to the 
repeal of both. 

If you do not fall in with this motion, then secure some- 
thing to fight for, consistent in theory and valuable in 
practice. If you must employ your strength, employ 
it to uphold you in some honourable right, or some profit- 
able wrong. If you are apprehensive that the concession 
recommended to you, though proper, should be a means 
of drawing on you further but unreasonable claims — 
why then employ your force in supporting that reasonable 
concession against those unreasonable demands. You 
will employ it with more grace ; with better effect ; and 
with great probable concurrence of all the quiet and 
rational people in the provinces ; who are now united 
with, and hurried away by the violent ; having indeed 
different dispositions, but a common interest. If you 
apprehend that on a concession you shall be pushed by 
metaphysical process to the extreme lines, and argued 
out of your whole authority, my advice is this ; when 
you have recovered your old, your strong, your tenable 
position, then face about — stop short — do nothing more 
— reason not at all — oppose the ancient policy and practice 
of the empire as ramparts against the speculations of 
innovators on both sides of the question ; and you will 
stand on great, manly, and sure ground. On this solid 
basis fix your machines, and they will draw worlds 
towards you. 



SELECTIONS. 113 

Your ministers, in their own and his majesty's namel 
have already adopted the American distinction of interna, 
and external duties. It is a distinction, whatever merit 
it may have, that was originally moved by the Americans 
themselves ; and I think they will acquiesce in it, if they 
are not pushed with too much logic and too little sense, 
in all the consequences. That is, if external taxation be 
understood, as they and you understand it, when you 
please, to be not a distinction of geography, but of policy ; 
that it is a power for regulating trade, and not for support- 
ing establishments. The distinction, which is as nothing 
with regard to right, is of most weighty consideration in 
practice. Recover your old ground, and your old tran- 
quillity — try it — I am persuaded the Americans will com- 
promise with you. Wlien confidence is once restored, the 
odious and suspicious simimiim jus will perish of course. 
The spirit of practicability, of moderation, and mutual 
convenience, will never call in geometrical exactness as 
the arbitrator of an amicable settlement. Consult and 
follow your experience. Let not the long story, with 
which I have exercised your patience, prove fruitless to 
your interests. 

For my part, I should choose (if I could have my wish) 
that the proposition of the honourable gentleman * for 
the repeal could go to America without the attendance 
of the penal bills. Alone I could almost answer for its 
success. I cannot be certain of its reception in the bad 
company it may keep. In such heterogeneous assort- 
ments, the most innocent person will lose the effect of 
his innocency. Though you should send out this angel 
of peace, yet you are sending out a destroying angel too ; 
and what would be the effect of the conflict of these two 
adverse spirits, or which would predominate in the end, 
is what I dare not say : whether the lenient measures 
would cause American passion to subside, or the severe 
would increase its fury — all this is in the hand of prov- 
idence. Yet now, even now, I should confide in the 
prevailing virtue, and efficacious operation of lenity, 
• ^:r. Fuller. 



114 EDMUND BURKE. 

though working in darkness, and in chaos, in the midst 
of all this unnatural and turbid combination : I should 
hope it might produce order and beauty in the end. 

Let us, sir, embrace some system or other before we 
end this session. Do you mean to tax America, and to 
draw a productive revenue from thence ? If you do, 
speak out ; name, fix, ascertain, this revenue ; settle 
its quantity ; define its objects ; provide for its collec- 
tion ; and then fight when you have something to fight 
for. If you murder — rob ; if you kill, take possession ; 
and do not appear in the character of madmen, as well 
as assassins, violent, vindictive, bloody, and tyrannical 
without an object. But may better counsels guide you ! 

Again, and again, revert to your old principles — seek 
peace and ensue it — leave America, if she has taxable 
matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into 
the distinctions of rights, not attempting to mark their 
boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical 
distinctions ; I hate the very sound of them. Leave 
the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinc- 
tions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. 
They and we, and their and our ancestors, have been 
happy under that system. Let the memory of all actions, 
in contradiction to that good old mode, on both sides, 
be extinguished for ever. Be content to bind America 
by laws of trade ; you have always done it. Let this 
be your reason for binding their trade. Do not burden 
them by taxes ; you were not used to do so from the 
beginning. Let this be your reason for not taxing. 
These are the arguments of states and kingdoms. Leave 
the rest to the schools ; for there only they may be 
discussed with safety. But if, intemperately, unwisely, 
fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of 
government, by urging subtle deductions, and conse- 
quences odious to those wlio govern, from the unlimited 
and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty you will 
teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself 
in question. When you drive him hard, the boar will 
surely turn upon the hunters. If that sovereignty and 



SELECTIONS. 115 

their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they 
take ? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. 
Nobody will be argued into slavery. Sir, let the gentle- 
men on the other side call forth all their ability ; let the 
best of them get up, and tell me, what one character of 
liberty the Americans have, and what one brand of 
slavery they are free from, if they are bound in their 
poverty and industry, by all the restraints you can 
imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made 
pack-horses of every tax you choose to impose, without 
the least share in granting them. When they bear the 
burdens of unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to 
bear the burdens of unlimited revenue too ? The 
Englishman in America will feel that this is slavery — 
that it is legal slavery will be no compensation, either to 
his feelings or his understanding. 

A noble lord,* who spoke some time ago, is full of the 
fire of ingenious youth ; and when he has modelled the 
ideas of a lively imagination by further experience, he 
will be an ornament to his country in either House. He 
has said that the Americans are our children, and how 
can they revolt against their parent ? He says, that if 
they are not free in their present state, England is not 
free • because Manchester, and other considerable places, 
are not represented. So then, because some towns in 
England are not represented, America is to have no 
representative at all. They are ' our children ' ; but 
when children ask for bread we are not to give a 
stone. Is it because the natural resistance of things, 
and the various mutations of time, hinders our govern- 
ment, or any scheme of government, from being anymore 
than a sort of approximation to the right, is it therefore 
that the colonies are to recede from it infinitely ? When 
this child of ours wishes to assimilate to its parent, and 
to reflect with a true filial resemblance the beauteous 
countenance of British Hberty ; are we to turn to them 
the shameful parts of our constitution ? are we to give 
them our weakness for their strength ? our opprobrium 

♦ Lord Carmarthen. 



ii6 EDMUND BURKE. 

for their glory ; and the slough of slavery, which we are 
not able to work off, to serve them for their freedom ? 

If this be the case, ask yourselves this question, will 
they be content in such a state of slavery ? If not, look 
to the consequences. Reflect how you are to govern a 
people, who think they ought to be free and think they 
are not. Your scheme yields no revenue ; it yields 
nothing but discontent, disorder, disobedience ; and such 
is the state of America, that after wading up to your eyes 
in blood, you could only end just where you begun ; that 
is, to tax where no revenue is to be found, to — ^my voice 
fails me; my incUnation indeed carries me no farther 
— all is confusion beyond it. 

Well, sir, I have recovered a little, and before I sit 
down I must say something to another point with which 
gentlemen urge us. What is to become of the Declaratory 
Act asserting the entireness of British legislative authority, 
if we abandon the practice of taxation ? 

For my part I look upon the rights stated in that act, 
exactly in the manner in which I viewed them on its 
very first proposition, and which I have often taken the 
liberty, with great humility, to lay before you. I look, 
I say, on the imperial rights of Great Britain, and the 
privileges which the colonists ought to enjoy under these 
rights, to be just the most reconcilable things in the 
world. The parUament of Great Britain sits at the head 
of her extensive empire in two capacities : one as the 
local legislature of this island, providing for all things at 
home, immediately, and by no other instrument than the 
executive power. The other, and I think her nobler 
capacity, is what I call her imperial character ; in which, 
as from the throne of heaven, she superintends all the 
several inferior legislatures, and guides and controls 
them all, without annihilating any. As all these pro- 
vincial legislatures are only co-ordinate with each other, 
they ought all to be subordinate to her ; else they can 
neither preserve mutual peace, nor hope for mutual 
justice, nor effectually afford mutual assistance. It is 
necessary to coerce the neghgent, to restrain the violent. 



SELECTIONS. 117 

and to aid the weak and deficient, by the overruHng 
plenitude of her power. She is never to intrude into 
the place of the others, whilst they are equal to the 
common ends of their institution. But in order to enable 
parhament to answer all these ends of provident and 
beneficent superintendence, her powers must be bound- 
less. The gentlemen who think the powers of parlia- 
ment limited, may please themselves to talk of requisi- 
tions. But suppose the requisitions are not obeyed ? 
What ! Shall there be no reserved power in the empire, 
to supply a deficiency which may weaken, divide, and 
dissipate the whole? We are engaged on war — the 
secretary of state calls upon the colonies to contribute — 
some would do it, I think most would cheerfully furnish 
whatever is demanded — one or two, suppose, hang back, 
and, easing themselves, let the stress of the draft lie on 
the others — -surely it is proper that some authority 
might legally say — ' Tax yourselves for the common 
supply, or parliament will do it for you.' This back- 
wardness was, as I am told, the case of Pennsylvania for 
some short time towards the beginning of the last war, 
owing to some internal dissensions in the colony. But 
whetlier the fact were so or otherwise, the case is equally 
to be provided for by a competent sovereign power. 
But then this ought to be no ordinary power ; nor ever 
used in the first instance. This is what I meant, when 
I have said at various times, that I consider the power 
of taxing in parliament as an instrument of empire, and 
not as a means of supply. 

Such, sir, is my idea of the constitution of the British 
empire, as distinguished from the constitution of Britain ; 
and on these grounds I think subordination and liberty 
may be sufficiently reconciled through the whole ; 
whether to serve a refining speculatist, or a factious 
demagogue, I know not ; but enough surely for the ease 
and happiness of man. 

Sir, whilst we held this happy course, we drew more 
from the colonies than all the impotent violence of 
despotism ever could e.xtort froni them. We did this 



Ii8 EDMUND BURKE. 

abundantly in the last war. It has never been once 
denied — and what reason have we to imagine that the 
colonies would not have proceeded in supplying govern- 
ment as liberally, if you had not stepped in and hindered 
them from contributing, by interrupting the channel in 
which their liberality flowed with so strong a course ; 
by attempting to take, instead of being satisfied to 
receive ? Sir William Temple says that Holland has 
loaded itself with ten times the impositions which it 
revolted frorh Spain rather than submit to. He says 
true. Tyranny is a poor provider. It knows neither 
how to accumulate, nor how to extract. 

I charge therefore to this new and unfortunate system 
the loss not only of peace, of union, and of commerce, 
but even of revenue, which its friends are contending for. 
It is morally certain, that we have lost at least a million 
of free grants since the peace. I think we have lost a 
great deal more ; and that those, who look for a revenue 
from the provinces, never could have pursued, even in that 
light, a course more directly repugnant to their^purposes. 

Now, sir, I trust I have shown, first on that narrow 
ground which the honourable gentleman measured, that 
you are likely to lose nothing by complying with the 
motion, except what you have lost already. I have 
shown afterwards that in time of peace you flourished 
in commerce and, when war required it, had sufficient 
aid from the colonies, while you pursued your ancient 
policy ; that you threw everything into confusion when 
you made the Stamp Act ; and that you restored every- 
thing to peace and order when you repealed it. I have 
shown that the revival of the system of taxation has 
produced the very worst effects ; and that the partial 
repeal has produced, not partial good, but universal 
evil. Let these considerations, founded on facts, not 
one of which can be denied, bring us back to our reason 
by the road of our experience. 

I cannot, as I have said, answer for mixed measures : 
but surely this mixture of lenity would give the whole 
a better chance of success. When you once regain con- 



SELECTIONS. 119 

fidence, the way will be clear before you. Then you 
may enforce the act of navigation when it ought to be 
enforced. You will yourselves open it where it ought 
still further to be opened. Proceed in what you do, 
whatever you do, from policy, and not from rancour. 
Let us act like men, let us act like statesmen. Let us 
hold some sort of consistent conduct. — It is agreed that 
a revenue is not to be had in America. If we lose the 
profit, let us get rid of the odium. 

On this business of America, I confess I am serious, 
even to sadness. I have had but one opinion concern- 
ing it since I sat, and before I sat, in parliament. The 
noble lord* will, as usual, probably, attribute the part 
taken by me and my friends in this business to a desire 
of getting his places. Let him enjoy this happy and 
original idea. If I deprived him of it, I should take 
away most of his wit and all his argument. But I had 
rather bear the brunt of all his wit, and indeed blows 
much heavier, than stand answerable to God for em- 
bracing a system that tends to the destructiom of some 
of the very best and fairest of his works. But I know 
the map of England, as well as the noble lord, or as any 
other person ; and I know that the way I take is not 
the road to preferment. My excellent and honourable 
friend under me on the floor t has trod that road with 
great toil for upwards of ^twenty years together. He is 
not yet arrived at the nobl'e lord's destination. However, 
the tracks of my worthy friend are those I have ever 
wished to follow ; because I know they lead to honour. 
Long may we tread the same road together ; whoever 
may accompany us, or whoever may laugh at us on our 
journey ! I honestly and solemnly declare, I have in all 
seasons adhered to the system of 1766, for no other 
reason, than that I think it laid deep in your truest 
interests — and that, by limiting the e.xercise, it fixes, on 
the firmest foundations, a real, consistent well-grounded 
authority in parliament. Until you come back to that 
system, there will be no peace for England. 

* Lord North. t ^Ir. Dowdeswell. 



120 EDMUND BURKE. 

III. 

SPEECH ON CONCILIATION WITH 
AMERICA. 

[March 22, 1775. Of this speech Fox said, twenty 
years after, ' Let gentlemen read this speech by day, and 
meditate upon it by night ; let them peruse it again and 
again, study it, imprint it upon their minds, impress it 
upon their hearts.'] 

I HOPE, sir, that notwithstanding the austerity of the 
Chair, your good-nature will incline you to some degree 
of indulgence towards human frailty. You will not 
think it unnatural that those who have an object depend- 
ing, which strongly engages their hopes and fears, should 
be somewhat inclined to superstition. As I came into 
the House full of anxiety about the event of my motion, 
I found to my infinite surprise, that the grand penal 
bill, by which we had passed sentence on the trade and 
sustenance of America, is to be returned to us from the 
other House.* I do confess, I could not help looking 
on this event as a fortunate omen. I look upon it as a 
sort of providential favour, tjy which we are put once 
more in possession of our deliberative capacity, upon a 
business so very questionable in its nature, so very 
uncertain in its issue. By the return of this bill, which 
seemed to have taken its flight for ever, we are at this 
very instant nearly as free to choose a plan for our 
American government as we were on the first day of the 
session. If, sir, we incline to the side of conciliation, we 

* The act to restrain the trade and commerce of the provinces of 
Massachusett's-Bay and New Hampshire, and colonies of Connecticut 
and Rhode Island, and Providence Plantation, in North America, to 
Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies ; and 
to prohibit such provinces and colonies from carrying on any fishery on 
the banks of NewfoTmdland, and other places therein mentioned, under 
certain cuuditions and limitations. 



SELECTIONS. 121 

are not at all embarrassed (unless we please to make 
ourselves so) by any incongruous mixture of coercion 
and restraint. We are therefore called upon, as it 
were by a superior warning voice, again to attend to 
America ; to attend to the whole of it together ; and to 
review the subject with an unusual degree of care and 
calmness. 

Surely it is an awful subject ; or there is none so 
on this side of the grave. When I first had the honour 
of a seat in this House, the affairs of that continent 
pressed themselves upon us as the most important and 
most delicate object of parliamentary attention. 

My little share in this great deliberation oppressed 
me. I found myself a partaker in a very high trust ; 
and, having no sort of reason to rely on the strength of 
my natural abilities for the proper execution of that 
trust, I was obliged to take more than common pains 
to instruct myself in everything which relates to our 
colonies. I was not less under the necessity of forming 
some fixed ideas concerning the general policy of the 
British empire. Something of this sort seemed to be 
indispensable ; in order, amidst so vast a fluctuation 
of passions and opinions, to concentre my thoughts ; 
to ballast my conduct ; to preserve me from being 
blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine. I 
really did .not think it safe, or manly, to have fresh 
principles to seek upon every fresh mail which should 
arrive from America. 

At that period I had the fortune to iind myself in 
perfect concurrence with a large majority in this House. 
Bowing under that high authority, and j:)enetrated with 
the sharpness and strength of that early imi)ression, I have 
continued ever since, without the least deviation, in my 
original sentiments. Whether this be owing to an ob- 
stinate perseverance in error, or to a religious adherence 
to what appears to me truth and reason, it is in your 
equity to judge. 

Sir, parliament having an enlarged view of objects, 
made, during this interval, more frequent changes in 



122 EDMUND BURKE. 

their sentiments and their conduct, than could be 
justified in a particular person upon the contracted 
scale of private information. But though I do not 
hazard anything approaching to a censure on the motive 
of former parliaments to all those alterations, one fact 
is undoubted, — that under them the state of America 
has been kept in continual agitation. Everything 
administered as remedy to the public complaint, if it 
did not produce, was at least followed by, an heighten- 
ing of the distemper ; until, by a variety of experi- 
ments, that important country has been brought into 
her present situation ; — a situation which I will not 
miscall, which I dare not name ; which I scarcely know 
how to comprehend in the terms of any description. 

In this posture, sir, things stood at the beginning of 
the session. About that time, a worthy member* of 
great parliamentary experience who, in the year 1766, 
filled the chair of the American committee with much 
abihty, took me aside ; and, lamenting the present 
aspect of our politics, told me, things were come to such 
a pass that our former methods of proceeding in the 
House would be no longer tolerated. That the public 
tribunal (never too indulgent to a long and unsuccessful 
opposition) would now scrutinize our conduct with un- 
usual severity. That the very vicissitudes and shiftings 
of ministerial measures, instead of convicting their 
authors of inconstancy and want of system, would be 
taken as an occasion of charging us with a predeter- 
mined discontent, which nothing could satisfy ; whilst 
we accused every measure of vigour as cruel and every 
proposal of lenity as weak and irresolute. The public, 
he said, would not have patience to see us play the game 
out with our adversaries : we must produce our hand. 
It would be expected that those who for many years 
had been active in such affairs should show that they 
had formed some clear and decided idea of the prin- 
ciples of colony government ; and were capable of 
drawing out something like a platform of the ground 
* Mr. Rose Fuller, 



SELECTIONS. 123 

which might be laid for future and permanent tran- 
quiUity. 

I felt the truth of what my hon. friend represented ; 
but I felt my situation too. His application might 
have been made with far greater propriety to many 
other gentlemen. No man was indeed ever better 
disposed, or worse qualified, for such an undertaking, 
than myself. Though I gave so far into his opinion 
that I immediately threw my thoughts into a sort of 
parliamentary form, I was by no means equally ready 
to produce them. It generally argues some degree of 
natural impotence of mind, or some want of knowledge 
of the world, to hazard plans of government except 
from a seat of authority. Propositions are made, not 
only ineffectually, but somewhat disreputably, when 
the minds of men are not properly disposed for their 
reception ; and for my part, I am not ambitious of 
ridicule ; not absolutely a candidate for disgrace. 

Besides, sir, to speak the plain truth, I have in general 
no very exalted opinion of the virtue of paper govern- 
ment ■ nor of any politics in which the plan is to be 
wholly separated from the execution. But when I saw 
that anger and violence prevailed every day more and 
more ; and that things were hastening towards an 
incurable alienation of our colonies ; I confess my 
caution gave way. I felt this, as one of those few 
moments in which decorum yields to a higher duty. 
Public calamity is a mighty leveller ; and there are 
occasions when any, even the slightest, chance of doing 
good must be laid hold on, even by the most incon- 
siderable person. 

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 1 felt myself more firm. I derived, 
at length, some confidence from what in other circum- 
stances usually produces timidity. I grew less anxious, 



124 EDMUND BURKE. 

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 proposi- 
tion because it had nothing but its reason to recommend 
it. On the other hand, being totally destitute of all 
shadow of influence, natural or adventitious, I was 
very sure that, if my proposition were- futile or danger- 
ous, — if it were weakly conceived, 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 through the 
medium of war ; not peace to be hunted through the 
lab3n-inth of intricate and endless negotiations ; not 
peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from 
principle, in all parts of the empire ; not 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 differ- 
ence, and by restoring the former unsuspecting confi- 
dence of the colonies in the mother country, to give perma- 
nent 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 pru- 
riency of curious ears. There is nothing at all new 



SELECTIONS. 125 

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 riband. * 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 the 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 accept- 
ing the resolution moved by the noble lord, has admitted, 
notwithstanding the menacing front of our address, 
notwithstanding our heavy bill of pains and penalties — 
that we do not think ourselves precluded from all ideas 
of free grace and bounty. 

The House has gone farther ; it has declared con- 
ciliation 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 

* 'That when the governor, council, or assembly, or general court, 
of any of his majesty's provinces or colonies in America, shall propose 
to make provision, accordingio the condition, circumstances and situation, 
of such province or colony, for contributing their proportion to the 
common defence (such propartion to be raised under the authority of 
the general court, or general assembly, of such province or colony, and 
disposable bv parliament), and shall engage to make provision also for 
the support of the civil government, and the administration of justice, 
in such province or colony, it will be proper, if such proposal shall be 
approved by his majesty, and the tioo Houses of Parliament, and for so 
long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear, in respect 
of such province or colony, to levy any duty, tax, or assessment, or to 
impose any farther duty, tax, or assessment, except such duties as it 
may be expedient to continue to levy or impose, for the regulation of 
commerce ; the net produce of the duties last mentioned to be carried 
to the accomit of such province or colony respectively.' — Resolution 
moved by Lord North in the committee ; and agreed to by the House, 
27th Feb. 1775. 



126 EDMUND BURKE. 

not wholly unfounded. That right thus exerted is 
allowed to have had 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 re- 
conciliation ; and, where there has been a material 
dispute, reconciliation does in a manner always imply 
concession on the one part or the other. In this state 
of things I make no difficulty in affirming that the 
proposal ought to originate from us. Great and ac- 
knowledged 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 with 
safety. Such an offer from such a power will be at- 
tributed to magnanimity. But the concessions of the 
weak are the concessions of fear. When such a one is 
disarmed he is wholly at the mercy of his superior ; and 
he loses for ever that time and those chances, which, 
as they happen to all men, are the strength and re- 
sources of all inferior power. 

The capital leading questions on which you must 
this day decide, are these two : First, whether you 
ought to concede j and, secondly, what your conces- 
sion ought to be. On the first of these questions we 
have gained (as I have just taken the liberty of observ- 
ing to you) some ground. But I am sensible that a 
good deal more is still to be done. Indeed, sir, to en- 
able us to determine both on the one and the other 



SELECTIONS. 127 

of these great questions with a firm and precise judg- 
ment, I think it may be necessary to consider dis- 
tinctly the true nature and the pecuHar circumstances 
of the object which we have before us. Because after 
all our struggle, whether we will or not, we must govern 
America according to that nature and to those cir- 
cumstances ; and not according to our own imaginations ; 
not 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 en- 
deavour, 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. 

The first thing that we have to consider with regard 
to the nature of the object is — the number of people 
in the colonies. I have taken for some years a good 
deal of pains on that point, I can by no calculation 
justify myself in placing the number below two millions 
of inhabitants of our own European blood and colour ; 
besides at least 500,000 others, who form no inconsider- 
able part of the strength and opulence of the whole. 
This, sir, is, I believe, about the true number. There 
is no occasion to exaggerate, where plain truth is of so 
much weight and importance. But whether I put the 
present numbers too high or too low is a matter of 
little moment. Such is the strength with which popula- 
tion shoots in that part of the world that, state the 
numbers as high as we will, whilst the dispute continues, 
the exaggeration ends. Whilst we are discussing any 
given magnitude, they are grown to it. Whilst we 
spend our time in deliberating on the mode of govern- 
ing two millions, we shall find we have millions more 
to manage. Your children do not grow faster from 
infancy to manhood, than they spread from families to 
communities, and from villages to nations. 

I put this consideration of the present and the grow- 
ing numbers in the front of our deliberation, because, 
sir, this consideration will make it evident to a blunter 



128 EDMUND BURKE. 

discernment than yours, that no partial, narrow, con- 
tracted, pinched, occasional system will be at all suit- 
able to such an object. It will show you that it is not 
to be considered as one of those minima which are out 
of the eye and consideration of the law ; not a paltry 
excrescence of the state ; not a mean dependent, who 
may be neglected with little damage, and provoked 
with little danger. It will prove that some degree of 
care and caution is required in the handling such an 
object ; it wiU show that you ought not, in reason, 
to trifle with so large a mass of the interests and feelings 
of the human race. You could at no time do so with- 
out guilt ; and be assured you will not be able to do it 
long with impunity. 

But the population of this country, the great and 
growing population, though a very important con- 
sideration, will lose much of its weight, if not combined 
with other circumstances. The commerce of your 
colonies is out of all proportion beyond the numbers of 
the people. This ground of their commerce indeed has 
been trod some days ago, and with great ability, by 
a distinguished person,* at your bar. This gentleman, 
after thirty-five years — it is so long since he first ap- 
peared at the same place to plead for the commerce of 
Great Britain — has come again before you to plead the 
same cause, without any other effect of time, than, that 
to the fire of imagination and extent of erudition, which 
even then marked him as one of the first literary char- 
acters of his age, he has added a consummate knowledge 
in the commercial interest of his country, formed by a 
long course of enlightened and discriminating experience. 

Sir, I should be inexcusable in coming after such 
a person with any detail ; if a great part of the mem- 
bers who now fill the House had not the misfortune to 
be absent when he appeared at your bar. Besides, sir, 
I propose to take the matter at periods of time some- 
what different from his. There is, if I mistake not, 
a point of view, from whence if you will look at this 

* Mr. Glover. 



SELECTIONS. 129 

subject, it is impossible that it should not make an 
impression upon you. 

I have in my hand two accounts ; one a comparative 
state of the export trade of England to its colonies, as 
it stood in the year 1704, and as it stood in the year 
1772. The other a state of the export trade of this 
ct)untry to its colonies alone, as it stood in 1772, com- 
pared with the whole trade of England to all parts of 
the world (the colonies included) in the year 1704. 
They are from good vouchers ; the latter period from 
the accounts on your table, the earlier from an original 
manuscript of Davenant, who first established the 
inspector-general's ofhce, which has been ever since 
his time so abundant a source of parhamentary in- 
formation. 

The export trade to the colonies consists of three 
great branches. The African which, terminating almost 
wholly in the colonies, must be put to the account of 
their commerce ; the West Indian ; and the North 
American. All these are so interwoven, that the at- 
tempt to separate them would tear to pieces the con- 
texture of the whole ; and, if not entirely destroy, 
would very much depreciate the value of aU the parts. 
I therefore consider these three denominations to be, 
what in effect they are, one trade. 

The trade to the colonies, taken on the export side, 
at the beginning of this century, that is, in the year 
1704, stood thus : 

Exports to North America, and the West 

Indies £483.265 

To Africa 86,665 



£569,930 



In the year 1772, which I take as a middle year, be- 
tween the highest and lowest of those lately laid on 
your table, the account was as follows : 

5 



I30 EDMUND BURKE. 

To North America and the West Indies . £4,791,734 

To Africa 866,398 

To which if you add the export trade 
from Scotland, which had in 1704 no 
existence .......... 364,000 



£6,022,132 

From five hundred and odd thousand, it has grown 
to six millions. It has increased no less than twelve- 
fold. This is the state of the colony trade, as compared 
with itself at these two periods, within this country ; — 
and this is matter for meditation. But this is not all. 
Examine my second account. See how the export 
trade to the colonies alone in 1772 stood in the other 
point of view, that is, as compared to the whole trade 
of England in 1704. 

The whole export trade of England, in- 
cluding that to the colonies, in 1704 . £6,509,000 
Export to the colonies alone, in 1772 . 6,024,000 

Difference .... £485,000 



The trade with America alone is now within less 
than £500,000 of being equal to what this great com- 
mercial nation, England, carried on at the beginning 
of this century with the whole world ! If I had taken 
the largest year of those on your table, it would rather 
have exceeded. 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 



SELECTIONS. 131 

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 col- 
onies at these two periods : and all reasoning concern- 
ing our mode of treating them must have this propor- 
tion 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 forus to be 
here. We stand where we have an immense view of 
what is and what is past. Clouds indeed, and dark- 
ness, 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 in- 
stance, 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 legeve, 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 ])rosperity, that angel should have drawn up the 
curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country 
and, whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then 
commercial grandeur of England, the genius should 



132 EDMUND BURKE. 

point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the 
mass of the national interest, a small seminal prin- 
ciple, 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 ! 

Excuse me, sir, if, turning from such thoughts, 
I resume this comparative view once more. You have 
seen it on a large scale ; look at it on a small one. 
I will point out to your attention a particular instance 
of it in the single province of Pennsylvania. In the 
year 1704, that province called for £11,459 in value of 
your commodities, native and foreign. This was the 
whole. What did it demand in 1772 ? Why, nearly 
fifty times as much ; for in that year the export to 
Pennsylvania was £507,909, nearly equal to the export 
to all the colonies together in the first period. 

_ I choose, sir, to enter into these minute and par- 
ticular details ; because generahties, which, in all other 
cases are apt to heighten and raise the subject, have 
here a tendency to sink it. When we speak of the 
commerce with our colonies, fiction lags after truth ; 
invention is unfruitful, and imagination cold and barren! 

_ So far, sir, as to the importance of the object in the 
view of its commerce, as concerned in the exports from 



SELECTIONS. 133 

England. If I were to detail the imports, I could show 
how many enjoyments they procure, which deceive the 
burden of life ; how many materials which invigorate 
the springs of national industry, and extend and 
animate every part of our foreign and domestic com- 
merce. This would be a curious subject indeed— but 
I must prescribe bounds to myself in a matter so vast 
and various. 

I pass therefore to the colonies in another point of 
view, their agriculture. This they have prosecuted 
with such a spirit, that, besides feeding plentifully their 
own growing multitude, their annual export of grain, 
comprehending rice, has some years ago exceeded 
a million in value. Of their late harvest, I am per- 
suaded, they will export much more. At the beginning 
of the century some of those colonies imported corn 
from the mother country. For some time past, the old 
world has been fed from the new. The scarcity which 
you have felt would have been a desolating famine, if 
this child of your old age, with a true filial piety, with 
a Roman charity, had not put the full breast of its 
youthful exuberance to the mouth of its exhausted 
parent. 

As to the wealth which the colonies have drawn 
from the sea by your fisheries, you had all that matter 
fully opened at your bar. You surely thought those 
acquisitions of value, for they seemed even to excite 
your envy ; and yet the spirit by which that enter- 
prising employment has been exercised ought rather, 
in my opinion, to have raised your esteem and admira- 
tion. And pray, sir, what in the world is equal to it ? 
Pass by the other parts, and look at the manner in 
which the people of New England have of late carried 
on the whale fishery. Whilst we follow them among 
the tumbling mountains of ice, and behold them pene- 
trating into the dec])est frozen recesses of Hudson's 
Bay and Davis's Straits, whilst we are looking for them 
beneath the arctic circle, we hear that they have 
pierced into the opposite region of polar cold, that 



134 EDMUND BURKE. 

they are at the antipodes, and engaged under the frozen 
serpent of the south. Falkland Island, which seemed 
too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of 
national ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in 
the progress of their victorious industry. Nor is the 
equinoctial heat more discouraging to them than the 
accumulated winter of both the poles. We know that 
whilst some of them draw the line and strike the har- 
poon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude 
and pursue their gigantic game along the coast of 
Brazil. No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries. No 
climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the 
perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, 
nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enter- 
prise, ever carried this most perilous mode of hard 
industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by 
this recent people ; a people who are still, as it were, 
but in the gristle and not yet hardened into the bone 
of manhood. When I contemplate these things ; when 
I know that the colonies in general owe little or nothing 
to any care of ours, and that they are not squeezed into 
this happy form by the constraints of watchful and 
suspicious government, but that, through a wise and 
salutary neglect, a generous nature has been suffered 
to take her own way to perfection ; when I reflect upon 
these effects, when I see how profitable they have been 
to us, I feel all the pride of power sink and all pre- 
sumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt 
and die away within me. My rigour relents. I pardon 
something to the spirit of liberty. 

I am sensible, sir, that all which I have asserted in 
my detail is admitted in the gross ; but that quite 
a different conclusion is drawn from it. America, 
gentlemen say, is a noble object. It is an object well 
worth fighting for. Certainly it is, if fighting a people 
be the best way of gaining them. Gentlemen in this 
respect will be led to their choice of means by their 
complexions and their habits. Those who understand 
the military art v\dU of course have some predilection 



SELECTIONS. 135 

for it. Those who wield the thunder of the state may 
have more confidence in the efficacy of arms. But 
I confess, possibly for want of this knowledge, my 
opinion is much more in favour of prudent manage- 
ment, than of force ; considering force not as an 
odious, but a feeble instrument for preserving a people 
so numerous, so active, so growing, so spirited as this, 
in a profitable and subordinate connexion with us. 

First, sir, permit me to observe that the use of force 
alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment ; 
but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again : 
and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be 
conquered. 

My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not 
always the effect of force ; and an armament is not 
a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without 
resource ; for, conciliation failing, force remains ; but, 
force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. 
Power and authority are sometimes bought by kindness ; 
but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished 
and defeated violence. 

A further objection to force is, that you impair the 
object by your very endeavours to preserve it. The 
thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover ; 
but depreciated, sunk, wasted, and consumed in the 
contest. Nothing less will content me, than whole 
America. I do not choose to consume its strength 
along with our own ; because in all parts it is the 
British strength that I consume. I do not choose to 
be caught by a foreign enemy at the end of this ex- 
hausting conflict ; and still less in the midst of it. 
I may escape ; but I can make no insurance against 
such an event. Let me add that I do not choose wholly 
to break the American spirit ; because it is the spirit 
that has made the country. 

Lastly, we have no sort of experience in favour of 
force as an instrument in the rule of our colonies. 
Their growth and their utility has been owing to method 
altogether different. Our ancient indulgence has been 



136 EDMUND BURKE. 

said to be pursued to a fault. It may be so. But 
we know, if feeling is evidence, that our fault was more 
tolerable than our attempt to mend it ; and our sin 
far more salutary than our penitence. 

These, sir, are my reasons for not entertaining that 
high opinion of untried force, by which many gentle- 
men, for whose sentiments in other particulars I have 
great respect, seeni to be so greatly captivated. But 
there is still behind a third consideration concerning 
this object, which serves to determine my opinion on 
the sort of policy which ought to be pursued in the 
management of America, even more than its population 
and its commerce, I mean its temper and character. 

In this character of the Americans, a love of freedom 
is the predominating feature which marks and distin- 
guishes the whole : and as an ardent is always a jealous 
affection, your colonies become suspicious, restive, and 
untractable, whenever they see the least attempt to 
wrest from them by force, or shuffle from them by 
chicane, what they think the only advantage worth 
living for. This fierce spirit of Hberty is stronger in 
the English colonies probably than in any other 
people of the earth ; and this from a great variety 
of powerful causes ; which, to understand the true 
temper of their minds, and the direction which this 
spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat 
more largely. 

First, the people of the colonies are descendants of 
Englishmen. England, sir, is a nation, which still I 
hope respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The 
colonists emigrated from you when this part of your 
character was most predominant; and they took this 
bias and direction the moment they parted from your 
hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, 
but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English 
principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstrac- 
tions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some 
sensible object ; and every nation has formed to itself 
some favourite point, which by way of eminence be- 



SELECTIONS. i37 

comes the criterion of their happiness. It happened, 
you know, sir, that the great contests for freedom in 
this country were from the earUest times chiefly upon 
the question of taxing. Most of the contests in the 
ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right 
of election of magistrates ; or on the balance among 
the several orders of the state. The question of money 
was not with them so immediate. But in England it 
was othervase. On this point of taxes the ablest pens, 
and most eloquent tongues, have been exercised ; the 
greatest spirits have acted and suffered. In order to 
give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance 
of this point, it Was not only necessary for those who 
in argument defended the excellence of the English 
constitution, to insist on this privilege of granting 
money as a dry point of fact, and to prove that the 
right had been acknowledged in ancient parchments, 
and blind usages, to reside in a certain body called 
a House of Commons. They went much farther ; 
they attempted to prove, and they succeeded, that in 
theory it ought to be so, from the particular nature of 
a House of Commons, as an immediate representative 
of the people ; whether the old records had delivered 
this oracle or not. They took infinite pains to in- 
culcate, as a fundamental principle, that in all mon- 
archies the people must in effect themselves, mediately 
or immediately, possess the power of granting their 
own money, or no shadow of liberty could subsist. 
The colonies draw from you, as with their life-blood, 
these ideas and principles. Their love of liberty, as 
with you, fixed and attached on this specific point of 
taxing. Liberty might be safe, or might be endangered 
in twenty other particulars, without their being much 
pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse ; and as 
they found that beat, they thought themselves sick 
or sound. I do not say whether they were right or 
wrong in applying your general arguments to their own 
case. It is not easy indeed to make a monopoly of 
theorems and corollaries. The fact is, that they did 



138 EDMUND BURKE. 

thus apply those general arguments ; and your mode 
of governing them, whether through lenity or indolence, 
through wisdom or mistake, confirmed them in the 
imagination, that they, as well as you, had an interest 
in these common principles. 

They were further confirmed in this pleasing error 
by the form of their provincial legislative assemblies. 
Their governments are popular in an high degree : 
some are merely popular ; in all, the popular repre- 
sentative is the most weighty ; and this share of the 
people in their ordinary government never fails to 
inspire them with lofty sentiments, and with a strong 
aversion from whatever tends to deprive them of their 
chief importance. 

If anything were wanting to this necessary operation 
of the form of government, religion would have given 
it a complete effect. Religion, always a principle of 
energy, in this new people is no way worn out or 
impaired ; and their mode of professing it is also one 
main cause of this free spirit. The people are pro- 
testants, and of that kind which is the most adverse 
to all implicit submission of mind and opinion. This 
is a persuasion not only favourable to liberty, but 
built upon it. I do not think, sir, that the reason of 
this averseness in the dissenting churches, from all that 
looks like absolute government, is so much to be 
sought in their religious tenets, as in their history. 
Everyone knows that the Roman Catholic religion is 
at least coeval with most of the governments where it 
prevails ; that it has generally gone hand in hand with 
them, and received great favour and every kind of 
support from authority. The Church of England too 
was formed from her cradle under the nursing care of 
regular government. But the dissenting interests have 
sprung up in direct opposition to all the ordinary 
powers of the world, and could justify that opposition 
only on a strong claim to natural liberty. Their very 
existence depended on the powerful and unremitted 
assertion of that claim. All protestantism, even the 



SELECTIONS. i39 

most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the 
religion most prevalent in our northern colonies is 
a refinement on the principle of resistance : it is the 
dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the Pro- 
testant religion. This religion, under a variety of 
denominations agreeing in nothing but in the com- 
munion of the spirit of liberty, is predominant in most 
of the northern provinces, where the Church of Eng- 
land, notwithstanding its legal rights, is in reahty no 
more than a sort of private sect, not composing, most 
probably, the tenth of the people. The colonists left 
England when this spirit was high, and in the emigrants 
was the highest of all ; and even that stream of 
foreigners which has been constantly flowing into these 
colonies, has, for the greatest part, been composed of 
dissenters from the establishments of their several 
countries, and have brought with them a temper and 
character far from alien to that of the people with whom 
they mixed. 

Sir, I can perceive, by their manner, that some gentle- 
men object to the latitude of this description, because in 
the southern colonies the Church of England forms a large 
body, and has a regular estabhshment. It is certainly 
true. There is, however, a circumstance attending these 
colonies, which, in my opinion, fully counterbalances this 
difference, and makes the spirit of liberty still more high 
and haughty than in those to the northward. It is, that 
in Virginia and the Carolinas they have a vast multitude 
of slaves. Where this is the case in any part of the world, 
those who.'are free are by far the most proud and jealous of 
their freedom. Freedom to them is not only an enjoy- 
ment, but a kind of rank and privilege. Not seeing there 
that freedom as in countries where it is a common blesshig, 
and as broad and general as the air, may be united 
with much object toil, with great misery, with all the 
exterior of servitude, liberty looks, amongst them, like 
something that is more noble and liberal. I do not 
mean, sir, to commend the superior morality of this senti- 
ment, which has at least as much pride as virtue in it ; 



140 EDMUND BURKE. 

but I cannot alter the nature of man. The fact is so ; 
and these people of the southern colonies are much more 
strongly, and with an higher and more stubborn spirit, 
attached to liberty, than those to the northward. Such 
were all the ancient commonwealths ; such were our 
Gothic ancestors ; such in our days were the Poles ; and 
such will be all masters of slaves, who are not slaves them- 
selves. In such a people, the haughtiness of domination 
combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it, and 
renders it invincible. 

Permit me, sir, to add another circumstance in our 
colonies, which contributes no mean part toward the 
growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean 
their education. In no country perhaps in the world 
is the law so general a study. The profession itself is 
numerous and powerful, and in most provinces it takes 
the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to 
the congress were lawyers. But all who read, and most 
do read, endeavour to obtain some smattering in that 
science. I have been told by an eminent bookseller, 
that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular 
devotion, were so many books as those on the law 
exported to the plantations. The colonists have now 
fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. 
I hear that they have sold nearly as many of ' Black- 
stone's Commentaries ' in America as in England. 
General Gage marks out this disposition very par- 
ticularly in a letter on your table. He states, that all 
the people in his government are lawyers, or smatterers 
in law ; and that in Boston they have been enabled, by 
successful chicane, wholly to evade many parts of one 
of your capital penal constitutions. The smartness of 
debate will say, that this knowledge ought to teach 
them more clearly the rights of legislature, their obhga- 
tions to obedience, and the penalties of rebellion. All 
this is mighty well. But my honourable and learned 
friend * on the floor, who condescends to mark out what 
I say for animadversion, will disdain that ground. He 
* The Attorney-general. 



SELECTIONS. 141 

has heard, as well as I, that when great honours and 
great emoluments do not win over this knowledge to 
the service of the state, it is a formidable adversary to 
government. If the spirit be not tamed and broken 
by these happy methods, it is stubborn and htigious. 
Abeunt studia in mores. This study renders men acute, 
inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in 
defence, full of resources. In other countries, the 
people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge 
of an ill principle in government only by an actual 
grievance ; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of 
the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the 
principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance, 
and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted 
breeze. 

The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the colonies 
is hardly less powerful than the rest, as it is not merely 
moral, but laid deep in the natural constitution of 
things. Three thousand miles of ocean lie between 
you and them. No contrivance can prevent the effect 
of this distance in weakening government. Seas roll, 
and months pass, between the order and the execution ; 
and the want of a speedy explanation of a single point 
is enough to defeat a whole system. You have, indeed, 
winged ministers of vengeance, who carry your bolts 
in their pounces to the remotest verge of the sea : but 
there a power steps in, that limits the arrogance of 
raging passions and furious elements, and says, ' So far 
Shalt thou go, and no farther.' Who are you, that 
should fret and rage and bite the chains of nature ? 
Nothing worse happens to you than does to all nations 
who have extensive empire, and it happens in all the 
forms into which empire can be thrown. In large 
bodies, the circulation of power must be less vigorous 
at the extremities. Nature has said it. The Turk 
cannot govern Egypt, and Arabia, and Curdistan, as 
lie governs Thrace ; nor has he the same dominion in 
Crimea and Algiers, which he has at Brusa and Smyrna. 
Despotism itself is obliged to truck and huckster. The 



142 EDMUND BURKE. 

Sultan gets such obedience as he can. He governs with 
a loose rein, that he may govern at all ; and the whole 
of the force and vigour of his authority in his centre 
is derived from a prudent relaxation in all his borders. 
Spain, in her provinces, is perhaps not so well obeyed 
as you are in yours. She complies too : she submits ; 
she watches times. This is the immutable condition, the 
eternal law, of extensive and detached empire. 

Then, sir, from these six capital sources 5 of descent ; 
of form of government ; of religion in the northern 
provinces ; of manners in the southern ; of education ; 
of the remoteness of situation from the first mover of 
government ; from all these causes a fierce spirit of 
liberty has grown up. It has grown with the growth 
of the people in your colonies, and increased with the 
increase of their wealth ; a spirit that, unhappily meeting 
with an exercise of power in England, which, however 
lawful, is not reconcilable to any ideas of liberty, much 
less with theirs, has kindled this flame that is ready 
to consume us. 

I do not mean to commend either the spirit in this 
excess, or the moral causes which produce it. Perhaps 
a more smooth and accommodating spirit of freedom 
in them would be more acceptable to us. Perhaps 
ideas of liberty might be desired, more reconcilable 
with an arbitrary and boundless authority. Perhaps 
we might wish the colonists to be persuaded that th-eir 
liberty is more secure when held in trust for them by us 
(as their guardians during a perpetual minority) than 
with any part of it in their own hands. The question 
is, not whether their spirit deserves praise or blame, 
but, — what, in the name of God, shall we do with it ? 
You have before you the object ; such as it is, with 
all its glories, with all its imperfections on its head. 
You see the magnitude ; the importance ; the temper ; 
the habits ; the disorders. By all these considerations 
we are strongly urged to determine something con- 
cerning it. We are called upon to fix some rule and line 
for our future conduct, which may give a little stabiUty 



SELECTIONS. i43 

to our politics, and prevent the return of such unhappy 
dehberations as the present. Every such return will 
bring the matter before us in a still more untractable 
form. For what astonishing and incredible things 
have we not seen already ! What monsters have not 
been generated from this unnatural contention ! Whilst 
every principle of authority and resistance has beep 
pushed, upon both sides, as far as it would go, there is 
nothing so solid and certain, either in reasoning or in 
practice, that has not been shaken. Until very lately, 
all authority in America seemed to be nothing but an 
emanation from yours. Even the popular part of the 
colony constitution derived all its activity, and its 
first vital movement, from the pleasure of the crown. 
We thought, sir, that the utmost which the discon- 
tented colonists could do, was to disturb authority ; 
we never dreamt they could of themselves supply it ; 
knowing in general what an operose business it is to 
establish a government absolutely new. But having, 
for our purposes in this contention, resolved, that none 
but an obedient assembly should sit ; the humours of 
the people there, finding all passage through the legal 
channel stopped, with great violence broke out another 
way. Some provinces have tried their experiment, as 
we have tried ours ; and theirs has succeeded. They 
have formed a government sufhcient for its purposes, 
without the bustle of a revolution, or the troublesome 
formality of an election. Evident necessity, and tacit 
consent, have done the business in an instant. So well 
they have done it, that Lord Dunmore (the account is 
among the fragments on your table,) tells you, that the 
new institution is infinitely better obeyed than the 
ancient government ever was in its most fortunate 
periods. Obedience is what makes government, and 
not the names by which it is called ; not the name of 
governor, as formerly, or committee, as at present. This 
new government has originated directly from the people ; 
and was not transmitted through any of the ordinary 
artificial media of a positive constitution. It was not 



144 EDMUND BURKE, 

a manufacture ready formed, and transmitted to them 
in that condition from England. The evil arising from 
hence is this ; that the colonists having once found 
the possibility of enjoying the advantages of order in 
the midst of a straggle for liberty, such struggles will 
not henceforward seem so terrible to the settled and 
sober part oi mankind as they had appeared before 
the trial. 

Pursuing the same plan of punishing by the denial 
of the exercise of government to still greater lengths, 
we wholly abrogated the ancient government of Massa- 
chusett. We were confident that the first feehng, if 
not the very prospect of anarchy, would instantly 
enforce a complete submission. The experiment was 
tried. A new, strange, unexpected face of things ap- 
peared. Anarchy is found tolerable, A vast province 
has now subsisted, and subsisted in a considerable 
degree of health and vigour, for near a twelvemonth, with- 
out governor, without public council, without judges, 
wishout executive magistrates. How long it will con- 
tinue in this state, or what may arise out of this unheard- 
of situation, how can the wisest of us conjecture ? Our 
late experience has taught us that many of those funda- 
mental principles, formerly beHeved infallible, are 
either not of the importance they were imagined to be ; 
or that we have not at all adverted to some other far 
more important, and far more powerful principles, 
which entirely overrule those we had considered as 
omnipotent. I am much against any further experi- 
ments which tend to put to the proof any more of these 
allowed opinions, which contribute so much to the 
public tranquillity. In effect, we suffer as much at 
home by this loosening of all ties, and this concussion 
of all estabhshed opinions, as we do abroad. For, 
in order to prove that the Americans have no right to 
their liberties, we are every day endeavouring to sub- 
vert the maxims which preserve the whole spirit of 
our own. To prove that the Americans ought not to 
be free, we are obliged to depreciate the value of freedom 



SELECTIONS. i45 

itself ; and we never seem to gain a paltry advantage 
over them in debate, without attacking some of those 
principles, or deriding some of those feelings, for which 
our ancestors have shed their blood. 

But, sir, in wishing to put an end to pernicious ex- 
periments, I do not mean to preclude the fullest inquiry. 
Far from it. Far from deciding on a sudden or partial 
view, I would patiently go round and round the subject, 
and survey it minutely in every possible aspect. Sir, 
if I were capable of engaging you to an equal attention, 
I would state that, as far as I am capable of discerning, 
there are but three ways of proceeding relative to this 
stubborn spirit, which prevails in your colonies, and 
disturbs your government. These are — to change that 
spirit, as inconvenient, by removing the causes.^ To 
prosecute it as criminal. Or, to comply with it as 
necessary. I would not be guilty of an imperfect 
enumeration ; I can think of but these three. Another 
has indeed been started, that' of giving up the colonies ; 
but it met so slight a reception, that 1 do not think 
myself obliged to dwell a great while upon it. It is 
nothing but a little sally of anger, like the frowardness 
of peevish children ; who, when they cannot get all 
they would have, are resolved to take nothing. 

The first of these plans, to change the spirit as in- 
convenient, by removing the causes, I think is the most 
systematic proceeding. It is radical in its principle » 
but it is attended with great difficulties ; some of them 
little short, as I conceive, of impossibilities. This will 
appear by examining into the plans which have been 
proposed. 

As the growing population of the colonies is evidently 
one cause of their resistance, it was last session men- 
tioned in both Houses, by men of weight, and received 
not without applause, that, in order to check this evil, 
it would be proper for the crown to make no further 
grants of land. But to this scheme there are two 
objections. The first, that there is already so much 
unsettled land in private hands, as to afford room for 



146 EDMUND BURKE. 

an immense future population, although the crown not 
only withheld its grants, but annihilated its soil. If 
this be the case, then the only effect of this avarice 
of desolation, this hoarding of a royal wilderness, 
would be to raise the value of the possessions in the 
hands of the great private monopolists, without any 
adequate check to the growing and alarming mischief 
of population. 

But if you stopped your grants, what would be 
the consequence ? The people would occupy without 
grants. They have already so occupied in many places. 
You cannot station garrisons in every part of these 
deserts. If you drive the people from one place, they 
will carry on their annual tillage, and remove with 
their flocks and herds to another. Many of the people 
in the back settlements are already httle attached to 
particular situations. Already they have topped the 
Apalachian mountains. From thence they behold 
before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level 
meadow : a square of five hundred miles. Over this 
they would wander without a possibility of restraint ; 
they \yould change their manners with the habits of 
their life ; would soon forget a government by which 
they were disowned ; would become hordes of English 
Tartars ; and, pouring down upon your unfortified 
frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry, become masters 
of your governors and your counsellors, your collectors 
and comptrollers, and of all the slaves that adhered to 
them. Such would, and, in no long time, must be, the 
effect of attempting to forbid as a crime, and to suppress 
as an evil, the command and blessing of Providence, 
* Increase and multiply.' Such would be the happy 
result of an endeavour to keep as a lair of wild beasts, 
that earth, which God, by an express charter, has given 
to the children of men. Far different, and surely much 
wiser, has been our poHcy hitherto. Hitherto we have 
invited our people, by every kind of bounty, to fixed 
estabhshments. We have invited the husbandman to 
look to authority for his title. We have taught him 



SELECTIONS. I47 

piously to believe in the mysterious virtue of wax 
and parchment. We have thrown each tract of land, 
as it was peopled, into districts : that the ruling power 
should never be wholly out of sight. We have settled 
all we could; and we have carefully attended every 
settlement with government. 

Adhering, sir. as I do, to this pohcy, as well as for 
the reasons I have just given, I think this new project 
of hedging-in population to be neither prudent nor 
practicable. 

To impoverish the colonies in general, and in parti- 
cular to arrest the noble course of their marine enter- 
prises, would be a more easy task. I freely confess it. 
We have shown a disposition to a system of this kind ; 
a disposition even to continue the restraint after the 
offence ; looking on ourselves as rivals to our colonies, 
and persuaded that of course we must gain all that 
they shall lose. Much mischief we may certainly do. 
The power inadequate to all other things is often more 
than sufficient for this. I do not look on the direct 
and immediate power of the colonies to resist our 
violence as very formidable. In this, however, I may 
be mistaken. But when I consider, that we have 
colonies for no purpose but to be serviceable to us, 
it seems to my poor understanding, a httle prepos- 
terous, to make them unserviceable, in order to keep 
them obedient. It is, in truth, nothing more than 
the old, and, as I thought, exploded problem of tyranny, 
which proposes to beggar its subjects into submission. 
But remember, when you have completed your system 
of impoverishment, that nature still proceeds in her 
ordinary course ; that discontent will increase with 
misery; and that there are critical moments in the 
fortune of all states, when they who are too weak to 
contribute to your prosperity, may be strong enough 
to complete your ruin. Spoliatis arma sHpcrsimt. 

The temper and character which prevail in our colonies 
are, I am afraid, unalterable by any human art. We 
cannot, I fear, falsify the pedigree of this fierce people, 



148 EDMUND BURKE. 

and persuade them that they are not sprung from a 
nation in whose veins the blood of freedom circulates. 
The language in which they would hear you tell them 
this tale would detect the imposition ; your speech would 
betray you. An Englishman is the unfittest person on 
earth to argue another Englishman into slavery. 

I think it is nearly as little in our power to change 
their republican religion, as their free descent ; or to 
substitute the Roman Catholic, as a penalty ; or the 
Church of England, as an improvement. The mode of 
inquisition and dragooning is going out of fashion in 
the old world ; and I should not confide much to their 
efficacy in the new. The education of the Americans 
is also on the same unalterable bottom with their re- 
ligion. You cannot persuade them to burn their books 
of curious science ; to banish their lawyers from the 
courts of law ; or to quench the lights of their assem- 
bhes, by refusing to choose those persons who are best 
read in their privileges. It would be no less impracti- 
cable to think of wholly annihilating the popular assem- 
blies, in which these lawyers sit. The army, by which 
we must govern in their place, would be far more charge- 
able to us ; not quite so effectual ; and perhaps, in 
the end, full as difficult to be kept in obedience. 

With regard to the high aristocratic spirit of Virginia 
and the southern colonies, it has been proposed, I know, 
to reduce it, by declaring a general enfranchisement of 
their slaves. This project has had its advocates and 
panegyrists ; yet I never could argue myself into any 
opinion of it. Slaves are often much attached to their 
masters. A general wild offer of liberty would not 
always be accepted. History furnishes few instances 
of it. It is sometimes as hard to persuade slaves to be 
free, as it is to compel freemen to be slaves ; and in 
this auspicious scheme, we should have both these 
pleasing tasks on our hands at once. But when we talk 
of enfranchisement, do we not perceive that the American ' 
master may enfranchise too, and arm servile hands in 
defence of freedom ? A measure to which other people 



SELECTIONS. 149 

have had recourse more than once, and not without 
success, in a desperate situation of their affairs. 

Slaves as these unfortunate black people are, and 
dull as all men are from slavery, must they not a httle 
suspect the offer of freedom from that very nation which 
has sold them to their present masters ? From that 
nation, one of whose causes of quarrel with those masters 
is their refusal to deal any more in that inhuman traffic ? 
An offer of freedom from England would come rather 
oddly shipped to them in an African vessel, which is 
refused an entry into the ports of Virginia or Carolina, 
with a cargo of three hundred Angola negroes. It 
would be curious to see the Guinea captain attempt- 
ing at the same instant to publish his proclamation of 
liberty, and to advertise his sale of slaves. 

But let us suppose all these moral difficulties got over. 
The ocean remains. You cannot pump this dry ; and 
as long as it continues in its present bed, so long all the 
causes which weaken authority by distance will continue. 
' Ye gods, annihilate but space and time, and make 
two lovers happy ! ' — was a pious and passionate prayer ; 
— but just as reasonable as many of the serious wishes 
of very grave and solemn politicians. 

If then, sir, it seems almost desperate to think of 
any alternative course, for changing the moral causes 
(and not quite easy to remove the natural) which pro- 
duce prejudices irreconcilable to the late exercise of 
our authority ; but that the spirit infallibly will con- 
tinue ; and, continuing, will produce such effects, as 
now embarrass us ; the second mode under considera- 
tion is, to prosecute that spirit in its overt acts, as 
criminal. 

At this proposition I must pause a moment. The 
thing seems a great deal too big for my ideas of juris- 
prudence. It should seem, to my way of conceiving 
such matters, that there is a very wide difference in 
reason and policy, between the mode of proceeding on 
the irregular conduct of scattered individuals, or even 
of bands of men, who disturb order within the state, 



150 EDMUND BURKE. 

and the civil dissensions which may, from time to time, 
on great questions, agitate the several communities 
which compose a great empire. It looks to me to be 
narrow and pedantic, to apply the ordinary ideas of 
criminal justice to this great public contest. I do not 
know the method of drawing up an indictment against 
an whole people, I cannot insult and ridicule the 
feelings of milHons of my fellow-creatures, as Sir Edward 
Coke insulted one excellent individual (Sir Walter 
Raleigh) at the bar, I am not ripe to pass sentence on 
the gravest public bodies, entrusted with magistracies 
of great authority and dignity, and charged with the 
safety of their fellow-citizens, upon the very same title 
that I am. I really think, that for wise men this is not 
judicious ; for sober men, not decent ; for minds tinc- 
tured with humanity, not mild and merciful. 

Perhaps, sir, I am mistaken in my idea of an empire, 
as distinguished from a single state or kingdom. But 
my idea of it is this ; that an empire is the aggregate 
of many states under one common head ; whether this 
head be a monarch, or a presiding republic. It does, 
in such constitutions, frequently happen (and nothing 
but the dismal, cold, dead uniformity of servitude can 
prevent its happening) that the subordinate parts have 
many local privileges and immunities. Between these 
privileges and the supreme common authority the line 
may be extremely nice. Of course disputes, often too, 
very bitter disputes, and much ill blood, will arise. 
But though every privilege is an exemption (in the 
case) from the ordinary exercise of the supreme authority, 
it is no denial of it. The claim of a privilege seems 
rather, ex vi termini, to imply a superior power. For 
to talk of the privileges of a state, or of a person, who 
has no superior, is j^hardly any better than speaking 
nonsense. Now, in such unfortunate quarrels among 
the component parts of a great political union of com- 
munities, I can scarcely conceive anything more com- 
pletely imprudent, than for the head of the empire to 
insist that, if any privilege is pleaded against his will. 



SELECTIONS. 151 

or his acts, his whole authority is denied ; instantly 
to proclaim rebellion, to beat to arms, and to put the 
offending provinces under the ban. Will not this, sir, 
very soon teach the provinces to make no distinctions 
on their part ? Will it not teach them that the govern- 
ment, against which a claim of hberty is tantamount to 
high treason, is a government to which submission _ is 
equivalent to slavery ? It may not always be quite 
convenient to impress dependent communities with 
such an idea. 

We are, indeed, in all disputes with the colonies, by 
the necessity of things, the judge. It is true, sir. But 
I confess, that the character of judge in my own cause 
is a thing that frightens me. Instead of filling me with 
pride, I am exceedingly humbled by it. I cannot pro- 
ceed with a stern, assured, judicial confidence, until I 
find myself in something more hke a judicial character. 
I must have these hesitations as long as I am compelled 
to recollect, that, in my little reading upon such con- 
tests as these, the sense of mankind has, at least, as 
often decided against the superior as the subordinate 
power. Sir, let me add too, that the opinion of my 
having some abstract right in my favour would not put 
me much at my ease in passing sentence ; unless I could 
be sure, that there were no rights which, in their exer- 
cise under certain circumstances, were not the most 
odious of all wrongs, and the most vexatious of all 
injustice. Sir, these considerations have great weight 
with me, when I find things so circumstanced, that 
I see the same party, at once a civil litigant against 
me in point of right, and a culprit before mc ; while 
I sit as criminal judge, on acts of his, whose moral 
quality is to be decided upon the merits of that very 
litigation. Men are every now and then put, by the 
complexity of human affairs, into strange situations ; 
but justice is the same, let the judge be in what situa- 
tion he will. 

There is, sir, also a circumstance which convinces me 
that tliis mode of criminal proceeding is not (at least 



152 EDMUND BURKE. 

in the present stage of our contest) altogether expedi- 
ent ; which is nothing less than the conduct of those 
very persons who have seemed to adopt that mode, 
by lately declaring a rebellion in Massachusett's Bay, 
as they had formerly addressed to have traitors brought 
hither, under an act of Henry VIII, for trial. For 
though rebellion is declared, it is not proceeded against 
as such ; nor have any steps been taken towards the 
apprehension or conviction of any individual offender, 
either on our late or our former address ; but modes of 
public coercion have been adopted, and such as have 
much more resemblance to a sort of qualified hostility 
towards an independent power than the punishment 
of rebellious subjects. All this seems rather incon- 
sistent ; but it shows how difficult it is to apply these 
judicial ideas to our present case. 

In this situation, let us seriously and coolly ponder. 
What is it we have got by all our menaces, which have 
been many and ferocious ? What advantage have we 
derived from the penal laws we have passed, and which, 
for the time, have been severe and numerous ? What 
advances have we made towards our object, by the send- 
ing of a force, which, by land and sea, is no contempt- 
ible strength ? Has the disorder abated ? Nothing 
less. — When I see things in this situation, after such 
confident hopes, bold promises, and active exertions, 
I cannot, for my life, avoid a suspicion, that the plan 
itself is not correctly right. 

If then the removal of the causes of this spirit of 
American liberty be, for the greater part, or rather 
entirely, impracticable ; if the ideas of criminal process 
be inapplicable, or if applicable, are in the highest 
degree inexpedient ; what way yet remains ? No way 
is open, but the third and last — to comply with the 
American spirit as necessary ; or, if you please, to 
submit to it as a necessary evil. 

If we adopt this mode ; if we mean to conciliate and 
concede ; let us see of what nature the concession 
ought to be : to ascertain the nature of our concession. 



SELECTIONS. i53 

we must look at their complaint. The colonies com- 
plain, that they have not the characteristic mark and 
seal of British freedom. They complain, that they are 
taxed in a parliament in which they are not repre- 
sented. If you mean to satisfy them at all, you must 
satisfy them with regard to this complaint. If you 
mean to please any people, you must give them the 
boon which they ask ; not what you may think better 
for them, but of a kind totally different. Such an act 
may be a wise regulation, but it is no concession ; 
whereas our present theme is the mode of giving 
satisfaction. 

Sir, I think you must perceive, that I am resolved this 
day to have nothing at all to do with the question of 
the right of taxation. Some gentlemen startle — but 
it is true * I put it totally out of the question. It is 
less than nothing in my consideration. I do not indeed 
wonder, nor will you, sir, that gentlemen of profound 
learning are fond of displaying it on this profound sub- 
ject. But my consideration is narrow, confined, and 
wholly limited to the policy of the question. I do not 
examine, whether the giving away a man's money be 
a power excepted and reserved out of the general trust 
of government ; and how far all mankind, in all forms 
of polity, are entitled to an exercise of that right by 
the charter of nature. Or whether, on the contrary, 
a right of taxation is necessarily involved in the general 
principle of legislation, and inseparable from the ordin- 
ary supreme ]x)wer. These are deep questions, where 
great names militate against each other ; where reason 
is perplexed ; and an appeal to authorities only thickens 
the confusion. For high and reverend authorities hft 
up their heads on both sides ; and there is no sure footing 
in the middle. This point is the great Serbonian bog, 
betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old, where armies 
whole have sunk. I do not intend to be overwhelmed 
in that bog, though in such respectable cojnpany. The 
question with me is, not whether you have a right to 
render your people miserable ; but whether it is not your 



154 EDMUND BURKE. 

interest to make them happy. It is not, what a lawyer 
tells me I may do ; but what humanity, reason, and 
justice, tell me I ought to do. Is a politic act the worse 
for being a generous one ? Is no concession proper, but 
that which is made from your want of right to keep what 
you grant ? Or does it lessen the grace or dignity of 
relaxing in the exercise of an odious claim, because you 
have your evidence-room full of titles and your maga- 
zines stuffed with arms to enforce them ? What signify 
all those titles, and all those arms ? Of what avail are 
they, when the reason of the thing tells me, that the 
assertion of my title is the loss of my suit ; and that I 
could do nothing but wound myself by the use of my 
own weapons ? 

Such is steadfastly my opinion of the absoiute neces- 
sity of keeping up the concord of this empire by a unity 
6f spirit, though in a diversity of operations, that, if I 
were sure the colonists had, at their leaving this country, 
sealed a regular compact of servitude ; that they had 
solemnly abjured all the rights of citizens ; that they had 
made a vow to renounce all ideas of libeity for them 
and their posterity, to all generations ; yet I should 
hold myself obliged to conform to the temper I found 
universally prevalent in my own day, and to govern 
two millions of men, impatient of servitude, on the 
principles of freedom. I am not determining a point of 
law ; I am restoring tranquillity ; and the general char- 
acter and situation of a people must determine what sort 
of government is fitted for them. That point nothing 
else can or ought to determine. 

My idea, therefore, without considering whether we 
yield as matter of right, or grant as matter of favour, 
is to admit the people of our colonies into an interest in 
the constitution; and, by recording that admission in 
the journals of parliament, to give them as strong an 
assurance as the nature of the thing will admit, that 
we mean forr. ever to adhere to that solemn declaration 
of systematic indulgence. 

Some years ago, the repeal of a revenue act, upon 



SFXFXTIONS. 155 

its understood principle, might have served to show 
that we intended an unconditional abatement of the 
exercise of a taxing power. Such a measure was then 
sufficient to remove all suspicion, and to give perfect 
content. But unfortunate events, since that time, 
may make something further necessary ; and not more 
necessary for the satisfaction of the colonies, than for 
the dignity and consistency of our own future pro- 
ceedings. 

I have taken a very incorrect measure of the dis- 
position of the House, if this proposal in itself would 
be received with dislike. I think, sir, we have few 
American financiers. But our misfortune is, we are 
too acute ; we are too exquisite in our conjectures of 
the future, for men oppressed with such great and 
present evils. The more moderate among the opposers 
of parliamentary concession freely confess that they 
hope no good from taxation ; but they apprehend the 
colonists have further views ; and if this point were 
conceded, they would instantly attack the trade laws. 
These gentlemen are convinced that this was the inten- 
tion from the beginning ; and the quarrel of the Americans 
with taxation was no more than a cloak and cover to 
this design. Such has been the language even of a 
gentleman * of real moderation and of a natural temper 
so well adjusted to fair and equal government. I am, 
however, sir, not a httle surprised at this kind of dis- 
course, whenever I hear it ; and I am the more surprised, 
on account of the arguments which I constantly find in 
company with it and whicli are often urged from the 
same mouths, and on the same day. 

For instance, when we allege that it is against reason 
to tax a people under so many restraints in trade as the 
Americans, the noble lord f in the blue riband shall tell 
you, that the restraints on trade are futile and useless ; 
of no advantage to us, and of no burden to those on 
whom they are imposed ; that the trade to America 
is not secured by the acts of navigation, but by the 

* Mr. Rice. f Lord North. 



156 EDMUND BURKE. 

natural and irresistible advantage of a commercial 
preference. 

Such is the merit of the trade laws in this posture of 
the debate. But when strong internal circumstances 
are urged against the taxes ; when the scheme is dis- 
sected ; when experience and the nature of things are 
brought to prove, and do prove, the utter impossibility 
of obtaining an effective revenue from the colonies ; 
when these things are pressed, or rather press them- 
selves, so as to drive the advocates of colony taxes to 
a clear admission of the futility of the scheme ; then, 
sir, the sleeping trade laws revive from their trance ; 
and this useless taxation is to be kept sacred, not for 
its own sake, but as a counter-guard and security of 
the laws of trade. 

Then, sir, you keep up revenue laws which are 
mischievous, in order to preserve trade laws that are 
useless. Such is the wisdom of our plan in both its 
members. They are separately given up as of no 
value ; and yet one is always to be defended for the 
sake of the other. But I cannot agree with the noble 
lord, nor with the pamphlet from whence he seems to 
have borrowed these ideas, concerning the inutility of 
the trade laws. For, without idolizing them, I am sure 
they are still, in many ways, of great use to us ; and 
in former times, they have been of the greatest. They 
do confine, and they do greatly narrow, the market 
for the Americans. But my perfect conviction of this 
does not help me in the least to discern how the revenue 
laws form any security whatsoever to the commercial 
regulations ; or that these commercial regulations are 
the true ground of the quarrel ; or that the giving way, 
in any one instance of authority, is to lose all that may 
remain unconceded. 

One fact is clear and indisputable. The public and 
avowed origin of this quarrel was on taxation. This 
quarrel has indeed brought on new disputes on new 
questions ; but certainly the least bitter, and the fewest 
of all, on the trade laws. To judge which of the two 



SELECTIONS. 157 

be the real, radical cause of quarrel, we have to see 
whether the commercial dispute did, in order of time, 
precede the dispute on taxation ? There is not a 
shadow of evidence for it. Next, to enable us to 
judge whether at this moment a dislike to the trade 
laws be the real cause of quarrel, it is absolutely neces- 
sary to put the taxes out of the question by a repeal. 
See how the Americans act in this position, and then 
you will be able to discern correctly what is the true 
object of the controversy, or whether any controversy 
at all will remain. Unless you consent to remove this 
cause of difference, it is impossible, with decency, to 
assert that the dispute is not upon what it is avowed 
to be. And I would, sir, recommend to your serious 
consideration, whether it be prudent to form a rule 
for punishing people, not on their own acts, but on 
your conjectures. Surely it is preposterous at the very 
best. It is not justifying your anger, by their mis- 
conduct ; but it is converting your ill-will into their 
delinquency. 

But the colonies will go further.— Alas ! alas ! when 
will this speculating against fact and reason end ?— 
What will quiet these panic fears which we entertain 
of the hostile effect of a conciliatory conduct ? Is it 
true that no case can exist, in which it is proper for 
the sovereign to accede to the desires of his discontented 
subjects? Is there anything peculiar in this case, to 
make a rule for itself ? Is all authority of course lost, 
when it is not pushed to the extreme ? Is it a certain 
maxim, that, the fewer causes of dissatisfaction are 
left by government, the more the subject will be inclined 
to resist and rebel ? 

All these objections being in fact no more than 
suspicions, conjectures, divinations, formed in defiance 
of fact and experience ; they did not, sir, discourage 
me from entertaining the idea of a conciliatory con- 
cession, founded on the principles which I have just 
stated. 

In forming a plan lor this purpose, I endeavoured to 



158 EDMUND BURKE. 

put myself in that frame of mind which was the most 
natural, and the most reasonable ; and which was 
certainly the most probable means of securing me from 
all error. I set out with a perfect distrust of my own 
abilities ; a total renunciation of every speculation of 
my own ; and with a profound reverence for the wisdom 
of our ancestors, who have left us the inheritance of so 
happy a constitution, and so flourishing an empire, and 
what is a thousand times more valuable, the treasury 
of the maxims and principles which formed the one, 
and obtained the other. 

During the reigns of the kings of Spain of the Aus- 
trian family, whenever they were at a loss in the Spanish 
councils, it was common for their statesmen to say, 
that they ought to consult the genius of Philip 11. The 
genius of Philip II might mislead them ; and the issue 
of their affairs showed, that they had not chosen the 
most perfect standard. But, sir, I am sure that I 
shall not be misled, when, in a case of constitutional 
difficulty, I consult the genius of the English constitu- 
tion. Consulting at that oracle (it was with all due 
humility and piety) I found four capital examples in 
a similar case before me ; those of Ireland, Wales, 
Chester, and Durham. 

Ireland, before the English conquest, though never 
governed by a despotic power, had no parliament. How 
far the English parliament itself was at that time 
modelled according to the present form, is disputed 
among antiquaries. But we have all the reason in 
the world to be assured, that a form of parliament, 
such as England then enjoyed, she instantly communi- 
cated to Ireland ; and we are equally sure that almost 
every successive improvement in constitutional liberty, 
as fast as it was made here, was transmitted thither. 
The feudal baronage, and the feudal knighthood, the 
roots of our primitive constitution, were early trans- 
planted into that soil ; and grew and flourished there. 
Magna Charta, if it did not give us originally the House 
of Commons, gave us at least a House of Commons of 



SELECTIONS. i59 

weight and consequence. But your ancestor^ did not 
churlishly sit down alone to the feast of Magna Charta. 
Ireland was made immediately a partaker. This bene- 
fit of English laws and liberties, I confess, was not at 
first extended to all Ireland. Mark the consequence. 
English authority and English liberty had exactly the 
same boundaries. Your standard could never be 
advanced an inch before your privileges. Sir John 
Davis shows beyond a doubt that the refusal of a general 
communication of these rights was the true cause 
why Ireland Was live hundred years in subduing ; and 
after the vain projects of a military government, at- 
tempted in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was soon 
discovered, that nothmg could make that country 
English, in civility and allegiance, but your laws and 
your forms of legislature. It was not English arms, 
but the English constitution, that conquered Ireland. 
From that time Ireland has ever had a general par- 
liament, as she had before a partial parliament. You 
changed the people ; you altered the religion ; but 
you never touched the form or the vital substance of 
free government in that kingdom. You deposed 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 re- 
spected by usurpation ; restored with the restoration 
of monarchy, and established, I trust, for ever, by 
the glorious Revolution. This has made Ireland the 
great and flourishing kingdom that it is; and from 
a disgrace and a burden intolerable to this nation, 
has rendered her a principal part of our strength and 
ornament. This country cannot be said to have ever 
formally taxed her. The irregular things done in the 
confusion of mighty troubles, and on the hinge of 
great revolutions, even if all were done that is said to 
have been done, form no example. If they have any 
effect in argument, they make an exception to prove the 
rule. None of vonr own liberties could stand a moment 
if the casual deviations from them, at such times, were 



i6o EDMUND BURKE. 

suffered to be used as proofs of their nullity. By the 
lucrative amount of such casual breaches in the con- 
stitution, judge what the stated and fixed rule of supply 
has been in that kingdom. Your Irish pensioner^ 
would starve if they had no other fund to live on than 
taxes granted by English authority. Turn your eyes 
to those popular grants from whence all your great 
supplies are come ; and learn to respect that only 
source of public wealth in the British empire. 

My next example is Wales. This country was said 
to be reduced by Henry III. It was said more truly 
to be so by Edward I. But though then conquered, it 
was not looked upon as any part of the realm of Eng- 
land. Its old constitution, whatever that might have 
been, was destroyed ; and no good one was substituted 
in its place. The care of that tract was put into the 
hands of lords marchers — a form of government of a 
very singular kind ; a strange heterogeneous monster, 
something between hostility and government ; perhaps 
it has a sort of resemblance, according to the modes of 
those times, to that of commander-in-chief at present, 
to whom all civil power is granted as secondary. The 
manners of the Welsh nation followed the genius of 
the government ; the people were ferocious, restive, 
savage, and uncultivated ; sometimes composed, never 
pacified. Wales, within itself, was in perpetual dis- 
order ; and it kept the frontier of England in perpetual 
alarm. Benefits from it to the state there were none. 
Wales was only known to England by incursion and 
invasion. 

Sir, during that state of things, parliament was not 
idle. They attempted to subdue the fierce spirit of 
the Welsh by all sorts of rigorous laws. They pro- 
hibited by statute the sending all sorts of arms into 
Wales, as you prohibit by proclamation (with some- 
thing more of doubt on the legality) the sending arms 
to America. They disarmed the Welsh by statute, as you 
attempted (but still with more question on the legality) 
to disarm New England by an instruction. They made 



SELECTIONS. i6i 

an act to drag offenders from Wales into England for 
trial, as you have done (but with more hardship) with 
regard to America. By another act, where one of the 
parties was an Englishman, they ordained, that his 
trial should be always by English. They made acts 
to restrain trade, as you do ; and they prevented the 
Welsh from the use of fairs and markets, as you do the 
Americans from fisheries and foreign ports. In short, 
when the statute-book was not quite so much swelled 
as it is now, you find no less than fifteen acts of penal 
regulation on the subject of Wales. 

Here we rub our hands — A fine body of precedents 
for the authority of Parliament and the use of it ! I 
admit it fully ; and pray add likewise to those pre- 
cedents that all the while, Wales rid this kingdom Hke 
an incubus / that it was an unprofitable and oppres- 
sive burden ; and that an Englishman travelling in 
that country could not go six yards from the high road 
without being murdered. 

The march of the human mind is slow. Sir, it was 
not until after two hundred years discovered, that, by 
an eternal law. Providence had decreed vexation to 
violence ; and poverty to rapine. Your ancestors did, 
however, at length open their eyes to the ill-husbandry 
of injustice. They found that the tyranny of a free 
people could of all tyrannies the least be endured; 
and that laws made against a whole nation were not 
the most effectual methods for securing its obedience. 
Accordingly, in the twenty-seventh year of Henry VIII 
the course was entirely altered. With a preamble stat- 
ing the entire and perfect rights of the crown of England, 
it gave to the Welsh all tlie rights and privileges of 
English subjects. A political order was established ; 
the military power gave way to the civil ; the marches 
were turned into counties. But that a nation should 
have a right to English liberties, and yet no share at 
all in the fundamental security of these liberties — 
the grant of their own property — seemed a thing so 
incongruous that, eight years after, that is, in the thirty- 

6 



i62 EDMUND BURKE. 

fifth of that reign, a complete and not ill-proportioned 
representation by counties and boroughs was bestowed 
upon Wales, by act of parliament. From that moment, 
as by a charm, the tumults subsided ; obedience was 
restored ; peace, order, and civilization followed in the 
train of liberty. When the day-star of the English con- 
stitution, had arisen in their hearts, all was harmony 
within and without — 

. . . . Simul alba nautis 
Stella refulsit, 
Defluit saxis agitatus humor ; 
Concidunt venti, fugiuntque nubes, 
Et minax (quod sic voluere) ponto 

Unda recumbit. 

The very same year the county palatine of Chester 
received the same relief from its oppressions, and the 
same remedy to its disorders. Before this time Chester 
was little less distempered than Wales. The inhabi- 
tants, without rights themselves, were the fittest to 
destroy the rights of others ; and from thence Richard II 
drew the standing army of archers with which for a 
time he oppressed England. The people of Chester 
applied to parliament in a petition penned as I shall 
read to you : 

* To the king our sovereign lord, in most humble 
wise shown unto your excellent majesty, the inhabitants 
of your grace's county palatine of Chester ; That where 
the said county palatine of Chester is and hath been 
always hitherto exempt, excluded and separated out 
and from your high court of parliament, to have any 
knights and burgesses within the said court ; by reason 
whereof the said inhabitants have hitherto sustained 
manifold disherisons, losses, and damages, as well in 
their lands, goods, and bodies, as in the good, civil, 
and politic governance and maintenance of the common- 
wealth of their said country : (2) And forasmuch as 
the said inhabitants have always hitherto been bound 
by the acts and statutes made and ordained by your 
said highness, and your most noble progenitors, by 



SELECTIONS. 163 

authority of the said court, as far forth as other coun- 
ties, cities, and boroughs have been, that have had 
their knights and burgesses within your said court of 
parhament, and yet have had neither knight ne burgess 
there for the said county palatine ; the said inhabitants, 
for lack thereof, have been oftentimes touched and 
grieved with acts and statutes made within the_ said 
court, as well derogatory unto the most ancient juris- 
dictions, hberties and privileges of your said county 
palatine, as prejudicial unto the commonwealth, quiet- 
ness, rest, and peace of your grace's most bounden 
subjects inhabiting within the same.' 

What did parliament with this audacious address ? — 
Reject it as a libel ? Treat it as an affront to govern- 
ment ? Spurn it as a derogation from the rights of 
legislature ? Did they toss it over the table ? Did 
they burn it by the hands of the common hangman ? — 
They took the petition of grievance, all rugged as it 
was, without softening or temperament, unpurged of 
the original bitterness and indignation of complaint ; 
they made it the very preamble to their act of redress ; 
and consecrated its principle to all ages in the sanctuary 
of legislation. 

Here is my third example. It was attended with the 
success of the two former. Chester, civiUzed as well 
as Wales, has demonstrated that freedom and not 
servitude is the cure of anarchy ; as religion, and not 
atheism, is the true remedy* for superstition. Sir, this 
pattern of Chester was followed in the reign of Charles II. 
with regard to the county palatine of Durham, which 
is my fourth example. This county had long lain out 
of the pale of free legislation. So scrupulously was 
the example of Chester followed, that the style of the 
preamble is nearly the same with that of the Chester 
act ; and, without affecting the abstract extent of the 
authority of parliament, it recognizes the equity ofnot 
suffering any considerable district, in which the British 
subjects may act as a body, to be taxed without their 
own voice in the grant. 



i64 EDMUND BURKE. 

Now if the doctrines of policy contained in these 
preambles, and the force of these examples in the acts 
of parliaments, avail anything, what can be said against 
applying them with regard to America ? Are not 
the people of America as much Englishmen as the 
Welsh ? The preamble of the act of Henry VIII says 
the Welsh speak a language no way resembling that of 
his majesty's English subjects. Are the Americans not 
as numerous ? If we may trust the learned and ac- 
curate Judge Barrington's account of North Wales, 
and take that as a standard to measure the rest, there 
is no comparison. The people cannot amount to above 
200,000 ; not a tenth part of the number in the colonies. 
Is America in rebellion ? Wales was hardly ever free 
from it. Have you attempted to govern America by 
penal statutes ? You made fifteen for Wales. But 
your legislative authority is perfect with regard to 
America ; was it less perfect in Wales, Chester, and 
Durham ? But America is virtually represented. 
What ! does the electric force of virtual representation 
more easily pass over the Atlantic, than pervade Wales, 
which lies in your neighbourhood ; or than Chester and 
Durham, surrounded by abundance of representation, 
that is actual and palpable ? But, sir, your ancestors 
thought this sort of virtual representation, however 
ample, to be totally insufficient for the freedom of the 
inhabitants of territories that are so near, and com- 
paratively so inconsiderable. How then can I think 
it sufficient for those which are infinitely greater, and 
infinitely more remote ? 

You will now, sir, perhaps imagine, that I am on the 
point of proposing to you a scheme for a representation 
of the colonies in parliament. Perhaps I might be 
inclined to entertain some such thought ; but a great 
flood stops me on my course. Opposuit natura — I 
cannot remove the eternal barriers of the creation. 
The thing, in that mode, I do not know to be pos- 
sible. As I meddle with no theory, I do not absolutely 
assert the impracticability of such a representation. 



SELECTIONS. 165 

But I do not see my way to it ; and those who 
have been more confident have not been more success- 
ful. However, the arm of pubhc benevolence is 
not shortened ; and there are often several m eans 
to the same end. What nature has disjoined in one 
way, wisdom may unite in another. When we can- 
not give the benefit as we would wish, let us not 
refuse it altogether. If we cannot give the principal, 
let us find a substitute. But how ? Where ? What 
substitute ? 

Fortunately I am not obhged for the ways and means 
of this substitute to tax my own unproductive inven- 
tion. I am not even obhged to go to the rich treasury 
of the fertile framers of imaginary commonwealths ; 
not to the Republic of Plato, not to the Utopia of More ; 
not to the Oceana of Harrington. It is before me^ 
it is at my feet, and the rude swain treads daily on it 
with his clouted shoon. I only wish you to recognize, 
for the theory, the ancient constitutional policy of 
this kingdom with regard to representation, as that 
policy has been declared in acts of parhament ; and, 
as to the practice, to return to that mode which an 
uniform experience has marked out to you, as best ; 
and in which you walked with security, advantage, and 
honour, until the year 1763. 

My resolutions therefore mean to establish the equity 
and justice of a taxation of America, by grant, and not 
by imposition. To mark the legal competency of the 
colony assemblies for the support of their government 
in peace, and for public aids in time of war. To ac- 
knowledge that this legal competency has had a dutiful 
and beneficial exercise ; and that experience has shown 
the benefit of their grants, and the futility of parliamentary 
taxation as a method of supply. 

These solid truths compose six fundamental pro- 
positions. There are three more resolutions corollary 
to these. If you admit the first set, you can hardly 
reject the others. But if you admit the first, I shall 
be far from solicitous whether you accept or refuse the 



i66 EDMUND BURKE. 

last. I think these six massive pillars will be of strength 
sufficient to support the temple of British concord. 
I have no more doubt than I entertain of my existence 
that, if you admitted these, you would command an 
immediate peace ; and with but tolerable future man- 
agement, a lasting obedience in America. I am not 
arrogant in this confident assurance. The propositions 
are all mere matters of fact ; and if they are such facts 
as draw irresistible conclusions even in the stating, this 
is the power of truth and not any management of 
mine. 

Sir, I shall open the whole plan to you together, 
with such observations on the motions as may tend to 
illustrate them where they may want explanation. 
The first is a resolution — ' That the colonies and planta- 
tions of Great Britain in North America, consisting 
of fourteen separate governments, and containing two 
millions and upwards of free inhabitants, have not 
had the liberty and privilege of electing and sending 
any knights and burgesses, or others, to represent 
them in the high court of parliament.' This is a plain 
matter of fact, necessary to be laid down, and (excepting 
the description) it is laid down in the language of the 
constitution ; it is taken nearly verbatim from acts of 
parliament. 

The second is like unto the first — ' That the said 
colonies and plantations have been liable to, and bounded 
by, several subsidies, payments, rates, and taxes, given 
and granted by parliament, though the said colonies 
and plantations have not their knights and burgesses 
in the said high court of parliament, of their own elec- 
tion, to represent the condition of their country ; by 
lack whereof they have been oftentimes touched and 
grieved by subsidies given, granted, and assented 
to, in the said court, in a manner prejudicial to the 
commonwealth, quietness, rest, and peace of the sub- 
jects inhabiting within the same.' 

Is this description too hot, or too cold, too strong, or 
too weak ? Does it arrogate too much to the supreme 



SELECTIONS. 167 

legislature ? Does it lean too much to the claims of 
the people ? If it runs into any of these errors, the 
fault is not mine. It is the language of your own 
ancient acts of parhament. 

Non raeus hie sermo, sed quae praecepit Ofellus, 
Rusticus, abnormis sapiens. 

It is the genuine produce of the ancient, rustic, manly, 
home-bred sense of this country. I did not dare to 
rub off a particle of the venerable rust that rather 
adorns and preserves, than destroys, the metal. It 
would be a profanation to touch with a tool the stones 
which construct the sacred altar of peace. I would not 
violate with modern polish the ingenuous and noble 
roughness of these truly constitutional materials. Above 
all things, I was resolved not to be guilty of tampering : 
the odious vice of restless and unstable minds. I put 
my foot in the tracks of our forefathers ; where I can 
neither wander nor stumble. Determining to fix articles 
of peace, I was resolved not to be wise beyond what 
was written ; I was resolved to use nothing else than 
the form of sound words ; to let others abound in their 
own sense ; and carefully to abstain from all expres- 
sions of my own. What the law has said, I say. In 
all things else I am silent. I have no organ but for 
her words. This, if it be not ingenious, I am sure is 
safe. 

There are indeed words expressive of grievance in 
this second resolution, which those who are resolved 
always to be in the right will deny to contain matter 
of fact, as applied to the present case ; although par- 
liament thought them true, with regard to the counties of 
Chester and Durliam. They will deny that the Amer- 
icans were ever ' touched and grieved ' with the taxes. 
If they consider nothing in taxes but their weight as 
pecuniary impositions, there might be some pretence 
for this denial. But men may be sorely touched and 
deeply grieved in their privileges, as well as in their 
purses. Men may lose little in property by the act 



i68 EDMUND BURKE. 

which takes away their freedom. When a man is 
robbed of a trifle on the highway, it is not the two- 
pence lost that constitutes the capital outrage. This is 
not confined to privileges. Even ancient indulgences 
withdrawn, without offence on the part of those who 
enjoyed such favours, operate as grievances. But were 
the Americans then not touched and grieved by the 
taxes, in some measure, merely as taxes ? If so, why 
were they almost all either wholly repealed or exceed- 
ingly reduced ? Were they not touched and grieved 
even by the regulating duties of the sixth of George II ? 
Else why were the duties first reduced to one-third in 
1764, and afterwards to a third of that third in the 
year 1766 ? Were they not touched and grieved by 
the Stamp Act ? I shall say they were, until that tax 
is revived. Were they not touched and grieved by the 
duties of 1767, which were likewise repealed, and which 
Lord Hillsborough tells you (for the ministry) were laid 
contrary to the true principle of commerce ? Is not 
the assurance given by that noble person to the colonies 
of a resolution to lay no more taxes on them, an admis- 
sion that taxes would touch and grieve them ? Is not 
the resolution of the noble lord in the blue riband, now 
standing on your journals, the strongest of all proofs 
that parliamentary subsidies really touched and grieved 
them ? Else why all these changes, modifications, 
repeals, assurances, and resolutions ? 

The next proposition is — ' That, from the distance 
of the said colonies, and from other circumstances, no 
method hath hitherto been devised for procuring a 
representation in parliament for the said colonies.' This 
is an assertion of a fact. I go no further on the paper ; 
though, in my private judgment, an useful representa- 
tion is impossible ; I am sure it is not desired by them ,* 
nor ought it perhaps by us ; but I abstain from 
opinions. 

The fourth resolution is — ' That each of the said 
colonies hath within itself a body, chosen in part, or 
in the whole, by the freemen, freeholders, or other free 



SELECTIONS. 169 

inhabitants thereof, commonly called the general 
assembly or general court ; with powers legally to 
raise, le\'y, and assess, according to the several usage 
of such colonies, duties and taxes towards defraying all 
sorts of public services.' 

This competence in the colony assemblies is certain. 
It is proved by the whole tenor of their acts of supply 
in all the assembhes, in which the constant style of 
granting is, ' an aid to his majesty ' ; and acts granting 
to the crown have regularly for near a century passed 
the pubhc offices without dispute. Those who have 
been pleased paradoxically to deny this right, holding 
that none but the British parhament can grant to the 
crown, are wished to look to .what is done, not only 
in the colonies, but in Ireland, in one uniform unbroken 
tenor every session. Sir, I am surprised that this 
doctrine should come from some of the law servants of 
the crown. I say, that if the crown could be respon- 
sible, his majesty— but certainly the ministers, and 
even these law officers themselves, through whose hands 
the acts pass biennially in Ireland, or annually in the 
colonies, are in an habitual course of committing 
impeachable offences. What habitual offenders have 
been all presidents of the council, all secretaries of 
state, all first lords of trade, all attornies and all 
solicitors general ! However, they are safe ; as no 
one impeaches them ; and there is no ground of 
charge against them, except in their own unfounded 
theories. 

The fifth resolution is also a resolution of fact — ' That 
the said general assemblies, general courts, or other 
bodies legally qualified as aforesaid, have at sundry 
times freely granted several large subsidies and public 
aids for his majesty's service, according to their 
abilities, when required thereto by letter from one of his 
majesty's principal secretaries of state ; and that their 
right to grant the same, and their cheerfulness and 
sufficiency in the said grants, have been at sundry 
times acknowledged by parliament.' To say nothing 



170 EDMUND BURKE. 

of their great expenses in the Indian wars ; and not 
to take their exertion in foreign ones, so high as the 
supplies in the year 1695 ; not to go back to their 
pubhc contributions in the year 1710 ; I shall begin 
to travel only where the journals give me light ; re- 
solving to deal in nothing but fact, authenticated by 
parliamentary record ; and to build myself wholly on 
that solid basis. 

On the 4th of April, 1748,* a committee of this 
House came to the following resolution : 
' Resolved, 

' That it is the opinion of this committee. That it is 
just and reasonable that the several provinces and 
colonies of Massachusett's Bay, New Hampshire, 
Connecticut, and Rhode Island, be reimbursed the 
expenses they have been at in taking and securing to 
the crown of Great Britain the island of Cape Breton 
and its dependencies. ' 

These expenses were immense for such colonies. 
They were above £200,000 sterling ; money first raised 
and advanced on their public credit. 

On the 28th of January, 1756, fa message from the 
king came to us, to this effect — ' His majesty, being 
sensible of the zeal and vigour with which his faithful 
subjects of certain colonies in North America have 
exerted themselves in defence of his majesty's just 
rights and possessions, recommends it to this House 
to take the same into their consideration, and to enable 
his majesty to give them such assistance as may be 
a proper reward and encouragement.' 

On the 3rd of February, 1756, J the House came to 
a suitable resolution, expressed in words nearly the 
same as those of the message ; but with the further 
addition, that the money then voted was as an en- 
couragement to the colonies to exert themselves with 
vigour. It will not be necessary to go through all the 
testimonies which your own records have given to the 

* Journals of the House, vol. xxv. 
t Ibid. vol. xxvii. J: Ibid. 



SELECTIONS. 171 

truth of my resolutions, I will only refer you to the 
places in the journals : — 

Vol. xxvii.— i6th and 19th May, 1757. 

Vol. xxviii.— June ist, 1758— April 26th and 30th, 
I75g — March 26th and 31st, and April 
28th, 1760 — Jan. 9th and 20th, 1761. 

Vol. xxix.— Jan. 22nd and 26th, 1762— March 14th 
and 17th, 1763. 

Sir, here is the repeated acknowledgment of parlia- 
ment[ that the colonies not only gave, but gave to 
satiety. This nation has formally acknowledged two 
things ; first, that the colonies had gone beyond their 
abilities, parliament having thought it necessary to 
reimburse them ; secondly, that they had acted legally 
and laudably in their grants of money, and their main- 
tenance of troops, since the compensation is expressly 
given as reward and encouragement. Reward is not 
bestowed for acts that are unlawful ; and encourage- 
ment is not held out to things that deserve reprehen- 
sion. My resolution therefore does nothing more than 
collect into one proposition, what is scattered through 
your journals. I give you nothing but your own ; and 
you cannot refuse in the gross what you have so often 
acknowledged in detail. The admission of this, which 
will be so honourable to them and to you, will, indeed, 
be mortal to all the miserable stories, by which the 
passions of the misguided people have been engaged 
in an unhappy system. The people heard, indeed, 
from the beginning of these disputes, one thing con- 
tinually dinned in their ears, that reason and justice 
demanded, that the Americans, who paid no taxes, 
should be compelled to contribute. How did that fact, 
of their paying nothing, stand, when the taxing system 
began ? When Mr. Grenville began to form liis system 
of American revenue, he stated in this House, that the 
colonies were then in debt two million six hundred 
thousand pounds sterling money ; and was of opinion 



172 EDMUND BURKE. 

they would discharge that debt in four years. On this 
state, those untaxed people were actually subject to the 
payment of taxes to the amount of six hundred and 
fifty thousand a year. In fact, however, Mr. Grenville 
was mistaken. The funds given for sinking the debt 
did not prove quite so ample as both the. colonies and 
he expected. The calculation was too sanguine : the 
reduction was not completed till some years after, and 
at different times in different colonies. However, the 
taxes after the war continued too great to bear any 
addition, with prudence or propriety ; and when the 
burdens imposed in consequence of former requisitions 
were discharged, our tone became too high to resort 
again to requisition. No colony, since that time, ever 
has had any requisition whatsoever made to it. 

We see the sense of the crown, and the sense of 
parliament, on the productive nature of a revenue by 
grant. Now search the same journals for the produce 
of the revenue by imposition — Where is it ? — let us 
know the volume and the page— what is the gross, 
what is the net produce ? — to what service is it applied ? 
— how have you appropriated its surplus ?— What, can 
none of the many skilful index-makers, that we are 
now employing, find any trace of it ? — Well, let them 
and that rest together. — But are the journals, which 
say nothing of the revenue, as silent on the discontent ? 
— Oh, no ! a child may find it. It is the melancholy 
burden and blot of every page. 

I think, then, I am, from those journals, justified in 
the sixth and last resolution, which is — ' That it hath 
been found by experience, that the manner of granting 
the said supplies and aids, by the said general assem- 
blies, hath been more agreeable to the said colonies, and 
more beneficial, and conducive to the public service, 
than the mode of giving and granting aids in parlia- 
ment, to be raised and paid in the said colonies.' This 
makes the whole of the fundamental part of the plan. 
The conclusion is irresistible. You cannot saj', that 
you were driven by any necessity to an exercise of thg 



SELECTIONS. i73 

utmost rights of legislature. You cannot assert, that 
you took on yourselves the task of imposing colony 
taxes, from the want of another legal body, that is 
competent to the purpose of supplying the exigencies 
of the state without wounding the prejudices of the 
people. Neither is it true that the body so qualified, 
and having that competence, had neglected the duty. 

The question now, on all this accumulated matter, 
is ; — whether you will choose to abide by a profitable 
experience, or a mischievous theory ? whether you 
choose to build on imagination or fact ? whether you 
prefer enjoyment or hope? satisfaction in your sub- 
jects, or discontent ? 

If these propositions are accepted, everything which 
has been made to enforce a contrary system, must, 
I take it for granted, fall along with it. _ On that 
ground, I have drawn the following resolution, which, 
when it comes to be moved, will naturally be divided 
in a proper manner : ' That it may be proper to repeal 
an act, made in the seventh year of the reign of his 
present majesty, intituled. An act for granting certain 
duties in the British colonies and plantations in 
America ; for allowing a drawback of the duties of 
customs upon the exportation from this kingdom of 
coffee and cocoa-nuts of the produce of the said colonies 
or plantations ; for discontinuing the drawbacks pay- 
able on China eathenware exported to America ; and 
for more effectually preventing the clandestine running 
of goods in the said colonies and plantations.— And 
that it may be proper to repeal an act, made in the 
fourteenth year of the reign of his present majesty, 
intituled. An act to discontinue, in such manner, and 
for such time, as are therein mentioned, the landing 
and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, 
and merchandise, at the town and within the harbour 
of Boston, in the province of Massachusett's Bay, in 
North America.— And that it may be proper to repeal 
an act, made in the fourteenth year of the reign of his 
present majesty, intituled, An act for the impartial 



174 EDMUND BURKE. 

administration of justice, in the cases of persons 
questioned for any acts done by them, in the execution 
of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, 
in the province of Massachusett's Bay, in New England. 
— And that it may be proper to repeal an act, made in 
the fourteenth year of the reign of his present majesty, 
intituled, An act for the better regulating the govern- 
ment of the province of Massachusett's Bay, in New 
England. — And, also, that it may be proper to explain 
and amend an act, made in the thirty-fifth year of the 
reign of King Henry VIII, intituled, An act for the 
trial of treasons committed out of the king's dominions.' 

I wish, sir, to repeal the Boston Port Bill, because 
(independently of the dangerous precedent of suspend- 
ing the rights of the subject during the king's pleasure) 
it was passed, as I apprehend, with less regularity, and 
on more partial principles, than it ought. The cor- 
poration of Boston was not heard before it was con- 
demned. Other towns, full as guilty as she was, have 
not had their ports blocked up. Even the restraining 
bill of the present session does not go to the length of 
the Boston Port Act. The same ideas of prudence, 
which induced you not to extend equal punishment to 
equal guilt, even when you were punishing, induce me, 
who mean not to chastise, but to reconcile, to be 
satisfied with the punishment already partially in- 
flicted. 

Ideas of prudence and accommodation to circum- 
stances prevent you from taking away the charters of 
Connecticut and Rhode Island, as you have taken away 
that of Massachusett's colony, though the crown has 
far less power in the two former provinces than it 
enjoyed in the latter ; and though the abuses have been 
full as great, and as flagrant, in the exempted as in the 
punished. The same reasons of prudence and accom- 
modation have weight with me in restoring the charter 
of Massachusett's Bay. Besides, sir, the act which 
changes the charter of Massachusett's is in many par- 
ticulars so exceptionable, that if I did not wish abso- 



SELECTIONS. 17-5 

lutely to repeal, I woiild by all means desire to alter it ; 
as several of its provisions tend to the subversion of all 
public and private justice. Such, among others, is 
the power in the governor to change the sheriff at his 
pleasure ; and to make a new returning officer for every 
special cause. It is shameful to behold such a regula- 
tion standing among English laws. 

The act for bringing persons accused of committing 
murder under the orders of government to England for 
trial is but temporary. That act has calculated the 
probable duration of our quarrel with the colonies ; 
and is accommodated to that supposed duration. I 
would hasten the happy moment of reconciliation ; and 
therefore must, on my principle, get rid of that most 
justly obnoxious act. 

The act of Henry VIII, for the trial of treasons, 
I do not mean to take away, but to confine it to its 
proper bounds and original intention ; to make it 
expressly for trial of treasons (and tli.e greatest treasons 
may be committed) in places where the jurisdiction of 
the crown does not extend. 

Having guarded the privileges of local legislature, 
I would next secure to the colonies a fair and unbiassed 
judicature ; for which purpose, sir, I propose the 
following resolution : ' That, from the time when the 
general assembly or general court of any colony or 
plantation in North America, shall have appointed by 
act of assembly, duly confirmed, a settled salary to 
the offices of the chief justice and other judges of the 
superior court, it may be proper that the said chief 
justice and other judges of the superior courts of such 
colony, shall hold his and their office and offices during 
their good behaviour ; and shall not be removed there- 
from, but when the said removal shall be adjudged by 
his majesty in council, upon a hearing on complaint 
from the general assembly, or on a complaint from the 
governor, or council, or the house of representation 
severally, of the colony in which the said chief justice 
and other judges have exercised the said offices.' 



176 EDMUND BURKE. 

The next resolution relates to the courts of admiralty. 

It is this : — ' That it may be proper to regulate the 
courts of admiralty, or vice admiralty, authorized by 
the 15th chap, of the 4th of George III, in such a 
manner as to make the same more commodious to 
those who sue, or are sued, in the said courts, and to 
provide for the more decent maintenance of the judges 
in the same.' 

These courts I do not wish to take away ; they are 
in themselves proper estabUshments. This court is one 
of the capital securities of the act of navigation. The 
extent of its jurisdiction, indeed, has been increased ; 
but this is altogether as proper, and is, indeed, on 
many accounts, more eligible, where new powers were 
wanted, than a court absolutely new. But courts 
incommodiously situated, in effect, deny justice ; and 
a court, partaking in the fruits of its own condemna- 
tion, is a robber. The congress complain, and complain 
justly, of this grievance.* 

These are the three consequential propositions. I 
have thought of two or three more ; but they came 
rather too near detail, and to the province of executive 
government ; which I wish parliament always to 
superintend, never to assume. If the first six are 
granted, congruity will carry the latter three. If not, 
the things that remain unrepealed, will be, I hope, 
rather unseemly incumbrances on the building than 
very materially detrimental to its strength and stability. 

Here, sir, I should close ; but that I plainly perceive 
some objections remain, which I ought, if possible, to 
remove. The first will be, that, in resorting to the 
doctrine of our ancestors, as contained in the preamble 
to the Chester act, I prove too much ; that the griev- 
ance from a want of representation stated in that pre- 
amble goes to the whole of legislation as well as to 

* The solicitor-general informed Mr. B. when the resolutions were 
separately moved, that the grievance of the judges partaking of the 
profits of the seizure had been redressed by o£6ce ; accordingly the 
resolution was amended. 



SELECTIONS. 177 

taxation. And that the colonies, grounding themselves 
upon that doctrine, will apply it to all parts of legisla- 
tive authority. 

To this objection, with all possible deference and 
humility, and wishing as little as any man living to 
impair the smallest particle of our supreme authority, 
I answer, that the words are the words of parliament, and 
not mine ; and that all false and inconclusive inferences 
drawn from them, are not mine ; for I heartily disclaim 
any such inference. I have ciiosen the words of an act 
of parliament, which Mr. Grenville, surely a tolerably 
zealous and very judicious advocate for the sovereignty 
of parliament, formerly moved to have read at your 
table in confirmation of his tenets. It is true, that 
Lord Chatham considered these preambles as declaring 
strongly in favour of his opinions. He was a no less 
powerful advocate for the privileges of the Americans. 
Ought I not from hence to presume, that these pre- 
ambles are as favourable as possible to both, when 
properly understood ; favourable both to the rights of 
parliament, and to the privileges of the dependencies 
of this crown ? But, sir, the object of grievance in 
my resolution I have not taken from the Chester, but 
from the Durham act, which confmes the hardship of 
want of representation to the case of subsidies; and 
which therefore falls in exactly with the case of the 
colonies. But whether the unrepresented counties 
were de jure, or de facto, bound, the preambles do not 
accurately distinguish ; nor indeed was it necessary ; 
for, whether de jure, or de facto, the legislature thought 
the exercise of the power of taxing, as of right, or as of 
fact without right, equally a grievance, and equally 
oppressive. 

I do not know that the colonies have, in any general 
way, or in any cool hour, gone much beyond the 
demand of immunity in relation to taxes. It is not 
fair to judge of the temper or dispositions of any man, 
or any set of men, when they are composed and at rest, 
from their conduct, or their expressions, in a state of 



178 EDMUND BURKE. 

disturbance and irritation. It is besides a very great 
mistake to imagine, that mankind follow up practically 
any speculative principle, either of government or ot 
freedom, as far as it wHl go in argument and logical 
niation. We Englishmen stop very short ot the prin- 
ciples upon which we support any given part ot our 
constitution ; or even the whole of it together. I could 
easily, if I had not already tired i'OU, give you very 
striking and convincing instances of it. This is nothing 
but what is natural and proper. AU government, m- 
deed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue 
and ever/prudent act, is founded on compromise and 
barter. We balance inconveniences ; we _ give ana 
take ; we remit some rights, that we may enjoy others ; 
and we choose rather to be happy citizens, than subtle 
disputants. As we must give , away some natural 
liberty, to enjoy civil advantages ; so we must sacnhce 
some civil liberties, for the advantages to be derived 
from the communion and fellowship of a great empire. 
But. in all fair dealings, the thing bought must bear 
some proportion to the purchase paid. None will 
barter away the immediate jewel of his soul. Thoug^h 
a great house is apt to make slaves haughty, yet it is 
purchasing a part of the artificial importance of a great 
empire too dear to pay for it all essential rights and all 
the intrinsic dignity of human nature. None ot us 
who would not risk his life rather than ffll under a 
government purely arbitrary. But although there are 
lome amongst us who think our constitution wants 
many improvements, to make it a complete system ot 
liberty; perhaps none who are of that opinion would 
think it right to aim at such improvement, by disturbing 
his country, and risking everything that is dear to 
him. In every arduous enterprise, we consider what 
we are to lose, as well as what we are to gam ; and 
the more and better stake of liberty every people pos- 
sess, the less they will hazard in a vain attempt to make 
it more. These are the cords of man. Man acts from 
adequate motives relative to his interest ; and not on 



SELECTIONS. 179 

metaphysical speculations. Aristotle, the great master 
of reasoning, cautions us, and with great weight and 
propriety, against this species of delusive geometrical 
accuracy in moral arguments, as the most fallacious 
of all sophistry. 

The Americans will have no interest contrary to the 
grandeur and glory of England, when they are not 
oppressed by the weight of it ; and they will rather be 
inclined to respect the acts of a superintending legis- 
lature, when they see them the acts of that power, 
which is itself the security, not the rival, of their second- 
ary 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, 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. 

It is said, indeed, that this power of granting, vested 
in American assemblies, would dissolve the unity of the 
empire ; which was preserved, entire, although Wales, 
and Chester, and Durham, were added to it. Truly, 
Mr. Speaker, I do not know what this unity means ; 
nor has it ever been heard of, that I know, in the con- 
stitutional policy of this country. The very idea of 
subordination of parts, excludes this notion of simple 
and undivided unity. England is the head ; but she 
is not the head and the members too. Ireland has ever 
had from the beginning a separate, but not an inde- 
pendent, legislature ; which, far from distracting, pro- 
moted the union of the whole. Everything was sweetly 
and harmoniously disposed through both islands for the 
conservation of English dominion, and the communica- 
tion of English liberties. I do not see that the same 
principles might not be carried into twenty islands, and 
with the same good effect. This is my model with 
regard to America, as far as the internal circumstances 
of the two countries are the same. I know no other 



i8o EDMUND BURKE. 

unity of this empire, than I can draw from its example 
during these periods, when it seemed to my poor under- 
standing more united than it is now, or than it is Hkely 
to be by the present methods. 

But since I speak of these methods, I recollect, Mr. 
Speaker, almost too late, that I promised, before I 
finished, to say something of the proposition of the 
noble lord * on the floor, which has been so lately re- 
ceived, and stands on your journals. I must be deeply 
concerned, whenever it is my misfortune to continue 
a difference with the majority of this House. But, 
as the reasons for that difference are my apology for 
thus troubling you, suffer me to state them in a very 
few words. I shall compress them into as small a body 
as I possibly can, having already debated that matter 
at large, when the question was before the committee. 

First, then, I cannot admit that proposition of a 
ransom by auction ; — because it is a mere project. 
It is a thing new ; unheard of ; supported by no ex- 
perience ; justified by no analogy ; without example 
of our ancestors, or root in the constitution. 

It is neither regular parliamentary taxation, nor 
colony grant. Experimentum in corpore vili, is a good 
rule, which will ever make me adverse to any trial of 
experiments on what is certainly the most valuable of 
all subjects ; the peace of this empire. 

Secondly, it is an experiment which must be fatal 
in the end to our constitution. For what is it but 
a scheme for taxing the colonies in the ante-chamber 
of the noble lord and his successors ? To settle the 
quotas and proportions in this House, is clearly impos- 
sible. You, sir, may flatter yourself, you shall sit 
a state auctioneer, with your hammer in your hand, 
and knock down to each colony as it bids. But to 
settle (on the plan laid down by the noble lord) the 
true proportional payment for four or five and twenty 
governments, according to the absolute and the relative 
wealth of each, and according to the British proportion 

* Lord North. 



SELECTIONS. i8i 

of wealth and burden, is a wild and chimerical notion. 
This new taxation must therefore come in by the back- 
door of the constitution. Each quota must be brought 
to this House ready formed ; you can neither add nor 
alter. You must register it. You can do nothing 
further. For on what grounds can you deliberate 
either before or after the proposition ? You cannot 
hear the counsel for all these provinces, quarrelling 
each on its own quantity of payment, and its pro- 
portion to others. If you should attempt it, the com- 
mittee of provincial ways and means, or by whatever 
other name it will delight to be called, must swallow 
up all the time of parliament. 

Thirdly, it does not give satisfaction to the complaint 
of the colonies. They complain that they are taxed 
without their consent ; you answer that you will fix the 
sum at which they shall be taxed. That is, you give 
them the very grievance for the remedy. You tell 
them indeed, that you will leave the mode to them- 
selves. I really beg pardon : it gives me pain to mention 
it ; but you must be sensible that you will not perform 
this part of the compact. For, suppose the colonies 
were to lay the duties, which furnished their contingent, 
upon the importation of your manufactures ; you know 
you would never suffer such a tax to be laid. You 
know too, that you would not suffer many other modes 
of taxation. So that, when you come to explain your- 
self, it will be found, that you will neither leave to 
themselves the quantum nor the mode ; nor indeed 
anything. The whole is delusion from one end to the 
other. 

Fourthly, this method of ransom by auction, unless it 
be universally accepted, will plunge you into great and 
inextricable difficulties. In what year of our Lord are 
the proportions of payments to be settled ? To say 
nothing of the impossibility that colony agents should 
have general powers of taxing the colonies at their 
discretion ; consider, I implore you, that the communi- 
cation by special messages, and orders between these 



i82 EDMUND BURKE. 

agents and their constituents on each variation of the 
case, when the parties come to contend together, and to 
dispute on their relative proportions, will be a matter 
of delay perplexity, and confusion that never can have 



an end 



If aU the colonies do not appear at the outcry, what 
is the condition of those assemblies, who offer by them- 
selves or their agents, to tax themselves up to your 
ideas of their proportion ? The refractory colonies, who 
refuse aU composition, will remain taxed only to your old 
impositions which, however grievous m principle, are 
trifling as to production. The obedient colonies m this 
scheme are heavily taxed ; the refractory remain un- 
burdened. What will you do ? Will Y^^/y ^^^Vr^v 
heavier taxes by parUament on the disobedient ? Fray 
consider in what way you can do it. You are perfectly 
convinced, that, in the way of taxing, you can do nothing 
but at the ports. Now suppose it is Virgima that 
refuses to appear at your auction, while Maryland and 
North Carolina bid handsomely for their ransom and 
are taxed to your quota, how will you put these colonies 
on a par ? Will you tax the tobacco of Virginia ? If 
you do, you give its death-wound to your English revenue 
at home! and to one of the very greatest articles of your 
own foreign trade. If you tax the import of that rebel- 
lious colony, what do you tax but your own manutac- 
tures, or the goods of some other obedient, and already 
well-taxed colony ? Who has said one word on this 
labyrinth of detail, which bewilders you more and more 
as you enter into it ? Who has presented who can 
present you with a clue, to lead you out of it ? I thmk 
sir, it is impossible that you should not recoUect that 
the colony bounds are so implicated m one another (you 
know it by your other experiments in the bill lor pro- 
hibiting the New-England fishery) that you can lay no 
possible restraint on almost any of them which may not 
be presently eluded, if you do not confound the mnocent 
with the guilty, and burden those whom, upon every 
principle, you ought to exonerate. He must W grossly 



SELECTIONS. 183 

ignorant of America, who thinks that, without falhng 
into this confusion of all rules of equity and policy, you 
can restrain any single colony, especially Virginia and 
Maryland, the central, the most important of them all. 

Let it also be considered, that, either in the present 
confusion you settle a permanent contingent, which will 
and must be trifling ; and then you have no effectual 
revenue : or you change the quota at every exigency ; 
and then on every new repartition you will have a new 
quarrel. 

Reflect besides that, when you have fixed a quota for 
every colony, you have not provided for prompt and 
punctual payment. Suppose one, two, five, ten years' 
arrears. You cannot issue a treasury extent against the 
failing colony. You must make new Boston port bills, 
new restraining laws, new acts for dragging men to 
England for trial. You must send out new fleets, new 
armies. All is to begin again. From this day forward 
the empire is never to know an hour's tranquillity. An 
intestine fire will be kept alive in the bowels of the 
colonies, which one time or other must consume this 
whole empire. I allow indeed that the empire of Ger- 
many raises her revenue and her troops by quotas and 
contingents ; but the revenue of the empire, and the 
army of the empire, is the worst revenue, and the worst 
army in the world. 

Instead of a standing revenue, you will therefore have 
a perpetual quarrel. Indeed the noble lord, who pro- 
posed this project of a ransom by auction, seemed 
himself to be of that opinion. His project was rather 
designed for breaking the union of the colonics than for 
establishing a revenue. He confessed he apprehended 
that his proposal would not be to their taste. I say this 
scheme of disunion seems to be at the bottom of the 
project ; for I will not suspect that the noble lord meant 
nothing but merely to delude the nation by an airy 
phantom which he never intended to realize. But 
whatever his views may be ; as I propose the peace and 
union of the colonies as the very foundation of my plan. 



i84 EDMUND BURKE. 

it cannot accord with one whose foundation is perpetual 
discord. 

Compare the two. This I offer to give you is plain and 
simple. The other fuU of perplexed and intricate mazes. 
This is mild : that harsh. This is found by experience 
effectual for its purposes ; the other is a new project. 
This is universal ; the other calculated for certain 
colonies only. This is immediate in its conciliatory 
operation ; the other remote, contingent, full of hazard. 
Mine is what becomes the dignity of a ruling people ; 
gratuitous, unconditional, and not held out as a matter 
of bargain and sale. I have done my duty in proposing 
it to you. I have indeed tired you by a long discourse ; 
but this is the misfortune of those to whose influence 
nothing will be conceded, and who must win every inch 
of their ground by argument. You have heard me with 
goodness. May you decide with wisdom ! For my part, 
I feel my mind greatly disburdened by what I have done 
to-day. I have been the less fearful of trying your 
patience, because on this subject I mean to spare it 
altogether in future. I have this comfort, that in 
every stage of the American affairs, I have steadily 
opposed the measures that have produced the confusion, 
and may bring on the destruction, of this empire. I 
now go so far as to risk a proposal of my own. If 
I cannot give peace to my country, I give it to my 
conscience. 

But what (says the financier) is peace to us without 
money ? Your plan gives us no revenue. No ! But it 
does— For it secures to the subject the power of RE- 
FUSAL ; the first of all revenues. Experience is a 
cheat, and fact a liar, if this power in the subject of 
proportioning his grant, or of not granting at all, has 
not been found the richest mine of revenue ever dis- 
covered by the skill or by the fortune of man. It does 
not indeed vote you £i^2,yS'2 ' n : 2|ths, nor any 
other paltry limited sum. — But it gives the strong box 
itself, the fund, the bank, from whence only revenues 
can arise amongst a people sensible of freedom ; Posita 



SELECTIONS. 185 

luditur area. Cannot you in England ; cannot you at 
this time of day ; cannot you, a House of Commons, 
trust to the principle which has raised so mighty a 
revenue, and accumulated a debt of near 140 millions in 
this country ? Is this principle to be true in England 
and false everywhere else ? Is it not true in Ireland ? 
Has it not hitherto been true in the colonies ? Why 
should you presume that, in any country, a body duly 
constituted for any function will neglect to perform 
its duty, and abdicate its trust ? Such a presumption 
would go against all governments in all modes. But, in 
truth, this dread of penury of supply from a free assem- 
bly, has no foundation in nature. For first observe that, 
besides the desire which all men have naturally of sup- 
porting the honour of their own government, that sense 
of dignity, and that security to property, which ever 
attend freedom, have a tendency to increase the stock 
of the free community. Most may be taken where most 
is accumulated. And what is the soil or climate where 
experience has not uniformly proved that the voluntary 
flow of heaped-up plenty, bursting from the weight of 
its own rich luxuriance, has ever run with a more copious 
stream of revenue, than could be squeezed from the dry 
husks of oppressed indigence, by the straining of all the 
politic machinery in the world. 

Next we know, that parties must ever exist in a free 
country. We know, too, that the emulations of such 
parties, their contradictions, their reciprocal necessities, 
their hopes, and their fears, must send them all in their 
turns to him that holds the balance of the state. The 
parties are the gamesters ; but government keeps the 
table, and is sure to be the winner in the end. When 
this game is played, I really think it is more to be feared 
that the people will be exhausted than that government 
will not be supplied. Whereas, whatever is got by acts 
of absolute power ill obeyed, because odious, or by con- 
tracts ill kept, because constrained : will be narrow, 
feeble, uncertain, and precarious. ' Ease would retract 
vows made in pain, as violent and void,' 



l86 EDMUND BURKE. 

I, for one, protest against compounding our demands : 
I declare against compounding for a poor limited sum, 
the immense, ever growing, eternal debt, which is due 
to generous government from protected freedom. And 
so may I speed in the great object I propose to you, as 
I think it would not only be an act of injustice, but 
would be the worst economy in the world, to compel the 
colonies to a sum certain, either in the way of ransom, 
or in the way of compulsory compact. 

But to clear up my ideas on this subject — a revenue 
from America transmitted hither — do not delude your- 
selves — you never can receive it — No, not a shilling. 
We have experience that from remote countries it is not 
to be expected. If, when you attempted to extract 
revenue from Bengal, you were obliged to return in loan 
what you had taken in imposition, what can you expect 
from North America ? For certainly, if ever there was 
a country quaUfied to produce wealth, it is India ; or 
an institution fit for the transmission, it is the East India 
Company. America has none of these amplitudes. If 
America gives you taxable objects, on which you lay 
your duties here, and gives you, at the same time, a sur- 
plus by a foreign sale of her commodities to pay the 
duties on these objects, which you tax at home, she has 
performed her part to the British revenue. But with 
regard to her own internal establishments ; she may, I 
doubt not she will, contribute in moderation. I say in 
moderation ; for she ought not to be permitted to ex- 
haust herself. She ought to be reserved to a war ; the 
weight of which, with the enemies that we are most 
likely to have, must be considerable in her quarter of 
the globe. There she may serve you and serve you 
essentially. 

For that service, for all service, whether of revenue, 
trade, or empire, my trust is in her interest in the British 
constitution. My hold of the colonies is in the close 
affection which grows from common names, from 
kindred blood, from similar privileges, and equal pro- 
tection. These are ties, which, though light as air, are 



SELECTIONS. 187 

as strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep 
the idea of their civil rights associated with your govern- 
ment ; — they will cling and grapple to you ; and no 
force under heaven would be of power to tear them from 
their allegiance. But let it be once understood, that 
your government may be one thing, and their privileges 
another ; that these two things may exist without any 
mutual relation ; the cement is gone ; the cohesion is 
loosened ; and everything hastens to decay and dis- 
solution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the 
sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of 
liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common 
faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England 
worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. 
The more they multiply, the more friends you will have ; 
the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect 
will be their obedience. Slavery they can have any- 
where. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may 
have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. 
But, until you become lost to all feeling of your true 
interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can 
have from none but you. This is the commodity of 
price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true 
act of navigation which binds to you the commerce of 
the colonies, and through them secures to you the 
wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of 
freedom, and you break that sole bond, which originally 
made, and must still preserve the unity of the empire. 
Do not entertain so weak an imagination, as that your 
registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your 
sufferances, your cockets ancj your clearances, are what 
form the great securities of your commerce. Do not 
dream that your letters of office, and your instruc- 
tions, and your suspending clauses, are the things that 
hold together the great contexture of this mysterious 
whole. These things do not make your government. 
Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the 
spirit of the English communion that gives all their 
life and efhcacy to them. It is the spirit of the English 



l88 EDMUND BURKE. 

constitution, which, infused through the mighty mass, 
pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivifies every part 
of the empire, even down to the minutest member. 

Is it not the same virtue which does everything for 
us here in England ? Do you imagine, then, that it is 
the land tax act which raises your revenue ? that it is 
the annual vote in the committee of supply, which 
gives you your army ? or that it is the mutiny bill, 
which inspires it with bravery and discipline ? No ! 
surely not ! It is the love of the people ; it is their 
attachment to their government, from the sense of 
the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, 
which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses 
into both that liberal obedience, without which your 
army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing 
but rotten timber. 

All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and 
chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and 
mechanical politicians, who have no place among us ; 
a sort of people who think that nothing exists but 
what is gross and material ; and who therefore, far 
from being qualified to be directors of the great move- 
ment of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. 
But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these 
ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of 
such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial 
existence, are in truth everything, and all in all. Mag- 
nanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom ; 
and a great empire and little minds go ill together. 
If we are conscious of our situation, and glow with 
zeal to fill our places as becomes our station and our- 
selves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings 
in America, with the old warning of the Church, Sursum 
corda ! We ought to elevate our minds to the greatness 
of that trust to which the. order of Providence has 
called us. By adverting to the dignity of this high 
calHng, our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness 
into a glorious empire : and have made the most ex- 
tensive, and the only honourable conciuests, not by 



SELECTIONS. i89 

destroying, but. by promoting the wealth, the number, 
the happiness of the human race. Let us get an Amer- 
ican revenue as we have got an American empire. Eng- 
lish privileges have made it all that it is ; English 
privileges alone will make it all it can be. 

In full confidence of this unalterable truth, I now 
{quod felix fausiumgue sit) — lay the first stone of the 
temple of peace ; and I move you, 

' That the colonies and plantations of Great Britain 
in North America, consisting of fourteen separate gov- 
ernments, and containing two millions and upwards of 
free inhabitants, have not had the liberty and privi- 
lege of electing and sending any knights and burgesses, 
or others, to represent them in the high court of parlia- 
ment.' 

Upon this resolution, the previous question was put 
and carried ; for the previous question 270, against 
it y8. 



IV. 

ADDRESS TO THE BRITISH 
COLONISTS IN NORTH AMERICA. 

[Dated 1777, the year of the defeats at Brandywine 
and Germanstown, when the American prospects were 
at their darkest. Lord Acton has described this address 
as ' the grandest of state papers.'] 

The very dangerous crisis into which the British empire 
is brought, as it accounts for, so it justifies, the unusual 
step we take in addressing ourselves to you. 

The distempers of the state are grown to such a degree 
of violence and malignity as to render all ordinary 
remedies vain and frivolous. In such a deplorable 
situation, an adherence to the common forms of business 



igo EDMUND BURKE. 

appears to us rather as an apology to cover a supine 
neglect of duty, than the means of performing it in 
a manner adequate to the exigency that presses upon 
us. The common means we have already tried, and 
tried to no purpose. As our last resource, we turn our- 
selves to you. We address you merely in our private 
capacity ; vested with no other authority than what 
will naturally attend those, in whose declarations of 
benevolence you have no reason to apprehend any 
mixture of dissimulation or design. 

We have this title to your attention : we call upon 
it in a moment of the utmost importance to us all. 
We find with infinite concern, that arguments are used 
to persuade you of the necessity of separating your- 
selves from your ancient connexion with your parent 
country, grounded on a supposition that a general 
principle of alienation and enmity to you had pervaded 
the whole of this kingdom ; and that there does no 
longer subsist between you and us any common and 
kindred principles, upon which we can possibly unite, 
consistently with those ideas of liberty in which you 
have justly placed your whole happiness. 

If this fact were true, the inference drawn from it 
would be irresistible. But nothing is less founded. We 
admit, indeed, that violent addresses have been pro- 
cured with uncommon pains by wicked and designing 
men, purporting to be the genuine voice of the whole 
people of England ; that they have been published by 
authority here ; and made known to you by proclama- 
tions ; in order, by despair and resentment, incurably 
to poison your minds against the origin of your race, 
and to render all cordial reconciliation between us 
utterly impracticable. The same wicked men, for the 
same bad purposes, have so far surprised the justice 
of parliament, as to cut off all communication betwixt 
us, except what is to go in their own fallacious and 
hostile channel. 

But we conjure you by the invaluable pledges, which 
have hitherto united, and which we trust will hereafter 



SELECTIONS. 191 

lastingly unite us, that you do not suffer yourselves to 
be persuaded or provoked into an opinion that you are 
at war with this nation. Do not think that the whole 
or even the uninfluenced majority of Englishmen in this 
island are enemies to their own blood on the American 
continent. Much delusion has been practised ; much 
corrupt influence treacherously employed. But still a 
large, and we trust the largest and soundest, part of 
this kmgdom perseveres in the most perfect unity of 
sentiments, principles, and affections with you. It 
spreads out a large and liberal platform of common 
liberty, upon which we may all unite for ever. It abhors 
the hostilities which have been carried on against you 
as much as you who feel the cruel effect of them. It 
has disclaimed, in the most solemn manner, at the' foot 
of _ the throne itself, the addresses which tended to 
irritate your sovereign against his colonies. We are 
persuaded that even many of those, who unadvisedly 
have put their hands to such intemperate and inflam- 
matory addresses, have not at all apprehended to what 
such proceedings naturally lead ; and would sooner die 
than afford them the least countenance, if they were 
sensible of their fatal effects on the union and hbertv 
of the empire. 

For ourselves, we faithfully assure you, that we have 
ever considered you as rational creatures ; as free 
agents ; as men willing to pursue, and able to discern 
your own true interest. We have wished to continue 
united with you, in order that a people of one origin 
and one character should be directed to the rational 
objects of government by joint counsels, and protected 
m them by a common force. Other subordination in 
you we require none. We have never pressed that 
argument of general union to the extinction of your 
local natural, and just privileges. Sensible of what is 
due both to the dignity and weakness of man, we have 
never wished to place over you any government, over 
which, in great fundamental points, you should have 
no sort of check or control in your own hands ; or which 



a 



192 EDMUND BURKE. 

should be repugnant to your situation, principles, and 

No circumstances . of fortune, you may be assured, 
will ever induce us to form or tolerate any such design. 
If the disposition of Providence (which we deprecate) 
should even prostrate you at our feet, broken in power 
and in spirit, it would be our duty and incHnation to 
revive, by every practicable means, that free energy 
of miiid which a fortune unsuitable to your virtue had 
damped and dejected ; and to put you voluntarily in 
possession of those very privileges, which you had m 
vain attempted to assert by arms. For we solemnly 
declare, that although we should look upon a separation 
from you as a heavy calamity (and the heavier, because 
we know you must have your full share in it), yet we 
had much rather see you totally independent of this 
crown and kingdom, than joined to it by as unnatural 
a conjunction as that of freedom and servitude :— - 
a conjunction, which, if it were at all practicable, could 
not fail, in the end, of being more mischievous to the 
peace, prosperity, greatness, and power of this nation 
than beneficial by any enlargement of the bounds of 
nominal empire. . 

But because, brethren, these professions are general, 
and such as even enemies may make, when they reserve 
to themselves the construction of what servitude and 
what hberty are, we inform you that we adopt your own 
standard of the blessing of free government. We are 
of opinion, that you ought to enjoy the sole and exclu- 
sive right of freely granting, and applying to the support 
of your administration, what God has freely granted as 
a reward to your industry. And we do not confine this 
immunity from exterior coercion, in this great point, 
solely to what regards your local establishment, but 
also to what may be thought proper for the maintenance 
of the whole empire. In this resource we cheerfully 
trust and acquiesce : satisfied by evident reason, that 
no other expectation of revenue can possibly be given 
by freemen ; and knowing from an experience, uniform 



SELECTIONS. 193 

both on yours and on our side of the ocean, that such 
an expectation has never yet been disappointed. We 
know of no road to your coffers but through your 
affections. 

To manifest our sentiments the more clearly to you 
and to the world on this subject ; we declare our opinion, 
that if no revenue at all, which, however, we are far 
from supposing, were to be obtained from you to this 
kingdom, yet as long as it is our happiness to be joined 
with you in the bonds of fraternal charity and freedom, 
with an open and flowing commerce between us, one 
principle of enmity and friendship pervading, and 
one right of war and peace directing, the strength of 
the whole empire, we are likely to be at least as power- 
ful as any nation, or as any combination of nations, 
which in the course of human events may be formed 
against us. We are sensible, that a very large pro- 
portion of the wealth and power of every empire must 
necessarily be thrown upon the presiding state. We 
are sensible that such a state ever has borne, and ever 
must bear the greatest part, and sometimes the whole 
of the public expenses : and we think her well 
indemnified for that (rather apparent than real) 
inequality of charge, in the dignity and pre-eminence 
she enjoys, and in the superior opulence, which, after 
all charges defrayed, must necessarily remain at the 
centre of affairs. Of this principle we are not without 
evidence in our remembrance (not yet effaced) of the 
glorious and happy days of this empire. We are, there- 
fore, incapable of that prevaricating style, by which, 
when taxes without your consent are to be extorted 
from you, this nation is represented as in the lowest 
state of impoverishment and public distress ; but when 
we are called upon to oppress you by force of arms, it 
is painted as scarcely feeling its impositions, abounding 
with wealth, and inexhaustible in its resources. 

We also reason and feel, as you do, on the invasion of 
your charters. Because the charters comprehend the 
essential forms by which you enjoy your liberties, we 

7 



194 EDMUND BURKE, 

regard them as most sacred, and by no means to be 
taken away or altered without process, without ex- 
amination, and without hearing, as they have lately been. 
We even think, that they ought by no means to be 
altered at all, but at the desire of the greater part of the 
people who live under them. We cannot look upon men 
as delinquents in the mass ; much less are we desirous 
of lording over our brethren, insulting their honest pride, 
and wantonly overturning establishments, judged to be 
just and convenient by the public wisdom of this nation 
at their institution ; and which long and inveterate use 
has taught you to look up to with affection and reverence. 
As we disapproved of the proceedings with regard to the 
forms of your constitution, so we are equally tender of 
every leading principle of free government. We never 
could think with approbation of putting the military 
power out of the coercion of the civil justice in the country 
where it acts. 

We disclaim also any sort of share in that other 
measure, which has been used to alienate your affections 
from this country, namely, the introduction of foreign 
mercenaries. We saw their employrnent with shame 
and regret, especially in numbers so far exceeding the 
Enghsh forces, as in effect to constitute vassals, who 
have no sense of freedom, and strangers, who have no 
common interest or feelings, as the arbiters of our un- 
happy domestic quarrel. 

We likewise saw with shame the African slaves, who 
had been sold to you on public faith^ and under the 
sanction of acts of parliament, to be your servants and 
your guards, employed to cut the throats of their masters. 

You will not, we trust, believe, that born in a civilized 
country, formed to gentle manners, trained in a merciful 
religion, and Uving in enlightened and polished times, 
where even foreign hostility is softened from its original 
sternness, we could have thought of letting loose upon 
you, our late beloved brethren, these fierce tribes of 
savages and cannibals, in whom the traces of human 
nature are effaced by ignorance and barbarity. We 



SELECTIONS. 195 

rather wished to have joined with you in bringing gradu- 
ally that unhappy part of mankind into civility, order, 
piety, and virtuous discipline, than to have confirmed 
their evil habits, and increased their natural ferocity, by 
fleshing them in the slaughter of you, whom our wiser 
and better ancestors had sent into the wilderness, with 
the express view of introducing, along with our holy 
religion, its humane and charitable manners. We do 
not hold, that all things are lawful in war.. We should 
think, that every barbarity, in fire, in wasting, in murders, 
in tortures, and other cruelties, too horrible and too full 
of turpitude for Christian mouths to utter, or ears to 
hear, if done at our instigation by those, who, we know, 
will make war thus if they make it at all, to be, to all 
intents and purposes, as if done by ourselves. We clear 
ourselves to you our brethren, to the present age, and to 
* future generations, to our king and our country, and to 
Europe, which, as a spectator, beholds this tragic scene, 
of every part or share in adding this last and worst of 
evils to the inevitable mischiefs of a civil war. 

We do not call you rebels and traitors. We do not 
call for the vengeance of the crown against you. We 
do not know how to qualify millions of our countrymen, 
contending with one heart for an admission to privileges 
which we have ever thought our own happiness and 
honour, by odious and unworthy names. On the con- 
trary, we highly revere the principles on which you act, 
though we lament some of their effects. Armed as you 
are, we embrace you as our friends and as our brethren 
by the best and dearest ties of relation. 

We view the establishment of the English colonies on 
principles of liberty, as that which is to render this 
kingdom venerable to future ages. In comparison of 
this, we regard all the victories and conquests of our 
warlike ancestors, or of our own times, as barbarous, 
vulgar distinctions, in which many nations, whom we 
look upon with little respect or value, have equalled, if 
not far exceeded us. This is the peculiar and appro- 
priated glory of England. Those who have and who 



196 EDMUND BURKE. 

hold to that foundation of common liberty, whether on 
this or on your side of the ocean, we consider as the true, 
and the only true, Englishmen. Those who depart from 
it, whether there or here, are attainted, corrupted in 
blood, and wholly fallen from their original rank and 
value. They are the real rebels to the fair constitution 
and just supremacy of England. 

We exhort you, therefore, to cleave for ever to those 
principles, as being the true bond of union in this empire ; 
and to show by a manly perseverance, that the senti- 
ments of honour, and the rights of mankind, are not 
held by the uncertain events of war, as you have hitherto 
shown a glorious and affecting example to the world, 
that they are not dependent on the ordinary conveniences 
and satisfactions of life. 

Knowing no other arguments to be used to men of 
liberal minds, it is upon these very principles, and these 
alone, we hope and trust, that no flattering and no alarm- 
ing circumstances shall permit you to listen to the seduc- 
tions of those who would alienate you from your depend- 
ence on the crown and parliament of this kingdom. 
That very liberty which you so justly prize above all 
things originated here ; and it may be very doubtful 
whether, without being constantly fed from the original 
fountain, it can be at all perpetuated or preserved in 
its native purity and perfection. Untried forms of 
government may, to unstable minds, recommend them- 
selves even by their novelty. But you will do well to 
remember, that England has been great and happy under 
the present limited monarchy (subsisting in more or less 
vigour and purity) for several hundred years. None 
but England can communicate to you the benefits of 
such a constitution. We apprehend you are not now, 
nor for ages are likely to be, capable of that form of 
constitution in an independent state. Besides, let us 
suggest to you our apprehensions, that your present 
union (in which we rejoice, and which we wish long to 
subsist) cannot always subsist without the authority and 
weight of this great and long respected body, to equipoise, 



SELECTIONS. 197 

and to preserve you amongst yourselves in a just and fair 
equality. It may not even be impossible, that a long 
course of war with the administration of this country 
may be but a prelude to a series of wars and contentions 
among yourselves, to end at length (as such scenes have 
too often ended), in a species of humiliating repose, 
which nothing but the preceding calamities would 
reconcile to the dispirited few who survived them. We 
allow that even this evil is worth the risk to men of 
honour, when rational liberty is at stake, as in the 
present case we confess and lament that it is. But if 
ever a real security, by parliament, is given against the 
terror or the abuse of unlimited power, and after such 
security given you should persevere in resistance, we leave 
you to consider, whether the risk is not incurred without 
an object, or incurred for an object infinitely diminished, 
by such concessions, in its importance and value. 

As to other points of discussion, when these gi'and 
fundamentals of your grants and charters are once 
settled and ratihed by clear parliamentary authority, 
as the ground for peace and forgiveness on our side, and 
for a manly and liberal obedience on yours, treaty, and 
a spirit of reconciliation, will easily and securely adjust 
whatever may. remain. Of this we give you our word, 
that so far as we are at present concerned, and if by any 
event we should become more concerned hereafter, you 
may rest assured, u])on the pledges of lionour not for- 
feited, faith not violated, and uniformity of character 
and profession not yet broken, we, at least on these 
grounds, will never fail you. 

Respecting your wisdom, and valuing your safety, 
we do not call upon you to trust your existence to your 
enemies. We do not advise you to an unconditional 
submission. With satisfaction we assure you, that 
almost all in both Houses (however unhappily they have 
been deluded, so as not to give any immediate effect to 
their opinion) disclaim that idea. You can have no 
friends in whom you cannot rationally conlide. But 
parliament is your friend from the moment in which. 



igS EDMUND BURKE. 

removing its confidence from those who have constantly 
deceived its good intentions, it adopts the sentiments 
of those who have made sacrifices (inferior indeed to 
yours), but have, however, sacrificed enough to demon- 
strate 'the sincerity of their regard and value for your 
liberty and prosperity. 

Arguments may be used to weaken your confidence 
in that public security j because, from some unpleasant 
appearances, there is a suspicion that parhament itself 
is somewhat fallen from its independent spirit. How 
far this supposition may be founded in fact we are un- 
willing to determine. But we are well assured from 
experience, that even if it all were true that is contended 
for, and in the extent too in which it is argued, yet as long 
as the solid and well-disposed forms of this constitution 
remain, there ever is within parhament itself a power 
of renovating its principles, and effecting a self-refor- 
mation, which no other plan of government has ever 
contained. This constitution has therefore admitted 
innumerable improvements, either for the correction of 
the original scheme, or for removing corruptions, or 
for bringing its principles better to suit those changes 
which have successively happened in the circumstances 
of the nation, or in the manners of the people. 

We feel, that the growth of the colonies is such a 
change of circumstances j and that our present dispute 
is an exigency as pressing as any which ever demanded 
a revision of our government. Pubhc troubles have 
often caUed upon this country to look into its constitution. 
It has ever been bettered by such a revision. If our 
happy and luxuriant increase of dominion, and our 
diffused population, have outgrown the hmits of a con- 
stitution made for a contracted object, we ought to bless 
God, who has furnished us with this noble occasion for 
displaying our skill and beneficence in enlarging the scale 
of rational happiness, and of making the politic generosity 
of this kingdom as extensive as its fortune. If we set 
about this great work, on both sides, with the same con- 
ciliatory turn of mind, we may now, as in former times, 



SELECTIONS. 199 

owe even to our mutual mistakes, contentions, and 
animosities, the lasting concord, freedom, happiness, 
and glory of this empire. 

Gentlemen, the distance between us, with other ob- 
structions, has caused much misrepresentation of our 
mutual sentiments. We, therefore, to obviate them as 
well as we are able, take this method of assuring you 
of our thorough detestation of the whole war ; and 
particularly the mercenary and savage war, carried on 
or attempted against you : our thorough abhorrence of 
all addresses adverse to you, whether public or private ; 
our assurances of an invariable affection towards you ; 
our constant regard to your privileges and liberties ; and 
our opinion of the solid security you ought to enjoy for 
them, under the paternal care and nurture of a protecting 
parliament. 

Though many of us have earnestly wished that the 
authority of that august and venerable body, so necessary 
in many respects to the union of the whole, should be 
rather limited by its own equity and discretion, than by 
any bounds described by positive laws and public com- 
pacts ; and though we felt the extreme difficulty, by 
any theoretical limitations, of qualifying that authority, 
so as to preserve one part and deny another ; and though 
you (as we gratefully acknowledge) had acquiesced most 
cheerfully under that prudent reserve of the constitution 
at that happy moment wlicn neither you nor we appre- 
hended a further return of the exercise of invidious 
powers, we are now as fully persuaded as you can be, b}' 
the malice, inconstancy, and perverse inquietude of many 
men, and by the incessant endeavours of ah arbitrary 
faction, now too powerful, that our common necessities 
do require a full explanation and ratified security for 
your liberties and our quiet. 

Although his majesty's condescension in committing 
the direction of his affairs into the hands of tlie known 
friends of his famil}' and of the liberties of all his people, 
would, we admit, be a great means of giving repose to 
your minds, as it must give infinite facility to recon- 



200 EDMUND BURKE. 

ciliation, yet we assure you that we think, with such a 
security as we recommend, adopted from necessity and 
not choice, even by the unhappy authors and instruments 
of the public misfortunes, that the terms of reconciUation, 
if once accepted by pariiament, would not be broken. 
We also pledge ourselves to you, that we should give, 
even to those unhappy persons, a hearty support in 
effectuating the peace of the empire ; and every opposi- 
tion in an attempt to cast it again into disorder. 

When that happy hour shall arrive, let us in all affection 
recommend to you the wisdom of continuing, as in former 
times, or even in a more ample measure, the support of 
your government, and even to give to your administration 
some degree of reciprocal interest in your freedom. We 
earnestly wish you not to furnish your enemies, here or 
elsewhere, with any sort of pretexts for reviving quarrels 
by too reserved and severe or penurious an exercise of 
those sacred rights, which no pretended abuse in the 
exercise ought to impair, nor, by overstraining the 
principles of freedom, to make them less compatible 
with those haughty sentin>ents in others, which the 
very same principles may be apt to breed in minds not 
tempered with the utmost equity and justice. 

The well-wishers of the liberty and union of this empire 
salute you, and recommend you most heartily to the 
Divine protection. 



BOOK III. 
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. 



I. 

REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION 
IN FRANCE. 

[A letter ' intended to have been sent to a gentleman 
in Paris,' 1790. It should be remembered that this is 
written at the very outset of the Revolution. The Bastille 
had been stormed on July 14, 1789. but no other revolu- 
tionary events had happened. Mirabeau did not die 
till April- 1791, and Danton and Robespierre were still 
unheard of.] 

Dear Sir, 

You are pleased to call again, and with some earnest- 
ness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. 
I will not give you reason to imagine that I think my 
sentiments of such value as to wish myself to te solicited 
about them. They are of too little consequence to be 
very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It 
was from attention to you, and to you only, that I 
hesitated at the time when you first desired to receive 
them. In the first letter I had the honour to wTite to 
you, and which at length I send, I wrote neither for, nor 
from, any description of men ; nor shall I in this. My 
errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to 
answer for them. 

You see, sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to 
you, that though I do most heartily wish that France 
may be animated by a spirit of rational liberty, and that 
I think you bound, in all honest policy, to provide a 
permanent body in wliich that spirit may reside, and 



204 EDMUND BURKE. 

an effectual organ by which it may act, it is my mis- 
fortune to entertain great doubts concerning several 
material points in your late transactions. 

You imagined, when you wrote last, that I might 
possibly be reckoned among the approvers of certain 
proceedings in France, from the solemn public seal of 
sanction they have received from two clubs of gentle- 
men in London, called the Constitutional Society, and 
the Revolution Society. 

I certainly have the honour to belong to more clubs 
than one, in which the constitution of this kingdom, 
and the principles of the glorious Revolution, are held 
in high reverence ; and I reckon myself among the most 
forward in my zeal for maintaining that constitution 
and those principles in their utmost purity and vigour. 
It is because I do so that I think it necessary for me that 
there should be no mistake. Those who cultivate the 
memory of our Revolution, and those who are attached 
to the constitution of this kingdom, will take good care 
how they are involved with persons who, under the pre- 
text of zeal towards the Revolution and constitution, 
too frequently wander from their true principles ; and 
are ready on every occasion to depart from the firm but 
cautious and deliberate spirit which produced the one, 
and which presides in the other. Before I proceed to 
answer the more material particulars in your letter, I 
shall beg leave to give you such information as I have 
been able to obtain of the two clubs which have thought 
proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns of France ; 
first assuring you, that I am not, and that I have never 
been, a member of either of those societies. 

The first, calling itself the Constitutional Society, or 
Society for Constitutional Information, or by some such 
title, is, I believe, of seven or eight years' standing. The 
institution of this society appears to be of a charitable, 
and so far of a laudable nature : it was intended for the 
circulation, at the expense of the members, of many 
books, which few others would be at the expense ot 
buying ; and which might lie on the hands of the book- 



SELECTIONS. 205 

sellers, to the great loss of an useful body of men. 
Whether the books, so charitably circulated, were ever 
as charitably read, is more than I know. Possibly 
several of them have been exported to France ; and, 
like goods not in request here, may with you have found 
a market. I have heard much talk of the lights to be 
drawn from books that are sent from hence. Wliat 
improvements they have had in their passage (as it is 
said some liquors are meliorated by crossing the sea) 
I cannot tell : but I never heard a man of common judg- 
ment, or the last degree of information, speak a word in 
praise of the greater part of the publications circulated 
by that society ; nor have their proceedings been ac- 
counted, except by some of themselves, as of any serious 
consequence. 

Your National Assembly seems to entertain much 
the same opinion that I do of this poor charitable club. 
As a nation, you reserved the whole stock of your 
eloquent acknowledgments for the Revolution Society ; 
when their fellows in the Constitutional were, in equity, 
entitled to some share. Since you have selected the 
Revolution Society as the great object of your national 
thanks and praises, you will think me excusable in 
making its late conduct the subject of my observations. 
The National Assembly of France has given importance 
to these gentlemen by adopting them : and they return 
the favour, by acting as a committee in England for 
extending the principles of the National Assembly. 
Henceforward we must consider them as a kind of 
j)rivileged persons ; as no inconsiderable members in 
the diplomatic body. This is one among the revolu- 
tions which have given splendour to obsciunty, and 
distinction to undiscerned merit. Until very lately 
I do not recollect to have heard of this club. I 
am quite sure that it never occupied a moment of 
my thoughts : nor, I believe, those of any person out 
of their own set. I find, upon inquiry, that on the 
anniversarv of the Revolution in ib88, a club of dis- 
senters, buL ul what dcnoniiiiahon I know not, have 



2o6 EDMUND BURKE. 

long had the custom of hearing a sermon in one of their 
churches ; and that afterwards they spent the day 
cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern. But I 
never heard that any public measure, or political system, 
much less that the merits of the constitution of any 
foreign nation, had been the subject of a formal pro- 
ceeding at their festivals ; until, to my inexpressible 
surprise, I found them in a sort of public capacity, by 
a congratulatory address, giving an authoritative sanc- 
tion to the proceedings of the National Assembly in 
France. 

In the ancient principles and conduct of the club, 
so far at least as they were declared, I see nothing to 
which I could take exception. I think it very probable 
that, for some purpose, new members may have entered 
among them ; and that some truly Christian politi- 
cians, who love to dispense benefits, but are careful to 
conceal the hand which distributes the dole, may have 
made them the instruments of their pious designs. 
Whatever I may have reason to suspect concerning 
private management, I shall speak of nothing as of a 
certainty but what is public. 

For one, I should be sorry to be thought, directly or 
indirectly, concerned in their proceedings. I certainly 
take my full share, along with the rest of the world, in 
my individual and private capacity, in speculating on 
what has been done, or is doing, on the public stage, in 
any place ancient or modern ; in the republic of Rome, 
or the republic of Paris ; but having no general apostoli- 
cal mission, being a citizen of a particular state, and 
being bound up, in a considerable degree, by its public 
will, I should think it at least improper and irregular 
for me to open a formal public correspondence vnth the 
actual government of a foreign nation, without the ex- 
press authority of the government under which I live. 

I should be still more unwilling to enter into that 
correspondence under anything like an equivocal de- 
scription which to many, unacquainted with our usages, 
might make the address, in which I joined, appear as 



SELECTIONS. 207 

the act of persons in some sort of corporate capacity, 
acknowledged by the laws of this kingdom, and authorized 
to speak the sense of some part of it. On account 
of the ambiguity and uncertainty of unauthorized general 
descriptions, and of the deceit which may be practised 
under them, and not from mere formahty, the House of 
Commons would reject the most sneaking petition for 
the most trifling object, under that mode of signature to 
which you have thrown open the folding doors of your 
presence chamber, and have ushered into your National 
Assembly with as much ceremony and parade, and with 
as great a bustle of applause, as if you had been visited by 
the whole representative majesty of the whole English 
nation. If what this society has thought proper to send 
forth had been a piece of argument, it would have signified 
little whose argument it was. It would be neither the 
more nor the less convincing on account of the party it 
came from. But this is only a vote and resolution. It 
stands solely on authority ; and in this case it is the mere 
authority of individuals, few of whom appear. Their 
signatures ought, in my opinion, to have been annexed 
to their instrument. The world would then have the 
means of knowing how many they are ; who they are ; 
and of what value their opinions may be, from their per- 
sonal abilities, from their knowledge, their experience, or 
their lead and authority in this state. To me, who am 
but a plain man, the proceeding looks a little too re- 
fined, and too ingenious ; it has too much the air of a 
political stratagem, adopted for the sake of giving, 
under a high-sounding name, an importance to the 
public declarations of this club, which, when the matter 
came to be closely inspected, they did not altogether 
so well deserve. It is a policy that has very much the 
complexion of a fraud. 

I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated 
liberty as well as any gentleman of that society, be he 
who he will : and perhaps I have given as good proofs 
of my attachment to that cause, in the whole course of 
my public conduct. I think I envj' liberty as little as 



2o8 EDMUND BURKE. 

they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand 
forward, and give praise or blame to anything which 
relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a 
simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every 
relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of meta- 
physical abstraction. Circumstances (which \\n.th some 
gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every 
political principle its distinguishing colour and dis- 
criminating effect. The circumstances are what render 
every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious 
to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as 
well as liberty, is good ; yet could I, in common sense, 
ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment 
of a government (for she then had a government) with- 
out inquiry what the nature of that government was, 
or how it was administered ? Can I now congratulate 
the same nation upon its freedom ? Is it because 
liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the 
blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate 
a madman, who has escaped from the protecting re- 
straint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his 
restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty ? Am 
I to congratulate a highwayman and murderer, who 
has broke prison, upon the recovery of his natural 
rights ? This would be to act over again the scene of 
the criminals condemned to the gallows, and their 
heroic deliverer, the metaphysic knight of the sorrowful 
countenance. 

When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a 
strong principle at work ; and this, for a while, is all 
I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, 
is plainly broke loose : but we ought to suspend our 
judgment until the first effervescence is a little sub- 
sided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see some- 
thing deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy 
surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture 
publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they 
have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the 
receiver and the giver ; and adulation is not of more 



SELECTIONS. 209 

service to the people than to kings. I should therefore 
suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France 
until I was informed how it had been combined with 
government ; with public force ; with the discipline 
and obedience of armies ; with the collection of an 
effective and well-distributed revenue ; with morality 
and religion ; with soHdity and property ; with peace 
and order ; with civil and social manners. All these 
(in their way) are good things too ; and, without them, 
liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and is not likely 
to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals, 
is, that they may do what they please : we ought to 
see what it will please them to do, before we risk con- 
gratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints. 
Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate, 
insulated, private men ; but hberty, when men act in 
bodies, is power. Considerate people, before they de- 
clare themselves, will observe the use which is made of 
power ; and particularly of so trying a thing as new 
power in new persons, of whose principles, tempers, and 
dispositions, they have little or no experience, and in 
situations, where those who appear the most stirring 
in the scene may possibly not be the real movers. 

All these considerations, however, were below the 
transcendental dignity of the Revolution Society. 
Whilst I continued in the country, from whence I had 
the honour of writing to you, I had but an imperfect 
idea of their transactions. On my coming to town, 
I sent for an account of their proceedings, which had 
been published by their authority, containing a sermon 
of Dr. Price, with the Duke de Rochefoucault's and 
the Archbishop of Aix's letter ,''and several other docu- 
ments annexed. The whole of that publication, with 
the manifest design of connecting the affairs of France 
with those of England, by drawing us into an imitation 
of the conduct of the National Assembly, gave me a con- 
siderable degree of uneasiness. The effect of that con- 
duct upon the power, credit, prosperity, and tranquillity 
of France, became every day more evident. The form 



210 EDMUND BURKE, 

of constitution to be settled, for its future polity, 
became more clear. We are now in a condition to dis- 
cern, with tolerable exactness, the true nature of the 
object held up to our imitation. If the prudence of 
reserve and decorum dictates silence in some circum- 
stances, in others prudence of a higher order may 
justify us in speaking our thoughts. The beginmngs 
of confusion with us in England are at present feeble 
enough ; but, with you, we have seen an infancy, still 
more feeble, growing by moments into a strength to 
heap mountains upon mountains, and to wage war 
with heaven itself. Whenever our neighbour's house 
is on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play 
a httle on our own. Better to be despised for too 
anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident 
a security. 

Solicitous chiefly for the peace of my own country, 
but by no means unconcerned for yours, I wish to com- 
municate more largely what was at first intended only 
for your private satisfaction. I shall still keep your 
affairs in my eye, and continue to address myself to 
you. Indulging myself in the freedom of epistolary 
intercourse, I beg leave to throw out my thoughts, and 
express my feehngs, just as they arise in my mind, with 
very little attention to formal method. I set out with 
the proceedings of the Revolution Society ; but I shall 
not confine myself to them. Is it possible I should ? 
It appears to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the 
affairs of France alone, but of all Europe, perhaps of 
more than Europe. All circumstances taken together, 
the French Revolution is the most astonishing that has 
hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful 
things are brought about in many instances by means 
the most absurd and ridiculous ; in the most ridiculous 
modes ; and, apparently, by the most contemptible 
instruments. Everything seems out of nature in this 
strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of 
crimes jumbled together with all sorts of folUes. In 
viewing this monstrous tragi-comic scene, the most 



SELECTIONS. 211 

opposite passions necessarily succeed, and sometimes 
mix with each other in the mind ; alternate contempt 
and indignation ; alternate laughter and tears ; alter- 
nate scorn and horror. 

It cannot, however, be denied, that to some this 
strange scene appeared in quite another point of view. 
Into them it inspired no other sentiments than those 
of exultation and rapture. They saw nothing in what 
has been done in France, but a firm and temperate 
exertion of freedom ; so consistent, on the whole, with 
morals and piety, as to make it deserving not only of 
the secular applause of dashing Machiavelian politi- 
cians, but to render it a fit theme for all the devout 
effusions of sacred eloquence. 

On the forenoon of the 4th of November last. Doctor 
Richard Price, a non-conforming minister of eminence, 
preached at the dissenting meeting-house of the Old 
Jewry, to his club or society, a very extraordinary 
miscellaneous sermon, in which there are some good 
moral and rehgious sentiments, and not ill expressed, 
mixed up with a sort of porridge of various political 
opinions and reflections : but the Revolution in France 
is the grand ingredient in the cauldron. I consider 
the address transmitted by the Revolution Society 
to the National Assembly, through Earl Stanhope, as 
originating in the principles of the sermon, and as 
a corollary from them. It was moved by the preacher 
of that discourse. It was passed by those who came 
reeking from the effect of the sermon, without any 
censure or qualification, expressed or implied. If, how- 
ever, any of the gentlemen concerned shall wish to 
separate the sermon from the resolution, they know 
how to acknowledge the one, and to disavow the other. 
They may do it : I cannot. 

For my pait I looked on that sermon as the public 
declaration of a man much connected with literary 
caballers, and intriguing philosophers ; with political 
theologians, and theological politicians, both at home 
and abroad. I know they set him up as a sort of 



212 EDMUND BURKE. 

oracle ; because, with the best intentions in the world, 
he naturally philippizes, and chants his prophetic song 
in exact unison with their designs. 

That sermon is in a strain which I believe has not 
been heard in this kingdom, in any of the pulpits which 
are tolerated or encouraged in it, since the year 1648 ; 
when a predecessor of Dr. Price, the Reverend Hugh 
Peters, made the vault of the king's own chapel at 
St. James's ring with the honour and privilege of the 
saints, who, with the ' high praises of God in their 
mouths, and a ^wo-edged sword in their hands, were to 
execute judgment on the heathen, and punishments 
upon the people ; to bind their Mngs with chains, and 
their nobles with fetters of iron.' * Few harangues 
from the pulpit, except in the days of your league in 
France, or in the days of our solemn league and cove- 
nant in England, have ever breathed less of the spirit 
of moderation than this lecture in the Old Jewry. 
Supposing, however, that something like moderation 
were visible in this political sermon ; yet politics and 
the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No 
sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing 
voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty 
and civil government gains as little as that of religion 
by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their 
proper character, to assume what does not belong to 
them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the 
character they leave, and of the character they assume. 
Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are 
so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, 
on which they pronounce with so much confidence, they 
have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. 
Surely the church is a place where one day's truce 
ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities 
of mankind. 

This pulpit style, revived after so long a discontinu- 
ance, had to me the air of novelty, and of a novelty not 
wholly without danger. I do not charge this danger 
* Ps. cxlix. 



SELECTIONS. 213 

equally to every part of the discourse. The hint given 
to a noble and reverend lay-divine, who is supposed 
high in office in one of our universities,* and other lay- 
divines ' of rank and ■literature,' may be proper and 
seasonable, though somewhat new. If the noble 
Seekers should find nothing to satisfy their pious fancies 
in the old staple of the national church, or m all the 
rich variety to be found in the well-assorted warehouses 
of the dissenting congregations. Dr. Price advises them 
to improve upon non-conformity ; and to set up, each 
of them, a separate meeting-house upon his own par- 
ticular principles, t It is somewhat remarkable that 
this reverend divine should be so earnest for settmg up 
new churches, and so perfectly indifferent concerning 
the doctrine which may be taught in them. His zeal 
is of a curious character. It is not for the propagation 
of his own opinions, but of any opinions. It is not for 
the diffusion of truth, but for the spreading of contra- 
diction. Let the noble teachers but dissent, it is no 
matter from whom or from what. This great point 
once secured, it is taken for granted their religion will 
be rational and manly. I doubt whether religion 
would reap all the benefits which the calculating 
divine computes from this ' great company of great 
preachers.' It would certainly be a valuable addition 
of nondescripts to the ampl« collection of known classes, 
genera and species, which at present beautify the 
hortus siccus of dissent. A sermon from a noble duke 
or a noble marquis, or a noble earl, or baron bold, would 
certainly increase and diversify the amusements of this 
town, which begins to grow satiated with the uniform 
round of its vapid dissipations. I should only stipulate 

* 'Discourse on the Love of our Country,' Nov. 4, 1789. by Dr. 
Richard Price, 3rd edition, pp. 17 and 18. ^. , ■ ■, j u„ 

t ' Those who dislike that mode of worship which is prescribed by 
public authority, ought, if they can find >io worship out of the church 
which they approve, to set up a separate worship for themselves ; and by 
d-.ing this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, 
men of weight from their rank and literature may do the greatest service 
to society and the world.'— P. 18, Dr. Price's bermou. 



214 EDMUND BURKE. 

that these new Mess- Johns in robes and coronets should 
keep some sort of bounds in the democratic and levelhng 
principles which are expected from their titled pulpits. 
The new evangelists will, I dare say, disappoint the 
hopes that are conceived of them. They will not 
become, literally as well as figuratively, polemic 
divines, nor be disposed so to drill their congregations, 
that they may, as in former blessed times, preach their 
doctrines to regiments of dragoons and corps of 
infantry and artillery. Such arrangements, however 
favourable to the cause of compulsory freedom, civil 
and religious, may not be equally conducive to the 
national tranquillity. These few restrictions I hope 
are no great stretches of intolerance, no very violent 
exertions of despotism. 

But I may say of our preacher, ' utinam nugis iota 
ilia dedisset tempora scBvitice.' — All things in this his 
fulminating bull are not of so innoxious a tendency. 
His doctrines affect our constitution in its vital parts. 
He tells the Revolution Society, in this f^political 
sermon, that his majesty, ' is almost the only lawful 
king in the world, because the only one who owes his 
crown to the choice of his people.' As to the kings of 
the world, all of whom (except one) this arch pontiff of 
the rights of men, with all the plenitude, and with more 
than the boldness of the papal deposing power in its 
meridian fervour of the twelfth century, puts into one 
sweeping clause of ban and anathema, and proclaims 
usurpers by circles of longitude and latitude, over the 
whole globe, it behoves them to consider how they 
admit into their territories these apostolic missionaries, 
who are to tell their subjects they are not lawful kings. 
That is their concern. It is ours, as a domestic interest 
of some moment, seriously to consider the solidity of the 
only principle upon which these gentlemen acknowledge 
a king of Great Britain to be entitled to their allegiance. 

This doctrine, as applied to the prince now on the 
British throne, either is nonsense, and therefore neither 
true nor false, or it affirms a most unfounded, dangerous, 



SELECTIONS. 215 

illegal, and unconstitutional position. According to 
this spiritual doctor of politics, if his majesty does 
not owe his crown to the choice of his people, he is no 
lawful king. Now nothing can be more untrue than 
that the crown of this kingdom is so held by his majesty. 
Therefore if you follow their rule, the king of Great 
Britain, who most certainly does not owe his high office 
to any form of popular election, is in no respect better 
than the rest of the gang of usurpers, who reign, or 
rather rob, all over the face of this our miserable world, 
without any sort or right or title to the allegiance of 
their people. The pohcy of this general doctrine, so 
qualified, is evident enough. The propagators of this 
political gospel are in hopes that their abstract principle 
(their principle that a popular choice is necessary to 
the legal existence of the sovereign magistracy) would 
be overlooked, whilst the king of Great Britain was 
not affected by it. In the meantime the ears of their 
congregations would be gradually habituated to_ it, as 
if it were a first principle admitted without dispute. 
For the present it would only operate as a theory, 
pickled in the preserving juices of pulpit eloquence, and 
laid by for future use. Condo et compono qua mox de- 
promere possim. By this policy, whilst our government 
is soothed with a reservation in its favour, to which it 
has no claim, the security, which it has in common 
with all governments, so far as opinion is security, is 
taken away. 

Thus these politicians proceed, whilst Uttle notice is 
taken of their doctrines ; but when they come to be 
examined upon the plain meaning of their words, and 
the direct tendency of their doctrines, then equivoca- 
tions and slippery constructions come into play. When 
they say the king owes his crown to the choice of his 
peopl(\ and is therefore the only lawful sovereign in 
the world, they will perhaps tell us they mean to say 
no more than that some of the king's predecessors have 
been called to the throne by some sort of choice ; and, 
therefore, he owes his crown to the choice of his people. 



2i6 EDMUND BURKE. 

Thus, by a miserable subterfuge, they hope to render 
their proposition safe, by rendering it nugatory. They 
are welcome to the asylum they seek for their offence, 
since they take refuge in their folly. For, if you admit 
this interpretation, how does their idea of election differ 
from our idea of inheritance ? And how does the settle- 
ment of the crown, in the Brunswick line, derived from 
James I, come to legalize our monarchy, rather than 
that of any of the neighbouring countries ? At some 
time or other, to be sure, all the beginners of dynasties 
were chosen by those who called them to govern. There 
is ground enough for the opinion that all the kingdoms 
of Europe were, at a remote period, elective, with more 
or fewer limitations in the objects of choice. But 
whatever kings might have been here, or elsewhere, 
a thousand years ago, or in whatever manner the ruhng 
dynasties of England or France may have begun, the 
king of Great Britain is, at this day, king by a fixed 
rule of succession, according to the laws of his country ; 
and, whilst the legal conditions of the compact of 
sovereignty are performed by him, (as they are per- 
formed,) he holds his crown in contempt of the choice of 
the Revolution Society, who have not a single vote for 
a king amongst them, either individually or collectively ; 
though I make no doubt they would soon erect them- ■ 
selves into an electoral college, if things were ripe to 
give effect to their claim. His majesty's heirs and 
successors, each in his time and order, will come to the 
crown with the same contempt of their choice with 
which his majesty has succeeded to that he wears. 

Wliatever may be the success of evasion in explaining 
away the gross error of fact, which supposes that his 
majesty (though he holds it in concurrence with the 
wishes) owes his crown to the choice of his people, yet 
nothing can evade their full explicit declaration, con- 
cerning the principle of a right in the people to choose ; 
which right is directly maintained, and tenaciously 
adhered to. All the oblique insinuations concerning 
election bottom in this proposition, and arc referable 



SELECTIONS. 217 

to it. Lest the foundation of the king's exclusive legal 
title should pass for a mere rant of adulatory freedom, 
the political divine proceeds dogmatically to assert,* 
that, by the principles of the Revolution, the people of 
England have acquired three fundamental rights, all of 
which, with him, compose one system, and lie together 
in one short sentence ; namely, that we have acquired 
a right 

I. ' To choose our own governors.' 
*2. 'To cashier them for misconduct.' 

3. ' To frame a government for ourselves.' 
This new, and hitherto unheard-of bill of rights, though 
made in the name of the whole people, belongs to those 
gentlemen and their faction only. The body of the 
people of England have no share in it. They utterly 
disclaim it. They will resist the practical assertion of 
it with their lives and fortunes. They are bound to 
do so by the laws of their country, made at the time of 
that very Revolution, which is appealed to in favour 
of the fictitious rights claimed by the society which 
abuses its name. 

These gentlemen of the Old Jewry, in all their reason- 
ings on the Revolution of 1688, have a revolution 
which happened in England about forty years before, 
and the late French Revolution, so much before their 
eyes, and in their hearts, that they are constantly con- 
founding all the three together. It is necessary that 
we should separate what they confound. We must 
recall their erring fancies to the acts of the Revolution 
which we revere, for the discovery of its true principles. 
If the principles of the Revolution of 1688 are any- 
where to be found, it is in the statute called the Declara- 
tion of Right. In that most wise, sober, and considerate 
declaration, drawn up by great lawyers and great states- 
men, and not by warm and inexperienced enthusiasts, not 
one word is said, nor one suggestion made, of a general 
right to choose our own governors; to cashier them for 
misconduct ; and to form a government for ourselves.' 

* P. 34, ' Discourse ou the Love of our Country, Vby Dr. Price. 



2i8 EDMUND BURKE. 

This declaration of right (the act of the 1st of Wilham 
and Mary, sess. 2, ch. 2), is the corner-stone of our 
constitution, as reinforced, explained, improved, and 
in its fundamental principles for ever settled. It is 
called ' An Act for declaring the rights and liberties of 
the subject, and for settling the succession of the crown.' 
You will observe, that these rights and this succession 
are declared in one body, and bound indissolubly 
together. 

A few years after this period, a second opportunity 
offered for asserting a right of election to the crown. 
On the prospect of a total failure of issue from King 
William, and from the princess, afterwards Queen 
Anne, the consideration of the settlement of the crown, 
and of a further security for the liberties of the people, 
again came before the legislature. Did they this second 
time make any provision for legalizing the crown on 
the spurious revolution principles of the Old Jewry. 
No. They followed the principles which prevailed in 
the Declaration of Right ; indicating with more pre- 
cision the persons who were to inherit in the Protestant 
line. This act also incorporated, by the same policy, 
our liberties, and an hereditary succession in the same 
act. Instead of a right to choose our own governors 
they declared that the sticcession in that line (the 
Protestant line drawn from James I) was absolutely 
necessary ' for the peace, quiet, and security of the 
realm,' and that it was equally urgent on them ' to 
maintain a certainty in the succession thereof, to which 
the subjects may safely have recourse for their pro- 
tection.' But these acts, in which are heard the un- 
erring, unambiguous, oracles of revolution policy, 
instead of countenancing the delusive, gipsy, predic- 
tions of a ' right to choose our governors,' prove to a 
demonstration how totally adverse the wisdom of the 
nation was from turning a case of necessity into a rule 
of law. 

Unquestionably there was at the Revolution, in the 
person of King William, a small and a temporary devia- 



SELECTIONS. 219 

tiou from the strict order of a regular hereditary suc- 
cession ; but it is against all genuine principles of 
jurisprudence to draw a principle from a law made in 
a special case, and regarding an individual person. 
Privilegium non transit in exemplimi. If ever ^ there 
was a . time favourable for establishing the principle 
that a king of popular choice was the only legal king, 
without all doubt it was at the Revolution. Its not 
being done at that time is a proof that the nation was 
of opinion it ought not to be done at any time. There 
is no person so completely ignorant of our history as 
not to know, that the majority in parliament of both 
parties were so little disposed to anything resembling 
that principle, that at first they were determined to 
place the vacant crowii, not on the head of the Prince 
of Orange, but on that of his wife Mary, daughter of 
King James, the eldest bom of the issue of that king, 
which they acknowledged as undoubtedly his. It 
would be to repeat a very trite story, to recall to your 
memory all those circumstances which demonstrated 
that their accepting King William was not properly a 
choice ; but to all those who did not wish, in effect, to re- 
call King James, or to deluge their country in blood, and 
again to bring their religion, laws, and liberties, into the 
peril they had just escaped, it was an act of necessity, in 
the strictest moral sense in which necessity can be taken. 
In the very act, in which for a time, and in a single 
case, parliament departed from the strict order of m- 
heritance, in favour of a prince, who, though not next, 
was, however, very near in the line of succession, it is 
curious to observe how Lord Somers, who drew the 
bill called the Declaration of Right, has comported 
himself on that delicate occasion. It is curious to ob- 
ser\'e with what address this temporary solution of 
continuity is kept from the eye ; whilst all that could 
be found in this act of necessity to countenance the 
idea of an hereditary succession is brought forward, 
and fostered, and made the most of, by this great man, 
and by the legislature who followed him. Quitting the 



220 EDMUND BURKE. 

dry, imperative style of an act of parliament, he makes 
the lords and commons fall to a pious, legislative ejacu- 
lation, and declare, that they consider it ' as a marvel- 
lous providence, and merciful goodness of God to this 
nation, to preserve their said majesties royal persons, 
most happily to reign over us on the throne of their 
ancestors, for which, from the bottom of their hearts, 
they return their humblest thanks and praises/ — The 
legislature plainly had in view the act of recognition of 
the first of Queen Elizabeth, chap. 3rd, and of that of 
James I, chap, ist, both acts strongly declaratory of 
the inheritable nature of the crown, and in many parts 
they follow, with a nearly literal precision, the words 
and even the form of thanksgiving, which is found in' 
these old declaratory statutes. 

The two Houses, in the act of King William, did not 
thank God that they had found a fair opportunity to 
assert a right to choose their own governors, much less 
to make an election the only lawful title to the crown. 
Their having been in condition to avoid the very appear- 
ance of it, as much as possible, was by them considered 
as a providential escape. They threw a politic, well- 
wrought veil over every circumstance tending to weaken 
the rights, which in the meliorated order of succession 
they meant to perpetuate ; or which might furnish 
a precedent for any future departure from what they 
had then settled for ever. Accordingly, that they 
might not relax the nerves of their monarchy, and that 
they might preserve a close conformity to the practice 
of their ancestors, as it appeared in the declaratory 
statutes of Queen Mary * and Queen Elizabeth, in 
the next clause they vest, by recognition, in their 
majesties, all the legal prerogatives of the crown, declar- 
ing, ' that in them they are most fully, rightfully, and 
entirely, invested, incorporated, united, and annexed.' 
In the clause which follows, for preventing questions, 
by reason of any pretended titles to the crown, they 
declare (observing also in this the traditionary lan- 

* ist Mary, scss. 3, ch. i. 



SELECTIONS. 221 

guage, along with the traditionary poHcy of the nation, 
and repeating as from a rubric the language of the 
preceding acts of Elizabeth and James) that on the 
preserving ' a certainty in the succession thereof, the 
unity, peace, and tranquillity of this nation, doth, 
under God, wholly depend.' 

They knew that a doubtful title of succession would 
but too much resemble an election ; and that an election 
would be utterly destructive of the ' unity, peace, and 
tranquillity of this nation,' which they thought to be 
considerations of some moment. To provide for these 
objects, and therefore to exclude for ever the Old Jewry 
doctrine of ' a right to choose our own governors,' they 
follow with a clause, containing a most solemn pledge, 
taken from the preceding act of Queen Elizabeth, as 
solemn a pledge as ever was or can be given in favour of 
an hereditary succession, and as solemn a renunciation 
as could be made of the principles by this Society im- 
puted to them. ' The lords spiritual and temporal, 
and commons, do, in the name of all the people afore- 
said, most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, 
their heirs, and posterities for ever ; and do faithfully 
promise, that they will stand to, maintain, and defend 
their said majesties, and also the limitation of the crown, 
herein specified and contained, to the utmost of their 
powers,' &c. &c. 

So far is it from being true, that we acquired a right 
by the Revolution to elect our kings, that if we had 
possessed it before, the English nation did at that time 
most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, for themselves, 
and for all their posterity for ever. These gentlemen 
may value themselves as much as they please on their 
Whig principles ; but I never desire to be thought a 
better Whig than Lord Somers ; or to understand the 
principles of tlie Revolution better than those by whom 
it was brought about ; or to read in the Declaration of 
Riglit any mysteries unknown to those whose penetrating 
style has engra\-cd in our ordinances, and in our hearts, 
the words and spirit of that immortal law. 



222 EDMUND BURKE. 

It is true that, aided with the powers derived from 
force and opportunity, the nation was at that time m 
some sense, free to take what course it pleased for filhng 
the throne ; but only free to do so upon the same 
grounds on which they might have wholly abolished 
their monarchy, and every other part of their constitu- 
tion. However, they did not think such bold changes 
within their commission. It is indeed difficult, per- 
haps impossible, to give limits to the mere ahsirad 
competence of the supreme power, such as was exer- 
cised by parliament at that time ; but the limits of 
a moral competence, subjecting, even m powers more 
indisputably sovereign, occasional will to permanent 
reason, and to the steady maxims of faith, justice, and 
fixed fundamental policy, are perfectly intelligible and 
perfectly binding upon those who exercise any authority 
under any name, or under any title, in the state. The 
House of Lords, for instance, is not morally competent 
to dissolve the House of Commons; no, nor even to 
dissolve itself, nor to abdicate, if it would, its portion 
in the legislature of the kingdom. Though a king may 
abdicate for his own person, he cannot abdicate for the 
monarchy. By as strong, or by a stronger reason, the 
House of Commons cannot renounce its share of author- 
ity The engagement and pact of society, which gener- 
ally goes by the name of the constitution, forbids such 
invasion and such surrender. The constituent parts 
of a state are obliged to hold their public faith with 
each other, and with all those who derive any serious 
interest under their engagements, as much as the whole 
state is bound to keep its faith with separate com- 
munities. Otherwise competence and power would 
soon be confounded, and no law be left but the will ot 
a prevailing force. On this principle the succession ot 
the crown has always been what it now is, an hereditary 
succession by law : in the old line it was a succession 
by the common law ; in the new by the statute law ; 
operating on the principles of the common law, not 
changing the substance, but regulating the mode and 



SELECTIONS. 223 

describing the persons. Both these descriptions of 
law are of the same force, and are derived from an 
equal authority, emanating from the common agree- 
ment and original compact of the state, communi 
sponsione reipiibliccB, and as such are equally binding on 
king and people too, as long as the terms are observed, 
and they continue the same body politic. 

It is far from impossible to reconcile, if we do not 
suffer ourselves to be entangled in the mazes of meta- 
physic sophistry, the use both of a fixed rule and an 
occasional deviation ; the sacredness of an hereditary 
principle of succession in our government, with a power 
of change in its application in cases of extreme emer- 
gency. Even in that extremity (if we take the measure 
of our rights by our exercise of them at the Revolution) 
the change is to be confined to the peccant part only ; 
to the part which produced the necessary deviation ; 
and even then it is to be effected without a decomposi- 
tion of the whole civil and political mass, for the pur- 
pose of originating a new civil order out of the first 
elements of society. 

A state without the means of some change is without 
the means of its conservation. Without such means 
it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitu- 
tion which it wished the most religiously to preserve. 
The two principles of conservation and correction 
operated strongly at the two critical periods of the 
Restoration and Revolution, when England found itself 
without a king. At both those periods the nation 
had lost the bond of union in their ancient edifice ; they 
did not, however, dissolve the whole fabric. On the 
contrary, in both cases they regenerated the deficient 
part of the old constitution through the parts which 
were not impaired. They kept these old parts exactly 
as they were, that the part recovered might be suited 
to them. They acted by the ancient organized states 
in the shape of their old organization, and not by the 
organic tnoleculce of a disbanded people. At no time, 
perhaps, did the sovereign legislature manifest a more 



224 EDMUND BURKE. 

tender regard to that fundamental principle of British 
constitutional policy, than at the time of the Revolution, 
when it deviated from the direct line of hereditary suc- 
cession. The crown was carried somewhat out of the 
line in which it had before moved ; but the new line 
was derived from the same stock. It was still a line of 
hereditary descent ; still an hereditary descent in the 
same blood, though an hereditary descent qualified 
with Protestantism. When the legislature altered the 
direction, but kept the principle, they showed that they 
held it inviolable. 

On this principle, the law of inheritance had admitted 
some amendment in the old time, and long before the 
era of the Revolution. Some time after the conquest 
great questions arose upon the legal principles of 
hereditary descent. It became a matter of doubt, 
whether the heir per capita or the heir per stirpes w^as 
to succeed ; but whether the heir per capita gave way 
when the heirdom per stirpes took place, or the Catholic 
heir when the Protestant was preferred, the inheritable 
principle survived with a sort of immortality through 
all transmigrations — multosque per annos stat fortuna 
domus et avi numerantur avorum. This is the spirit of 
our constitution, not only in its settled course, but in 
all its revolutions. Whoever came in, or however he 
came in, whether he obtained the crown by law, or by 
force, the hereditary succession was either continued 
or adopted. 

The gentlemen of the Society for Revolutions see 
nothing in that of 1688 but the deviation from the con- 
stitution ; and they take the deviation from the prin- 
ciple for the principle. They have little regard to the 
obvious consequences of their doctrine, though they 
may see that it leaves positive authority in very few 
of the positive institutions of this country. When 
such an unwarrantable maxim is once established, that 
no throne is lawful but the elective, no one act of the 
princes who preceded this era of fictitious election can 
be valid. Do these theorists mean to imitate some of 



SELECTIONS. 225 

their predecessors, who dragged the bodies of our ancient 
sovereigns out of the quiet of their tombs ? Do they 
mean to attaint and disable backwards all the kings 
that have reigned before the Revolution, and conse- 
quently to stain the throne of England with the blot of 
a continual usurpation ? Do they mean to invalidate, 
annul, or to call into question, together with the titles 
of the whole line of our kings, that great body of our 
statute law which passed under those whom they treat 
as usurpers ? to annul laws of inestimable value to 
our Hberties— of as great value at least as any which 
have passed at or since the period of the Revolution ? 
If kings, who did not owe their crown to the choice of 
their people, had no title to make laws, what will be- 
come of the statute de tallagio non concedendo ? of 
the petition of right ? of the act of habeas corpus ? Do 
these new doctors of the rights of men presume to 
assert that King James the Second, who came to the 
crown as next of blood, according to the rules of a then 
unqualified succession, was not to all intents and pur- 
poses a lawful king of England, before he had done any 
of those acts which were justly construed into an ab- 
dication of his crown ? If he was not, much trouble 
in parliament might have been saved at the period 
these gentlemen commemorate. But King James was 
a bad king with a good title, and not an usurper. The 
princes who succeeded according to the act of parliament 
which settled the crown on the Electress Sophia and 
on her descendants, being Protestants, came in as much 
by a title of inheritance as King James did. He came 
m according to the law, as it stood at his accession to 
the crown ; and the princes of the house of Brunswick 
came to the inheritance of the crown, not by election, 
but by the law, as it stood at their several accessions, of 
Protestant descent and inheritance, as I hope I have 
shown sufficiently. 

The law, by which this royal family is specifically 
destined to the succession, is the act of the 12th and 
13th of King William. The terms of this act bind ' us 

8 



226 EDMUND BURKE. 

time, in tn<^/J"\ T ■ £ King William and Queen 
^l'v°™t the etee sSesboth'an hereditary crown 
Sn lllediury ai^gance. ^ On what gr^^llsS^^ 
^,e^rf hlrkfnd o LllrThieh is to preclude 

rcS/Sj^X^eioreverco^^^^^^ 

fastidiously ^e3ected the lair an^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^ 

which our o^^^^^^'l^^'^^^^^ princess from whose 
m strange lands for ^ foreign P ^^^.^^ ^^^.^ 

womb the line of our tuture ruieib wc ^ 

Stle to govern millions of men th^°^g^,^f ^'^^^ 7 J^eUle- 
Thp Princess Sophia was named m the act ol settle 
■t'nncebb oup W Iham, for a stoc^ 

r'roroir,!5rJ/££^§^^^^^^^^^ 

She was adopted for one reason ^^^^ ^^.^^^^^ 

r^'^lrBcSls K^riaje 

Sf of°B h^r <f» «- of our late s^^^ori 
&ames the First, of, happy '"^^^i'' ^f '^tS 
"V 1 ^d^ +r^ v,P the next in succession m tiie rroiestaiiL 
r 'Ir &c ' and the crown shall continue to the 
/" ' 5 hef bodv being Protestants.' This limitation 
heirs of her boay, peuig j: throu^^h the Princess 

mmimm 

TL liberties had been once ^f ^^ ^f Sroga- 
often, through all storms and ^,^§§1^ ?* ^Fd wdl. 
tive and privilege, been preserved. They did 



SELECTIONS. 227 

No experience has taught us, that in any other course or 
method than that of an hereditary crown our hberties 
can be regular^ perpetuated and preserved sacred as 
our hereditary right. An irregular, convulsive move- 
ment may be necessary to throw off an irregular, con- 
vulsive disease. But the course of succession is the 
healthy habit of the British constitution. Was it that 
the legislature wanted, at the act for the limitation of 
the crown in the Hanoverian hne, drawn through the 
female descendants of James the First, a due sense of 
the inconveniences of having two or three, or possibly 
more foreigners in succession to the British throne ? 
No !— they had a due sense of the evils which might 
happen from such foreign rule, and more than a due 
sense of them. But a more decisive proof cannot be 
given of the full conviction of the British nation that 
the principles of the Revolution did not authorize them 
to elect kings at their pleasure, and without any atten- 
tion to the ancient fundamental principles of our govern- 
ment, than their continuing to adopt a plan of heredi- 
tary Protestant succession in the old line, with all the 
dangers and all the inconveniences of its being a foreign 
line full before their eyes, and operating with the utmost 
force upon their minds. 

A few years ago I should be ashamed to over- 
load a matter, so capable of supporting itself, by the 
then unnecessary support of any argument; but this 
seditious, unconstitutional doctrine is now pubhcly 
taught, avowed, and printed. The dislike I feel to 
revolutions, the signals for which have so often been 
giv^en from pulpits ; the spirit of change that is gone 
abroad; the total contempt which prevails with you, 
and may come to prevail with us of all ancient institu- 
tions, when set in opposition to a present sense of con- 
venience, or to the bent of a present inclination : aU 
these considerations make it not unadvisable, in my 
opinion, to call back our attention to the true principles 
of our own domestic laws ; that you, my French friend 
should begin to know, and that we should continue to 



228 EDMUND BURKE. 

cherish them. We ought not, on either side of the 
water, to suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by the 
counterfeit wares which some persons, by a double 
fraud, export to you in illicit bottoms, as raw com- 
modities of British growth, though wholly alien to our 
soil, in order afterwards to smuggle them back again 
into this country, manufactiured after the newest Paris 
fashion of an improved liberty. 

The people of England will not ape the fashions they 
have never tried, nor go back to those which they have 
found mischievous on trial. They look upon the legal 
hereditary succession of their crown as among their 
rights, not as among their wrongs ; as a benefit, not 
as a grievance ; as a security for their liberty, not 
as a badge of servitude. They look on the frame of 
their commonwealth, such as it stands, to be of inestini- 
able value ; and they conceive the undisturbed succes- 
sion of the crown to be a pledge of the stability and 
perpetuity of all the other members of our constitution. 

I shall beg leave, before I go any further, to take 
notice of some paltry artifices, which the abettors of 
election, as the only lawful title to the crown, are ready 
to employ, in order to render the support of the just 
principles of our constitution a task somewhat invidious 
These sophisters substitute a fictitious cause, and feigned 
personages, in whose favour they suppose you engaged, 
whenever you defend the inheritable nature of the 
crown. It is common with them to dispute as if they 
were in a conflict with some of those exploded fanatics 
of slavery, who formerly maintained, what I believe 
no creature now maintains, ' that the crown is held by 
divine, hereditary, and indefeasible right.' — These old 
fanatics of single arbitrary power dogmatized as if 
hereditary royalty was the only lawful government in 
the world, just as our new fanatics of popular arbitrary 
power maintain that a popular election is the sole lawful 
source of authority. The old prerogative enthusiasts, 
it is true, did speculate foolishly, and perhaps impiously, 
too, as if monarchy had more of a divine sanction than 



SELECTIONS. 229 

any other mode of government ; and as if a right to 
govern by inheritance were in strictness indefeasible 
m every person who should be found in the succession 
to a throne, and under every circumstance, which no 
cml or poHtical right can be. But an absurd opinion 
concemmg the king's hereditary right to the crown 
does not prejudice one that is rational, and bottomed 
upon solid principles of law and policy. If all the 
absurd theories of lawyers and divines were to vitiate 
the objects in which they are conversant, we should 
have no law, and no religion, left in the worid. But 
an absurd theory on one side of a question forms no 
justification for alleging a false fact, or promulgating 
mischievous maxims, on the other. 

The second claim of the Revolution Society is ' a 
right of cashiering their governors for misconduct.' 
Perhaps the apprehensions our ancestors entertained 
of forming such a precedent as that ' of cashiering for 
misconduct,' was the cause that the declaration of the 
act, which implied the abdication of King James, was, 
if It had any fault, rather too guarded, and too circum- 
stantial.* But all this guard, and all this accumula- 
tion of circumstances, serve to show the spirit of caution 
which predominated in the national councils, in a situa- 
tion in which men, irritated by oppression and elevated 
by a tnumph over it, are apt to abandon themselves 
to violent and extreme courses : it shows the anxiety 
of the great men who influenced the conduct of affairs 
at that great event, to make the Revolution a parent 
of settlement, and not a nursery of future revolutions. 

No government could stand a moment, if it could 
be blown down with any thing so loose and indefinite 
as an opinion of ' misconduct.' They who led at the 
Revolution grounded their virtual abdication of King 

f **u ^^^* ^^"^ James II, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution 
ot the kingdom by breaking the original contract between king and 
peop e and, by the advice of Jesuits, and other wicked persons, having 
violated the fundamental laws, ^and having withdrawn himself out of tf^e 
kingdom, hath abdicated the government, and the throne is thereby 



230 EDMUND BURKE. 

James upon, no such light and uncertain principle. They 
charged him with nothing less than a design, confirmed 
by a multitude of illegal overt acts, to subvert the Prot- 
estant church and state, and their fundamental, unques- 
tionable laws and liberties : they charged him with 
having broken the original contract between king and 
people. This was more than misconduct. A grave and 
overruling necessity obhged them to take the step they 
took, and took with infinite reluctance, as under that 
most rigorous of all laws. Their trust for the future 
preservation of the constitution was not in future revolu- 
tions. The grand policy of all their regulations was to 
render it almost impracticable for any future sovereign 
to compel the states of the kingdom to have again 
recourse to those violent remedies. They left the 
crown what, in the eye and estimation of law, it had 
ever been, perfectly irresponsible. In order to lighten 
the crown still further, they aggravated responsibihty 
on ministers of state. By the statute of the first of 
King William, sess. 2nd, called ' the act for declaring 
the rights and liberties of the subject, and for settling the 
succession of the crown,' they enacted, that the ministers 
should serve the crown on the terms of that declara- 
tion. They secured soon after the frequent meetings 
of parliament, by which the whole government would 
be under the constant inspection and active control 
of the popular representative and of the magnates 
of the kingdom. In the next great constitutional act, 
that of the 12th and 13th of King William, for the 
further limitation of the crown, and better securing the 
rights and liberties of the subject, they provided, ' that 
no pardon under the great seal of England should be 
pleadable to an impeachment by the Commons in parlia- 
ment.' The rule laid down for government in the 
Declaration of Right, the constant inspection of parha- 
ment, the practical claim of impeachment, they thought 
infinitely a better security not only for their constitu- 
tional liberty, but against the vices of administration, 
than the reservation of a right so difficult in the practice. 



SELECTIONS. 231 

so uncertain in the issue, and often so mischievous in 
the consequences, as that of ' cashiering their governors.' 
Dr. Price, in this sermon,* condemns very properly 
the practice of gross, adulatory addresses to kings. In- 
stead of this fulsome style, he proposes that his majesty 
should be told, on occasions of congratulation, that 
he is to consider himself as more properly the servant 
than the sovereign of his people.' For a comphment, 
this new form of address does not seem to be very sooth- 
ing. Those who are servants in name, as well as in 
effect, do not like to be told of their situation, their 
duty, and their obligations. The slave in the old play 
tells^ his master, ' Hcec commemoratio est quasi expro- 
brntio.' It is not pleasant as compliment ; it is not 
wholesome as instruction. After all, if the king were 
to bring himself to echo this new kind of address, to 
adopt it m terms, and even to take the appellation of 
servant of the people as his royal style, how either he 
or we should be much amended by it, I cannot imagine. 
I have seen very assuming letters, signed, Your most 
obedient, humble servant. The proudest domination 
that ever was endured on earth took a title of still 
greater humiUty than that which is now proposed for 
sovereigns by the Apostle of Liberty. Kings and 
nations were trampled upon by the foot of one calling 
himself ' the Servant of Servants ' ; and mandates for 
deposing sovereigns were sealed with the signet of 
the Fisherman.' 

I should have considered all this as no more than a 
sort of flippant, vain discourse, in which, as in an un- 
savoury fume, several persons suffer the spirit of liberty 
to evaporate, if it were not plainly in support of the 
idea, and a part of the scheme of ' cashiering kings for 
misconduct.' In that light it is worth some observation. 
Kings, m one sense, are undoubtedly the servants of 
the people, because their power has no other rational 
end than that of the general advantage ; but it is not 
true that they are, in the ordinary sense (by our const i- 
* P. 22-24. 



232 EDMUND BURKE. 

tution, at least) anything like servants ; the essence of 
whose situation is to obey the commands of some other, 
and to be removable at pleasure. But the king of 
Great Britain obeys no other person ; all other persons 
are individually and collectively too, under him, and 
owe to him a legal obedience. The law, which knows 
neither to natter nor to insult, calls this high magistrate 
not our servant, as this humble divine calls him, but 
* our sovereign lord the king ' ; and we, on our parts, 
have learned to speak only the primitive language of 
the law, and not the confused jargon of their Baby- 
lonian pulpits. 

As he is not to obey us, but we are to obey the law in 
him, our constitution has made no sort of provision 
towards rendering him, as a servant, in any degree 
responsible. Our constitution knows nothing of a 
magistrate like the Justicia of Arragon ; nor of any 
court legally appointed, nor of any process legally 
settled for submitting the king to the responsibility 
belonging to all servants. In this he is not distinguished 
from the commons and the lords ; who, in their several 
public capacities, can never be called to an account for 
their conduct ; although the Revolution Society chooses 
to assert, in direct opposition to one of the wisest and 
most beautiful parts of our constitution, that ' a king 
is no more than the first servant of the public, created 
by it, and responsible to it' 

111 would our ancestors at the Revolution have de- 
served their fame for wisdom, if they had found no 
security for their freedom, but in rendering their govern- 
ment feeble in its operations and precarious in its tenure ; 
if they had been able to contrive no better remedy 
against arbitrary power than civil confusion. Let 
these gentlemen state who that representative public 
is to whom they will affirm the king, as a servant, to 
be responsible. It will be then time enough for me to 
produce to them the positive statute law which affirms 
that he is not. 

The ceremony of cashiering kings, of which these 



SELECTIONS. 233 

gentlemen talk so much at their ease, can rarely, if 
ever, be performed without force. It then becomes a 
case of war, and not of constitution. Laws are com- 
manded to hold their tongues amongst arms ; and 
tribunals fall to the ground with the peace they are 
no longer able to uphold. The Revolution of 1688 
was obtained by a just war, in the only case in which 
any war, and much more a civil war, can be just. ' Justa 
bella quibus necessaria.' The question of dethroning, 
or, if these gentlemen like the phrase better, ' cashiering 
kings,' will always be, as it has always been, an extra- 
ordinary question of state, and wholly out of the law ; 
a question (like all other questions of state) of disposi- 
tions, and of means, and of probable consequences, 
rather than of positive rights. As it was not made 
for common abuses, so it is not to be agitated by com- 
mon minds. The speculative line of demarcation, where 
obedience ought to end, and resistance must begin, 
IS faint, obscure, and not easily definable. It is not 
a single act, or a single event, which determines it. 
Governments must be abused and deranged indeed, 
before it can be thought of; and the prospect of the 
future must be as bad as the experience of the past. 
When things are in that lamentable condition, the nature 
of the disease is to indicate the remedy to those whom 
nature has qualified to administer in extremities this 
critical, ambiguous, bitter potion to a distempered 
state. Times, and occasions, and provocations, will 
teach their own lessons. The wise will determine 
from the gravity of the case ; the irritable from sensi- 
bility to oppression ; the high-minded from disdain 
and indignation at abusive power in unworthy hands ; 
the brave and bold from the love of honourable danger 
in a generous cause : but, with or without right, a 
revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking 
and the good. 

The third head of right, asserted by the pulpit of the 
Old Jewry, namely, the ' right to form a government 
for ourselves,' has, at least, as little countenance from 



2^4 EDMUND BURKE. 

\u' ^ A^r.^ at the Revolution, either in precedent 
anything done at the Kevoi . ^^^ ^^^^^^_ 

0^ constiJion, and the policy ^hi* Pre. mrn^^d 
i„ that ffreat neriod which has secured it to this hour, 

ES&^beS,rd'^:rrSo?p=^ 

ii t'o^slT?h: ^ivS^tirS: ^t tSi^of « 

^^r wili ?n other ideas and anot^r ly^e. ^ Such 

fat™pp^rterby any ap^arance^f authority. The 

verviSa of the fabrication of a new government is 
very mea oi ^^^^|._ ^y^ ^^^j^g^ 

STh? period o the Revolution, and do now wish to 
A • ,! fn Z TOSsess as an inJieritancc rom our jore- 
tZs Upon^hat body and stock of .inheritance we 
&aken'care not to ™f ^'f -L'rXor^n^tbns t 

tee^fter will be carXuy formed upol analogical pre- 

"S':*sf SoTmatfrtW o£ Magna Charta 
,. ■!?„; that Sir Edward Coke, that great oracle of 
You will =e« th^'* ^^'^Xfte sreat men who follow him, 
r SksTone "are Mus?ri'ous%o prove the pedigree 
< ™? liberties They endeavour to prove, that the 

connecied with anotner p the other were nothing more 
rnTre^aCre-^f^f e still X ancient standhlg 
^J. ^^artl^tht" »th^ors%prS ^ i^^he right. 

^ . sec Ela4s.„.ie-. ' Mas-- Char.a,' printed at O.ford, . «9. 



SELECTIONS. 235 

perhaps not always • but if the lawyers mistake in 
some particulars, it proves my position still the more 
strongly; because it demonstrates the powerful pre- 
possession towards antiquity, with which the minds 
of all our lawyers and legislators, and of all the people 
whom they wish to influence, have been always filled ; 
and the stationary policy of this kingdom in considering 
their most sacred rights and franchises as an inheritance.^ 

In the famous law of the 3rd of Charles I, called the 
Petition of Right, the parliament says to the king, ' Your 
subjects have inherited this freedom,' claiming their 
franchises not on abstract principles ' as the rights of 
men,' but as the rights of Englishmen, and as a patri- 
mony derived from their forefathers. Selden, and the 
other profoundly learned men, who drew this petition 
of right, were as well acquainted, at least, with all the 
general theories concerning the ' rights of men,' as any 
of the discoursers in our pulpits, or on your tribune ; 
full as well as Dr. Price, or as the Abbe Sieyes. But, for 
reasons worthy of that practical wisdom which super- 
seded their theoretic science, they preferred this posi- 
tive, recorded, hereditary title to all which can be dear 
to the man and the citizen, to that vague speculative 
right, which exposed their sure inheritance to be scram- 
bled for and torn to pieces by every wild, litigious spirit. 

The same policy pervades all the laws which have 
since been made for the preservation of our hberties. 
In the ist of William and Mary, in the famous statute] 
called the Declaration of Right, the two Houses utter 
not a syllable of ' a right to frame a government for 
themselves.' You will see that their whole care was 
to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had 
been long possessed, and had been lately endangered. 
' Taking * into their most serious consideration the 
best means for making such an establishment, that 
their religion, laws, and liberties, might not be in danger 
of being again subverted,' they auspicate all their pro- 
ceedings, by stating as some of those best means, ' in 
* I W. and -M. 



236 EDMUND BURKE. 

the first place ' to do ' as their ancestors in like cases have 
usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and 
liberties, to declare ' ; — and then they pray the king 
and queen, ' that it may be declared, and enacted, that 
all and singtdar the rights and Hberties asserted and 
declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and 
liberties of the people of this kingdom.' 

You will observe, that from Magna Charta to the 
Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of 
our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an 
entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, 
and to be transmitted to our posterity ; as an estate 
specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, with- 
out any leference whatever to any other more general 
or prior right. By this means our constitution preserves 
an unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an 
inheritable crown ; an inheritable peerage ; and a House 
of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, fran- 
chises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors. 

The pohcy appears to me to be the result of profound 
reflection ; or rather the happy effect of following 
nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above 
it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of 
a selfish temper, and confined views. People will not 
look forward to posterity, who never look backward 
to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England 
well know, that the idea of inheritances furnishes a sure 
principle of conservation, and a sure principle of trans- 
mission ; without at all excluding a principle of im- 
provement. It leaves acquisition free ; but it secures 
what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained 
by a state proceeding on these maxims, are locked 
fast as in a sort of family settlement ; grasped as in 
a kind of mortmain for ever. By a constitutional 
policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, 
we hold, we transmit our government and our privi- 
leges, in the same manner in which we enjoy and trans- 
mit our property and our lives. The institutions of 
policy, the goods of fortune, the gilts of Providence, 



SELECTIONS. 237 

are handed down to us, and from us, in the same course 
and order. Our poHtical system is placed in a just 
correspondence and symmetry with the order of the 
world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a 
permanent body composed of transitory parts ; wherein, 
by the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding 
together the great mysterious incorporation of the 
human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or 
middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchange- 
able constancy, moves on through the varied tenor 
of perpetual decay, fall, renovation," and progression. 
Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct 
of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly 
new ; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. 
By adhering in this manner and on those principles to 
our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition 
of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. 
In this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame 
of polity the image of a relation in blood ; binding 
up the constitution of our country with our dearest 
domestic ties ; adopting our fundamental laws into the 
bosom of our family affections ; keeping inseparable 
and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined 
and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, 
our sepulchres, and our altars. 

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in 
our artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of 
her unerring and powerful instincts, to fortify the 
fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have 
derived several other, and those no small benefits, 
from considering our hberties in the light of an inherit- 
ance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized 
forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to 
rnisrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. 
This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of 
habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart 
insolence, almost inevitably adhering to and disgracing 
those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. 
By this means om- liberty becomes a noble freedom. 



238 EDMUND BURKE. 

It carries an imposing _ and majestic ^^P^^*' J\^^^f_ 
a Bedieree and illustratmg ancestors. It has its bear 
Lis and its ensigns armorial. It has ^ts gaUery^^ 
portraits- its monumental mscriptions , its records 
^: dences and titles. We procure --rence t^^^^^^ 
institutions on the principle upon which ^atoe teaches 
ns to revere individual men ; on account of their age, 
Sd onTccount of those from whom they are descen^^^^^^^ 
All vour sophisters cannot produce, anything better 
adapted to p?eserve a rational and manly freedom than 
the^course ^that we have pursued, who have chosen 
our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts 
?atherTan our inventions, for the great conservatories 
and magazines of our rights J^d privileges 

Vmi misht if vou pleased, have prohted ot our ex 
J^l T^d haVgive'n to your -covered freedom a 

Correspondent dignity. Your P^^^^l^g^^^^^^^^J^^thu- 
continued. were not lost to memory Jour j°n^^^^^^ 
tinn it is true, whilst you were out of possession, sui 
ted waste aAd dilapidation; but you possessed m 
some mrts the walls, and, in all, the foundations, of a 
noble W venerable castle. You might have repaired 
those walls • you might have built on those old founda- 
tions Your institution was suspended before it was 
perfected • but you had the elements of a constitution 
wrv neariv as good as could be wished. In your old 

rordant powers, draws out the harmony of the universe. 
These opCsed and conflicting interests, which you con- 

lidSd Tso great a blemish m y-^J^^ Xecl/ to'ah 
present constitution, mterpose a — y c^^^^^^^^ 

precipitate resolutions ^^^y '^^^^' ^hey make all 

rnn+fpr Tiot ol choice, but 01 uecesbiLy , ^'■'^^j 

Sfange " sXct o£ co,,^romise. winch naturally begeU 



SELECTIONS. 239 

moderation ; they produce temperaments, preventing 
the sore evil of harsh, crude, unquahfied reformations ; 
and rendering all the headlong exertions of arbitrary 
power, in the few or in the many, for ever impracticable. 
Through that diversity of members and interests, 
general Hberty had as many securities as there were 
separate views in the several orders ; whilst by pressing 
down the whole by the weight of a real monarchy, the 
separate parts would have been prevented from warping, 
and starting from their allotted places. 

You had all these advantages in your ancient states ; 
but you chose to act as if you had never been moulded 
into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. 
You began ill, because you began by despising everything 
that belonged to you. You set up your trade without 
a capital. If the last generations of your country 
appeared without much lustre in your eyes, you might 
have passed them by, and derived your claims from 
a more early race of ancestors. Under a pious predilec- 
tion for those ancestors, your imaginations would have 
realized in them a standard of virtue and wisdom, 
beyond the vulgar practice of the hour : and you would 
have risen with the example to whose imitation you 
aspired. Respecting your forefathers, you would have 
been taught to respect yourselves. You would not 
have chosen to consider the French as a people of yester- 
day, as a nation of low-born, servile wretches until the 
emancipating year of 1789. In order to furnish, at the 
expense of your honour, an excuse to your apologists 
here for several enormities of yours, you would not 
have been content to be represented as a gang of 
Maroon slaves, suddenly broke loose from the house of 
bondage, and therefore to be pardoned for your abuse 
of the Hberty to which you were not accustomed, and 
were ill fitted. Would it not, my worthy friend, have 
been wiser to have you thought, what I, for one, always 
thought you, a generous and gallant nation, long misled 
to your disadvantage, by your high and romantic senti- 
ments of fidelity, honour, and loyalty ; that events 



240 EDMUND BURKE. 

had been unfavourable to you, but that you were not 
enslaved through any illiberal or servile disposition ; 
that in your most devoted submission, you were ac- 
tuated by a principle of public spirit, and that it was 
your country you worshipped, in the person of your 
king ? Had you made it to be understood, that in 
the delusion of this amiable error you had gone further 
than your wise ancestors ; that you were resolved to 
resume your ancient privileges, whilst you preserved 
the spirit of your ancient and your recent loyalty and 
honour ; or if, diffident of yourselves, and not clearly 
discerning the almost obliterated constitution of your 
ancestors, you had looked to your neighbours in this 
land, who had kept alive the ancient principles and 
models of the old common law of Europe, meliorated 
and adapted to its present state — by following wise 
examples you would have given new examples of wisdom 
to the world. You would have rendered the cause of 
liberty venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in 
every nation. You would have shamed despotism 
from the earth, by showing that freedom was not only 
reconcilable, but, as when well disciplined it is, auxiliary 
to law. You would have had an unoppressive but 
a productive revenue. You would have had a flourish- 
ing commerce to feed it. You would have had a free 
constitution ; a potent monarchy ; a disciplined army ; 
a reformed and venerated clergy ; a mitigated but 
spirited nobility, to lead your virtue, not to overlay 
it ; you would have had a liberal order of commons, to 
emulate and to recruit that nobiUty ; you would have 
had a protected, satisfied, laborious, and obedient 
people, taught to seek and to recognize the happiness 
that is to be found by virtue in all conditions ; in which 
consists the true moral equality of mankind, and not in 
that monstrous fiction, which, by inspiring false ideas 
and vain expectations into men destined to travol in 
the obscure walk of laborious life, serves only to 
aggravate and embitter that real inequality, which it 
never can remove : and which the order of civil life 



SELECTIONS. 241 

establishes as much for the benefit of those whom it 
must leave in an humble state, as those whom it is able 
to exalt to a condition more splendid, but not more 
happy. You had a smooth and easy career of fehcity 
and glory laid open to you, beyond anything recorded 
in the history of the world ; but you have shown that 
difficulty is good for man. 

Compute your gains ; see what is got by those ex- 
travagant and presumptuous speculations which have 
taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors, 
and all their contemporaries, and even to despise them- 
selves, until the moment in which they became truly 
despicable. By following those false lights, France has 
bought undisguised calamities at a higher price than 
any nation has purchased the most unequivocal bless- 
ings ! France has bought poverty by crime ! France 
has not sacrificed her virtue to her interest ; but she 
has abandoned her interest, that she might prostitute 
her virtue. All other nations have begun the fabric of 
a new government, or the reformation of an old, by 
establishing originally, or by enforcing with greater 
exactness, some rites or other of religion. All other 
people have laid the foundations of civil freedom in 
severer manners and a system of a more austere and 
masculine morality. France, when she let loose the 
reins of regal authority, doubled the licence of a fero- 
cious dissoluteness in manners, and of an insolent irre- 
ligion in opinions and practices ; and has extended 
through all ranks of Hfe, as if she were communicating 
some privilege, or laying open some secluded benefit, 
all the unhappy corruptions that usually were the 
disease of wealth and power. This is one of the new 
principles of equality in France. 

France, by the perfidy of her leaders, has utterly 
disgraced the tone of lenient counsel in the cabinets of 
princes, and disarmed it of its most potent topics. She 
has sanctified the dark, suspicious maxims of tyrannous 
distrust ; and taught kings to tremble at (what will 
hereafter be called) the delusive plausibihties of moral 



242 EDMUND BURKE. 

politicians. Sovereigns will consider those, who advise 
them to place an unhmited confidence in their people, 
as subverters of their thrones ; as traitors who aim at 
their destruction, by leading their easy good-nature, 
under specious pretences, to admit combinations of 
bold and faithless men into a participation of their 
power. This alone (if there were nothing else) is an 
irreparable calamity to you and to mankind. Remember 
that your parliament of Paris told your king, that, in 
calling the states together, he had nothing to fear but 
the prodigal excess of their zeal in providing for the 
support of the throne. It is right that these men 
should hide their heads. It is right that they should 
bear their part in the ruin which their counsel has 
brought on their sovereign and their country. Such 
sanguine declarations tend to lull authority asleep ; to 
encourage it rashly to engage in perilous adventures of 
untried policy ; to neglect those provisions, prepara- 
tions and precautions, which distinguish benevolence 
from imbecility ; and without which no man can an- 
swer for the salutary effect of any abstract plan of 
government or of freedom. For want of these, they 
have seen the medicine of the state corrupted into its 
poison. They have seen the French rebel against a 
mild and lawful monarch, with more fury, outrage, and 
insult, than ever any people has been known to rise 
against the most illegal usurper, or the most sanguinary 
tyrant. Their resistance was made to concession ; 
their revolt was from protection ; their blow was aimed 
at a hand holding out graces, favours, and immunities. 

This was unnatural. The rest is in order. They 
have found their punishment in their success. Laws 
overturned ; tribunals subverted ; industry without 
vigour ; commerce expiring ; the revenue unpaid, yet 
the people impoverished ; a church pillaged, and a state 
not relieved ; civil and military anarchy made the 
constitution of the kingdom ; everything human and 
divine sacrificed to the idol of public credit, and national 
bankruptcy the consequence ; and, to crown all, the 



SELECTIONS. 243 

paper securities of new, precarious, tottering power, 
the discredited paper securities of impoverished fraud, 
and beggared rapine, held out as a currency for the 
support of the empire, in lieu of the two great recognized 
species that represent the lasting, conventional credit 
of mankind, which disappeared and hid themselves in 
the earth from whence they came, when the principle 
of property, whose creatures and representatives they 
are, was systematically subverted. 

Were all these dreadful things necessary ? Were 
they the inevitable results of the desperate struggle of 
determined patriots, compelled to wade through blood 
and tumult, to the quiet shore of a tranquil and pros- 
perous hberty ? No ! nothing hke it. The fresh ruins 
of France, which shock our feehngs wherever we can 
turn our eyes, are not the devastation of civil war ; 
they are the sad but instructive monuments of rash 
and ignorant counsel in time of profound peace. They 
are the display of inconsiderate and presumptuous, 
because unresisted and irresistible authority. The per- 
sons who have thus squandered away the precious 
treasure of their crimes, the persons who have made 
this prodigal and wild waste of pubhc evils (the last 
stake reserved for the ultimate ransom of the state) 
have met in their progress with little, or rather with no 
opposition at all. Their whole march was more like 
a triumphal procession, than the progress of a war. 
Their pioneers have gone before them, and demolished 
and laid everything level at their feet. Not one drop 
of their blood have they shed in the cause of the country 
they have ruined. They have made no sacrifices to 
their projects of greater consequence than their shoe- 
buckles, whilst they were imprisoning their king, mur- 
dering their fellow-citizens, and bathing in tears, and 
plunging in poverty and distress, thousands of worthy 
men and worthy families. Their cruelty has not even 
been the base result of fear. It has been the effect 
of their sense of perfect safety, in authorizing treasons, 
robberies, rapes, assassinations, slaughters, and burn- 



244 EDMUND BURKE. 

ings, throughout their harassed land. But the cause 
of all was plain from the beginning. 

This unforced choice, this fond election of evil, would 
appear perfectly unaccountable, if we did not consider 
the composition of the National Assembly ; I do not 
mean its formal constitution, which, as it now stands, 
is exceptionable enough, but the materials of which, in 
a great measure, it is composed, which is of ten thousand 
times greater consequence than all the formalities in 
the world. If we were to know nothing of this assembly 
but by its title and function, no colours could paint to 
the imagination anything more venerable. In that 
light the mind of an inquirer, subdued by such an awful 
image as that of the virtue and wisdom of a whole people 
collected into one focus, would pause and hesitate in con- 
demning things even of the very worst aspect. Instead 
of blamable, they would appear only mysterious. But 
no name, no power, no, function, no artificial institution 
whatsoever, can make the men of whom any system 
of authority is composed, any other than God, and 
nature, and education, and their habits of life have 
made them. Capacities beyond these the people have 
not to give. Virtue and wisdom may be the objects 
of their choice ; but their choice confers neither the 
one nor the other on those upon whom they lay their 
ordaining hands. They have not the engagement of 
nature, they have not the promise of revelation for any 
such powers. 

After I had read over the list of the persons and 
descriptions elected into the Tiers Etat, nothing which 
they afterwards did could appear astonishing. Among 
them, indeed, I saw some of known rank ; some of 
shining talents ; but of any practical experience in the 
state, not one man was to be found. The best were 
only men of theory. But whatever the distinguished 
few may have been, it is the substance and mass of the 
body which constitutes its character, and must finally 
determine its direction. In all bodies, those who will 
lead, must also, in a considerable degree, follow. They 



SELECTIONS. 245 

must conform their propositions to the taste, talent, 
and disposition, of those whom they wish to conduct : 
therefore, if an assembly is viciously or feebly composed 
in a very great part of it, nothing but such a supreme 
degree of virtue as very rarely appears in the world, 
and for that reason cannot enter into calculation, will 
prevent the men of talents disseminated through it 
from becoming only the expert instruments of absurd 
projects ! If, what is the more likely event, instead of 
that unusual degree of virtue, they should be actuated 
by sinister ambition, and a lust of meretricious glory, 
then the feeble part of the assembly, to whom at first 
they conform, becomes in its turn the dupe and instru- 
ment of their designs. In this political traffic, the 
leaders wiU be obliged to bow to the ignorance of their 
followers, and the followers to become subservient to 
the worst designs of their leaders. 

To secure any degree of sobriety in the propositions 
made by the leaders in any pubhc assembly, they ought 
to respect, in some degree perhaps to fear, those whom 
they conduct. To be led any otherwise than blindly, 
the followers must be qualified, if not for actors, at 
least for judges ; they must also be judges of natural 
weight and authority. Nothing can secure a steady 
and moderate conduct in such assemblies, but that the 
body of them should be respectably composed, in point 
of condition in life, of permanent property, of education, 
and of such habits as enlarge and liberalize the under- 
standing. 

In the calUng of the states-general of France, the 
first thing that struck me, was a great departure from 
the ancient course. I found the representation for the 
third estate composed of six hundred persons. They 
were equal in number to the representatives of both 
the other orders. If the orders were to act separately, 
the number would not, beyond the consideration of the 
expense, be of much moment. But when it became 
apparent that the orders were to be melted down into 
one, the policy and necessary efi'ect of this numerous 



246 EDMUND BURKE. 

representation became obvious. A very small deser- 
tion from either of the two other orders must throw the 
power of both into the hands of the third. In fact, the 
whole power of the state was soon resolved into that 
body. Its due composition became therefore of in- 
finitely the greater importance. 

Judge, sir, of my surprise, w^hen I found that a very 
great proportion of the assembly (a majority, I believe, 
of the members who attended) was composed of practi- 
tioners in the law. It was composed, not of distin- 
guished magistrates, who had given pledges to their 
country of their science, prudence, and integrity ; not 
of leading advocates, the glory of the bar ; not of re- 
nowned professors in universities ; — but for the far 
greater part, as it must in such a number, of the inferior, 
unlearned, mechanical, merely instrumental members of 
the profession. There were distinguished exceptions ; 
but the general composition was of obscure provincial 
advocates, of stewards of petty local jurisdictions, 
country attomej's, notaries, and the whole train of the 
ministers of municipal litigation, the fomenters and 
conductors of the petty war of village vexation. From 
the moment I read the list, I saw distinctly, and ver}' 
nearly as it has happened, all that was to follow. 

The degree of estimation in which any profession is 
held becomes the standard of the estimation in which 
the professors hold themselves. Whatever the personal 
merits of many individual laA\yers might have been, 
and in many it was undoubtedly very considerable, 
in that military kingdom no part of the profession had 
been much regarded, except the highest of all, who 
often united to their professional offices great family 
splendour, and were invested with great power .and 
authority. These certain!}' were highly respected, and 
even with no small degree of awe. The next rank was 
not much esteemed ; the mechanical part was in a very 
low degree of repute. 

Whenever the supreme authority is vested in a body 
so composed, it must evidently produce the consequence 



SELECTIONS. 247 

of supreme authority placed in the hands of men not 
taught habitually to respect themselves ; who had no 
previous fortune in character at stake ; who could not 
be expected to bear with moderation, or to conduct 
with discretion, a power, which they themselves, more 
than any others, must be surprised to find in their hands. 
Who could flatter himself that these men, suddenly, 
and, as it were, by enchantment, snatched from the 
humblest rank of subordination, would not be intoxi- 
cated with their unprepared greatness ?j Who could 
conceive that men, who are habitually meddling,''daring, 
subtle, active, of htigious dispositions, and unquiet 
minds, would easily fall back into their old condition 
of obscure contention, and laborious, low, and un- 
profitable chicane ? Who could doubt but that, at any 
expense to the state, of which they understood nothing, 
they must pursue their private interests, which they 
understood but too well ? It was not an event depend- 
ing on chance or contingency. It was inevitable ; it 
was necessary ; it was planted in the nature of things. 
They must join (if their capacity did not permit them 
to lead) in any project which could procure to them a 
litigious constitution / which could lay open to them 
those innumerable lucrative jobs, which follow in the 
train of all great convulsions and revolutions in the 
state, and particularly in all great and violent permuta- 
tions of property. Was it to be expected that they 
would attend to the stability of property, whose exist- 
ence had always depended upon whatever rendered.j^ 
property questionable, ambiguous, and insecure ? Their 
objects would be enlarged with their elevation, but their 
disposition and habits, and mode of accomplishing their 
designs, must remain the same. 

Well ! but these men were to be tempered and re- 
strained by other descriptions, of more sober minds, 
and more enlarged understandings. Were they then 
to be awed by the su})er-eminent authority and awful 
dignity of a handful of country clowns, who have seats 
in that assembly, some of whom are said not to be able 



248 EDMUND BURKE. 

to read and write ? and by not a greater number of 
traders, who, though somewhat more instructed, and 
more conspicuous in the order of society, had never 
known anything beyond their countmg-house ? No ! 
both these descriptions were more formed to be over- 
borne and swayed by the intrigues and artifices of 
lawyers, than to become their counterpoise. With 
such a dangerous disproportion, the whole must needs 
be governed by them. To the faculty of law was joined 
a pretty considerable proportion of the faculty of medi- 
cine. This faculty had not, any more than that of the 
law, possessed in France its just estimation. Its pro- 
fessors, therefore, must have the qualities of men not 
habituated to sentiments of dignity. But supposing 
they had ranked as they ought to do, and as with us 
they do actually, the sides of sick-beds are not the 
academies for forming statesmen and legislators. Then 
came the dealers in stocks and funds, who must be eager, 
at any expense, to change their ideal paper wealth for 
the more solid substance of land. To these were joined 
men of other descriptions, from whom as httle know- 
ledge of or attention to, the interests of a great state 
was to be expected, and as little regard to the stability 
of any institution ; men formed to be instruments, not 
controls Such in general was the composition of the 
Tiers Etat in the National Assembly; in which was 
scarcely to be perceived the slightest traces of what 
we call the natural landed interest of the country. 

We know that the British House of Commons, with- 
out shutting its doors to any merit in any class, is, by 
the sure operation of adequate causes, filled with every- 
thing illustrious in rank, in descent, in hereditary and 
in acquired opulence, in cultivated talents, m mihtary, 
civil naval, and politic distinction, that the country 
can afford. But supposing, what hardly can be sup- 
posed as a case, that the House of Commons should be 
composed in the same manner with the Tiers Etat m 
France, would this dominion of chicane be borne with 
patience, or even conceived without horror? God 



SELECTIONS. 249 

forbid I should insinuate anything derogatory to that 
profession, which is another priesthood, administering 
the rights of sacred justice. But whilst I revere men 
in the functions which belong to them, and would do 
as much as one m.an can do to prevent their exclusion 
from any, I cannot, to flatter them, give the lie to nature. 
They are good and useful in the composition ; they 
must be mischievous if they preponderate so as virtually 
to become the whole. Their very excellence in their 
peculiar functions may be far from a qualification for 
others. It cannot escape observation, that when men 
are too much confined to professional and faculty habits, 
and, as it were, inveterate in the recurrent employ 
ment of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled 
than qualified for whatever depends on the knowledge 
of mankind, on experience in mixed affairs, on a com- 
prehensive, connected \iew of the various, comphcated, 
external and internal interests, which go to the forma- 
tion of that multifarious thing called a state. 

After all, if the House of Commons were to have an 
wholly professional and faculty composition, what is 
the power of the House of Commons, circumscribed 
and shut in by the immovable barriers of law, usages, 
positive rules of doctrine and practice, counterpoised 
by the House of Lords, and every moment of its exist- 
ence at the discretion of the crown to continue, pro- 
rogue, or dissolve us ? The power of the House of 
Commons, direct or indirect, is indeed great ; and long 
may it be able to preserve its greatness, and the spirit 
belonging to true greatness, at the full ; and it will do 
so, as long as it can keep the breakers of lawj[in India 
from becoming the makers of law for England. The 
power, however, of the House of Commons, when least 
diminished, is as a drop of water in the ocean, compared 
to tliat residing in a settled majority of your National 
Assembly. That assembly, since the destruction of the 
orders, has no fundamental law, no strict convention, 
no respected usage to restrain it. Instead of finding 
themselves obliged to conform to a fixed constitution, 



250 EDMUND BURKE. 

they have a power to make a constitution which shal^ 
conform to their designs. Nothing in heaven or upon 
earth can serve as a control on them. What ought to 
be the heads, the hearts, the dispositions, that are 
qualified, or that dare, not only to make laws under a 
fixed constitution, but at one heat to strike out a totally 
new constitution for a great kingdom, and m every 
part of it, from the monarch on the throne to the vestry 
of a parish ? But—' fools rush in where angels fear to 
tread: In such a state of unbounded power, for un- 
defined and undefinable purposes, the evil of a moral 
and almost physical inaptitude of the man to the func- 
tion, must be the greatest we can conceive to happen 
in the management of human affairs. 

Having considered the composition of the third estate 
as it stood in its original frame, I took a view of the 
representatives of the clergy. There too it appeared 
that full as little regard was had to the general security 
of property, or to the aptitude of the deputies for their 
pubHc purposes, in the principles of their election. That 
election was so contrived as to send a very large pro- 
portion of mere country' curates to the great and arduous 
work of new-modelling a state ; men who had never 
seen the state so much as in a picture ; men who knew 
nothing of the world beyond the bounds of an obscure 
viUage ; who, immersed in hopeless poverty, could 
regard all property, whether secular or ecclesiastical, 
with no other eye than that of envy ; among whom 
must be many, who. for the smallest hope of the meanest 
dividend in plunder, would readily join m any attempts 
upon a body of wealth, in which they could hardly 
look to have any share, except in a general scramble. 
Instead of balancing the power of the active chicaners 
in the other assembly, these curates must necessarily 
become the active coadjutors, or at best the passive in- 
struments, of those by whom they had been habitually 
guided in their petty village concerns They too could 
hardly be the most conscientious of their kind who 
presuming upon their incompetent understandmg, could 



SELECTIONS. 251 

intrigue for a trust which led them from their natural 
relation to their flocks, and their natural spheres of 
action, to undertake the regeneration of kingdoms. 
This preponderating weight, being added to the force 
of the body of chicane in the Tiers Etat, completed that 
momentum of ignorance, rashness, presumption,_ and 
lust of plunder, which nothing has been able to resist. 

To observing men it must have appeared from the 
beginning that the majority of the third estate, in con- 
junction with such a deputation from the clergy, as 
I have described, whilst it pursued the destruction of 
the nobility, would inevitably become subservient to 
the worst designs of individuals in that class. In the 
spoil and humiliation of their own order these indi- 
viduals would possess a sure fund for the pay of their 
new followers. To squander away the objects which 
made the happiness of their fellows, would be to them 
no sacrifice at all. Turbulent, discontented men of 
quality, in proportion as they are puffed up with per- 
sonal pride and arrogance, generally despise their own 
order. One of the first symptoms they discover of 
a selfish and mischievous ambition, is a profligate dis- 
regard of a dignity which they partake with others. 
To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little 
platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle 
(the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first 
link in the series by which we proceed towards a love 
to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that 
portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of 
all those who compose it ; and as none but bad men 
would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter 
it away for their own personal advantage. 

There were, in the time of our civil troubles in England 
(I do not know whether you have any such in your 
assembly in France), several persons, like the then Earl 
of Holland, who by themselves or their families had 
brought an odium on the throne, by the prodigal dis- 
])ensation of its bounties towards them, who afterwards 
joined in the rebelliuns arising Ironi the discontents of 



252 EDMUND BURKE. 

which they were themselves the cause ; men who helped 
to subvert that throne to which they owed, some of 
them, their existence, others all that power which they 
employed to ruin their benefactor. If any bounds are 
set to the rapacious demands of that sort of people, or 
that others are permitted to partake in the objects they 
would engross, revenge and envy soon fill up the craving 
void that is left in their avarice. Confounded by the 
complication of distempered passions, their reason is 
disturbed ; their views become vast and perplexed ; 
to others inexplicable ; to themselves uncertain. They 
find, on all sides, bounds to their unprincipled ambition 
in any fixed order of things. But in the fog and haze of 
confusion all is enlarged, and appears without any limit. 
When men of rank sacrifice all ideas of dignity to an 
ambition without a distinct object, and work with low 
instruments and for low ends, the whole composition 
becomes low and base. Does not something like this 
now appear in France ? Does it not produce something 
ignoble and inglorious ? a kind of meanness in all the 
prevalent policy ? a tendency in all that is done to 
lower along with individuals all the dignity and im- 
portance of the state ? Other revolutions have been 
conducted by persons, who, whilst they attempted or 
affected changes in the commonwealth, sanctified their 
ambition by advancing the dignity of the people whose 
peace they troubled. They had long views. They 
aimed at the rule, not at the destruction of their country. 
They were men of great civil, and great military talents, 
and, if the terror, the ornament of their age. They were 
not like Jew brokers contending with each other who 
could best remedy with fraudulent circulation and 
depreciated paper the wretchedness and ruin brought on 
their country by their degenerate councils. The com- 
phment made to one of the great bad men of the old 
stamp (Cromwell) by his kinsman, a favourite poet of 
that time, shows what it was he proposed, and what 
indeed to a great degree he accomplished in the success 
of his ambition : 



SELECTIONS. 253 

' still as you rise, the state exalted too, 
Finds no distemper whilst 'tis changed by you ; 
Changed like the world's great scene, when without noise 
The rising sun night's vulgar lights destroys.' 

These disturbers were not so much hke men usurping 
power, as asserting their natural place in society. Their 
rising was to illuminate and beautify the world. Their 
conquest over their competitors was by outshining 
them. The hand that, like a destroying angel, smote 
the country, communicated to it the force and energy 
under which it suffered. I do not say (God forbid), 
I do not say, that the virtues of such men were to be 
taken as a balance to their crimes : but they were some 
corrective to their effects. Such was, as I said, our 
Cromwell. Such were your whole race of Guises, Condes, 
and Colignis. Such the Richelieus, who in more quiet 
times acted in the spirit of a civil war. Such, as better 
men, and in a less dubious cause, were your Henry IV 
and your SuUy, though nursed in civil confusions, 
and not wholly without some of their taint. It is 
a thing to be wondered at, to see how very soon France, 
when she had a moment to respire, recovered and 
emerged from the longest and most dreadful civil war 
that ever was known in any nation. Why ? Because, 
among all their massacres, they had not slain the mind 
in their country. A conscious dignity, a noble pride, 
a generous sense of glory and emulation, was not ex- 
tinguished. On the contrary, it was kindled and in- 
flamed. The organs also of the state, however shattered, 
existed. All the prizes of honour and virtue, all the 
rewards, all the distinctions, remained. But your 
present confusion, like a palsy, has attacked the fountain 
of life itself. Every person in your country, in a situa- 
tion to be actuated by a principle of honour, is dis- 
graced and degraded, and can entertain no sensation 
of life, except in a mortified and humiliated indignation. 
But this generation will quickly pass away. The 
next generation of the nobility will resemble the arti- 
ficers and clowns, and money-jobbers, usurers, and 



254 EDMUND BURKE. 

Jews, who will be always their fellows, sometimes their 
masters. Believe me, sir, those, who attempt to level, 
never equalize. In all societies, consisting of various 
descriptions of citizens, some description must be upper- 
most. The levellers therefore only change and pervert 
the natural order of things ; they load the edifice of 
society, by setting up in the air what the solidity of the 
structure requires to be on the ground. The associa- 
tions of tailors and carpenters, of which the republic 
(of Paris, for instance) is composed, cannot be equal to 
the situation, into which, by the worst of usurpations, an 
usurpation on the prerogatives of nature, you attempt 
to force them. 

The Chancellor of France, at the opening of the states, 
said, in a tone of oratorical flourish, that all occupations 
were honourable. If he meant only that no honest 
employment was disgraceful, he would not have gone 
beyond the truth. But in asserting that anything is 
honourable, we imply some distinction in its favour. 
The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow- 
chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person — 
to say nothing of a number of other more servile em- 
ployments. Such descriptions of men ought not to 
suffer oppression from the state ; but the state suffers 
oppression, if such as they, either individually or collec- 
tively, are permitted to rule. In this you think you are 
combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.* 

* Ecclesiasticus, chap, xxxviii. vers. 24, 25. 'The wisdom of a 
learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure : and he that hath little 
business shall become wise.' — ' How can he get wisdom that holdeth 
the plough, and that glorieth in the goad ; that driveth oxen ; and is 
occupied in their labours ; and whose talk is of bullocks ? ' 

Ver. 27. 'So every carpenter and work-master that laboureth 
night and day,' &c. 

Ver. 33. "They shall not be sought for in public counsel, nor sit 
high in the congregation : they shall not sit on the judge's seat, nor 
imderstand the sentence of judgment : they cannot declare justice 
and judgment, and they shall not be found where parables are spoken.' 

Ver. 34. ' But they will maintain the state of the world.' 

I do not determine whether this book be canonical, as the Gallican 
Church (till lately) has considered it, or apocryphal, as here it is taken. 
I am sure it contains a great deal of sense and truth. 



SELECTIONS. 255 

I do not, my dear sir, conceive you to be of that 
sophistical, captious spirit, or of that uncandid dulness, 
as to require, for every general observation or sentiment, 
an explicit detail of the correctives and exceptions, 
which reason wiU presume to be included in all the 
general propositions which come from reasonable men. 
You do not imagine, that I wish to confine power, 
authority, and distinction to blood, and names, and 
titles. No, sir. There is no quahfication for govern- 
ment but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive. 
Wherever they are actually found, they have, in what- 
ever state, condition, profession or trade, the passport 
of heaven to human place and honour. Woe to the 
country which would madly and impiously reject the 
service of the talents and virtues, civil, military, or 
religious, that are given to grace and to serve it ; and 
would condemn to obscurity everything formed to 
diffuse lustre and glory around a state. Woe to that 
country too that, passing into the opposite extreme, 
considers a low education, a mean contracted view of 
things, a sordid, mercenary occupation, as a preferable 
title to command. Everything ought to be open ; but 
not indifferently to every man. No rotation; no 
appointment by lot ; no mode of election operating in 
the spirit of sortition, or rotation, can be generally good 
in a government conversant in extensive objects. Be- 
cause they have no tendency, direct or indirect, to 
select the man with a view to the duty, or to accommo- 
date the one to the other. I do not hesitate to say that 
the road to eminence and power, from obscure condition, 
ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much 
of course. If rare merit be the rarest of all rare things, 
it ought to pass through some sort of probation. The 
temple of honour ought to be seated on an eminence. 
If it be opened through virtue, let it be remembered 
too that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and 
some struggle. 

Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a 
sLatc that does not represent its ability, as well as its pro- 



256 EDMUND BURKE. 

perty. But as ability is a vigorous and active principle, 
and as property is sluggish, inert and timid, it never can 
be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of 
all proportion, predominant in the representation. It 
must be represented too in great masses of accumula- 
tion, or it is not rightly protected. The characteristic 
essence of property, formed out of the combined prin- 
ciples of its acquisition and conservation, is to be un- 
equal. The great masses therefore which excite envy, 
and tempt rapacity, must be put out of the possibility 
of danger. Then they form a natural rampart about 
the lesser properties in all their gradations. The same 
quantity of property, which is by the natural course 
of things divided among many, has not the same opera- 
tion. Its defensive power is weakened as it is diffused. 
In this diffusion each man's portion is less than what, 
in the eagerness of his desires, he may flatter himself 
to obtain by dissipating the accumulations of others. 
The plunder of the few would indeed give but a share 
inconceivably small in the distribution to the many. 
But the many are not capable of making this calculation j 
and those who lead them to rapine never intend this 
distribution. 

The power of perpetuating our property in our families 
is one of the most valuable and interesting circum- 
stances belonging to it, and that which tends the most 
to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our 
weakness subservient to our virtue ; it grafts benev- 
olence even upon avarice. The possessors of family 
wealth, and of the distinction which attends hereditary 
possession, (as most concerned in it,) are the natural 
securities for this transmission. With us the House 
of Peers is formed upon this principle. It is wholly 
composed of hereditary property and hereditary distinc- 
tion and made therefore the third of the legislature 3 
and in the last event, the sole judge of all property 
in all its subdivisions. The House of Commons too, 
though not necessarily, yet in fact, is always so com- 
posed, in the far greater part. Let those large pro= 



SELECTIONS. 257 

prietors be what they will, and they have their chance of 
being among the best, they are, at the very worst, the 
ballast in the vessel of the commonwealth. For though 
hereditary wealth, and the rank which goes with it, are 
too much idolized by creeping sycophants, and the blind, 
abject admirers of power, they are too rashly slighted 
in shallow speculations of the petulant, assuming, short- 
sighted coxcombs of philosophy. Some decent, reg- 
ulated pre-eminence, some preference (not exclusive 
appropriation), given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor 
unjust, nor impolitic. 

It is said, that twenty-four millions ought to prevail 
over two hundred thousand. True ; if the constitu- 
tion of a kingdom be a problem of arithmetic. This 
sort of discourse does well enough with the lamp-post 
for its second : to men who may reason calmly, it is 
ridiculous. The will of the many, and their interest, 
must very often differ ; and great will be the difference 
when they make an evil choice. A government of 
five hundred country attorneys and obscure curates is 
not good for twenty-four millions of men, though it 
were chosen by eight and forty millions ; nor is it the 
better for being guided by a dozen of persons of quality, 
who have betrayed their trust in order to obtain that 
power. At present, you seem in everything to have 
strayed out of the high road of nature. The property 
of France does not govern it. Of course property is 
destroyed, and rational liberty has no existence. All 
you have got for the present is a paper circulation, and 
a stock-jobbing constitution : and, as to the future, do 
you seriously think that the territory of France, uj^on 
the republican system of eighty -three independent 
municipalities (to say nothing of the parts that compose 
them), can ever be governed as one body, or can ever be 
set in motion by the impulse gf one mind ? When the 
National Assembly has completed its work, it will have 
accomplished its ruin. These commonwealths will not 
long bear a state of subjection to the republic of Paris. 
They \\ill not I^ear that this one body should monopolize 



2.8 EDMUND BURKE. 

to swell' the insolence, or pamper the luxury of the 
tu 3w<-xi . xi^p^ ^j^ ggg none oi me 

"^^^ mrunde^'"e pretence oi whTch they have been 
equality, under tnep ^^ • ^^^ to their sovereign, 

''"'P^ll as the IncYeM constitution of their country, 
as well as the anciem constitution as 

dismembered their countiy. m f ^^ 

rrundrrdtt^St^Se'fto" trogether this eollec- 

!t. of reoubfcs The republic of Pans will endeavoui 
tion of yepubucs. j;bauchery of the army, and 

lSfrai?oTrpetuate'the assembly, without resor to 

■' 11 thS bfyour actual situation, compared to the 
situation to whkh you were called, as it were by the 
vdce of Go°d and mL. I cannot find it m ibY heart l-o 
rouCTatulate you on the choice you have made or the 
Success whch has attended your endeavours I can as 
rtrrec^mmend to any other -tion a conduct pounded 

Tmu^ et^h^tChrrsl^tf tfo 'your 

fkVarfa^r^bt^^tiL?^^^^^^^^^^ 

^e^of the Revolution Society, who were so early _ m 
S congratulations, appear to be strongly of opinion 
that therl is some scheme of politics relative to this 
country, in which your proceedmgs may in some way 
u "„./f'i F,>r vf.,ir Dr. Price, who sccmb to have 



be useful. For your Dr. Price. 



SELECTIONS. 259 

speculated himself into no small degree of fervour upon 
this subject, addresses his auditors in the following very 
remarkable words : * I cannot conclude without recalling 
particularly to your recollection a consideration which 
I have more than once alluded to, and which probably 
your thoughts have been all along anticipating ; a con- 
sideration with which my mind is impressed more than I 
can express. I mean the consideration of the favourable- 
ness of the present times to all exertions in the cause of 
liberty. ' 

It is plain that the mind of this political preacher was 
at the time big with some extraordinary design ; and 
it is very probable that the thoughts of his audience, 
who understood him better than I do, did all along run 
before him in his reflection, and in the whole train of 
consequences to which it led. 

Before I read that sermon, I really thought I had lived 
in a free country ; and it was an error I cherished, 
because it gave me a greater liking to the country I lived 
in. I was indeed aware, that a jealous, ever-waking 
vigilance, to guard the treasure of our liberty, not only 
from invasion, but from decay and corruption, was our 
best wisdom and our first duty. However, I considered 
that treasure rather as a possession to be secured, than 
as a prize to be contended for. I did not discern how 
the present time came to be so very favourable to all 
exertions in the cause of freedom. The present time 
differs from any other only by the circumstance of what 
is doing in France. If the example of that nation is to 
have an influence on this, I can easily conceive why some 
of their proceedings which have an unpleasant aspect, 
and are not quite reconcilable to humanity, geneiosity, 
good faith, and justice, are palliated with so much milky 
good-nature towards the actors, and borne with so much 
heroic fortitude towards the sufferers. It is certainly 
not prudent to discredit the authority of an example we 
mean to follow. But allowing this, we are led to a very 
natural (juestion ; — -What is that cause of liberty, and 
what are those exertions in its favour, to which the 



26o EDMUND BURKE. 

example of France is so singularly auspicious ? Is our 
monarchy to be annihilated, with all the laws, all the 
tribunals, and all the ancient corporations of the kingdom? 
Is every land-mark of the country to be done away in 
favour of a geometrical and arithmetical constitution ? 
Is the House of Lords to be voted useless ? Is episcopacy 
to be abolished ? Are the church lands to be sold to 
Jews and jobbers ; or given to bribe new-invented 
municipal republics into a participation in sacrilege ? 
Are all the taxes to be voted grievances, and the revenue 
reduced to a patriotic contribution, or patriotic presents ? 
Are silver shoe buckles to be substituted in the place of 
the land-tax and the malt-tax, for the support of the 
naval strength of this kingdom ? Are all orders, ranks, 
and distinctions to be confounded, that out of universal 
anarchy, joined to national bankruptcy, three or four 
thousand democracies should be formed into eighty-three, 
and that they may all, by some sort of unlcnown attractive 
power, be organized into one ? For this great end is 
the army to be seduced from its discipline and its fidelity, 
first by every kind of debauchery, and then by the 
terrible precedent of a donative in the increase of pay ? 
Are the curates to be seduced from their bishops, by 
holding out to them the delusive hope of a dole out of 
the spoils of their own order ? Are the citizens of London 
to be drawn from their allegiance by feeding them at the 
expense of their fellow-subjects ? Is a compulsory paper 
currency to be substituted in the place of the legal coin 
of this kingdom ? Is what remains of the plundered 
stock of public revenue to be employed in the wild project 
of maintaining two armies to watch over and to fight 
with each other ? If these are the ends and micans of 
the Revolution Society, I admit they are well assorted ; 
and France may furnish them for both with precedents 
in point. 

I see that your example is held out to shame us. I 
know that we are supposed a dull, sluggish race, rendered 
passive by finding our situation tolerable, and prevented 
by a mediocrity of freedom from ever attaining to its 



SELECTIONS. 261 

full perfection. Your leaders in France began by affect- 
ing to admire, almost to adore, the British constitution ; 
but, as they advanced, they came to look upon it with 
a sovereign contempt. The friends of your National 
Assembly amongst us have full as mean an opinion of 
what was formerly thought the glory of their countiy. 
The Revolution Society has discovered that the English 
nation is not free. They are convinced that the inequality 
in our representation is a ' defect in our constitution so 
gross and palpable, as to make it excellent chiefly in form 
and theory.' * That a representation in the legislature of a 
kingdom is not only the basis of all constitutional liberty 
in it, but of ' all legitimate government ; that without it 
a government is nothing but an usurpation ' ; — that 
' when the representation is partial, the kingdom possesses 
liberty only partially ; and if extremely partial, it gives 
only a semblance ; and if not only extremely partial, but 
corruptl}^ chosen, it becomes a nuisance.' Dr. Price 
considers this inadequacy of representation as our funda- 
mental grievance ; and though, as to the corruption of 
this scml-)lance of representation, he hopes it is not yet 
arrived to its full perfection of depravity, he fears that 
' nothing will be done towards gaining for us this essential 
blessing, until some great abuse of pozcer again provokes 
our resentment, or some great calamity again alarms our 
fears, or perhaps till the acquisition of a pure and equal 
representation b"' other countries, whilst we are mocked 
with the shadow, kindles our shame.' To this he sub- 
joins a note in these words. ' A representation chosen 
chiefly by the treasury, and a few thousands of the dregs 
of the people, who are generall}' paid for their votes.' 

You will smile here at the consistency of those demo- 
cratists, who, when they are not on their guard, treat 
the humbler part of the community with the greatest 
contemf:)t, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to 
make them the depositories of all power. It would 
require a long discourse to point out to you the many 
fallacies that lurk in the generality and equivocal nature 

* 'Discourse on tlic Love of our Countrj',' 3rd edit. p. 39. 



262 EDMUND BURKE, 

of the terms ' inadequate representation.' I shall only 
say here, in justice to that old-fashioned constitution, 
under which we have long prospered, that our representa- 
tion has been found perfectly adequate to all the purposes 
for which a representation of the people can be desired 
or devised. I defy the enemies of our constitution to 
show the contrary. To detail the particulars in which 
it is found so well to promote its ends, would demand a 
treatise on our practical constitution. I state here the 
doctrine of the revolutionists, only that you and others 
may see, what an opinion these gentlemen entertain of 
the constitution of their country, and why they seem to 
think that some great abuse of power, or some great 
calamity, as giving a chance for the blessing of a constitu- 
tion according to their ideas, would be much palliated to 
their feelings ; you see why they are so much enamoured 
of your fair and equal representation, which being once 
obtained the same effects might follow. You see they 
consider our House of Commons as only ' a semblance,' 
* a form,' ' a theory,' ' a shadow,' ' a mockery,' perhaps 
' a nuisance.' 

These gentlemen value themselves on being systematic ; 
and not without reason. They must therefore look on 
this gross and palpable defect of representation, this 
fundamental grievance (so they call it) as a thing not 
only vicious in itself, but as rendering our whole govern- 
ment absolutely illegitimate, and not at all better than 
a downright usurpation. Another revolution, to get rid 
of this illegitimate and usurped government, would of 
course be perfectly justifiable, if not absolutely necessary. 
Indeed their principle, if you observe it with any atten- 
tion, goes much further than to an alteration in the 
election of the House of Commons ; for, if popular 
representation, or choice, is necessary to the legitimacy 
of all government, the House of Lords is, at one stroke, 
bastardized and corrupted in blood. That House is 
no representative of the people at all, even in * semblance 
or in fr)rm.' The case of the crown is altogether as bad. 
In vain the crown may endeavour to screen itself against 



SELECTIONS. 263 

these gentlemen by the authority of the establishment 
made on the Revolution. The Revolution which is 
resorted to for a title, on their system, wants a title 
itself. The Revolution is built, according to their theory, 
upon a basis not more solid than our present formalities, 
as it was made by a House of Lords, not representing 
anyone but themselves ; and by a House of Commons 
exactly such as the present, that is, as they term it, by a 
mere * stiadow and mockery of representation.' 

Something they must destroy, or they seem to them- 
selves to exist for no purpose. One set is for destroying 
the civil power through the ecclesiastical ; another for 
demolishing the ecclesiastic through the civil. They 
are aware that the worst consequences might happen 
to the public in accomplishing this double ruin of church 
and state ; but they are so heated wdth their theories, 
that they give more than hints, that this ruin, with all 
the mischiefs that must lead to it and attend it, and which 
to themselves appear quite certain, would not be un- 
acceptable to them, or very remote from their wishes. A 
man amongst them of great authority, and certainly of 
great talents, speaking of a supposed alliance between 
church and state, says, ' perhaps ii'e jnust wait for the fall 
of the civil powers before this most unnatural alliance be 
broken. Calamitous no doubt will that time be. But 
what convulsion in the political world ought to be a sub- 
ject of lamentation, if it be attended with so desirable 
an effect ? ' You see with what a steady eye these 
gentlemen are prepared to view the greatest calamities 
which can befall their country. 

It is no wonder therefore, that with these ideas of 
everything in their constitution and government at 
home, either in church or state, as illegitimate and 
usurped, or, at best as a vain mockery, they look abroad 
with an eager and passionate enthusiasm. Whilst they 
are possessed by these notions, it is vain to talk to them 
of the practice of their ancestors, the fundamental laws 
of their country, the fixed form of a constitution, whose 
merits are confirmed by the solid test of long experience, 



264 EDMUND BURKE. 

and an increasing public strength and national prosperity. 
They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered 
men ; and as for the rest, they have wrought under 
ground a mine that will blow up, at one grand explosion, 
all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and 
acts of parliament. They have ' the rights of men.' 
Against these there can be no prescription ; against 
these no argument is binding : these admit no tempera- 
ment, and no compromise : anything withheld from their 
full demand is so much of fraud and injustice. Against 
these their rights of men let no government look for 
security in the length of its continuance, or in the justice 
and lenity of its administration. The objections of 
these speculatists, if its forms do not quadrate with their 
theories, are as valid against such an old and benefi- 
cent government, as against the most violent tyranny, 
or the greenest usurpation. They are always at issue 
with governments, not on a question of abuse, but a ques- 
tion of competency, and a question of title. I have 
nothing to say to the clumsy subtlety of their political 
metaphysics. Let them be their amusement in the 
schools. — ' Ilia se jactet in aula — ^Eolus, et clauso ventorum 
car cere regnet.' — But let them not break prison to burst 
like a Levanter, to sweep the earth with their hurricane, 
and to break up the fountains of the great deep to over- 
whelm us. 

Far am I from denying in theory,'^ full as far is my 
heart from withholding in practice (if I were of power 
to give or to withhold) the real rights of men. In denying 
their false claims of right, I do not mean to injure those 
which are real, and are such as their pretended rights 
would totally destroy. If civil society be made for the 
advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is 
made become his right. It is an institution of benefi- 
cence ; and law itself is only beneficence ; acting by a 
rule. Men have a right to live by that rule ; they have a 
right to do justice ; as between their fellows, whether 
their feUows are in politic function or in ordinary occupa- 
tion. They have a right to the fruits of their industry ; 



SELECTIONS. 265 

and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They 
have a right to the acquisitions of their parents ; to the 
nourishment and improvement of their offspring ; to 
instruction in hfe, and to consolation in death. What- 
ever each man can separately do, without trespassing 
upon others, he has a right to do for himself; and 
he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, 
with all its combinations of skill and force, can do 
in his favour. In this partnership all men have equal 
rights ; but not to equal things. He that has but five 
shiUings in the partnership, has as good a right to it as 
he that has five hundred pounds has to his larger propor- 
tion. But he has not a right to an equal dividend in the 
product of the joint stock ; and as to the share of power, 
authority, and direction which each individual ought to 
have in the management of the state, that I must deny 
to be amongst the direct original rights of man in civil 
society; for I havein mycontemplationthecivil social man, 
and no other. It is a thing to be settled by convention. 
If civil society be the offspring of convention, that 
convention must be its law. That convention must 
limit and modify all the descriptions of constitution 
which are formed under it. Every sort of legislature, 
judicial, or executory power, are its creatures. They 
can have no being in any other state of things ; and how 
can any man claim, under the conventions of civil society, 
rights which do not so much as suppose its existence ? — 
rights which are absolutely repugnant to it ? One of 
the first motives to civil society, and which becomes one 
of its fundamental rules, is, that no man should he judge 
in his own cause. By thi3 each person has at once 
divested himself of the first fundamental right of un- 
covenanted man, that is, to judge for himself and to 
assert his own cause. He abdicates all right to be his 
own governor. He inclusively, in a great measure 
abandons the right of self-defence, the first law of nature. 
Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil 
state together. That he may obtain justice, he gives 
up his right of determining what it is in points the most 



266 EDMUND BURKE. 

essential to him. That he may secure some Hberty, he 

makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it. . 

Government is not made in virtue of natural rights 
which r^ay and do exist in total independence of it ; and 
exist i^much greater clearness, and in a much greater 
deiee oHbstrlct perfection; but their abstract per- 
fection is their practical defect. By having a right to 
everSthng they want everything. Government is a 

contrivan?; of human wisdom to provide for human 
contrivance ^^^^^ gj^^^l^^ be 

7:%eat:r^yt^s^^^orn. Among these wants is 
Fo be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufhcient 
restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only 
that the paCns of individuals should be subjected, but 
iSat eventn ?he mass and body, as well as m the mdi- 
viduak the inclinations of men should frequently be 
thwarted their will controlled, and their passions brought 

StrsutSion. f^^^^^sj^^^s::^, 

ItcTttthat w^n and' to t"ass^ns which it is its 

Tmtt^bndie ^^i^-^^:^X':s:^ 

^moTthet nghts" tTafthe hb'erties and the restric 

f^ns varv with times and circumstances, and admit of 

Xitl S^^dlfications, they, cannot be -ttle^X^^^^^ 

abstract rule ; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them 

"The molenf ^ou abate anything from the full rights 
of men eaTh to govern himself, and suffer any artificial 
posTti^; hm'atio'n upon those rights, f-mth^t moment 
the whole organization of government becomes a con 
sideration of convenience. This it is which makes the 
^onstilurion of a state, and the ^ue ^^f^^^l^ed 
powers, a matter of the most delicate f ^ ^^^ ^.^ 
Scill It requires a deep knowledge of numan nature 
SKiii. it requiic::, a. r things which facilitate 

and human necessities, and of the tmngs ^vl ^ 

or obstruct the various ends, which ^re to be pursuea 
by the mechanism of civil msUtutions. The st^te is to 
have recruits to its strength, and remedies to its dis 



SELECTIONS. 267 

tempers. What is the use of discussing a man's abstract 
right to food or medicine ? The question is upon the 
method of procuring and administering therao In that 
dehberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of 
the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor 
of metaphysics. 

The science of constructing a commonwealth, or re- 
novating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experi- 
mental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a 
short experience that can instruct us in that practical 
science ; because the real effects of moral causes are 
not always immediate ; but that which in the first 
instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter 
operation ; and its excellence may arise even from the 
ill effects it produces in the beginning. The reverse 
also happens ; and very plausible schemes, with very 
pleasing commencements, have often shameful and 
lamentable conclusions. In states there are often some 
obscure and almost latent causes, things which appear 
at first view of little moment, on which a very great 
part of its prosperity or adversity may most essentially 
depend. The science of government being therefore so 
practical in itself, and intended for such practical pur- 
poses, a matter which requires experience, and even 
more experience than any person can gain in his whole 
life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is 
with infinite caution that any man ought to venture 
upon pulling down an edifice, which has answered in 
any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of 
society, or on building it up again, without having models 
and patterns of approved utility before his eyes. 

These metaphysic rights entering into common life, like 
rays of light which pierce into a dense medium, are, by 
the laws of nature, refracted from their straight line. 
Indeed, in the gross and complicated mass of human 
passions and concerns, the primitive rights of men under- 
go such a variety of refractions and reflections, that it 
becomes absurd to talk of them as if they continued in 
the simplicity of their original direction. The nature of 



268 EDMUND BURKE. 

man is intricate ; the objects of society are of the greatest 
possible complexity : and therefore no simple disposition 
or direction of power can be suitable either to man's 
nature, or to the quality of his affairs. \Vlien I hear the 
simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any 
new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that 
the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade, or totally 
negligent of their duty. The simple governments are 
fundamentally defective, to say no worse of them. If 
you were to contemplate society in but one point of view, 
all these simple modes of polity are infinitely captivating. 
In effect each would answer its single end much more 
perfectly than the more complex is able to attain all its 
complex purposes. But it is better that the whole should 
be imperfectly and anomalously answered, than that, 
while some parts are provided for with great exactness, 
others might be totally neglected, or perhaps materially 
injured, by the over-care of a favourite member. 

The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes : 
and in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they 
are morally and politically false. The rights of men 
are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not 
impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in govern- 
ments are their advantages ; and these are often in 
balances between differences of good ; in compromises 
between good and evil, and sometimes between evil 
and evil. Political reason is a computing principle ; 
adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally, 
and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral 
denominations. 

By these theorists the right of the people is almost 
always sophistically confounded mth their power. 
The body of the community, whenever it can come to 
act, can meet with no effectual resistance ; but till 
power and right are the same, the whole body of them 
has no right inconsistent with virtue, and the first of 
all virtues, prudence. Men have no right to what is 
not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit ; for 
though a pleasant writer said, Liceat perire poetis, when 



SELECTIONS. 269 

one of them, in cold blood, is said to have leaped into 
the flames of a volcanic revolution, Ardentem frigidus 
Etnam insiliiit, I consider such a frohc rather as an 
unjustifiable poetic licence, than as one of the franchises 
of Parnassus ; and, whether he were poet, or divine, or 
politician, that chose to exercise this kind of right, I 
think that more wise, because more charitable thoughts 
would urge me rather to save the man, than to preserve 
his brazen slippers as the monuments of his folly. 

The kind of anniversary sermons to which a great 
part of what I write refers, if men are not shamed out 
of their present course, in commemorating the fact, 
will cheat many out of the principles, and deprive them 
of the benefits of the Revolution they commemorate. 
I confess to you, sir, I never liked this continual talk 
of resistance, and revolution, or the practice of making 
the extreme medicine of the constitution its daily bread. 
It renders the habit of society dangerously valetudinary ; 
it is taking periodical doses of mercury sublimate, and 
swallowing down repeated provocatives of cantharides 
to our love of liberty. 

This distemper of remedy, grown habitual, relaxes and 
wears out, by a vulgar and prostituted use, the spring 
of that spirit which is to be exerted on great occasions. 
It was in the most patient period of Roman servitude 
tliat themes of tyrannicide made the ordinary exercise 
(jf boys at school — cum perimit savos classis numerosa 
tyrannos. In the ordinary state of things, it produces 
in a country like ours the worst effects, even on the cause 
of tliat liberty which it abuses with the dissoluteness of 
an extravagant sjicculation. Almost all the high-bred 
republicans of my time have, after a short sj^ace, become 
the most decided, thorough-paced courtiers ; they soon 
left the business of a tedious, moderate, but practical 
resistance, to those of us whom, in the pride and in- 
toxication of their theories, they have slighted as not 
nuich better than Tories. Hypocrisy, of course, delights 
in the most sublime speculations ; for, never intending 
to go beyond specuUition, it costs nothing to have it 



270 EDMUND BURKE. 

magnificent. But even in cases where rather levity 
than fraud was to be suspected in these ranting specula- 
tions, the issue has been much the same. These pro- 
fessors, finding their extreme principles not applicable 
to cases which call only for a qualified, or, as I may 
say, civil, and legal resistance, in such cases employ 
no resistance at all. It is with them a war or a revolu- 
tion, or it is nothing. Finding their schemes of politics 
not adapted to the state of the world in which they 
live, they often come to think lightly of all public prin- 
ciple ; and are ready, on their part, to abandon for a 
very trivial interest what they find of very trivial value. 
Some, indeed, are of more steady and persevering na- 
tures ; but these are eager politicians out of parliament, 
who have little to tempt them to abandon their favourite 
projects. They have some change in the church or 
state, or both, constantly in their view. When that 
is the case, they are always bad citizens, and perfectly 
unsure connexions. For, considering their speculative 
designs as of infinite value, and the actual arrangement 
of the state as of no estimation, they are, at best, in- 
different about it. They see no merit in the good, and 
no fault in the vicious management of public affairs ; 
they rather rejoice in the latter, as more propitious to 
revolution. They see no merit or demerit in any man, 
or any action, or any political principle, any further 
than as they may forward or retard their design of 
change ; they therefore take up, one day, the most 
violent and stretched prerogative, and another time 
the wildest democratic ideas of freedom, and pass from 
the one to the other without any sort of regard to cause, 
to person, or to party. 

In France you are now in the crisis of a revolution, 
and in the transit from one form of government to 
another — you cannot see that character of men exactly 
in the same situation in which we see it in this country. 
With us it is militant ; with you it is triumphant ; and 
you know how it can act when its power is commen- 
surate to its will. I would not be supposed to confine 



SELECTIONS. 271 

those observations to any description of men, or to 
comprehend all men of any description within them — 
No ! far from it. I am as incapable of that injustice, as 
1 am of keeping terms with those who profess principles 
of extremes ; and who, under the name of religion, 
teach little else than wild and dangerous' politics. The 
worst of these politics of revolution is this : they temper 
and harden the breast, in order to prepare it for the 
desperate strokes which are sometimes used in extreme 
occasions. But as these occasions may never arrive, 
the mind receives a gratuitous taint ; and the moral 
sentiments suffer not a little, when no political purpose 
is served by the depravation. This sort of people 
are so taken up with their theories about the rights 
of man, that they have totally forgotten his nature. 
Without opening one new avenue to the understanding, 
they have succeeded in stopping up those that lead 
to the heart. They have perverted in themselves, 
and in those that attend to them, all the well-placed 
sympathies of the human breast. 

This famous sermon of the Old Jewry breathes nothing 
but this spirit through all the political part. Plots, 
massacres, assassinations, seem to some people a trivial 
price for obtaining a revolution. A cheap, bloodless 
reformation, a guiltless liberty, appear flat and vapid 
to their taste. There must be a great change of scene ; 
there must be a magnificent stage effect ; there must 
be a grand spectacle to rouse the imagination, grown 
torpid with the lazy enjoyment of sixty years' security, 
and the still unanimating repose of pubhc prosperity. 
The preacher found them all in the French Revolution. 
This inspires a juvenile warmth through his whole 
frame. His enthusiasm kindles as he advances ; and 
when he arrives at his peroration it is in a full blaze. 
Then viewing, from the Pisgah of his pulpit, the free, 
moral, happy, flourishing, and glorious state of France, 
as in a bird-eye landscape of a promised land, he breaks 
out into the following rapture : 

' What an eventful period is this 1 I am thankful that 



272 EDMUND BURKE. 

I have lived to it ; I could almost say. Lord, now lettest 
thou thy servant depart in peace, jar mine eyes have seen 
thy salvation. I have lived to see a diffusion of know- 
ledge, which has undermined superstition and error. — 
I have lived to see the rights of men better understood 
than ever ; and nations panting for liberty which seemed 
to have lost the idea of it. — I have lived to see thirty 
millions of people, indignant and resolute, spurning 
at slavery, and demanding liberty with an irresistible 
voice. Their king led in triumph, and an arbitrary 
monarch surrendering himself to his subjects.' * 

Before I proceed further, I have to remark, that 
Dr. Price seems rather to overvalue the great acquisi- 
tions of light which he has obtained and diffused in this 
age. The last century appears to me to have been 
quite as much enlightened. It had, though in a different 
place, a triumph as memorable as that of Dr. Price ; 
and some of the great preachers of that period partook 
of it as eagerly as he has done in the triumph of France. 
On the trial of the Rev. Hugh Peters for high treason, 
it was deposed, that when King Charles was brought 
to London for his trial, the Apostle of Liberty in that 
day conducted the triumph. ' I saw,' says the witness, 
* his majesty in the coach with six horses, and Peters 
riding before the king triumphing.' Dr. Price, when he 
talks as if he had made a discovery, only follows a pre- 
cedent : for, after the commencement of the king's trial, 
this precursor, the same Dr. Peters, concluding a long 
prayer at the royal chapel at Whitehall (he had very 
triumphantly chosen his place), said, ' I have prayed 
and preached these twenty years ; and now I may say 
with old Simeon, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart 
in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.' \ Peters 

* Another of these reverend gentlemen, who was witness to some 
of the spectacles which Paris has lately exhibited, expresses himself 
thus : — ' A king dragged in submissive trimnpk by his conquering subjects 
is one of those appearances of grandeur which seldom rise in the pros- 
pect of human affairs, and which, during the remainder of my life, I 
shall think of with wonder and gratification.' These gentlemen agree 
marvellously in their feelings. 

t State Trials, vol. ii. pp. 360. 363. 



SELECTIONS. 273 

had not the fruits of his prayer ; for he neither departed 
so soon as he wished, nor in peace. He became (what 
I heartily hope none of his followers may be in this 
country) himself a sacrifice to the triumph which he 
led as pontiff. They dealt at the Restoration, perhaps, 
too hardly with this poor good man. But we owe it to 
his memory, and his sufferings, that he had as much 
illumination, and as much zeal, and had as effectually 
undermined all the superstition and error which might 
impede the great business he was engaged in, as any who 
follow and repeat after him in this age, which would 
assume to itself an exclusive title to the knowledge of 
the rights of men, and all the glorious consequences of 
that knowledge. 

After this sahy of the preacher of the Old Jewry, 
which differs only in place and time, but agrees per- 
fectly with the spirit and letter of the rapture of 1648, 
the Revolution Society, the fabricators of governments, 
the heroic band of cashierers of monarchs, electors of 
sovereigns, and leaders of kings in triumph, strutting 
with a proud consciousness of the diffusion of know- 
ledge, of which every member had obtained so large a 
share in the donative, were in haste to make a generous 
diffusion of the knowledge they had thus gratuitously 
received. To make this bountiful communication, they 
adjourned from the church in the Old Jewry, to the 
London Tavern ; where the same Dr. Price, in whom 
the fumes of his oracular tripod were not entirely evap- 
orated, moved and carried the resolution, or address 
of congratulation, transmitted by Lord Stanhope to the 
National Assembly of France. 

I find a preacher of the gospel profaning the beauti- 
ful and prophetic ejaculation, commonly called 'nunc 
dimitiis,' made on the first presentation of our Saviour 
in the temple, and applying it, with an inhuman and 
unnatural rapture, to the most horrid, atrocious, and 
afflicting spectacle that perhaps ever was exhibited to 
the pity and indignation of mankind. This ' leading 
in triumph,' a thing in its best form unmanly and irre- 



274 EDMUND BURKE. 

ligious, which fills our preacher with such unhallowed 
transports, must shock, I believe, the moral taste of 
every well-born mind. Several English were the stupe- 
fied and indignant spectators of that triumph. It was 
(unless we have been strangely deceived) a spectacle 
more resembling a procession of American savages, 
entering into Onondago, after some of their murders 
called victories, and leading into hovels hung round 
with scalps, their captives, overpowered with the scoffs 
and buffets of women as ferocious as themselves, much 
more than it resembled the triumphal pomp of a civilized, 
martial nation ; — if a civilized nation, or any men who 
had a sense of generosity, were capable of a personal 
triumph over the fallen and afflicted. 

This, my dear sir, was not the triumph of France. 
I must believe that, as a nation, it overwhelmed you 
with shame and horror, I must beUeve that the 
National Assembly find themselves in a state of the 
greatest humiliation in not being able to punish the 
authors of this triumph, or the actors in it ; and that 
they are in a situation in which any inquiry they may 
make upon the subject must be destitute even of the 
appearance of liberty or impartiality. The apology 
of that assembly is found in their situation ; but when 
we approve what they must bear, it is in us the degen- 
erate choice of a vitiated mind. 

With a compelled appearance of deliberation, they 
vote under the dominion of a stern necessity. They sit 
in the heart, as it were, of a foreign republic : they 
have their residence in a city whose constitution has 
emanated neither from the charter of their king, nor 
from their legislative power. There they are sur- 
rounded by an army not raised either by the authority 
of their crown, or by their command; and which, 
if they should order to dissolve itself, would instantly 
dissolve them. There they sit, after a gang of assassins 
had driven away some hundreds of the members ; 
whilst those who held the same moderate principles, 
with more patience or better hope, continued every 



SELECTIONS. 275 

day exposed to outrageous insults and murderous 
threats. There a majority, sometimes real, sometimes 
pretended, captive itself, compels a captive kmg to 
issue as royal edicts, at third hand, the polluted nonsense 
of their most hcentious and giddy coffee-houses. It 
is notorious that all their measures are decided before 
they are debated. It is beyond doubt that under the 
terror of the bayonet, and the lamp-post, and the torch 
to their houses,"' they are obhged to adopt aU the crude 
and desperate measures suggested by clubs composed 
of a monstrous medley of all conditions, tongues, and 
nations. Among these are found persons, m com- 
parison of whom Catiline would be thought scrupulous, 
and Cethegus a man of sobriety and moderation. Nor 
is it in these clubs alone that the pubUc measur-es are 
deformed into monsters. They undergo a previous dis- 
tortion in academies, intended as so many seminaries lor 
these clubs, which are set up in all the places of public 
resort. In these meetings of aU sorts, every counsel, 
in proportion as it is daring, and violent, and perfidious, 
is taken for the mark of superior genius. Humanity 
and compassion are ridiculed as the fruits of super- 
stition and ignorance. Tenderness to individuals is 
considered as treason to the public. Liberty is always 
to be estimated perfect as property is rendered insecure. 
Amidst assassination, massacre, and confiscation, per- 
petrated or meditated, they are forming plans for the 
good order of future society. Embracing in their arms 
the carcases of base criminals, and promoting their 
relations on the title of their offences, they drive hun- 
dreds of virtuous persons to the same end, by forcing 
them to subsist by beggary or by crime. 

The assembly, their organ, acts before them the farce 
of deliberation with as little decency as hberty. They 
act like the comedians of a fair, before a riotous audience ; 
they act amidst the tumultuous cries of a mixed niob 
of ferocious men, and of women lost to shame, who, 
according to their insolent fancies, direct, control, 
applaud, explode thciu ; aud soinetinies mix and lake 



276 EDMUND BURKE. 

their seats amongst them ; domineering over them 
with a strange mixture of servile petulance and proud 
presumptuous authority. As they have inverted order 
in all things, the gallery is in the place of the house. 
This assembly, which overthrows kings and kingdoms, 
has not even the phj^siognom^^ and aspect of a 
grave legislative body — nee color imperii, nee frons 
erat tdla senatiis. They have a power given to them, 
like that of the evil principle, to subvert and de- 
stroy; but none to construct, except such machines 
as may be fitted for further subversion and further 
destruction. 

Who is it that admires, and from the heart is attached 
to national representative assemblies, but must turn 
with horror and disgust from such a profane burlesque, 
and abominable perversion of that sacred institute ? 
Lovers of monarchy, lovers of republics, must alike 
abhor it. The members of your assembly must them- 
selves groan under the tyranny of which they have all 
the shame, none of the direction, and little of the profit. 
I am sure many of the members who compose even the 
majority of that body must feel as I do, notwithstanding 
the applauses of the Revolution Society. Miserable 
king ! miserable assembly ! How must that assembly 
be silently scandalized with those of their members, 
who could call a day which seemed to blot the sun out 
of heaven, ' un bean jour I ' * How must they be in- 
wardly indignant at hearing others, who thought fit 
to declare to them, * that the vessel of the state would 
fly forward in her course towards regeneration with 
more speed than ever,' from the stiff gale of treason 
and murder, which preceded our preacher's triumph ! 
What must they have felt, whilst, with outward patience 
and inward indignation, they heard of the slaughter 
of innocent gentlemen in their houses, that * the blood 
spilled was not the most pure ' ? What must they 
have felt, when they were besieged by complaints of 
disorders which shook their country to its foundations, 
* 6th of October. 1789. 



SELECTIONS. 277 

at being compelled coolly to tell the complainants, 
that they were under the protection of the law, and 
that they would address the king (the captive king) 
to cause the laws to be enforced for their protection ; 
when the enslaved ministers of that captive king had 
formally notified to them, that there were neither law, 
nor authority, nor power left to protect ? What must 
they have felt at being obliged, as a felicitation on the 
present new vear, to request their captive king to forget 
the stormy period of the last, on account of the great 
good which he was hkely to produce to his people ; to 
the complete attainment of which good they adjourned 
the practical demonstrations of their loyalty, assurmg 
him of theii obedience, when he should no longer possess 
any authority to command. 

This address was made with much good-nature and 
affection, to be sure. But among the revolutions in 
France must be reckoned a considerable revolution in 
their ideas of politeness. In England we are said to 
learn manners at second-hand from your side of the 
water, and that we dress our behaviour in the frippery 
of France. If so, we are still in the old cut ; and have 
not so far conformed to the new Parisian mode of good- 
breeding, as to think it quite in the most refined strain 
of delicate compliment (whether in condolence or con- 
gratulation) to say, to the most humiliated creature 
that crawls upon the earth, that great public benefits 
are derived from the murder of his servants, the at- 
tempted assassination of himself and of his wife, and 
the mortification, disgrace, and degradation, that he 
has personally suffered. It is a topic of consolation 
which our ordinary of Newgate would be too humane 
to use to a criminal at the foot of the gallows. I should 
have thought that the hangman of Paris, now that he 
is hberalized by the vote of the National Assembly, and 
is allowed his rank and amis in the herald's college of 
the rights of men, would be too generous, too gallant 
a man, too full of tlie sense of his new dignity, to employ 
that cutting consolation to any of tlie persons whom 



278 EDMUND BURKE. 

the lese nation might bring under the administration of 
his executive poiDer. 

A man is fallen indeed, when he is thus flattered. 
The anodyne draught of oblivion, thus drugged, is well 
calculated to preserve a galling wakefulness, and to 
feed the living ulcer of a corroding memory. Thus to 
administer the opiate potion of amnesty, powdered 
with all the ingredients of scorn and contempt, is to 
hold to his lips, instead of ' the balm of hurt minds,' 
the cup of human misery full to the brim, and to force 
him to drink it to the dregs. 

Yielding to reasons, at least as forcible as those which 
were so delicately urged in the compliment on the new 
year, the King of France will probably endeavour to 
forget these events and that comphment. But history, 
who keeps a durable record of all our acts, and exercises 
her awful censure over the proceedings of all sorts of 
sovereigns, will not forget either those events, or the 
era of this liberal refinement in the intercourse of man- 
kind. History will record, that on the morning of the 
6th of October, 1789, the King and Queen of France, 
after a day of confusion, alarm, dismay, and slaughter, 
lay down, under the pledged security of public faith, to 
indulge nature in a few hours of respite, and troubled, 
melancholy repose. From this sleep the queen was 
first startled by the voice of the sentinel at her door, 
who cried out to her to save herself by flight — that 
this was the last proof of fidelity he could give — that 
they were upon him, and he was dead. Instantly_ he 
was cut down. A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, 
reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the 
queen, and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets 
and poniards the bed, from whence this persecuted 
woman had but just time to fly almost naked, and, 
through ways unknown to the murderers, had escape^ 
to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband, not 
secure of his own life for a moment. 

This king, to say no more of him, and this queen, and 
their infant children, (who once would have been the 



SELECTIONS. 279 

pride and hope of a great and generous people,) were 
then forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most splen- 
did palace in the world, which they left swimming in 
blood, polluted by massacre, and strewed with scat- 
tered limbs and mutilated carcases. Thence they were 
conducted into the capital of their kingdom. Two 
had been selected from the unprovoked, unresisted, 
promiscuous slaughter, which was made of the^ gentle- 
men of birth and family who composed the king's body- 
guard. These two gentlemen, with all the parade of 
an execution of justice, were cruelly and publicly 
dragged to the block, and beheaded in the great court of 
the palace. Their heads were stuck upon spears, and 
led the procession ; whilst the royal captives who 
followed in the train were slowly moved along, amidst 
the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and frantic 
dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutter- 
able abominations of the furies of hell, in the abused 
shapes of the vilest of women. After they had been 
made to taste, drop by drop, more than the bitterness 
of death, in the slow torture of a journey of twelve 
miles, protracted to six hours, they were, under a guard, 
composed of those very soldiers who had thus con- 
ducted them through this famous triumph, lodged in 
one of the old palaces of Paris, now converted into a 
Bastille for kings. 

Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars ? to be 
commemorated with grateful thanksgiving? to be 
offered to the Di\ane Humanity with fervent prayer 
and enthusiastic ejaculation ? —These Theban and 
Thracian orgies, acted in France, and applauded only 
in the Old Jewry, I assure you, kindle prophetic en- 
thusiasm in the minds but of ver\' few people in this 
kingdom ; although a saint and apostle, who may have 
revelations of his own, and who has so completely van- 
quished all the mean superstitions of the heart, may 
incline to think it pious and decorous to compare it 
with the entrance into the world of the Prince of 
Peace, proclaimed in a holy temple by a venerable sage. 



28o EDMUND BURKE. 

and not long before not worse announced by the voice 
of angels to quiet the innocence of shepherds. 

At first I was at a loss to account for this fit of un- 
guarded transport. I knew, indeed, that the sufferings 
of monarchs make a delicious repast to some sort of 
palates. There were reflections which might serve to 
keep this appetite within some bounds of temperance. 
But when I took one circumstance into my considera- 
tion, I was obliged to confess, that much allowance 
ought to be made for the society, and that the tempta- 
tion was too strong for common discretion ; I mean, the 
circumstance of the To Paean of the triumph, the animat- 
ing cry which called ' for all the BISHOPS to be hanged 
on the lamp-posts,' * might well have brought forth 
a burst of enthusiasm on the foreseen consequences 
of this happy day. I allow to so much enthusiasm 
some little deviation from prudence. I allow this 
prophet to break forth into hymns of joy and thanks- 
giving on an event which appears like the precursor 
of the Millennium, and the projected fifth monarchy, 
in the destruction of all Church establishments. There 
was, however, (as in all human affairs there is,) in the 
midst of this joy, something to exercise the patience of 
these worthy gentlemen, and to try the long-suffering 
of their faith. The actual murder of the king and 
queen, and their child, was wanting to the other 
auspicious circumstances of this * beautiful day.' The 
actual murder of the bishops, though called for by so 
many holy ejaculations, was also wanting. A group 
of regicide and sacrilegious slaughter, was indeed boldly 
sketched, but it was only sketched. It unhappily was 
left unfinished, in this great history-piece of the mas- 
sacre of innocents. What hardy pencil of a great 
master, from this school of the rights of men, will finish 
it, is to be seen hereafter. The age has not yet the 
complete benefit of that diffusion of knowledge that has 
undermined superstition and error ; and the King of 
France wants another object or two, to consign to 
* Tous les Eveques a la lanterne. 



SELECTIONS. 281 

oblivion, in consideration of all the good which is to 
arise from his own sufferings, and the patriotic crimes 
of an enlightened age.* 

Although this work of our new light and knowledge 

* It is proper here to refer to a letter written upon this subject by 
an eye-witness. That eve-witness was one of the most honest, in- 
telligent, and eloquent members of the National Assembly, one of the 
most active and zealous reformers of the state. He was obliged to secede 
from the assembly ; and he afterwards became a voluntary exile, on 
account of the horrors of this pious triumph, and the dispositions of 
men, who, profiting of crimes, if not causing them, have taken the lead 
in public affairs. 

Extract of M. de Lally Tollendal's Second Letter to a Friend. 

' Parlons du parti que j'ai pris ; il est bien justifie dans ma con- 
science.— Ni cette ville coupable, ni cette assemblee plus coupable 
encore, ne meritoient que me justifie ; mais j'ai a cceur que vous, et les 
personnes qui pensent comme vous, ne me condamnent pas.— Ma 
sante, je vous jure, me rendoit mes fonctions impossibles ; mais meme 
en les mettant de cote il a etc au-dessus de mes forces de supporter plus 
loiigtems I'horreur que me causoit ce sang,— ces tgtes— cette reine 
presque ^gorgee, ce nii— amene ^scZat^^',- entrant a Pans, au milieu de 
ses assassins, et precede de tetes de ses malheureux gardes— ces perfides 
janissaires, ces assassins, ces femmes cannibales, ce cri de xous les 
£v£que5 a la la.\ter.ne, dans le moment oti le roi entre sa capitale 
avec deux eveques de son conscil dans sa voiture — un coup de fusil, 
que j'ai vu tirer dans un des carosses de la reine — M. Bailly appellant 
cela un beau jour— Vassemhlee ayant declare froidemcnt le matin, 
qu'il n'etoit pas de sa dignite d'aller toute entiere environner le roi— 
M. Mirabeau disant impunement dans cette assemblee que le vaisseau 
de I'etat, loin d'etre arrSte dans sa course, s'elanceroit avec plus de 
rapidite que jamais vers sa regeneration- M. Barnave, riant avec lui, 
quand des flots de sang couloient autour de nous— le vertueux Mounier * 
echappant par miracle k vingt assassins, qui avoient voulu faire de sa 
tCte un trophee de plus : Voilci ce qui me fit jurer de ne plus mettre le 
pied dans cette caverne (C Antropo phages [the National Assembly] oh ]e 
n'avois plus de force d' clever la voix, oti depuis six semames je I'avois 
elevee en vain. 

' Moi, Mounier, et tous les honnfites gens, ont pense que le dernier 
effort i faire pour le bien ctoit d'en sortir. Aucune idee de crainte 
ne s'est approchce de moi. Je rougirois de m'eu defendre. J'avois 
encore recu sur la route de la part de ce peuple, raoius coupable que 
ceux qui Font enivre de fureur, des acclamations, et des applaudisse- 
ments, dont d'autres auroient ete flattes, et qui m'ont fait fremir. 
C'est k I'indignation, c'cst k I'horreur, c'est aux convulsions physiques, 
que le seul aspect du sang me fait cprouver que j'ai cede. On brave 
une seule mort ; on la brave plusieurs fois, quaud elle pent otre utile. 

* N.B.— M. Mounier was then speaker of the National Assembly. 
He has since been obliged to live in exile, though one of the firmest 
assertors of liberty. 



282 EDMUND BURKE. 

did not go to the length that in all probabihty it was 
intended it should be carried, j^et I must think that 
such treatment of any human creatures must be shock- 
ing to any but those who are made for accomplishing 
revolutions. But I cannot stop here. Influenced by 
the inborn feelings of my nature, and not being illumi- 
nated by a single ray of this new-sprung modern light, 
I confess to you, sir, that the exalted rank of the persons 
suffering, and particularly the sex, the beauty, and the 
amiable qualities of the descendant of so many kings 
and emperors, with the tender age of royal infants, 
insensible only through infancy and innocence of the 
crael outrages to which their parents were exposed, 
instead of being a subject of exultation, adds not a little 
to my sensibility on that most melancholy occasion. 

I hear that the august person, who was the principal 
object of our preacher's triumph, though he supported 
himself, felt much on that shameful occasion. As a 
man, it became him to feel for his wife and his children, 
and the faithful guards of his person, that were mas- 
sacred in cold blood about him ; as a prince it became 
him to feel for the strange and frightful transformation 
of his civilized subjects, and to be more grieved for 
them, than solicitous for himself. It derogates little 
from his fortitude, while it adds infinitely to the honour 
of his humanity. I am very sorry to say it, very sorry 
indeed, that such personages are in a situation in which it 
is not becoming in us to praise the virtues of the great. 

I hear, and I rejoice to hear, that the great lady, the 
other object of the triumph, has borne that day (one 

Mais aucune puissance sous le ciel, mais aucune opinion publique ou 
privee n'ont le droit de me condamner k souffrir inutilement mille 
suppliccs par minute, et k perir de desespoir, de rage, au milieu des 
triomphes, du crime que je n'ai pu arreter. lis me proscriront, ils 
confisqueront mes biens. Je labourerai la terre, et je ne les verrai plus. 
Voili ma justification. Vous pourrez la lire, la moutrer, la laisser copier ; 
tant pis pour ceux qui ne la comprendront pas ; ce ne sera alors moi 
qui auroit eu tort de leur donner.' 

This military man had not so good nerves as the peaceable gentlemen 
of the Old Jewry. — See Mons. Mounier's narrative of these transac- 
tions ; a man also of honour and virtue, aud talents, and therefore a 
fugitive. 



SELECTIONS. 283 

is interested that beings made for suffering should suffer 
well), and that she bears all the succeeding days, that 
she bears the imprisonment of her husband, and her 
own captivity, and the exile of her friends, and the 
insulting adulation of addresses, and the whole weight 
of her accumulated wrongs, with a serene patience, m 
a manner suited to her rank and race, and becoming the 
offspring of a sovereign distinguished for her piety and 
her courage > that, Mke her, she has lofty sentiments ; 
that she feels with the dignity of a Roman matron; 
that in the last extremity she will save herself from the 
last disgrace • and that, if she must fall, she will fall 
by no ignoble hand. 

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the 
Queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles ; 
and surely never Hghted on this orb, which she hardly 
seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her 
just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the 
elevated sphere she just began to move in,— glittering 
like the morning-star, full of life, and splendour, and 
joy. Oh ! what a revolution ! and what a heart I must 
have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation 
and that fall ! Little did I dream when she added 
titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, re- 
spectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry 
the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that 
bosom ; httle did I dream that I should have lived to 
see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant 
men, in a nation of men of honour, and of cavaliers. 
I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from 
their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened 
her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That 
of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has suc- 
ceeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for 
ever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous 
loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that 
dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, 
which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of 
an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the 



284 EDMUND BURKE. 

cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment 
and heroic enterprise is gone ! It is gone, that sensibiHty 
of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain 
like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated 
ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under 
which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its 
grossness. 

This mixed system of opinion and sentiment had its 
origin in the ancient chivalry ; and the principle, though 
varied in its appearance by the varying state of human 
affairs, subsisted and influenced through a long succes- 1 
sion of generations, even to the time we live in. If it ' 
should ever be totally extinguished, the loss I fear will 
be great. It is this which has given its character to 
modern Europe. It is this which has distinguished it 
under all its forms of government, and distinguished it 
to its advantage, from the states of Asia, and possibly I 
from those states which flourished in the most brilliant 
periods of the antique world. It was this, which, with- 
out confounding ranks, had produced a noble equality, 
and handed it down through all the gradations of social 
life. It was this opinion which mitigated kings into 
companions, and raised private men to be fellows with 
kings. Without force or opposition, it subdued the 
fierceness of pride and power ; it obliged sovereigns to 
submit to the soft collar of social esteem, compelled 
stern authority to submit to elegance, and gave a domin- 
ating vanquisher of laws to be subdued by manners. 

But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illu- 
sions, which made power gentle, and obedience liberal, 
which harmonized the different shades of life, and which, 
by a bland assimilation, incorporated into politics the 
sentiments which beautify and soften private society, 
are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of 
light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to 
be rudely torn off. All the superadded ideas, furnished 
from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the 
heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary 
to cover the defects of our naked, shivering nature, and 



SELECTIONS. 285 

to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be 
exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion. 
On this scheme of things, a king is but a man, a queen 
is but a woman ; a woman is but an animal ; and an 
animal not of the highest order. All homage paid to 
the sex in general as such, and without distinct views, 
is to be regarded as romance and folly. Regicide, and 
parricide, and sacrilege, are but fictions of superstition, 
corrupting jurisprudence by destroying its simplicity. 
The murder of a king, or a queen, or a bishop, or a father, 
are only common homicide ; and if the people are by 
any chance, or in any way, gainers by it, a sort of homi- 
cide much the most pardonable, and into which we 
ought not to make too severe a scrutiny. 

On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which 
is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understand- 
ings, and which is as void of solid msdom, as it is desti- 
tute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported 
only by their own terrors, and by the concern, which 
each individual may find in them, from liis own private 
speculations, or can spare to them from his own private 
interests. In the groves of their academy, at the end 
of every visto, you see nothing but the gallows. Noth- 
ing is left which engages the affections on the part of 
the commonwealth. On the principles of this mechanic 
philosophy, our institutions can never be embodied, if 
I may use the expression, in persons ; so as to create 
in us love, veneration, admiration, or attachment. But 
that sort of reason which banishes the affections is in- 
capable of filling their place. These public affections, 
combined with manners, are required sometimes as 
supplements, sometimes as correctives, always as aids 
to law. The precept given by a wise man, as well as a 
great critic, for the construction of poems, is equally 
true as to states : — Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, 
dulcia sunto. There ought to be a system of manners 
in every nation, which a well-formed mind would be 
disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our 
country ought to be lovely. 



286 EDMUND BURKE. 

But power, of some kind or other, will survive the 
shock in which manners and opinions perish ; and it 
will find other and worse means for its support. The 
usurpation which, in order to subvert ancient institu- 
tions, has destroyed ancient principles, will hold power 
by arts similar to those by which it has acquired it. 
When the old feudal and chivalrous spirit of fealty, 
which, by freeing kings from fear, freed both kings and 
subjects from the precaution of tyranny, shall be extinct 
in the minds of men, plots and assassinations will be 
anticipated by preventive murder and preventive con- 
fiscation, and that long roll of grim and bloody maxims, 
which form the politica] code of all power not standing 
on its own honour, and the honour of those who are to 
obey it. Kings will be tyrants from policy, when sub- 
jects are rebels from principle. 

When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken 
away the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From 
that moment we have no compass to govern us ; nor 
can we know distinctly to what port we steer. Europe, 
undoubtedly, taken in a mass, was in a flourishing con- 
dition the day on which your Revolution was com- 
pleted. How much of that prosperous state was owing 
to the spirit of our old manners and opinions is not easy 
to say ; but as such cases cannot be indifferent in their 
operation, we must presume, that, on the whole, their 
operation was beneficial. 

We are but too apt to consider things in the state 
in which we find them, without sufficiently adverting to 
the causes by which they have been produced, and 
possibly may be upheld. Nothing is more certain than 
that our manners, our civilization, and all the good 
things which are connected with manners, and wdth 
civilization, have, in this European world of ours, de- 
pended for ages upon two principles ; and were indeed 
the result of both combined ; I mean the spirit of a 
gentleman, and the spirit of religion. The nobility 
and the clergy, the one by profession, the other by 
patronage, kept learning in existence, even in the midst 



SELECTIONS. 287 

of arms and confusions, and whilst governments were 
rather in their causes, than formed. Learning paid 
back what it received to nobility and to priesthood ; 
and paid it with usury, by enlarging their ideas, and by 
furnishing their minds. Happy if they had all con- 
tinued to know their indissoluble union, and their 
proper place 1 Happy if learning, not debauched by 
ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor, 
and not aspired to be the master! Along with its 
natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast 
into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of a 
swinish rnultitude.* 

If, as I suspect, modern letters owe more than they 
are always wilhng to own to ancient manners, so do 
other interests which we value full as much as they are 
worth. Even commerce, and trade, and manufacture, 
the gods of our economical politicians, are themselves 
perhaps but creatures ; are themselves but effects, 
which, as first causes, we choose to worship. They 
certainly grew under the same shade in which learnmg 
flourished. They too may decay with their natural 
protecting principles. With you, for the present at 
least, they all threaten to disappear together. Where 
trade and manufactures are wanting to a people, and 
the spirit of nobility and religion remains, sentiment 
supplies, and not always ill supplies, their place ; but 
if commerce and the arts should be lost in an experi- 
ment to try how well a state may stand without these 
old fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must 
be a nation of gross, stupid, ferocious, and, at the same 
time, poor and sordid barbarians, destitute of religion, 
honour, or manly pride, possessing nothing at present, 
and hoping for nothing hereafter ? 

I wish you may not be going fast, and by the shortest 
cut, to that horrible and disgustful situation. Already 
there appears a poverty of conception, a coarseness and 
vulgarity in all the proceedings of the assembly and of 
all their instructors. Their liberty is not liberal. Their 

♦ ii'.i'., liailly and Condorcct. 



288 EDMUND BURKE. 

science is presumptuous ignorance. Their humanity is 
savage and brutal. 

It is not clear, whether in England we learned those 
grand and decorous principles, and manners, of which 
considerable traces yet remain, from you, or whether 
you took them from us. But to you, I think, we trace 
them best. You seem to me to be — gentis incunabula 
nostrcB. France has always more or less influenced 
manners in England : and when your fountain is choked 
up and polluted, the stream will not run long, or not 
run clear with us, or perhaps with any nation. This 
gives all Europe, in my opinion, but too close and 
connected a concern in what is done in France. Excuse 
me, therefore, if I have dwelt too long on the atrocious 
spectacle of the 6th of October, 1789, or have given 
too much scope to the reflections which have arisen in 
my mind on occasion of the most important of all revolu- 
tions, which may be dated from that day, I mean a 
revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions. 
As things now stand, with everything respectable de- 
stroyed without us, and an attempt to destroy within 
us every principle of respect, one is almost forced to 
apologize for harbouring the common feelings of men. 

Why do I feel so differently from the Reverend Dr. 
Price, and those of his lay flock, who will choose to 
adopt the sentiments of his discourse ? — For this plain 
reason — because it is natural I should ; because we are 
so made, as to be affected at such spectacles with melan- 
choly sentiments upon the unstable condition of mortal 
prosperity, and the tremendous uncertainty of human 
greatness ; because in those natural feelings we learn 
great lessons ; because in events like these our passions 
instruct our reason ; because when kings are hurled 
from their thrones by the Supreme Director of this 
great drama, and become the objects of insult to the 
base, and of pity to the good, we behold such disasters 
in the moral, as we should behold a miracle in the physical 
order of things. We are alarmed into reflection ; our 
minds (as it has long since been observed) are purified 



SELECTIONS. 289 

by terror and pity ; our weak, unthinking pride is 
humbled under the dispensations of a mysterious wisdom. 
Some tears might be drawn from me, if such a spectacle 
were exhibited on the stage. I should be truly ashamed 
of finding in myself that superficial, theatric sense of 
painted distress, whilst I could exult over it in real life. 
With such a perverted mind, I could never venture to 
show my face at a tragedy. People would think the 
tears that Garrick formerly, or that Siddons not long 
since, have extorted from me, were the tears of h5rpocrisy ; 
I should know them to be the tears of folly. 

Indeed the theatre is a better school of moral senti- 
ments than churches where the feelings of humanity 
are thus outraged. Poets who have to deal with an 
audience not yet graduated in the school of the rights 
of men, and who must apply themselves to the moral 
constitution of the heart, would not dare to produce 
such a triumph as a matter of exultation. There, where 
men follow their natural impulses, they would not bear 
the odious maxims of a Machiavelian policy, whether 
applied to the attainment of monarchical or democratic 
tyranny. They would reject them on the modem, 
as they once did on the ancient stage, where they could 
not bear even the hypothetical proposition of such 
wickedness in the mouth of a personated tyrant, though 
suitable to the character he sustained. No theatric 
audience in Athens would bear what has been borne, 
in the midst of the real tragedy of this triumphal day ; 
a principal actor weighing, as it were in scales hung 
in a shop of horrors, — so much actual crime against 
so much contingent advantage, — and after putting in 
and out weights, declaring that the balance was on the 
side of the advantages. They would not bear to see 
the crimes of new democracy posted as in a ledger 
against the crimes of old despotism, and the book- 
keepers of politics, finding democracy still in debt, 
but by no means unable or unwilling to pay the balance. 
In the theatre, the first intuitive glance, without any 
elaborate process of reasoning, will show, that this 

10 



2go ' EDMUND BURKE, 

method of political computation would justify every 
extent of crime. They would see, that on these prm- 
ciples, even where the very worst acts were not per- 
petrated, it was owing rather to the fortune of the 
conspirators, than to their parsimony m the expenditure 
of treachery and blood. They would see that cnmmal 
means once tolerated are soon preferred. They present 
a shorter cut to the object than through the highway 
of the moral virtues. Justifying perfidy and murder 
for pubhc benefit, pubhc benefit would soon become the 
pretext, and perfidy and murder the end ; until rapa- 
city, malice, revenge, and fear more dreadful than 
revenge, could satiate their insatiable appetites. Such 
must be the consequences of losing, in the splendour of 
these triumphs of the rights of men, all natural sense 

of wrong and right. ■.■,-,■ 

But the reverend pastor exults m this leading in 
triumph,' because truly Louis XVI was ' an arbitrary 
monarch ' ; that is, in other words, neither more nor 
less than because he was Louis XVI, and because he 
had the misfortune to be bom king of France, with the 
prerogatives of which, a long line of ancestors, and a 
long acquiescence of the people, without any act pf his, 
had put him in possession. A misfortune it has indeed 
turned out to him, that he was bom king of France, 
But misfortune is not crime, nor is indiscretion always 
the greatest guilt. I shall never think that a pnnce, 
the acts of whose whole reign were a series of concessions 
to his subjects, who was wilUng to relax his authority, 
to remit his prerogatives, to call his people to a share 
of freedom, not known, perhaps not desired by their 
ancestors; such a prince, though he should be sub- 
jected to the common frailties attached to men and to 
princes, though he should have once thought it necessary 
to provide force against the desperate designs mani- 
festly carrying on against his person, and the remnants 
of his authority ; though aU this should be taken into 
consideration, I shall be led with great difftculty to 
think he deserves the cruel and insulting triumph ot 



SELECTIONS. "' 291 

Paris, and of Dr. Price. I tremble for the cause of 
liberty, from such an example to kings. I tremble for 
the cause of humanity, in the unpunished outrages of 
the most wicked of mankind. But there are some 
people of that low and degenerate fashion of mind, that 
they look up with a sort of complacent awe and admira- 
tion to kings who know how to keep firm in their seat, 
to hold a strict hand over their subjects, to assert their 
prerogative, and, by the awakened vigilance of a severe 
despotism, to guard against the very first approaches 
of freedom. Against such as these they never elevate 
their voice. Deserters from principle, listed with for- 
tune, they never see any good in suffering virtue, nor 
any crime in prosperous usurpation. 

If it could have been made clear to me that the king 
and queen of France (those I mean who were such before 
the triumph) were inexorable and cruel tyrants, that 
they had formed a deliberate scheme for massacring 
the National Assembly (I think I have seen something 
like the latter insinuated in certain publications), I 
should think their captivity just. If this be true, much 
more ought to have been done, but done, in my opinion, 
in another manner. The punishment of real tyrants 
is a noble and awful act of justice ; and it has with 
truth been said to be consolatory to the human mind. 
But if I were to punish a wicked king, I should regard 
the dignity in avenging the crime. Justice is grave and 
decorous, and in its punishments rather seems to submit 
to a necessity, than to make a choice. Had Nero, or 
Agrippina, or Louis XI, or Charles IX, been the sub- 
ject ; if Charles XII of Sweden, after the murder of 
Patkul, or his predecessor Christina, after the murder 
of Monaldeschi, had fallen into your hands, sir, or into 
mine, I am sure our conduct would have been different. 

If the French king, or king of the French (or by what- 
ever name he is known in the new vocabulary of your 
constitution), has in his own person, and that of his 
queen, really deserved these unavowed, but unavenged, 
murderous attempts, and those frequent indignities 



292 EDMUND BURKE. 

more cruel than murder, such a person would ill deserve 
even that subordinate executory trust, which I under- 
stand is to be placed in him ; nor is he fit to be called 
chief in a nation which he has outraged and oppressed. 
A worse choice for such an office in a new common- 
wealth, than that of a deposed tjn^ant, could not pos- 
sibly be made. But to degrade and insult a man as 
the worst of criminals, and afterwards to trust him in 
your highest concerns, as a faithful, honest, and zealous 
servant, is not consistent in reasoning, nor prudent in 
pohcy, nor safe in practice. Those who could make 
such an appointment must be guilty of a more flagrant 
breach of trust than any they have yet committed 
against the people. As this is the only crime in which 
your leading politicians could have acted inconsistently, 
I conclude that there is no sort of ground for these 
horrid insinuations. I think no better of all the other 
calumnies. 

In England, we give no credit to them. We are 
generous enemies : we are faithful allies. We spurn 
from us with disgust and . indignation the slanders of 
those who bring us their anecdotes with the attestation 
of the flower-de-luce on their shoulders. We have 
Lord George Gordon fast in Newgate ; and neither his 
being a public proselyte to Judaism, nor his having, 
in his zeal against Cathclic priests and all sorts of 
ecclesiastics, raised a, mot (excuse the term, it is stiU 
in use here) which pulled down all our prisons, have 
preser\^ed to him a liberty, of which he did not render 
himself worthy by a virtuous use of it. We have rebuilt 
Newgate, and tenanted the mansion. We have prisons 
almost as strong as the Bastille for those who dare to 
libel the queens of France. In this spiritual retreat, 
let the noble libeller remain. Let him there meditate 
on his Thalmud, until he learns a conduct more becom- 
ing his birth and parts, and not so disgraceful to the 
ancient religion to which he has become a proselyte ; 
or until some persons from your side of the water, to 
please your new Hebrew brethren, shall ransom him. 



SELECTIONS. 293 

He may then be enabled to purchase, with the old 
hoards of the synagogue, and a very small poundage, 
on the long compound interest of the thirty pieces of 
silver (Dr. Price has shown us what miracles compound 
interest will perform in 1790 years), the lands which 
are lately discovered to have been usurped by the 
Galilean church. Send us your popish archbishop of 
Paris, and we will send your our protestant Rabbin. 
We shall treat the person you send us in exchange hke 
a gentleman and an honest man, as he is ; but pray let 
him bring with him the fund of his hospitality, bounty, 
and charity ; and, depend upon it, we shall never con- 
fiscate a shilling of that honourable and pious fund, nor 
think of enriching the treasury with the spoils of the 
poor-box. 

To tell you the truth, my dear sir, I think the honour 
of our nation to be somewhat concerned in the dis- 
claimer of the proceedings of this society of the Old 
Jewry and the London Tavern. I have no man's proxy. 
I speak only for myself, when I disclaim, as I do with 
all possible earnestness, all communion with the actors 
in that triumph, or with the admirers of it. When 
I assert anything else, as concerning the people of 
England, I speak from observation, not from authority ; 
but I speak from the experience I have had in a pretty 
extensive and mixed communication with the inhabi- 
tants of this kingdom, of all descriptions and ranks, 
and after a course of attentive observation, begun in 
early life, and continued for nearly forty years, I have 
often been astonished, considering that we are divided 
from you but by a slender dyke of about twenty-four 
miles, and that the mutual intercourse between the 
two countries has lately been very great, to find how 
little you seem to know of us. I suspect that this is 
owing to your forming a judgment of this nation from, 
certain publications which do, very erroneously, if 
they do at all, represent the opinions and dispositions 
generally prevalent in England. The vanity, restless- 
ness, petulance, and spirit of intrigue, of several petty _ 



294 EDMUND BURKE. 

cabals, who attempt to hide their total want of conse- 
quence in bustle and noise and puffing and mutual 
quotation of each other, makes you imagine that our 
contemptuous neglect of their abilities is a general 
mark of acquiescence in their opinions. No such thmg, 
I assure you. Because half a dozen grasshoppers under 
a fern make the field ring with their importunate chmk, 
whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the 
shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, 
pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are 
the only inhabitants of the field ; that of course, they 
are many in number ; or that, after all, they are other 
than the little, shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud 
and troublesome insects of the hour. 

I almost venture to affirm that not one m a hundred 
amongst us participates in the ' triumph ' of the Revolu- 
tion Society. If the King and Queen of France, and 
their children, were to fall into our hands by the chance 
of war, in the most acrimonious of all hostiUties (I de- 
precate such an event, I deprecate such hostility), they 
would be treated with another sort of triumphal entry 
into London. We formerly have had a king of France 
in that situation ; you have read how he was treated 
by the victor in the field ; and in what manner he was 
afterwards received in England. Four hundred years 
have gone over us ; but I believe we are not materially 
changed since that period. Thanks to our sullen re- 
sistance to innovation, thanks to the cold sluggishness 
of our national character, we still bear the stamp of 
our forefathers. We have not (as I conceive) lost the 
generosity and dignity of thinking of the fourteenth 
century ; nor as yet have we subtilized ourselves into 
savages.' We are not the converts of Rousseau; we 
are not the disciples of Voltaire ; Helvetius has made 
no progress amongst us. Atheists are not our preachers ; 
madmen are not our lawgivers. We know that we have 
•made no discoveries ; and we think that no discoveries 
are to be made, in moraUty ; nor many m the great 
principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, 



SELECTIONS. 295 

which were understood long before we were born, 
altogether as well as they will be after the grave has 
heaped its mould upon our presumption, and the silent 
tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity. 
In England we have not yet been completely embowelled 
of our natural entrails ; we still feel within us, and we 
cherish and cultivate, those inbred sentiments which 
are the faithful guardians, the active monitors of our 
duty, the true supporters of all liberal and manly morals. 
We have not been drawn and trussed, in order that we 
may be filled, like stuffed birds in a museum, with chaff 
and rags and paltry blurred shreds of paper about the 
rights of man. We preserve the whole of our feelings 
still native and entire, unsophisticated by pedantry and 
infidelity. We have real hearts of flesh and blood beat- 
ing in our bosoms. We fear God ; we look up with 
awe to kings ; with affection to parliaments ; with 
duty to magistrates ; with reverence to priests ; and 
with respect to nobility.* Why ? Because when such 
ideas are brought before our minds it is natiirai to be 
so affected ; because all other feelings are false and 
spurious, and tend to corrupt our mind, to vitiate our 
primary morals, to render us unfit for rational liberty ; 
and by teaching us a servile, licentious, and abandoned 
insolence, to be our low sport for a few holidays, to 
make us perfectly fit for, and justly deserving of, slavery, 
through the whole course of our lives. 

You see, sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold 
enough to confess, that we are generally men of un- 
taught feelings ; that, instead of casting away all our 
old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable 

* The English are, I conceive, misrepresented in a letter published 
in one c' the papers, by a gentleman thought to be a dissenting min- 
ister. — When writing to Dr. Price of the spirit which prevails at Paris, 
he says, 'The spirit of the people in this place has abolished all the 
proud distinctions which the king and nobles had usurped in their 
minds ; whether they talk of the king, the noble, or the priest, their 
whole language is that of the most enlightened and liberal amongst the 
English.' If this gentleman means to confine the terms enlightened 
and liberal to one set of men in England, it may be true. It is not 
generally so. 



296 EDMUND BURKE. 

degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish 
them because they are prejudices ; and the longer 
they have lasted and the more generally they have 
prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid 
to put men to live and trade each on his own private 
stock of reason ; because we suspect that the stock 
in each man is small, and that the individuals would 
do better to avail themselves of the general bank and 
capital of nations and of ages. Many of our men of 
speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, 
employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom 
which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, 
and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to con- 
tinue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to 
cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing 
but the naked reason ; because prejudice, with its 
reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and 
an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice 
is of ready application in the emergency ; it previously 
engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and 
virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the 
moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. 
Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit : and not 
a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, 
his duty becomes a part of his nature. 

Your literary men, and your politicians, and so do 
the whole clan of the enlightened among us, essentially 
differ in these points. They have no respect for the 
wisdom of others ; but they pay it off by a very full 
measure of confidence in their own. With them it is 
a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, 
because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in 
no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building 
run up in haste ; because duration is no object to those 
who think little or nothing has been done before their 
time, and who place all their hopes in discovery. They 
conceive, very systematically, that all things which give 
perpetuity are mischievous, and therefore they are at 
inexpiable war with all establishments. They think that 



SELECTIONS. 297 

government may vary like modes of dress, and with as 
little ill effect ; that there needs no principle of attach- 
ment, except a sense of present conveniency, to any 
constitution of the state. They always speak as if they 
were of opinion that there is a singular species of com- 
pact between them and their magistrates, which binds 
the magistrate, but which has nothing reciprocal in it, 
but that the majesty of the people has a right to dissolve 
it without any reason but its will. Their attachment to 
their country itself is only so far as it agrees with some 
of their fleeting projects ; it begins and ends with that 
scheme of polity which falls in with their momentary 
opinion. 

These doctrines, or rather sentiments, seem prevalent 
with your new statesmen. But they are wholly different 
from those on which we have always acted in this country. 

I hear it is sometimes given out in France, that what 
is doing among you is after the example of England. 
I beg leave to affirm that scarcely anything done with 
you has originated from the practice or the;* prevalent 
opinions of this people, either in the act or in the spirit 
of the proceeding. Let me add that we are as unwilling 
to learn these lessons from France, as we are sure that 
we never taught them to that nation. The cabals here, 
who take a sort of share in your transactions as yet 
consist of but a handful of people. If unfortunately 
by their intrigues, their sermons, their publications, 
and by a confidence derived from an expected union 
with the counsels and forces of the French nation, they 
should draw considerable numbers into their faction, 
and in consequence should seriously attempt anything 
here in imitation of what has been done with you, the 
event, I dare venture to prophesy, will be that, with 
some trouble to their country, they will soon accomplish 
their own destruction. This people refused to change 
their law in remote ages from respect to the infalli- 
bility of popes ; and they will not now alter it from a 
pious unplicit faith in the dogmatism of pliilosophers ; 
though the former was armed with the anathema and 



298 EDMUND BURKE. 

crusade, and though the latter should act with the 
libel and the lamp-iron. 

Formerly your affairs were your own concern only. 
We felt for them as men ; but we kept aloof from them, 
because we were not citizens of France. But when 
we see the model held up to ourselves, we must feel as 
Englishmen, and feeling, we must provide as English- 
men. Your affairs, in spite of us, are made a part of 
our interest ; so far at least as to keep at a distance 
your panacea, or your plague. If it be a panacea, we 
do not want it. We know the consequences of un- 
necessary physic. If it be a plague | it is such a plague 
that the precautions of the most severe quarantine 
ought to be established against it. 

I hear on all hands that a cabal, calling itself philo- 
sophic, receives the glory of many of the late proceed- 
ings ; and that their opinions and systems are the 
true actuating spirit of the whole of them. I have 
heard of no party in England, literary or political, at 
any time known by such a description. It is not with 
you composed of those men, is it ? whom the vulgar 
in their blunt, homely style, commonly call Atheists 
and Infidels ? If it be, I admit that we too have had 
writers of that description, who made some noise in 
their day. At present they repose in lasting oblivion. 
Who, born within the last forty years, has read one 
word of Collins, and Toland, and Tindal, and Chubb, 
and Morgan, and that whole race who called themselves 
Freethinkers ? Who now reads Bolingbroke ? Who 
ever read him through ? Ask the booksellers of Lon- 
don what is become of all these lights of the world. In 
as few years their few successors will go to the family 
vault of ' all the Capulets.' But whatever they were, 
or are, with us, they were and are wholly unconnected 
individuals. With us they kept the common nature 
of their kind, and were not gregarious. They never 
acted in corps, or were known as a faction in the state, 
nor presumed to influence in that name or character, 
or for the purposes of such a faction, any of our public 



SELECTIONS. 299 

concerns. Whether they ought so to exist, and so be 
permitted to act, is another question. As such cabals 
have not existed in England, so neither has the spirit 
of them had any influence in establishing the original 
frame of our constitution, or in any one of the several 
reparations and improvements it has undergone. The 
whole has been done under the auspices, and is confirmed 
by the sanctions, of religion and piety. The whole 
has emanated from the simplicity of our national char- 
acter, and from a sort of native plainness and directness 
of understanding, which for a long time characterized 
those men who have successively obtained authority 
among us. This disposition still remains ; at least in 
the great body of the people. 

We know, and, what is better, we feel inwardly, that 
religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of 
all good, and of aU comfort.* In England we are so 
convinced of this, that there is no rust of superstition 
with which the accumulated absurdity of the human 
mind might have crusted it over in the course of ages, 
that ninety-nine in a hundred of the people of England 
would not prefer to impiety. We shall never be such 
fools as to call in an enemy to the substance of any 
system to remove its corruptions, to supply its defects, 
or to perfect its construction. If our religious tenets 
should ever want a furtlier elucidation, we shall not 
call on atheism to explain them. We shall not light 
up our temple from that unhallowed fire. It will be 
illuminated with other lights. It will be perfumed with 
other incense, than the infectious stuff which is im- 
ported by the smugglers of adulterated metaphysics. 
If our ecclesiastical establishment should want a re- 
vision, it is not avarice or rapacity, public or private, 

* Sit igitur hoc ab initio persuasura civibus, dominos esse omnium 
rcrum ac raoderatores, deos ; eaque, qurc gerantur, eorum geri vi, 
ditionc, ac numine ; eosdemque optime de j^cnere hominum mereri ; 
et qualis quisque sit, quid agat, quid in se admittat, qua mente qua 
pietate colat religitines intueri : piorura et impiorum habere rationem. 
His euim rebus iiubut;i; mentes haud sane abhorrebunt ab ntili et a 
vera sententia,' Cic. de Legibus, 1, 2. 



300 EDMUND BURKE. 

that we shall employ for the audit, or receipt, or applica- 
tion of its consecrated revenue. Violently condemning 
neither the Greek nor the Armenian, nor, since heats 
are subsided, the Roman system of religion, we prefer 
the Protestant ; not because we think it has less of the 
Christian religion in it, but because, in our judgment, 
it has more. We are Protestants, not from indifference, 
but from zeal. 

We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is 
by his constitution a religious animal ; that atheism 
is against, not only our reason, but our instincts ; and 
that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of 
riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit 
drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is 
now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our naked- 
ness, by throwing off that Christian religion which has 
hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great 
source of civilization amongst us, and among many other 
nations, we are apprehensive (being weU aware that the 
mind wiU not endure a void) that some uncouth, per- 
nicious and degrading superstition might take place of it. 

For that reason, before we take from our establish- 
ment the natural, human means of estimation, and give 
it up to contempt, as you have done, and in doing it 
have incurred the penalties you well deserve to suffer, 
we desire that some other may be presented to us in 
the place of it. We shall then form our judgment. 

On these ideas, instead of quarrelling with establish- 
ments, as some do, who have made a philosophy and 
a religion of their hostility to such institutions, we 
cleave closely to them. We are resolved to keep* an 
established church, and established monarch}^, an estab- 
lished aristocracy, and an established democracy, each 
in the degree it exists, and in no greater. I shall show 
you presently how much of each of these we possess. 

It has been the misfortune (not as these gentlemen 
think it, the glory) of this age, that everything is to be 
discussed, as if the constitution of our country were to be 
always a subject rather of altercation than enjoyment. 



SELECTIONS. 301 

For this reason, as well as for the satisfaction of those 
among you (if any such you have among you) who may 
wish to profit of examples, I venture to trouble you 
with a few thoughts upon each of these establishments. 
I do not think ttiey were unwise in ancient Rome, who, 
when they wished to new-model their laws, set com- 
missioners to examine the best constituted republics 
within their reach. 

First, I beg leave to speak of our church establish- 
ment, which is the first of our prejudices, not a pre- 
judice destitute of reason, but involving in it profound 
and extensive wisdom. I speak of it first. It is first, 
and last, and midst in our minds. For, taking ground 
on that religious system, of which we are now in posses- 
sion, we continue to act on the early received, and uni- 
formly continued sense of mankind. That sense not 
only, like a wise architect, hath built up the august 
fabric of states, but like a provident proprietor, to 
preserve the structure from profanation and ruin, as 
a sacred temple, purged from all the impurities of fraud, 
and violence, and injustice, and tryanny, hath solemnly 
and for ever consecrated the commonwealth, and all 
that officiate in it. This consecration is made, that all 
who administer in the government of men, in which 
they st^d in the person of God Himself, should have 
high and worthy notions of their function and destina- 
tion ; that their hope should be full of immortality ; 
that they should not look to the paltry pelf of the mo- 
ment, nor to the temporary and transient praise of the 
vulgar, but to a solid, permanent existence, in the 
permanent part of their nature, and to a permanent 
fame and glory, in the example they leave as a rich 
inheritance to the world. 

Such sublime principles ought to be infused into 
persons of exalted situations ; and religious establish- 
ments provided, that may continually revive and en- 
force them. Every sort of moral, every sort of civil, 
every sort of politic institution, aiding the rational and 
natural ties that connect the human understanding and 



302 EDMUND BURKE. 

affections to the divine, are not more than necessary, 
in order to build up that wonderful structure, Man ; 
whose prerogatiye it is, to be in a great degree a creature 
of his own making ; and who, when made as he ought 
to be made, is destined to hold no trivial place in the 
creation. But whenever man is put over men, as the 
better nature ought ever to preside, in that case more 
particularly, he should as nearly as possible be approxi- 
mated to his perfection. 

The consecration of the state, by a state religious 
establishment, is necessary also to operate with a whole- 
some awe upon free citizens ; because, in order to secure 
their freedom, they must enjoy some determinate por- 
tion of power. To them therefore a religion connected 
with the state, and with their duty towards it, becomes 
even more necessary than in such societies, where the 
people, by the terms of their subjection, are confined 
to private sentiments, and the management of their 
own family concerns. All persons possessing any por- 
tion of power ought to be strongly and awfully im- 
pressed with an idea that they act in trust ; and that 
they are to account for their conduct in that trust to 
the one great Master, Author and Founder of society. 

This principle ought even to be more strongly im- 
pressed upon the minds of those who compose the collec- 
tive sovereignty, than upon those of single princes. 
Without instruments, these princes can do nothing. 
Whoever uses instruments, in finding helps, finds also 
impediments. Their power is therefore by no means 
complete ; nor are they safe in extreme abuse. Such 
persons, however elevated by flattery, arrogance, and 
self-opinion, must be sensible that, whether covered 
or not by positive law, in some way or other they are 
accountable even here for the abuse of their trust. 
If they are not cut off by a rebellion of their people, 
they may be strangled by the very janissaries kept for 
their security against all other rebellion. Thus we 
have seen the King of France sold by his soldiers for 
an increase of pay. But where popular authority is 



SELECTIONS. 303 

absolute and unrestrained, the people have an infinitely 
greater, because a far better founded confidence in their 
own power. They are themselves, in a great measure, 
their own instruments. They are nearer to their 
objects. Besides, they are less under responsibility to 
one of the greatest controlling powers on earth, the 
sense of fame and estimation. The share of infamy, 
that is likely to fall to the lot of each individual in 
public acts, is small indeed; the operation of opinion 
being in the inverse ratio to the number of those who 
abuse power. Their own approbation of their own 
acts has to them the appearance of a public judgment 
in their favour. A perfect democracy is therefore the 
most shameless thing in the world. As it is the most 
shameless, it is also the most fearless. No man appre- 
hends in his person that he can be made subject to 
punishment. Certainly the people at large never ought : 
for as all punishments are for example towards the 
conservation of the people at large, the people at large 
can never become the subject of punishments by any 
human hand.* It is therefore of infinite importance 
that they should not be suffered to imagine that their 
will, any more than that of kings, is the standard of 
right and wrong. They ought to be persuaded that 
they are full as little entitled, and far less quahfied, 
with safety to themselves, to use any arbitrary power 
whatsoever ; that therefore they are not, under a false 
show of hberty, but, in truth, to exercise an unnatural, 
inverted domination, tyrannically to exact from those 
who officiate in the state, not an entire devotion to 
their interest, which is their right, but an abject sub- 
mission to their occasional will ; extinguishing thereby, 
in all those who serve them, all moral principle, all 
sense of dignity, all use of judgment, and all consistency 
of character; whilst by the very same process they 
give themselves up a proper, a suitable, but a most 
contemptible prey to the servile ambition of popular 
sycophants, or courtly flatterers. 

• Quicquid multis peccantur iaultura. 



304 EDMUND BURKE. 

When the people have emptied themselves of all the 
lust of selfish will, which without religion it is utterly 
impossible they ever should, when they are conscious 
that they exercise, and exercise perhaps in a higher 
link of the order of delegation, the power, which to 
be legitimate must be according to that eternal, im- 
mutable law, in which will and reason are the same, 
they will be more careful how they place power in base 
and incapable hands. In their nomination to office, 
they will not appoint to the exercise of authority, as 
to a pitiful job, but as to a holy function ; not according 
to their sordid, selfish interest, nor to their wanton 
caprice, nor to their arbitrary will ; but they will confer 
that power (which any man may well tremble to give 
or to receive) on those only in whom they may discern 
that predominant proportion of active virtue and wis- 
dom, taken together and fitted to the charge, such as, 
in the great and inevitable mixed mass of human im- 
perfections and infirmities, is to be found. 

When they are habitually convinced that no evil can 
be acceptable, either in the act or the permission, to 
him whose essence is good, they will be better able to 
extirpate out of the minds of all magistrates, civil, 
ecclesiastical, or military, anything that bears the least 
resemblance to a proud and lawless domination. 

But one of the first and most leading principles on 
which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, 
is lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it. 
unmindful of what they have received from their an- 
cestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act 
as if they were the entire masters ; that they should not 
think it amongst their rights to cut off the entail or 
commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their 
pleasure the whole original fabric of their society ; 
hazarding to leave to those who come after them a ruin 
instead of a habitation — and teaching these successors 
as little to respect their contrivances, as they had them- 
selves respected the institutions of their forefathers. By 
this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, 



SELECTIONS. 305 

and as much, and in as many ways, as there are floating 
fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of 
the commonwealth would be broken. No one generation 
could link with the other. Men would become little 
better than the flies of a summer. 

And first of ah, the science of jurisprudence, the pride 
of human intellect, which, with all its defects, redun- 
dancies, and errors, is the collected reason of ages, com- 
bining the principles of original justice wth the infinite 
variety of human concerns, as a heap of old exploded 
errors, would be no longer studied. Personal self- 
sufficiency and arrogance (the certain attendants upon 
all those who have never experienced a wisdom greater 
than their own) would usurp the tribunal. Of course 
no certain laws, establishing invariable grounds of hope 
and fear, would keep the actions of men in a certain 
course, or direct them to a certain end. Nothing stable 
in the modes of holding property, or exercising function, 
could form a solid ground on which any parent could 
speculate in the education of his offspring, or in a choice 
for their future establishment in the world. No principles 
would be early worked into the habits. As soon as the 
most able instructor had completed his laborious course 
of institution, instead of sending forth his pupil, ac- 
complished in a virtuous discipline, fitted to procure him 
attention and respect, in his place in society, he would 
find everything altered ; and that he had turned out a 
poor creature to the contempt and derision of the world, 
ignorant of the true grounds of estimation. Who would 
insure a tender and delicate sense of honour to beat 
almost with the first pulses of the heart, when no man 
could know what would be the test of honour in a nation, 
continually varying the standard of its coin ? No part 
of life would retain its acquisitions. Barbarism wdth 
regard to science and literature, unskilfulness with regard 
to arts and manufactures, would infallibly succeed to 
the want of a steady education and settled principle ; 
and thus the commonwealth itself would, in a few genera- 
tions, crumble away, be disconnected into the dust and 



3o6 EDMUND BURKE. 

powder of individuality, and at length dispersed to all 
the winds of heaven. , . 

To avoid therefore the evils of inconstancy and ; 
versatility, ten thousand times worse than those ot 
obstinacy and the blindest prejudice, we have conse- 
crated the state, that no man should approach to look 
into its defects or corruptions but with due caution , 
that he should never dream of beginnmg its reformation 
bv its subversion ; that he should approach to the faults 
of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe, 
and trembling soUcitude. By this wise prejudice we 
are taught to look with horror on those children of their 
country, who are prompt rashly to hack that aged parent 
in pieces, and put him into the kettle of magicians, m 
hopes that by their poisonous weeds, and wild incanta- 
tions, they may regenerate the paternal constitution, 
and renovate their father's life. ^ ^ ,. . ,^„x^,j^+<. 
Society is indeed a contract. Subordmate contracts 
for obiects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved 
at pleLure-but the state ought not to be 9«"^^f^f,^ 
nothing better than a partnership agreement m a trade 
of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco or some other 
such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary 
interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties 
It is to be looked on with other reverence ; because it is 
not a partnership in things subservient onjy to the gross 
animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. 
It is a partnership in all science ; a partnership in all art 
a partnership in every virtue, and m all perfection As 
the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained n 
many generations, it becomes a partnership not only 
betweeS those who are living, but between those who are 
living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born 
Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in 
the great primeval contract of eternal society, Imkmg 
the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible 
and invisible world, according to a ^^^^J^'^^,^^^^^';. 
tioned by the inviolable oath which holds all Physical 
and all moral natures, each in their appointed place. 1 his 



SELECTIONS. 307 

law is not subject to the will of those, who by an obligation 
above them, and infinitely superior, are bound to submit 
their will to that law. The municipal corporations of 
that universal kingdom are not morally at liberty at 
their pleasure, and on their speculations of a contingent 
improvement wholly to separate and tear asunder the 
bands of their subordinate community, and to dissolve 
it into an unsocial, uncivil, unconnected chaos of element- 
ary principles. It is the first and supreme necessity 
only, a necessity that is not chosen, but chooses, a 
necessity paramount to deliberation, that admits no 
discussion, and demands no evidence, which alone can 
justify a resort to anarchy. This necessity is no ex- 
ception to the rule ; because this necessity itself is a 
part too of that moral and physical disposition of things, 
to which man must be obedient by consent of force : 
but if that which is only submission to necessity should be 
made the object of choice, the law is broken, nature is 
disobeyed, and the rebellious are outlawed, cast forth, 
and exiled, from this world of reason, and order, and 
peace, and virtue, and fruitful penitence, into the 
antagonist world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, 
and unavailing sorrow. 

These, my dear sir, are, were, and, I think, long will 
be, the sentiments of not the least learned and reflecting 
part of this kingdom. They, who are included in this 
description, form their opinions on such grounds as such 
persons ought to form them. The less inquiring receive 
them from an authority, which those whom Providence 
dooms to live on tnist need not be ashamed to rely on. 
These two sorts of men move in the same direction, 
though in a different place. They both move with the 
order of the universe. They all know or feel this great 
ancient truth, ' Quod illi principi et pnxpotenti Deo qui 
omnem hunc mundum regit, nihil eorum quce quidem 
fiant in terris acceptius quam concilia et coetus hominum 
jure sociati quae civitates appcllantur.' They take this 
tenet of the head and heart, not from the great name 
which it immediately bears, nor from the greater from 



368 EDMUND BURKE. 

whence it is derived ; but from that which alone can ! 
Sve true weight and sanction to any learned opinion, the 
SrSmon nature and common relation of men. Persuaded 
?hS ah things ought to be done with reference and re- 
err ng all to^ the point of reference to which all should 
be Srected, they think themselves bound, not only as 
individuals in the sanctuary of the heart, or as congregated 
in that personal capacity, to renew the memory of their 
hidi origin and cast ; but also in their corporate character 
to p^^^^^^^^ nalional homage to the mstitutor, and 

author and protector of civil society; without which 
civil society man could not by any possibility arrive at 
?he oerfection of which his nature is capable, nor even 
mkfa demote and faint approach to it. They conceive 
that He who gave our nature to be perfected by our 
^rtue wiUed also the necessary means of its perfecrion,- 
He ^Ikd therefore the state-He willed is connexion 
wfth the source and original archetype of all perfection 
They who are convinced of this his will, which is the law 
of laws and the sovereign of sovereigns cannot think it 
Reprehensible that this our corporate fealty and homage 
that this our recognition of a seigniory paramount, I had 
almost said this oblation of the state itself, as a worthy 
ofenng on the high altar of universal praise, should be 
performed as all lubUc, solemn acts are performed, m 
buildings? in music, in decoration, m speech, m the 
Sty of persons, according to the customs of man- 
kind taught by their nature ; that is, with modest 
Sdour,^ with unassuming state, with mi d majesty 
and sober' pomp. For those purposes they think some 
part of the wealth of the country is as usefully employed 
as it can be in fomenting the luxury of mdividuals. I 
is the public ornament. It is the public consolation, it 
nourishes the public hope. The poorest man finds his 
own importance and dignity m it, whilst the wealth and 
pride of individuals at every moment makes the man ol 
humble rank and fortune sensible of his ^^fer^onty and 
degrades and vilifies his condition. It is for the man n 
humble hfe, and to raise his nature and to put him m 



SELECTIONS. 309 

mind of a state in which the privileges of opulence will 
cease, when he will be equal by nature, and may be more 
than equal by virtue, that this portion of the general 
wealth of his country is employed and sanctified. 

I assure you I do not aim at singularity. I give you 
opinions which have been accepted amongst us, from 
very early times to this moment, with a continued and 
general approbation, and which indeed are so worked 
into my mind, that I am unable to distinguish what I 
have learned from others from the results of my own 
meditation. 

It is on some such principles that the majority of the 
people of England, far from thinking a religious national 
establishment unlawful, hardly think it lawful to be 
without one. In France you are wholly mistaken if you 
do not believe us above all other things attached to it, 
and beyond all other nations ; and when this people has 
acted unwisely and unjustifiably in its favour (as in 
some instances they have done most certainly) in their 
very errors you will at least discover their zeal. 

This principle runs through the whole system of their 
polity. They do not consider their church establish- 
ment as convenient, but as essential to their state ; not 
as a thing heterogeneous and separable ; something 
added for accommodation ; what they may either keep 
or lay aside, according to their temporary ideas of con- 
venience. They consider it as the foundation of their 
whole constitution, with which, and with every part 
of which, it holds an indissoluble union. Church and 
state are ideas inseparable in their minds, and scarcely 
is the one ever mentioned without mentioning the 
other. 

Our education is so formed as to confirm and fix this 
impression. Our education is in a manner wholly in the 
hands of ecclesiastics, and in all stages from infancy to 
manhood. Even when our youth, leaving schools and 
universities, enter that most important period of life 
which begins to link experience and study together, and 
when with that view they visit other countries, instead 



310 EDMUND BURKE. 

of old domestics whom we have seen as governors to 
principal men from other parts, three-fourths of those 
who go abroad with our young nobility and gentlemen 
are ecclesiastics ; not as austere masters, nor as mere 
followers ; but as friends and companions of a graver 
character, and not seldom persons as well born as them- 
selves With them, as relations, they most commonly 
keep up a close connexion through life. By this con- 
nexion we conceive that we attach our gentlemen to the 
church ; and we liberalize the church by an intercourse 
with the leading characters of the country. _ 

So tenacious are we of the old ecclesiastical modes 

and fashions of institution, that very little alteration 

has been made in them since the fourteenth or fifteenth 

century : adhering in this particular, as m all things 

else, to our old settied maxims, never entirely nor at 

once to depart from antiquity. We found these old 

institutions, on the whole, favourable to morality and 

discipline ; and we thought they were susceptible of 

amendment, without altering the ground. We thought 

that they were capable of receiving and meliorating, and 

above aU of preserving, the accessions of science_ and 

literature, as the order of Providence should successively 

produce them. And after all, with this gothic and 

monkish education (for such it is m the groundwork) 

we may put in our claim to as ample and as early a share 

in aU the improvements in science, m arts, and m htera- 

ture which have illuminated and adorned the modern 

world, as any other nation in Europe : we think_ one 

main cause of this improvement was our not despising 

the patrimony of knowledge which was left us by our 

forefathers. , . ^ ■u^■ i ^„+ 

It is from our attachment to a church establishment 
that the English nation did not think it wise to entrust 
that great, fundamental interest of the whole to wha^ 
they trust no part of their civil or military public service 
that is to the unsteady and precarious contiibution ot 
individuals. They go further. They certainly never 
have suffered, and never will suffer, the fixed estate ot 



SELECTIONS. S" 

the church to be converted into a pension, to depend on 
the treasury, and to be delayed, withheld, or perhaps 
to be extinguished by fiscal difficulties : which difficulties 
may sometimes be pretended for political purposes, and 
are in fact often brought on by the extravagance, negli- 
gence, and rapacity of politicians. The people of England 
think that they have constitutional motives, as well as 
religious, against any project of turning their independ- 
ent clergy into ecclesiastical pensioners of state. They 
tremble for their liberty, from the influence of a clergy 
dependent on the crown • they tremble for the public 
tranquillity from the disorders of a factious clergy, if it 
were made to depend upon any other than the crown. 
They therefore made their church, like their king and 
their nobility, independent. 

From the united considerations of religion and con- 
stitutional policy, from their opinion of a duty to make 
a sure provision for the consolation of the feeble and 
the instruction of the ignorant, they have incorporated 
and identified the estate of the church with the mass of 
private property, of which the state is not the proprietor, 
either for use or dominion, but the guardian only and 
the regulator. They have ordained that the provision 
of this establishment might be as stable as the earth 
on which it stands, and should not fluctuate with the 
Euripus of funds and actions. 

The men of England, the men, I mean, of Hght and 
leading in England, whose wisdom (if they have any) 
is open and direct, would be ashamed, as of a silly, de- 
ceitful trick, to profess any religion in name, which, by 
their proceedings, they appear to contemn. If by their 
conduct (the only language that rarely Hes) they seemed 
to regard the great ruling principle of the moral and the 
natural world, as a mere invention to keep the vulgar in 
obedience, they apprehend that by such a conduct they 
would defeat the politic purpose they have in view. They 
would find it difficult to make others believe in a system 
to which they manifestly gave no credit themselves. 
The Christian statesmen of tliis land would indeed first 



312 EDMUND BURKE, 

nrovide for the multitude ; because it is the multitude,- 
and is therefore, as such, the first object in the ecclesi- 
astical institution, and in all institutions They have 
been taught that the circumstance of the Gospel s being 
preached to the poor was one of the great tests of its 
true mission. They think, therefore, that those do not 
believe it, who do not take care it should be preached to 
the poor. But as they know that charity is not confined 
to any one description, but ought to apply itself to all 
men who have wants, they are not deprived of a due and 
anxious sensation of pity to the distresses of the miser- 
able great They are not repelled through a fastidious 
dehcacy, at the stench of their arrogance and presump- 
tion from a medicinal attention to their mental blotches, 
and'running sores. They are sensible that religious in- 
struction is of more consequence to them than to any 
others • from the greatness of the temptation to which 
they a^e exposed ; from the important consequences 
that attend their faults; from the contagion of their 
ill example ; from the necessity of bowing down the 
stubborn neck of their pride and ambition to the yoke 
of moderation and virtue ; from a consideration of the 
fat stupidity and gross ignorance concernmg what imports 
men most to know, which prevails at courts, and at the 
head of armies, and in senates, as much as at the loom 

and in the field. ..,.., ^ x ^u + +1.^ 

The English people are satisfied, that to the great the 
consolations of religion are as necessary as its instructions 
They too are among the unhappy. They feel personal 
pain and domestic sorrow. In these they have no 
privHege, but are subject to pay their full contingent 
to the contributions levied on mortality. They want 
this sovereign balm under their gnawing cares and 
anxieties, which, being less conversant about the limited 
wants of animal life, range without Hmit and are diversi- 
fied by infinite combinations in the wild and unbounded 
regions of imagination. Some charitable dole is wanting 
to these, our often very unhappy brethren, to hll the 
gloomy void that reigns in minds whicn have nothing 



SELECTIONS. 3i3 

on earth to hope or fear ; something to reUeve in the 
killing languor and over-laboured lassitude of those who 
have nothing to do ; something to excite an appetite to 
existence in the palled satiety which attends on all 
pleasures which may be bought, where nature is not left 
to her own process, where even desire is anticipated, and 
therefore fruition defeated by meditated schemes and 
contrivances of dehght ; and no interval, no obstacle, is 
interposed between the wish and the accomplishment. 

The people of England know how little influence the 
teachers of religion are likely to have with the wealthy 
and powerful of long standing, and how much less with 
the newly fortunate, if they appear in a manner no 
way assorted to those with whom they must associate, 
and over whom they must even exercise, in some cases 
something hke an authority. What must they thmk of 
that body of teachers, if they see it in no part above 
the establishment of their domestic servants ? If the 
poverty were voluntary, there might be some difference. 
Strong instances of self-denial operate powerfully on 
our minds ; and a man who has no wants has obtained 
great freedom, and firmness, and even dignity. But 
as the mass of any description of men are but men, and 
their poverty cannot be voluntary, that disrespect, 
wliich attends upon all lay property, will not depart 
from the ecclesiastical. Our provident constitution 
has therefore taken care that those who are to instruct 
presumptuous ignorance, those who are to be censors 
over insolent vice, should neither incur their contempt, 
nor live upon their alms ; nor will it tempt the rich to 
a neglect of the true medicine of their minds. For these 
reasons, whilst we provide first for the poor, and with 
a parental solicitude, we have not relegated religion 
(like something we were ashamed to show) to obscure 
municipalities, or rustic villages. No I we will have 
her to exalt her mitred front in courts and parliaments. 
We will have her mixed throughout the whole mass of 
life, and blended with all the classes of society. The 
people of England will show to the haughty potentates 



314 EDMUND BURKE. 

of the world, and to their talking sophisters that a free, 
a generous, an informed nation honours the high magis- 
trates of its church ; that it will not suffer the insolence 
of wealth and titles, or any other species of proud pre- 
tension to look down with scorn upon what they look 
up to with reverence ; nor presume to trample on that 
acquired personal nobility, which they intend always 
to be and which often is, the fruit, not the reward 
(for what can be the reward ?) of learning, piety, and 
virtue. They can see, without pain or grudging, an 
archbishop precede a duke. They can see a bishop of 
Durham or a bishop of Winchester, m possession of 
ten thousand pounds a year ; and cannot conceive why 
it is in worse hands than estates to the hke amount m 
the hands of this earl, or that squire ; although it may 
be true that so many dogs and horses are not kept by 
the former, and fed with the victuals which ought to 
nourish the children of the people. It is true the whole 
church revenue is not always employed, and to every 
shilling, in charity; nor perhaps ought it ; but some- 
thing is generally so employed. It is better to cherish 
virtue and humanity, by leaving much to free will, even 
with some loss to the object, than to attempt to make 
men mere machines and instruments of a political be- 
nevolence. The world on the whole will gam by a liberty, 
without which virtue cannot exist. , ^r t, j 4-1, 

When once the commonwealth has established the 
estates of the church as property, it can, consistently 
hear nothing of the more or the less. Too much and 
too nttle are treason against property. What evil can 
arise from the quantity in any hand, whilst the supreme 
authority has the full, sovereign superintendence _ over 
this, as over any property, to prevent every species ot 
abuse ; and, whenever it notably deviates, .to give to 
it a direction agreeable to the purposes of its institution 
In England most of us conceive that it is envy and 
mahgnity towards those who are often the beginners of 
their own fortune, and not a love of the self-denial and 
mortification of the ancient church, that makes some 



SELECTIONS. 315 

look askance at the distinctions, and honours, and 
revenues, which, taken from no person, are set apart 
for virtue. The ears of the people of England are dis- 
tinguishing. They hear these men speak broad. Their 
tongue betrays them. Their language is in the patois 
of fraud ; in the cant and gibberish of hypocrisy. The 
people of England must think so, when these praters 
affect to carry back the clergy to that primitive, evan- 
gelic poverty, which, in the spirit, ought always ^ to 
exist in them (and in us too, however we may like it), 
but in the thing must be varied, when the relation of 
that body to the state is altered ; when manners, when 
modes of life, when indeed the whole order of human 
affairs has undergone a total revolution. We shall 
believe those reformers then to be honest enthusiasts, 
not, as now we think them, cheats and deceivers, when 
we see them throwing their own goods into common, 
and submitting their own person to the austere dis- 
cipline of the early church. 

With these ideas rooted in their minds the commons 
of Great Britain, in the national emergencies, will never 
seek their resource from the confiscation of the estates 
of the church and poor. Sacrilege and proscription are 
not among the ways and means of our committee of 
supply. The Jews in Change-alley have not yet dared 
to hint their hopes of a mortgage on the revenues be- 
longing to the see of Canterbury. I am not afraid that 
I shall be disavowed when I assure you, that there is 
not one public man in this kingdom whom you would 
wish to quote ; no not one, of any party or description, 
who does not reprobate the dishonest, perfidious, and 
cruel confiscation which the National Assembly has 
been compelled to make of that property, which it was 
their first duty to protect. 

It is with the exultation of a little national pride I 
tell you, that those amongst us who have wished to 
pledge the societies of Paris in the cup of their abomina- 
tions have been disappointed. The robbery of your 
church has proved a security to the possessions of ours. 



3i6 EDMUND BURKE. 

It has roused the people. They see with horror and 
alarm that enormous and shameless act of proscription. 
It has opened, and will more and more open, their eyes 
upon the selfish enlargement of mind, and the narrow 
liberality of sentiment of insidious men, which, com- 
mencing in close hypocrisy and fraud, have ended in 
open violence and rapine. At home we behold similar 
beginnings. We are on our guard against similar 
conclusions. 

I hope we shall never be so totally lost to all sense of 
the duties imposed upon us by the law of social union, 
as, upon any pretext of public service, to confiscate the 
goods of a single unoffending citizen. Who but a tyrant 
(a name expressive of everything which can vitiate and 
degrade human nature) could think of seizing on the 
property of men, unaccused, unheard, untried, by whole 
descriptions, by hundreds and thousands together ? 
Who, that had not lost every trace of humanity, could 
think of casting down men of exalted rank and sacred 
function, some of them of an age to call at once for 
reverence and compassion, of casting them down from 
the highest situation in the commonwealth, wherein 
they were maintained by their own landed property, 
to a state of indigence, depression, and contempt ? 

The confiscators truly have made some allowance to 
their victims from the scraps and fragments of their 
own tables, from which they have been so harshly 
driven, and which have been so bountifully spread for 
a feast to the harpies of usury. But to drive men from 
independence to live on alms, is itself great cruelty. 
That which might be a tolerable condition to men in 
one state of life, and not habituated to other things, 
may, when all these circumstances are altered, be a 
dreadful revolution ; and one to which a virtuous mind 
would feel pain in condemning any guilt, except that 
which would demand the life of the offender. But to 
many minds this punishment of degradation and infamy 
is worse than death. Undoubtedly it is an infinite 
aggravation of this cruel suffering, that the persons who 



SELECTIONS. 317 

were taught a double prejudice in favour of religion, by 
education, and by the place they held in the administra- 
tion of its functions, are to receive the remnants of the 
property as alms from the profane and impious hands 
of those who had plundered them of all the rest ; tp 
receive (if they are at all to receive) not from the chari- 
table contributions of the faithful, but from the insolent 
tenderness of known and avowed atheism, the mainte- 
nance of rehgion, measured out to them on the standard 
of the contempt in which it is held ; and for the purpose 
of rendering those who receive the allowance vile, and 
of no estimation, in the eyes of mankind. 

But this act of seizure of property, it seems, is a judg- 
ment in law, and not a confiscation. They have, it 
seems, found out in the academies of the Palais Royal, 
and the Jacobins, that certain men had no right to the 
possessions which they held under law, usage, the de- 
cisions of courts, and the accumulated prescription of a 
thousand years. They say that ecclesiastics are ficti- 
tious persons, creatures of the state, whom at pleasure 
they may destroy, and of course limit and modify in 
every particular ; that the goods they possess are not 
properly theirs, but belong to the state which created 
the fiction ; and we are therefore not to trouble our- 
selves with what they may suffer in their natural feelings 
and natural persons, on account of what is done towards 
them in this their constructive character. Of what 
import is it, under what names you injure men, and 
deprive them of the just emoluments of a profession, 
in which they were not only permitted but encouraged 
by the state to engage ; and upon the supposed cer- 
tainty of which emoluments they had formed the plan 
of their lives, contracted debts, and led multitudes to 
an entire de]:)endence upon them ? 

You do not imagine, sir, that I am going to compli- 
ment this miserable distinction of persons with any long 
discussion. The arguments of tyranny are as con- 
temptible as its force is dreadful. Had not your con- 
iiscators, by their early crimes, obtained a power which 



3i8 EDMUND BURKE, 

secures indemnity to all the crimes of which they have 
since been guilty, or that they can commit, it is not the 
syllogism of the logician, but the lash of the executioner, 
that would have refuted a sophistry which becomes an 
accomplice of theft and murder. The sophistic tyrants 
of Paris are loud in their declamations against the de- 
parted regal tyrants, who in former ages have vexed the 
world. Thev are thus bold, because they are safe from 
the dungeons and iron cages of their old masters. Shall 
we be more tender of the tyrants of our own time, when 
we see them acting worse tragedies under our eyes ? 
shaU we not use the same liberty that they do, when 
we can use it with the same safety ? when to speak 
honest truth only requires a contempt of the opinion of 
those whose actions we abhor ? 

This outrage on all the rights of property was at farst 
covered with what, on the system of their conduct, 
was the most astonishing of all pretexts— a regard to 
national faith. The enemies to property at first pre- 
tended a most tender, dehcate, and scrupulous anxiety 
for keeping the king's engagements with the pubhc 
creditor. These professors of the rights of men are so 
busy in teaching others, that they have not leisure to 
learn anything themselves ; otherwise they would have 
known that it is to the property of the citizen, and not 
to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the 
first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The 
claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount m title, 
superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether 
possessed by acquisition, or by descent, or in virtue of 
a participation in the goods of some community, were 
no part of the creditor's security, expressed or imphed. 
They never so much as entered into his head when he 
made his bargain. He well knew that the pubhc, 
whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can 
pledge nothing but the public estate ; and it can have 
no public estate, except in what it derives from a ]ust 
and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large. 
This was engaged, and nothing else could be engaged. 



SELECTIONS. 319 

to the public creditor. No man can mortgage his in- 
justice as a pawn for his fidehty. 

It is impossible to avoid some observation on the 
contradictions caused by the extreme rigour and the 
extreme laxity of this new public faith, which in- 
fluenced in this transaction, and which influenced not 
according to the nature of the obligation, but to the 
description of the persons to whom it was engaged. No 
acts of the old government of the kings of France are 
held valid in the National Assembly, except its pecuni- 
ary engagements ; acts of all others of the most am- 
biguous legality. The rest of the acts of that royal 
government are considered in so odious a hght, that to 
have a claim under its authority is looked on as a sort 
of crime. A pension, given as a reward for service to 
the state, is surely as good a ground of property as any 
security for money advanced to the state. It is a 
better ; for money is paid, and well paid, to obtain 
that service. We have, however, seen multitudes of 
people under this description in France, who had never 
been deprived of their allowances by the most arbitrary 
ministers, in the most arbitrary times, by this assembly 
of the rights of men, robbed without mercy. They 
were told, in answer to their claim to the bread earned 
with their blood, that their services had not been ren- 
dered to the country that now exists. 

This laxity of public faith is not confined to those 
unfortunate persons. The assembly, with perfect con- 
sistency it must be owned, is engaged in a respectable 
deliberation how far it is bound by the treaties made 
with other nations under the former government, and 
their committee is to report which of them they ought 
to ratify, and which not. By this means they have 
put the external fidelity of this virgin state on a par 
with its internal. 

It is not easy to conceive upon what rational principle 
the royal government should not, of the two, rather 
have possessed the power of rewarding service, and 
making treaties, in virtue of its prerogative, than that 



320 EDMUND BURKE. 

of pledging to creditors the revenue of the state, actual 
and possible. The treasure of the nation, of all things, 
has been the least allowed to the prerogative of the King 
of France, or to the prerogative of any king in Europe. 
To mortgage the public revenue implies the sovereign 
dominion, in the fullest sense, over the public purse. 
It goes far beyond the trust even of a temporary and 
occasional taxation. The acts, however, of that dan- 
gerous power (the distinctive mark of a boundless des- 
potism) have been alone held sacred. Whence arose 
this preference given by a democratic assembly to a 
body of property deriving its title from the most critical 
and obnoxious of all the exertions of monarchical 
authority ? Reason can furnish nothing to reconcile 
inconsistency ; nor can partial favour be accounted 
for upon equitable principles. But the contradiction 
and partiality which admit no justification, are not the 
less without an adequate cause ; and that cause I do 
not think it difficult to discover. 

By the vast debt of France a great monied interest 
has insensibly grown up, and with it a great power. 
By the ancient usages which prevailed in that kingdom, 
the general circulation of property, and in particular 
the mutual convertibility of land into money, and of 
money into land, had always been a matter of difficulty. 
Family settlements, rather more general and more strict 
than they are in England, the jus retractus, the great 
mass of landed property held by the crown, and, by a 
maxim of the French law, held unalienably, the vast 
estates of the ecclesiastic corporations, — all these had 
kept the landed and monied interests more separated 
in France, less miscible, and the owners of the two 
distinct species of property not so well disposed to each 
other as they are in this country. 

The monied property was long looked on with rather 
an evil eye by the people. They saw it connected with 
their distresses, and aggravating them. It was no less 
envied by the old landed interests, partly for the same 
reasons that rendered it obnoxious to the people, but 



SELECTIONS. 321 

much more so as it eclipsed, by the splendour of an 
ostentatious luxury, the unendowed pedigrees and naked 
titles of several among the nobility. Even when the 
nobihty, which represented the more permanent landed 
interest, united themselves by marriage (which some- 
times was the case) with the other description, the 
wealth, which saved the family from nun, was supposed 
to contaminate and degrade it. Thus the enmities and 
heart-burnings of these parties were increased even by 
the usual means by which discord is made to cease, and 
quarrels are turned into friendship. In the meantime, 
the pride of the wealthy men, not noble, or newly 
noble, increased with its cause. They.^elt with resent- 
ment an inferiority, the grounds of which they did not 
acknowledge. There was no measure to which they 
were not wilHng to lend themselves, in order to be re- 
venged of the outrages of this rival pnde, and to exalt 
their wealth to what they considered as its natural rank 
and estimation. They struck at the nobility through 
the crown and the church. They attacked them par- 
ticularly on the side on which they thought them the 
most vulnerable, that is, the possessions of the church, 
which, through the patronage of the crown, generally 
devolved upon the nobihty. The bishoprics, and the 
great commendatory abbeys, were, with few exceptions, 
hsld by that order. . 

In this state of real, though not always perceived 
warfare between the noble ancient landed interest, and 
the new monied interest, the greatest, because the most 
applicable, strength was in the hands of the latter. 
The monied interest is in its nature more ready for any 
adventure • and its possessors more disposed to new 
enterprises of any kind. Being of a recent acquisition 
it falls in more naturally with any novelties, it is 
therefore the kind of wealth which will be resorted to 
by all who wish for change. , ■ • t 

Ak)ng with the monied interest, a new description ot 
men had grown up, with whom that interest soon formed 
a close and marked union ; I mean the political men 



322 EDMUND BURKE. 

of letters. Men of letters, fond of distinguishing them- 
selves, are rarely averse to innovation. Since the de- 
cline of the life and greatness of Louis XIV, they were 
not so much cultivated either by him, or by the regent, 
or the successors to the crown ; nor were they engaged 
to the courts by favours and emoluments so systematic- 
ally as during the splendid period of that ostentatious 
and not impolitic reign. What they lost in the old 
court protection, they endeavoured to make up by join- 
ing in a sort of incorporation of their own ; to which 
the two academies of France, and afterwards the vast 
undertaking of the Encyclopaedia, carried on by a society 
of these gentlemen, did not a little contribute. 

The literary cabal had some years ago formed some- 
thing like a regular plan for the destruction of the Chris- 
tian religion. This object they pursued with a degree 
of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the 
propagators of some system of piety. They were pos- 
sessed with a spirit of proselytism in the most fanatical 
degree ; and from thence, by an easy progress, with the 
spirit of persecution according to their means.* What 
was not to be done towards their great end by any 
direct or immediate act, might be wrought by a longer 
process through the medium of opinion. To command 
that opinion, the first step is to establish a dominion 
over those who direct it. They contrived to possess 
themselves, with great method and perseverance, of all 
the avenues to literary fame. Many of them indeed 
stood high in the ranks of literature and science. The 
world had done them justice ; and in favour of general 
talents forgave the evil tendency of their peculiar prin- 
ciples. This was true liberality ; which they returned 
by endeavouring to confine the reputation of sense, 
learning, and taste to themselves or their followers. 
I will venture to say that this narrow, exclusive spirit 
has not been less prejudicial to literature and to taste, 

* This {down to the end of the first sentence in the next paragraph) 
and some other parts here and there, were inserted, on his reading the 
manuscript, by my lost Son. 



SELECTIONS. 323 

than to morals and true philosophy. Those atheistical 
amers h^ve a bigotry of their own; and they have 
LtnTto'talk agaiLtLnks with the ^-^^J/.^^t 
But in some things they are men of the world J he 
resources of intrigue are called m to supply the defects 
of argument and w'it. To this system of literary monop- 
ov was foined an unremitting industry to blacken and 
dscredlt in every way, and by every means, all those 
who did not hold to their faction. To those who have 
observed the spirit of their conduct it has long been 
dear that nothing was wanted but the power of carry- 
'ngthe intolerance of the tongue and of the pen mo 
a persecution which would strike at property, liberty, 

^"^The desultory and faint persecution carried on against 
them more from comphance with form and decency 
han'wTth serious resentment, neither weakened their 
strength nor relaxed their efforts. The issue of the 
wholf was, that, what with opposition and what with 
success a violent and malignant zeal, of a kind hitherto 
unknown in the world, had taken an entne possession 
of their minds, and rendered their whole conversation, 
which otherwise would have been Pleasing and instruc- 
tive, perfectly disgusting. A spirit of cabal mtngue, 
and proselytism. pervaded all their thoughts words 
and actions. And, as controversial zeal soon turns its 
thoughts on force, they began to insinuate themselves 
into a correspondence with foreign princes; in hopes, 
Jhrough their authority, which at first they flattered 
thev might bring about the changes they had in view. 
To them it was indifferent whether these changes were 
to be accomplished by the thunderbolt of despotism, 
or by the earthquake of popular commotion. Ihe 
correspondence between this cabal and the late King 
of Prussia will throw no small light upon the spirit of 
all their proceedings.* For the same purpose for which 
they intrigued with princes, they cultivated, in a dis- 

» I do not choose to shock the feeling of the moral reader with any 
quotation of their vulgar, base, and profane language. 



324 EDMUND BURKE. 

tinguished manner, the monied interest of France ; and 
partly through the means furnished by those whose 
peculiar offices gave them the most extensive and cer- 
tain means of communication, they carefully occupied 
all the avenues to opinion. 

Writers, especially when they act in a body, and with 
one direction, have great influence on the public mind ; 
the alliance, therefore, of these writers with the monied 
interest * had no small effect in removing the popular 
odium and envy which attended that species of wealth. 
These writers, like the propagators of all novelties, pre- 
tended to a great zeal for the poor, and the lower orders, 
whilst in their satires they rendered hateful, by every 
exaggeration, the faults of courts, of nobility, and of 
priesthood. They became a sort of demagogues. They 
served as, a link to unite, in favour of one object, ob- 
noxious wealth to restless and desperate poverty. 

As these two kinds of men appear principal leaders in 
all the late transactions, their junction and politics will 
serve to account, not upon any principles of law or of 
policy, but as a cause, for the general fury with which 
all the landed property of ecclesiastical corporations has 
been attacked ; and the great care which, contrary to 
their pretended principles, has been taken, of a monied 
interest originating from the authority of the crown. 
All the envy against wealth and power was artificially 
directed against other descriptions of riches. On what 
other principle than that which I have stated can we 
account for an appearance so extraordinary and un- 
natural as that of the ecclesiastical possessions, which 
had stood so many succession of ages and shocks of 
civil violences, and were guarded at once by justice, 
and by prejudice, being applied to the payment of 
debts, comparatively recent, invidious, and contracted 
by a decried and subverted government ? 

Was the public estate a sufficient stake for the public 
debts ? Assume that it was not, and that a loss must 

* Their connexion with Turgot and almost all the people of the 
finance. 



SELECTIONS. 325 

be incurred somewhere.— When the only estate law-- 
fuUy possessed, and which the contracting parties had 
in contemplation at the time in which their bargain 
was made- happens to fail, who, according to the prin- 
ciples of natural and legal equity, ought to be the suf- 
ferer ? Certainly it ought to be either the party who 
trusted, or the party who persuaded him to trust ; or 
both • 'and not third parties who had no concern with 
the transaction. Upon any insolvency they ought to 
suffer who were weak enough to lend upon bad security, 
or they who fraudulently held out a security that was 
not vahd. Laws are acquainted with no other rules of 
decision. But by the new institute of the rights of men, 
the only persons who in equity ought to suffer, are the 
only persons who are to be saved harmless : those are 
to answer the debt who neither were lenders nor bor- 
rowers, mortgagors nor mortgagees. _ 

What had the clergy to do with these transactions .'' 
What had they to do with any public engagement 
further than the extent of their own debt ? To that, 
to be sure, their estates were bound to the last acre. 
Nothing can lead more to the true spirit of the as- 
sembly which fits for public confiscation, with its new 
equity 'and its new morality, than an attention to their 
proceeding with regard to this debt of the clergy. The 
body of confiscators, true to that monied interest lor 
which they were false to every other, have found the 
rlergy competent to incur a legal debt. Of course they 
declared them legally entitled to the property which 
their power of incurring the debt and mortgaging the 
estate implied; recognizing the rights of those perse- 
cuted citizens, in the very act in which they were thus 
grossly violated. , , r • 

If, as I said, any persons are to make good deficiencies 
to tiie public creditor, besides the public at large, they 
must be those who managed the agreement. Why, 
therefore are not the estates of all the comptrollers- 
general confiscated ? * Why not those of the long suc- 
* All have been con^scated in their^turn. 



326 EDMUND BURKE. 

cession of ministers, financiers, and bankers who have 
been enriched whilst the nation was impoverished by 
their deahngs and their counsels ? Why is not the 
estate of Mr. Laborde declared forfeited rather than of 
the Archbishop of Paris, who has had nothing to do in 
the creation or in the jobbing of the public funds ? Or, 
if you must confiscate old landed estates in favour 
of the money-jobbers, why is the penalty confined to one 
description ? I do not know whether the expenses of 
the Duke de Choiseul have left anything of the infinite 
sums which he had derived from the bounty of his 
master, during the transactions of a reign which con- 
tributed largely, by every species of prodigality in war 
and peace, to the present debt of France. If any such 
remains, why is not this confiscated ? I remember to 
have been in Paris during the time of the old govern- 
ment. I was there just after the Duke d'Aiguillon had 
been snatched (as it was generally thought) from the 
block by the hand of a protecting despotism. He was 
a minister, and had some concern in the affairs of that 
prodigal period. Why do I not see his estate deUvered 
up to the municipalities in which it is situated ? The 
noble family of Noailles have long been servants (meri- 
torious servants I admit) to the crown of France, and 
have had of course some share in its bounties. Why 
do I hear nothing of the application of their estates to 
the public debt ? Why is the estate of the Duke de 
Rochefoucault more sacred than that of the Cardinal de 
Rochefoucault ? The former is, I doubt not, a worthy 
person ; and (if it were not a sort of profaneness to talk 
of the use, as affecting the title to property) he makes 
a good use of his revenues ; but it is no disrespect to 
him to say, what authentic information well warrants 
me in saying, that the use made of a property equally 
valid, by^his brother * the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen 
was far more laudable and far more pubhc-spirited. 
Can one hear of the proscription of such persons, and 

* Not his brother, nor any near relation ; but this mistake does not 
affect the argument. 



SELECTIONS. 327 

the confiscation of their effects, without indignation and 
horror ? He is not a man who does not feel such emo- 
tions on such occasions. He does not deserve the 
name of a free man who will not express them. 

Few barbarous conquerors have ever made so terrible 
a revolution in property. None of the heads of the 
Roman factions, when they established ' crudelem lUam 
hastam ' in all their auctions of rapine, have ever set 
up to sale the goods of the conquered citizen to such an 
enormous amount. It must be allowed m favour of 
those tyrants of antiquity, that what was done by them 
could hardly be said to be done in cold blood. Their 
passions were inflamed, their tempers soured, their 
understandings confused, with the spirit of_ revenge, 
with the innumerable reciprocated and recent inflictions 
and retahations of blood and rapine. They were driven 
beyond aU bounds of moderation by the apprehension 
of the return of power with the return of property, to 
the families of those they had injured beyond all hope 
of forgiveness. . 

These Roman confiscators, who were yet only m tne 
elements of tyranny, and were not instructed in the 
rights of men to exercise all sorts of cruelties on each 
other without provocation, thought it necessary to 
spread a sort of colour over their injustice. They con- 
sidered the vanquished party as composed of traitors 
who had borne arms, or otherwise had acted with hos- 
tility against the commonwealth. They regarded them 
as persons who had forfeited their property by their 
crimes With you, in vour improved state of the 
human mind, there was no such formality. You seized 
upon five millions sterling of annual rent, and turned 
forty or fifty thousand human creatures out of their 
houses because ' such was your pleasure.' The tyrant 
Harry VIII of England, as he was not better enlightened 
than the Roman Marius's and Syllas, and had not 
studied in your new schools, did not know what an 
effectual instrument of despotism was to be found in 
that grand magazine of offensive weapons, the rights ol 



328 EDMUND BURKE. 

men. When he resolved to rob the abbeys, as the club 
of the Jacobins have robbed all the ecclesiastics, he 
began by setting on foot a commission to examine into 
the crimes and abuses which prevailed in those com- 
munities. As it might be expected, his commission 
reported truths, exaggerations, and falsehoods. But 
truly or falsely it reported abuses and offences. How- 
ever, as abuses might be corrected, as every crime of 
persons does not infer a forfeiture with regard to com- 
munities, and as property, in that dark age, was not 
discovered to be a creature of prejudice, all those abuses 
(and there were enow of them) were hardly thought 
sufficient ground for such a confiscation as it was for 
his purpose to make. He therefore procured the formal 
surrender of these estates. All these operose proceed- 
ings were adopted by one of the most decided tyrants 
in the rolls of history, as necessary preliminaries, before 
he could venture, by bribing the members of his two 
servile Houses with a share of the spoil, and holding 
out to them an eternal immunity from taxation, to 
demand a confirmation of his iniquitous proceedings by 
an act of parliament. Had fate reserved him to our 
times, four technical terms would have done his busi- 
ness, and saved him all this trouble ; he needed nothing 
more than one short form of incantation, — * Philosophy, 
Light, Liberality, the Rights of Men.' 

I can say nothing in praise of those acts of tyranny, 
which no voice has hitherto ever commended under 
any of their false colours ; yet in these false colours a 
homage was paid by despotism to justice. The power 
which was above all fear and all remorse was not set 
above all shame. Whilst shame keeps its watch virtue 
is not wholly extinguished in the heart ; nor will modera- 
tion be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants. 

I believe every honest man sympathizes in his reflec- 
tions with our political poet on that occasion, and will 
pray to avert the omen whenever these acts of rapa- 
cious despotism present themselves to his view or his 
imagination : 



SELECTIONS. 329 

. , . ' May no such storm 
Fall on our times, where ruin must reform. 
Tell me (my Muse) what monstrous, dire offence. 
What crimes could any Christian king incense 
To such a rage ? Was't luxury, or lust ? 
Was he so temperate, so chaste, so just ? 
Were these their crimes ? they were his own ranch more, 
But wealth is crime enough to him that's poor.' * 

This same wealth, which is at all times treason and 
Vese nation to indigent and rapacious despotism, under 
all modes of polity, was your temptation to violate prop- 
erty, law, and religion, united in one object. But was 
the state of France so wretched and undone, that no 

* The rest of the passage is this : 

' Who having spent the treasures of his crown. 
Condemns their luxury to feed his own. 
And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shame 
Of sacrilege, must bear devotion's name. 
No crime so bold, but would be understood 
A real, or at least a seeming good ; 
Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name. 
And, free from conscience, is a slave to fame. 
Thus he the church at once protects, and spoils : 
But princes' swords are sharper than their styles. 
And thus to th' ages past he makes amends, 
Their charity destroys, their faith defends. 
Then did religion in a lazy cell, 
In empty aiiry contemplation dwell ; 
And like the block, unmoved lay ; but ours. 
As much too active, like the stork devours. 

Is there no temp'rate region can be known, 

Betwixt their frigid, and our torrid zone ! 

Could we not wake from that lethargic dream, 

But to be restless in a worse extreme ? 

And for that lethargy was there no cure, 

But to be cast into a calenture ? 

Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance 

So far, to make us wish for ignorance ? 

And rather in the dark to grope our way. 

Than, led by a false guide, to err, by day ? 

Who sees these dismal heaps, but would dcniand 

What barbarous invader sack'd the land ? 

But when he hears, no Goth, no Turk did brmg 

This desolation, but a Christian king ; 

When nothing, but the name of zeal, appears 

'Twi.xt our best actions, and the worst of theirs ; 

What does he think our sacrilege would spare. 

When such th' effects of our devotion are ? ' 

Cooper's Hill, by Sir John Df.nham. 



330 EDMUND BURKE, 

other resource but rapine remained to preserve its 
existence ? On this point I wish to receive some in- 
formation. When the states met, was the condition 
of the finances of France such, that, after economizing 
on principles of justice and mercy through all depart- 
ments, no fair repartition of burdens upon all the orders 
could possibly restore them? If such an equal im- 
position would have been sufficient, you well know it 
might easily have been made. Mr. Necker, in the 
budget which he laid before the orders assembled at 
Versailles, made a detailed exposition of the state of 
the French nation.* 

If we give credit to him, it was not necessary to have 
recourse to any new impositions whatsoever, to put the 
receipts of France on a balance with its expenses. He 
stated the permanent charges of all descriptions, in- 
cluding the interest of a new loan of four hundred 
millions, at 531,444,000 livres ; the fixed revenue at 
475,294,000, making the deficiency 56,150,000, or short 
of 2,20o,oooZ. sterling. But to balance it, he brought 
forward savings and improvements of revenue (con- 
sidered as entirely certain) to rather more than to the 
amount of that deficiency; and he concludes with 
these emphatical words (p. 39), ' Quel pays. Messieurs, 
que celui, ou, sans impots et avec de siniples objets 
inappergns, on pent faire disparoitre un deficit qui a fait 
tant de bruit en Europe.' As to the reimbursement, 
the sinking of debt, and the other great objects of public 
credit and political arrangement indicated in Monsieur 
Necker's speech, no doubt could be entertained, but 
that a very moderate and proportioned assessment on 
the citizens without distinction would have provided 
for all of them to the fullest extent of their demand. 

If this representation of Mons. Necker was false, then 
the assembly are in the highest degree culpable for hav- 
ing forced the king to accept as his minister, and since 
the king's deposition, for having employed, as theiv 

* Rapport de Mons. le Directeur-General des Finances, fait pal 
ordre du Roi k Versailles. Mai 5. 1789. 



SELECTIONS. 33i 

minister, a man who had been capable of abusing so 
notoriously the confidence of his master and their own ; 
in a matter too of the highest moment, and directly 
appertaining to his particular office. But if the repre- 
sentation was exact (as having always, along with you 
conceived a high degree of respect for Mr. Necker, 1 
make no doubt it was), then what can be said m favour 
of those, who instead of moderate, reasonable, and 
general contribution, have in cold blood, and impelled 
by no necessity, had recourse to a partial and cruel 
confiscation ? r • • 

Was that contribution refused on a pretext of privi- 
lege, either on the part of the clergy, or on that of the 
nobility ? No certainly. As to the clergy, they even 
ran before the wishes of the third order. Previous to 
the meeting of the states, they had in all their instruc- 
tions expressly directed their deputies to renounce 
every immunity, which put them upon a footing dis- 
tinct from the condition of their fellow-subjects. In 
this renunciation the clergy were even more explicit 
than the nobility. , 

But let us suppose that the deficiency had remained 
at the fifty-six millions, (or 2,200,000/. sterling), as at 
first stated by Mr. Necker. Let us allow that all the 
resources he opposed to that deficiency were impudent 
and groundless fictions ; and that the assembly (or their 
lords of articles* at the Jacobins) were from thence 
justified in laying the whole burden of that deficiency 
on the clergy, — ^yet allowing all this, a necessity of 
2,200,000/. sterling will not support a confiscation 
to the amount of five millions. The imposition of 
2,200,000/. on the clergy, as partial, would have been 
oppressive and unjust, but it would not have been 
altogether ruinous to those on whom it was imposed ; 
and therefore it would not have answered the real pur- 
pose of the managers. 

* In the constitution of Scotland, during the Stuart reigns, a com- 
mittee sat for prcpariu),' bills : and none could pass but tb..sp previously 
approved by them. This committee was called lords of articles. 



332 EDMUND BURKE. 

Perhaps persons, unacquainted with the state of 
France, on hearing the clergy and the noblesse were 
privileged in point of taxation, may be led to imagine 
that, previous to the Revolution, these bodies had con- 
tributed nothing to the state. This is a great mistake. 
They certainly did not contribute equally with each 
other, nor either of them equally with the commons. 
They both, however, contributed largely. Neither 
nobility nor clergy enjoyed any exemption from the 
excise on consumable commodities, from duties of 
custom, or from any of the other numerous indirect 
impositions, which in France, as well as here, make so 
very large a proportion of all payments to the public. 
The noblesse paid the capitation. They paid also a 
land-tax, called the twentieth penny, to the height 
sometimes of three, sometimes of four shillings in the 
pound ; both of them direct impositions of no light 
nature, and no trivial produce^ The clergy of the prov- 
inces annexed by conquest to France, (which in extent 
make about an eighth part of the whole, but in wealth 
a much larger proportion,) paid likewise to the capi- 
tation and the twentieth penny, at the rate paid by the 
nobility. The clergy in the old provinces did not pay 
the capitation ; but they had redeemed themselves 
at the expense of about twenty-four millions, or a little 
more than a million sterling. They were exempted 
from the twentieths : but then they made free gifts ; 
they contracted debts for the state ; and they were 
subject to some other charges, the whole computed at 
about a thirteenth part of their clear income. They 
ought to have paid annually about forty thousand 
pounds more, to put them on a par with the contribu- 
tion of the nobility. 

When the terrors of this tremendous proscription 
hung over the clergy, they made an offer of a contri- 
bution, through the Archbishop of Aix, which, for its 
extravagance, ought not to have been accepted. But 
it was evidently and obviously more advantageous to 
the public creditor, than anything which could ration- 



SELECTIONS. 333 

ally be promised by the confiscation. Why was it not 
accepted ? The reason is plain— There was no desire 
that the church should be brought to serve the state. 
The service of the state was made a pretext to destroy 
the church. In their way to the destruction of the 
church they would not scruple to destroy their country : 
and they have destroyed it. One great end in the pro- 
ject would have been defeated, if the plan of extortion 
had been adopted in lieu of the scheme of confiscation. 
The new landed interest connected with the new re- 
public, and connected with it for its very being, could 
not have been created. This was among the reasons 
why that extravagant ransom was not accepted. 

The madness of the project of confiscation, on the 
plan that was first pretended, soon became apparent. 
To bring this unwieldy mass of landed property, en- 
larged by the confiscation of all the vast landed domain 
of the crown, at once into market, was obviously to 
defeat the profits proposed by the confiscation, by de- 
preciating the value of those lands, and indeed of all 
the landed estates throughout France. Such a sudden 
diversion of all its circulating money from trade to 
land must be an additional mischief. What step was 
taken ? Did the assembly, on becoming sensible of 
the inevitable ill effects of their projected sale, revert 
to the offers of the clergy ? No distress could oblige 
them to travel in a course which was disgraced by any 
appearance of justice. Giving over all hopes from a 
general immediate sale, another project seems to have 
succeeded. They proposed to take stock in exchange 
for the church lands. In that project great difficulties 
arose in equalizing the objects to be exchanged. Other 
obstacles also presented themselves, which threw them 
back again upon some project of sale. The munici- 
palities had taken an alarm. They would not hear of 
transferring the whole plunder of the kingdom to the 
stockholders in Paris. Many of those municipalities 
had been (upon system) reduced to the most deplorable 
indigence. Money was nowhere to be seen. They 



334 EDMUND BURKE. 

were therefore led to the point that was so ardently 
desired. They panted for a currency of any kind which 
might revive their perishing industry. The munici- 
palities were then to be admitted to a share in the spoil, 
which evidently rendered the first scheme (if ever it 
had been seriously entertained) altogether impracticable. 
Public exigencies pressed upon all sides. The minister 
of finance reiterated his call for supply with a most 
urgent, anxious, and boding voice. Thus pressed on 
all sides, instead of the first plan of converting their 
bankers into bishops and abbots, instead of paying the 
old debt, they contracted a new debt, at three per cent., 
creating a new paper currency, founded on an eventual 
sale of the church lands. They issued this paper cur- 
rency to satisfy in the first instance chiefly the demands 
made upon them by the hank of discount, the great 
machine, or paper-mill of their fictitious wealth. 

The spoil of the church was now become the only 
resource of all their operations in finance, the vital 
principle of all their politics, the sole security for the 
existence of their power. It was necessary by all, even 
the most violent means, to put every individual on the 
same bottom, and to bind the nation in one guilty 
interest to uphold this act, and the authority, of those 
by whom it was done. In order to force the most re- 
luctant into a participation of their pillage, they ren- 
dered their paper circulation compulsory in all payments. 
Those who consider the general tendency of their schemes 
to this one object as a centre, and a centre from which 
afterwards all their measures radiate, will not think that 
I dwell too long upon this part of the proceedings of 
the National Assembly. 

To cut off all appearance of connexion between the 
crown and public justice, and to bring the whole under 
implicit obedience to the dictators in Paris, the old in- 
dependent judicature of the parliaments, with all its 
merits, and all its faults, was wholly abolished. Whilst 
the parliaments existed, it was evident that the people 
might some time or other come to resort to them, and 



SELECTIONS. 335 

rally under the standard of their ancient laws. It 
became, however, a matter of consideration that the 
magistrates and officers, in the courts now abolished, 
had purchased their places at a very high rate, for which 
as well as for the duty they performed, they received 
but a very low return of interest. Simple confiscation 
is a boon only for the clergy ;— to the lawyers some 
appearances of equity are to be observed ;— and they 
are to receive compensation to an immense amount. 
Their compensation becomes part of the national debt, 
for the liquidation of which there is the one exhaustless 
fund. The lawyers are to obtain their compensation 
in this new church paper, which is to march with the 
new principles of judicature and legislature. The dis- 
missed magistrates are to take their share of martyr- 
dom with the ecclesiastics, or to receive their own prop- 
erty from such a fund, and in such a manner, as all 
those, who have been seasoned with the ancient prin- 
ciples of iurisprudence, and had been the sole guardians 
of property, must look upon with horror. Even the 
clergy are to receive their miserable allowance out of 
the depreciated paper, which is stamped with the in- 
delible character of sacrilege, and with the symbols ot 
their owti ruin, or they must starve. So violent an 
outrage upon credit, property, and liberty, as this 
compulsory paper currency, has seldom been exhibited 
by the alliance of bankruptcy and tyranny, at any time, 
or in any nation. 

In the course of all these operations, at length comes 
out the grand arcanum /—that in reality, and in a fair 
sense, the lands of the church (so far as anything certain 
can be gathered from their proceedings) are not to be 
sold at all. By the late resolutions of the National 
Assembly, they "are indeed to be delivered to the highest 
bidder. " But it is to be observed, that a certain portion 
only of the purchase money is to he laid down. A period 
of twelve years is to be given for the payment of the 
rest. The philosophic purchasers are therefore, on pay- 
ment of a sort of fine, to be put instantly into posses- 



336 EDMUND BURKE. 

sion of the estate. It becomes in some respects a sort 
of gift to them ; to be held on the feudal tenure of zeal 
to the new establishment. This project is evidently 
to let in a body of purchasers without money. The 
consequence will be, that these purchasers, or rather 
guarantees, will pay, not only from the rents as they 
accrue, which might as well be received by the state, 
but from the spoil of the materials of buildings, from 
waste in woods, and from whatever money, by hands 
habituated to the gripings of usury, they can wring 
from the miserable peasant. He is to be delivered over 
to the mercenary and arbitrary discretion of men, who 
will be stimulated to every species of extortion by the 
growing demands on the growing profits of an estate 
held under the precarious settlement of a new political 
system. 

When all the frauds, impostures, violences, rapines, 
burnings, murders, confiscations, compulsory paper cur- 
rencies, and every description of tyranny and cruelty 
employed to bring about and to uphold this Revolution, 
have their natural effect, that is, to shock the moral 
sentiments of all virtuous and sober minds, the abet- 
tors of this philosophic system immediately strain their 
throats in a declamation against the old monarchical 
government of France. When they have rendered that 
deposed power sufficiently black, they then proceed in 
argument, as if all those who disapprove of their new 
abuses must of course be partisans of the old; that 
those who reprobate their crude and violent schemes 
of liberty ought to be treated as advocates for servitude. 
I admit that their necessities do compel them to this 
base and contemptible fraud. Nothing can reconcile 
men to their proceedings and projects but the supposi- 
tion that there is no third option between them and 
some tyranny as odious as can be furnished by the 
records of history, or by the invention of poets. This 
prattling of theirs hardly deserves the name of sophistry. 
It is nothing but plain impudence. Have these gentle- 
men never heard, in the whole circle of the worlds of 



SELECTIONS. 337 

theon- and practice, of anything between the despotism 
of the monarch and the despotism of the multitude ? 
Have they never heard of a monarchy directed by laws, 
controlled and balanced by the great hereditary wealth 
and hereditary dignity of a nation ; and both again 
controlled by a judicious check from the reason and 
feeling of the people at large, acting by a suitable and 
permanent organ? Is it then impossible that a man 
may' be found who, without criminal ill intention, or 
pitiable absurdity, shall prefer such a mixed and tempered 
government to either of the extremes ; and who may 
repute that nation to be destitute of all wisdom and of 
all virtue, which, having in its choice to obtain such 
a government with ease, or rather to confirm it when 
actually possessed, thought proper to commit a thousand 
crimes, and to subject their country to a thousand evils, 
in order to avoid it ? Is it then a truth so universally 
acknowledged, that a pure democracy is the only toler- 
able form into which human society can be thrown, 
that a man is not permitted to hesitate about its merits, 
without the suspicion of being a friend to tyranny, 
that is, of being a foe to mankind ? 

I do not know under what description to class the 
present ruling authority in France. It affects to be 
pure democracy, though I think it in a direct train of 
becoming shortly a mischievous and ignoble oligarchy. 
But for the present I admit it to be a contrivance of the 
nature and effect of what it pretends to. I reprobate 
no form of government merely upon abstract principles. 
There may be situations in which the purely democratic 
form will become necessary. There may be some (very 
few, and very particularly circumstanced) where it 
would-be clearly desirable. This I do not take to be 
the case of France, or of any other great country. Until 
now, we have seen no examples of considerable de- 
mocracies. The ancients were better acquainted with 
them. Not being wholly unread in the authors, who 
had seen the most of those constitutions, and who 
best understood them, I cannot help concurring with 



338 EDMUND BURKE, 

their opinion, ttiat an absolute democracy, no more 
than absolute monarchy, is to be reckoned among the 
legitimate forms of government. They think it rather 
the corruption and degeneracy, than the sound consti- 
tution of a republic. If I recollect rightly, Aristotle 
observes, that a democracy has many striking points 
of resemblance with tyranny.* Of this I am certain, 
that in a democracy, the majority of the citizens is 
capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon 
the minority, whenever strong divisions prevail in that 
kind of polity, as they often must ; and that oppression 
of the minority will extend to far greater numbers, and 
wiU be carried on with much greater fury, than can 
almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a 
single sceptre. In such a popular persecution, in- 
dividual sufferers are in a much more deplorable con- 
dition than in any other. Under a cruel prince they 
have the balmy compassion of mankind to assuage the 
smart of their wounds j they have the plaudits of the 
people to animate their generous constancy under their 
sufferings ; but those who are subjected to wrong under 
multitudes, are deprived of all external consolation. 
They seem deserted by mankind, overpowered by a 
conspiracy of their whole species. 

But admitting democracy not to have that inevitable 

* When I wrote this I quoted from memory, after many years had 
elapsed from my reading the passage. A learned friend has found it, 
and it is as follows : 

T6 ^^oj rb airrS, Kal d/Kpu decriroriKh rwv jSeXriSvuv, Kal rk \piri(pia ixara, 
ibavep ^KeT to. iirLrdy/jura- Kal 6 bT^jxayuyyiii Kal 6 K6\a^, ol avrol Kal 
dvaXoyoi- Kal yudXicrra eKarepoi. Trap' iKaripoii lax'^^vcriv, ol fikv K6\aKe$ 
Trapd. Tvpdvvois, ol d^ drjfjLaycir/ol irapa roh drifioii tols toiovtols — > 

' The ethical character is the same : both exercise despotism over 
the better class of citizens ; and decrees are in the one, what ordinances 
and arr6ts are in the other : the demagogue too, and the court favourite, 
are not un frequently the same identical men, and always bear a close 
analogy ; and these have the principal power, each in their respective 
forms of government, favourites with the absolute monarch, and 
demagogues with a people such as 1 have described.' Arist. Politic, 
lib. iv. cap. 4. 



SELECTIONS. 339 

tendency to party tyranny, which I suppose it to have, 
and admitting it to possess as much good in it when 
unmixed, as I am sure it possesses when compounded 
with other forms ; does monarchy, on its part, contain 
nothing at all to recommend it ? I do not often quote 
BoHngbroke, nor have his works in general left any 
permanent impression on my mind. He is a presump- 
tuous and a superficial writer. But he has one observa- 
tion, which, in my opinion, is not without depth and 
soUdity. He says, that he prefers a monarchy to other 
governments; because you can better ingraft any 
description of repubHc on a monarchy, than anything 
of monarchy upon the republican forms. I think him 
perfectly in the right. The fact is so historically ; and 
it agrees well with the speculation. 

I know how easy a topic it is to dwell on the faults of 
departed greatness. By a revolution in the state, the 
fawning sycophant of yesterday is converted into the 
austere critic of the present hour. But steady, inde- 
pendent minds, when they have an object of so serious 
a concern to mankind as government under their con- 
templation, will disdain to assume the part of satirists 
and declaimers. They will judge of human institutions 
as they do of human characters. They will sort out 
the good from the evil, which is mixed in mortal institu- 
tions, as it is in mortal men. 

Your government in France, though usually, and I 
think justly, reputed the best of the unqualified or 
ill-quahfied monarchies, was still full of abuses. These 
abuses accumulated in a length of time, as they must 
accumulate in every monarchy not under the constant 
inspection of a popular representative. I am no stranger 
to the faults and defects of the subverted government 
of France ; and I think I am not inclined by nature or 
policy to make a panegyric upon anything which is a 
just and natural object of censure. But the question 
is not now of the vices of that monarchy, but of its 
existence. Is it then true, that the French govern- 
ment was such as to be incapable or undeserving of 



340 EDMUND BURKE. 

reform j so that it was of absolute necessity that the 
whole fabric should be at once pulled down, and the 
area cleared for the erection of a theoretic, experimental 
edifice in its place ? All France was of a different 
opinion in the beginning of the year 1789. The in- 
structions to the representatives to the states-general, 
from every district in that kingdom, were filled with 
projects for the reformation of that government, without 
the remotest suggestion of a design to destroy it. Had 
such a design been then even insinuated, I believe there 
would have been but one voice, and that voice for re- 
jecting it with scorn and horror. Men have been some- 
times led by degrees, sometimes hurried, into things of 
which, if they could have seen the whole together, they 
never would have permitted the most remote approach. 
When those instructions were given, there was no ques- 
tion but that abuses existed, and that they demanded 
a reform ; nor is there now. In the interval between 
the instructions and the revolution, things changed 
their shape ; and, in consequence of that change, the 
true question at present is, whether those who would 
have reformed, or those who have destroyed, are in 
the right ? 

To hear some men speak of the late monarchy of 
France, you would imagine that they were talking of 
Persia bleeding under the ferocious sword of Tahmas 
Kouli Khan ; or at least describing the barbarous 
anarchic despotism of Turkey, where the finest coun- 
tries in the most genial climates in the world are wasted 
by peace more than any countries have been worried 
by war ; where arts are unknown, where manufactures 
languish, where science is extinguished, where agricul- 
ture decays, where the human race itself melts away 
and perishes under the eye of the observer. Was this 
the case of France ? I have no way of determining 
the question but by a reference to facts. Facts do not 
support this resemblance. Along with much em\, there 
is some good in monarchy itself ; and some corrective 
to its evil from religion, from laws, from mann3rs, from 



SELECTIONS. 341 

opinions, the French monarchy must have received ; 
which rendered it (though by no means a free, and ^ 
therefore by no means a good constitution) a despotism 
rather in appearance than in reaUty. 

Among the standards upon which the effects of govern- 
ment on any country are to be estimated, I must con- 
sider the state of its population as not the least certain. 
No country in which population flourishes, and is m 
progressive improvement, can be under a very mis- 
chievous government. About sixty years ago the 
Intendants of the generalities of France made, with 
other matters, a report of the population of their several 
districts. I have not the books, which are very volumi- 
nous, by me, nor do I know where to procure them ( I am 
obliged to speak by memory and therefore the less 
positively), but I think the population of France was 
by them, even at that period, estimated at twenty-two 
milhons of souls. At the end of the last century it had 
been generally calculated at eighteen. On either of 
these estimations, France was not ill-peopled. Mr. 
Necker, who is an authority for his own time at least 
equal to the Intendants for theirs, reckons, and upon 
apparently sure principles, the people of France, in the 
year 1780, at twenty-four millions six hundred and 
seventy thousand. But was this the probable ultimate 
term under the old establishment ? Dr. Price is of 
opinion that the growth of population in France was by 
no means at its acme in that year. I certainly defer to 
Dr. Price's authority a good deal more in these specula- 
tions than I do in his general politics. This gentleman, 
taking ground on Mr. Necker's data, is very confident 
that since the period of that minister's calculation, the 
French population has increased rapidly; so rapidly, 
that in the year 1789 he will not consent to rate the 
people of that kingdom at a lower number than thirty 
millions. After abating much (and much I think 
ought to be abated) from the sanguine calculation of 
Dr. Price, I have no doubt that the population of France 
did increase considerably during this latter period : 



342 EDMUND BURKE. 

but supposing that it increased to nothing more than 
will be sufficient to complete the twenty-four miliions 
six hundred and seventy thousand to twenty-five mil- 
lions, still a population of twenty-five millions, and that 
in an increasing progress, on a space of about twenty- 
seven thousand square leagues, is immense. Itis, for 
instance, a good deal more than the proportionable 
population of this island, or even than that of England, 
the best peopled part of the United Kingdom. 

It is not universally true that France is a fertile 
country. Considerable tracts of it are barren and 
labour under other natural disadvantages. In the 
portions of that territory where things are more favour- 
able, as far as I am able to discover, the numbers of 
the people correspond to the indulgence of nature.* 
The Generality of Lisle (this I admit is the strongest 
example) upon an extent of four hundred and four 
leagues and a half, about ten years ago, contained seven 
hundred and thirty-four thousand six hundred souls, 
which is one thousand seven hundred and seventy-two 
inhabitants to each square league. The middle term 
for the rest of France is about nine hundred inhabitants 
to the same admeasurement. 

I do not attribute this population to the deposed 
government ; because I do not like to compliment the 
contrivances of men with what is due in a great degree 
to the bounty of Providence. But that decried govern- 
ment could not have obstructed, most probably it 
favoured, the operation of those causes, (whatever they 
were) whether of nature in the soil, or habits of industry 
among the people, which has produced so large a number 
of the species throughout that whole kingdom, and 
exhibited in some particular places such prodigies of 
population. I never will suppose that fabric of a state 
to be the worst of all political institutions, which, by 
experience, is found to contain a principle favourable 
(however latent it may be) to the increase of mankind. 

* De I'Administraticin dcs Finances de la France, par Mons. Necksr, 
vol. i. p. 288. 



SELECTIONS. 343 

The wealth of a country is another, and no con- 
temptible standard, by which we may judge whether, 
on the whole, a government be protecting or destruc- 
tive. France far exceeds England in the multitude of 
her people ; but I apprehend that her comparative 
wealth is much inferior to ours j that it is not so equal 
in the distribution, nor so ready in the circulation. 
I beheve the difference in the form of the two govern- 
ments to be amongst the causes of this advantage on 
the side of England. I speak of England, not of the 
whole British dominions : which, if compared with 
those of France, will, in some degree, weaken the com- 
parative rate of wealth upon our side. But that wealth, 
which will not endure a comparison with the riches 
of England, may constitute a very respectable degree 
of opulence. Mr. Necker's book, published in 1785,* 
contains an accurate and interesting collection of facts 
relative to public economy and to political arithmetic ; 
and his speculations on the subject are in general wise 
and hberal. In that work he gives an idea of the state 
of France, very remote from the portrait of a country 
whose government was a perfect grievance, an absolute 
evil admitting no cure but through the violent and un- 
certain remedy of a total revolution. He affirms, that 
from the year 1726 to the year 1784, there was coined 
at the mint of France, in the species of gold and silver, 
to the amount of about one hundred millions of pounds 
sterling, f 

It is impossible that Mr. Neckcr should be mistaken 
in the amount of tlie bullion which has been coined in 
the mint. It is a matter of official record. The reason- 
ings of this able financier, concerning the quantity of 
gold and silver wliich remained for circulation, when he 
wrote in 1785, that is, about four years before the de- 
position and imprisonment of the French king, are not 
of equal certainty ; but they are laid on grounds so 
apparently solid, that it is not easy to refuse a consider- 

♦ De r Administration des Finances de la France, par Mons. Necker. 
t Ibid., vol. iii. chap. 8 and chap. 9. 



344 EDMtJND BURKE. 

able degree of assent to his calculation. He calculates 
the numeraire, or what we call specie, then actually- 
existing in France, at about eighty-eight miUions of the 
same English money. A great accumulation of wealth 
for one country, large as that country is ! Mr. Necker 
was so far from considering this influx of wealth as 
likely to cease, when he wrote in 1785, that he presumes 
upon a future annual increase of two per cent, upon the 
money brought into France during the periods from 
which he computed. 

Some adequate cause must have origmally mtroduced 
all the money coined at its mint into that kingdom ; 
and some cause as operative must have kept at home, 
or returned into its bosom," such a vast flood of treasure 
as Mr. Necker calculates to remain for domestic circu- 
lation. Suppose any reasonable deductions from Mr. 
Necker's computation, the remainder must still amount 
to an immense sum. Causes thus powerful to acquire, 
and to retain, cannot be found in discouraged industry, 
insecure property, and a positively destructive govern- 
ment. Indeed, when I consider the face of the kingdom 
of France ; the multitude and opulence of her cities ; 
the useful magnificence of her spacious high roads and 
bridges; the opportunity of her artificial canals and 
navigations opening the conveniences of maritime com- 
munication through a solid continent of so immense an 
extent ; when I turn my eyes to the stupendous works 
of her ports and harbours, and to her whole naval 
apparatus, whether for war or trade ; when I bring 
before my view the number of her fortifications, con- 
structed with so bold and masterly a skill, and made 
and maintained at so prodigious a charge, presenting 
an armed front and impenetrable barrier to her enemies 
upon every side ; when I recollect how very small a 
part of that extensive region is without cultivation, and 
to what complete perfection the culture of many of the 
best productions of the earth have been brought m 
France ; when I reflect on the excellence of her manu- 
factures and fabrics, second to none but ours, and 



SELECTIONS. 345 

in some particulars not second ; when I contemplate 
the grand foundations of charity, public and private ; 
when I survey the state of all the arts that beautify 
and polish life ; when I reckon the men she has bred 
for extending her fame in war, her able statesmen, the 
multitude of her profound lawyers and theologians, her 
philosophers, her critics, her historians and antiquaries, 
her poets and her orators, sacred and profane ; I behold 
in all this something which awes and commands the 
imagination, which checks the mind on the brink of 
precipitate and indiscriminate censure, and which de- 
mands that we should very seriously examine, what and 
how great are the latent vices that could authorize us 
at once to level so specious a fabric wdth the ground. 
I do not recognize, in this view of things, the despotism 
of Turkey. Nor do I discern the character of a govern- 
ment, that has been, on the whole, so oppressive, or so 
corrupt, or so negligent,, as to be utterly unfit for all 
reformation. I must think such a government well de- 
served to have its excellences heightened, its faults 
corrected, and its capacities improved into a British 
constitution. 

Whoever has examined into the proceedings of that 
deposed government for several years back cannot fail 
to have observed, amidst the inconstancy and fluctua- 
tion natural to courts, an earnest endeavour towards 
the prosperity and improvement of the country ; he 
must admit that it had been long employed, in some 
instances, wholly to remove, in many considerably to 
correct, the abusive practices and usages that had pre- 
vailed in the state ; and that even the unlimited power 
of the sovereign over the persons of his subjects, incon- 
sistent, as undoubtedly it was, with law and liberty, had 
yet been every day growing more mitigated in the 
exercise. So far from refusing itself to reformation, 
that government was open, with a censurable degree of 
facility, to all sorts of projects and projectors on the 
subject. Rather too much countenance was given to the 
spirit of innovation, which soon was turned against those 



346 EDMUND BURKE. 

who fostered it, and ended in their rain. It is but cold, 
and no very flattering justice to that faUen monarchy, 
to say, that, for many years, it trespassed more by 
levity and want of judgment in several of its schemes, 
than from any defect in diligence or m pubhc spirit 
To compare the government of France for the last 
fifteen or sixteen years with wise and well-constituted 
establishments during that, or during any penod is 
not to act with fairness. But if in point of prodigality 
in the expenditure of money, or in point of ngour m 
the exercise of power, it be compared with any of the 
former reigns, I beheve candid judges wll give little 
credit to the good intentions of those who dwell per- 
petually on the donations to favourites or on the ex- 
penses of the court, or on the horrors of the Bastile, m 
the reign of Louis the Sixteenth.* 

Whether the system, if it deserves such a name, now 
built on the ruins of that ancient monarchy, wiU be 
able to give a better account of the population and 
wealth of the country, which it has taken under its care, 
is a matter very doubtful. Instead of improving by 
the change, I apprehend that a long series of years must 
be told, before it can recover in any degree the etlects 
of this philosophic Revolution, and before the nation 
can be replaced on its former footing. If Dr. ^nce 
should think fit, a few year= hence, to favour us with an 
estimate of the population of France, he will hardiy 
be able to make up his tale of thirty milhons of souls, 
as computed in 1789, or the assembly s computation 
of twenty-six milhons of that year ; or even Mr. Necker s 
twenty-five millions in 1780. I hear that there are 
considerable emigrations from France ; and that many, 
quitting that voluptuous climate, and that seductive 
Circean liberty, have taken refuge in the frozen regions, 
and under the British despotism of Canada. 

* The world is obliged to Mr. de Calonne for the pains he has taken 
to refute the scandalous exaggerations relative to some of the royal 
. expenses, and to detect the fallacious account SX^nrL^nf ^i^k 
the wicked purpose of provoking the populace to all sorts of crimes. 



SELECTIONS. 347 

In the present disappearance of coin, no person could 
think it the same country, in which the present minister 
of the finances has been able to discover fourscore 
minions sterhng in species. From its general aspect one 
would conclude that it had been for some time past 
under the special direction of the learned academicians 
of Laputa and Balnibarbi.* Already the population 
of Paris has so declined, that Mr. Necker stated to the 
National Assembly the provision to be made for its 
subsistence at a fifth less than what [had formerly been 
found requisite, f It is said (and I have never heard 
it contradicted) that a hundred thousand people are 
out of employment in that city, though it is become the 
seat of the imprisoned court and National Assembly. 
Nothing, I am credibly informed, can exceed the shock- 
ing and disgusting spectacle of mendicancy displayed 
in that capital. Indeed the votes of the National 
Assembly leave no doubt of the facts. They have 
lately appointed a standing committee of mendicancy. 
They are contriving at once a vigorous police on this 
subject, and, for the first time, the imposition of a tax 
to maintain the poor, for whose present relief great 
sums appear on the face of the public accounts of the 
year.f In the meantime the leaders of the legislative 

* See Gulliver's Travels for the idea of countries governed by philo- 
sophers. 

t Mr. de Calonne states the falling off of the population of Paris 
az far more considerable ; and it may be so, since the period of Mr. 
Nccker's calculation. 

X Travaux de charito pour subvenir Livres £ s. d. 

au manque de travail k Paris et 

dans les provinces 3,866,920 161,121 13 4 

Destruction de vagabondage et de la 

raendicite 1,671,417 69,642 7 6 

Primes pour I'importation de grains 5,671,907 236,329 9 2 
D6penses relatives aux subsistanccs, 
deduction fait des recouvremonts 
qui ont eu lieu 39,871,790 1,661,324 ir 8 

Total . . . 51,082,034 £2,128,418 I 8 



When I sent this book to the press, I entertained some doubt con- 
cerning the nature and extent of the last article in the above accounts. 



348 EDMUND BURKE. 

clubs and coffee-houses are intoxicated with admiration 
at their own wisdom and abihty. They speak with the 
most sovereign contempt of the rest of the world. They 
tell the people, to comfort them in the rags with which 
they have clothed them, that they are a nation of phi- 
losophers ; and, sometimes, by all the arts of quackish 
parade, by show, tumult, and bustle, sometimes by the 
alarms of plots and invasions, they attempt to drown 
the cries of indigence, and to divert the eyes of the 
observer from the ruin and wretchedness of the state. 
A brave people will certainly prefer liberty accompanied 
with a virtuous poverty to a depraved and wealthy 
servitude. But before the price of comfort and opu- 
lence is paid, one ought to be pretty sure it is real liberty 
which is purchased, and that she is to be purchased at 
no other price. I shall, always, however, consider that 
liberty as very equivocal in her appearance, which has 
not wisdom and justice for her companions ; and does 
not lead prosperity and plenty in her train. 

The advocates of this Revolution, not satisfied with 
exaggerating the vices of their ancient government, 
strike at the fame of their country itself, by painting 
almost all that could have attracted the attention of 
strangers, I mean their nobility and their clergy, as 
objects of horror. If this were only a libel, there had 
not been much in it. But it has practical consequences. 
Had your nobility and gentry, who formed the great 
body of your landed men, and the whole of your military 
officers, resembled those of Germany, at the period 
when the Hanse-towns were necessitated to confederate 

which is only under a general head, without any detail. Since then I 
have seen Mr. de Calonne's work. I must think it a great loss to me 
that I had not that advantage earlier. Mr. de Calonne thinks this 
article to be on account of general subsistence ; but as he is not able 
to comprehend how so great a loss as upwards of 1,661,000^. sterling 
could be sustained on the difference between the price and the sale 
of grain, he seems to attribute this enormous head of charge to secret 
expenses of the Revolution. I cannot say anything positively on 
that subject. The reader is capable of judging, by the aggregate of 
these immense charges, on the state and condition of France ; and the 
system of public economy adopted in that nation. These articles of 
account produced no inquiry or discussion in the National Assembly. 



SELECTIONS. 349 

against the nobles in defence of their property — had 
they been hke the Orsini and Vitelli in Italy, who used 
to sally from their fortified dens to rob the trader and 
traveller — had they been such as the Mamelukes in 
Egypt, or the Nayres on the coast of Malabar, I do 
admit, that too critical an inquiry might not be advisable 
into the means of freeing the world from such a nuisance. 
The statues of Equity and Mercy might be veiled for 
a moment. The tenderest minds, confounded with the 
dreadful exigence in which morahty submits to the 
suspension of its own rules in favour of its own prin- 
ciples, might turn aside whilst fraud and violence were 
accomplishing the destruction of a pretended nobility 
which disgraced, whilst it persecuted, human nature. 
The persons most abhorrent from blood, and treason, 
and arbitrary confiscation, might remain silent specta- 
tors of this civil war between the vices. 

But did the privileged nobility who met under the 
king's precept at Versailles, in 1789, or their consti- 
tuents, deserve to be looked on as the Nayres or Mame- 
lukes of this age, or as the Orsini and Vitelli of ancient 
times ? If I had then asked the question I should 
have passed for a madman. What have they done 
since that they were to be driven into exile, that their 
persons should be hunted about, mangled, and tortured, 
their families dispersed, their houses laid in ashes, and 
that their order should be abolished, and the memory 
of it, if possible, extinguished, by ordaining them to 
change the very names by which they were usually 
known ? Read their instructions to their representa- 
tives. They breathe the spirit of liberty as warmly, 
and they recommend reformation as strongly, as any 
other order Their privileges relative to contribution 
were voluntarily surrendered ; as the king, from the 
beginning, surrendered all pretence to a right of taxa- 
tion. Upon a free constitution there was but one opinion 
in France. The absolute monarchy was at an end. 
It breathed its last, without a groan, without struggle, 
without convulsion. All the struggle, all the dissension 



350 EDMUND BURKE. 

arose afterwards upon the preference of a despotic 
democracy to a government of reciprocal control. The 
triumph of the victorious party was over the principles 
of a British constitution. 

I have observed the affectation which, for many 
years past, has prevailed in Paris, even to a degree 
perfectly childish, of idolizing the memory of your 
Henry IV. If anything could put any one out of 
humour with that ornament to the kingly character, 
it would be this overdone style of insidious panegyric. 
The persons who have worked this engine the most 
busily are those who have ended their panegyrics m 
dethroning his successor and descendant ; a man, as 
good natured, at the least, as Henry IV; altogether 
as fond of his people ; and who has done infinitely more 
to correct the ancient vices of the state, than that great 
monarch did, or we are sure he ever meant to do. Well 
it is for his panegyrists, that they have not himto deal 
with. For Henry of Navarre was a resolute, active, and 
politic prince. He possessed, indeed, great humanity 
and mildness ; but a humanity and mildness that never 
stood in the way of his interests. He never sought to 
be loved without putting himself first in a condition to 
be feared. He used soft language with determined 
conduct. He asserted and maintained his authority in 
the gross, and distributed his acts of concession only in 
the detail. He spent the income of his prerogative 
nobly ; but he took care not to break in upon the 
capital ; never abandoning for a moment any of the 
claims which he made under the fundamental laws, nor 
sparing to shed the blood of those who opposed him, 
often in the field, sometimes upon the scaffold. Be- 
cause he knew how to make his virtues respected by 
the ungrateful, he has merited the praises of those, 
whom, if they had Hved in his time, he would have 
shut up in the Bastille, and brought to punishment 
along with the regicides whom he hanged after he had 
famished Paris into a surrender. . 

If these panegyrists are in earnest in their admira- 



SELECTIONS. 35i 

tion of Henry IV, they must remember, that they can- 
not think more highly of him, than he did of the noblesse 
of France ; whose virtue, honour, courage, patriotism, 
and loyalty were his constant theme. 

But the nobility of France are degenerated since the 
days of Henry IV. This is possible. But it is more 
than I can believe to be true in any great degree. I do 
not pretend to know France as correctly as some others ; 
but I have endeavoured through my whole hfe to make 
myself acquainted with human nature : otherwise I 
should be unfit to take even my humble part in the 
service of mankind. In that study I could not pass 
by a vast portion of our nature, as it appeared modified 
in a country but twenty-four miles from the shore of 
this island. On my best observation, compared with 
■my best inquiries, I found your nobility for the greater 
part composed of men of a high spirit, and of a delicate 
sense of honour, both with regard to themselves in- 
dividually, and with regard to their whole corps, over 
whom they kept, beyond what is common in other 
countries, a censorial eye. They were tolerably well 
bred ; very officious, humane, and hospitable ■ in their 
conversation frank and open ; with a good military 
tone ; and reasonably tinctured with literature, par- 
ticularly of the authors in their own language. Many 
had pretensions far above this description. I speak of 
those who were generally met with. 

As to their behaviour to the inferior classes, they 
appeared to me to comport themselves towards them 
with good-nature, and with something more nearly 
approaching to familiarity, than is generally practised 
with us in the intercourse between the higher and lower 
ranks of life. To strike any person, even in the most 
abject condition, was a thing in a manner unknown, 
and would be highly disgraceful. Instances of other 
ill-treatment of the humble part of the community were 
rare ; and, as to attacks made upon the property or the 
personal liberty of the commons, I never heard of any 
whatsoever from iheni ; nor, whilst the laws were in 



352 EDMUND BURKE. 

vigour under the ancient government, would such 
tyranny in subjects have been permitted. As men of 
landed estates, I had no fault to find with their conduct, 
though much to reprehend, and much to wish clianged, 
in many of the old tenures. Where the letting of their 
land was by rent, I could not discover that their agree- 
ments with their farmers were oppressive ; nor when 
they were in partnership with the farmer, as often was 
the case, have I heard that they had taken the lion's 
share. The proportions seemed not inequitable. There 
might be exceptions ; but certainly they were excep- 
tions only. I have no reason to believe that in these 
respects the landed noblesse of France were worse than 
the landed gentry of this country ; certainly in no 
respect more vexatious than the landholders, not noble^ 
of their own nation. In cities the nobility had no 
manner of power ; in the country very little. You 
know, sir, that much of the civil government, and the 
police in the most essential parts, was not in the hands 
of that nobility which presents itself first to our con- 
sideration. The revenue, the system and collection of 
which were the most grievous parts of the French govern- 
ment, was not administered by the men of the sword ; 
nor were they answerable for the vices of its principle, 
or the vexations, where any such existed, in its man- 
agement. 

Denying, as I am well warranted to do, that the 
nobility had any considerable share in the oppression 
of the people, in cases in which real oppression existed, 
I am ready to admit that they were not without con- 
siderable faults and errors. A foolish imitation of the 
worst part of the manners of England, which impaired 
their natural character, without substituting in its 
place what perhaps they meant to copy, has certainly 
rendered them worse than formerly they were. Habitual 
dissoluteness of manners continued beyond the pardon- 
able period of life, was more common amongst them 
than it is with us ; and it reigned with the less hope 
of remedy, though possibly with something of less 



SELECTIONS. 353 

mischief by being covered wth more exterior decorum. 
Thev countenanced too much that hcentious philosophy 
which has helped to bring on their ruin. There was 
another error amongst them more fatal. Those of the 
commons, who approached to or exceeded many ot 
the nobility in point of wealth, were not fully admitted 
to the rank and estimation which wealth, m reason and 
good policy, ought to bestow in every country ; though 
I think not equally with that of other nobility. The 
two kinds of aristocracy were too punctiliously kept 
asunder ; less so, however, than in Germany and some 
other nations. ru ^ 

This separation, as I have already taken the liberty 
of suggesting to you, I conceive to be one principal cause 
of the destruction of the old nobility. The military 
particulariy, was too exclusively reserved for men of 
family. But, after all, this was an error of opinion 
which a conflicting opinion would have rectified. A 
permanent assembly, in which the commons had then- 
share of power, would soon abolish whatever was too 
invidious and insulting in these distinctions ; and 
even the faults in the morals of the nobility would have 
iDcen probably corrected, by the greater varieties of 
occupation and pursuit to which a constitution by 
orders would have given rise. t i ^ i 

\\\ this violent cry against the nobility I take to be 
a mere work of art. To be honoured and even privi- 
leged by the laws, opinions, and inveterate usages ot 
our country, growing out of the prejudice of ages, has 
nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any nian. 
Even to be too tenacious of those privileges is not abso- 
lutely a crime. The strong struggle in e^•cry individual 
to preserve possession of what he has found to belong 
to him, and to distinguish him, is one of the securities 
against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. 
It operates as an instinct to secure property, and to 
nreser\'e communities in a settled state. What is there 
to shock in this? Nobility is a graceful ornament 1(> 
the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital of polished 

12 



354 EDMUND BURKE, 

society. Omnes honi nohilitaii semper favemus, was 
the saying of a wise and good man. It is, indeed, one 
sign of a liberal and benevolent mind to incline to it 
with some sort of partial propensity. He feels no 
ennobling principle in his own heart, who wishes to 
level all the artificial institutions which have been 
adopted for giving a body to opinion and permanence 
to fugitive esteem. It is a sour, malignant, envious 
disposition, without taste for the reality, or for any 
image or representation of virtue, that sees with joy 
the unmerited fall of what had long flourished in splen- 
dour and in honour. I do not like to see anything 
destroyed ; any void produced in society ; any ruin 
on the face of the land. It was therefore with no dis- 
appointment or dissatisfaction that my inquiries and 
observations did not present to me any incorrigible 
vices in the noblesse of France, or any abuse which could 
not be removed by a reform very short of abolition. 
Your noblesse did not deserve punishment ; but to 
degrade is to punish. 

It was with the same satisfaction I found that the 
result of my inquiry concerning your clergy was not 
dissimilar. It is no soothing news to my ears, that 
great bodies of men are incurably corrupt. ' It is not 
with much credulity I listen to any, when they speak 
evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather 
suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated, when 
profit is looked for in their punishment. An enemy ' 
is a bad witness ; a robber is a worse. Vices and abuses 
there were undoubtedly in that order, and must be. 
It was an old establishment, and not frequently revised. 
But I saw no crimes in the individuals that merited 
confiscation of their substance, nor those cruel insults 
and degradations, and that unnatural persecution, 
which have been substituted in the place of meliorating 
regulation. 

If there had been any just cause for this new religious 
persecution, the atheistic libellers, who act as trumpeters 
to animate the populace to plunder, do not love any- 



SELECTIONS. 355 

body so much as not to dwell with complacence on the 
vices of the existing clergy. This they have not done. 
They find themselves obhged to rake mto the histories 
of former ages (which they have ransacked with a 
malignant and profligate industry) for every mstance 
of oppression and persecution which has been made by 
that body or in its favour, in order to justify, upon 
very iniquitous, because very illogical, principles of 
retaliation, their own persecutions, and their own 
cruelties. After destroying all other genealogies and 
family distinctions, they invent a sort of pedigree of 
crimes. It is not very just to chastise men for the 
offences of their natural ancestors: but to take the 
fiction of ancestry in a corporate succession, as a ground 
for punishing men who have no relation to guilty acts 
except in names and general descriptions, is a sort ot 
refinement in injustice belonging to the philosophy ot 
this enlightened age. The assembly punishes men, 
many, if not most, of whom abhor the violent conduct 
of ecclesiastics in former times as much as their present 
persecutors can do, and who would be as loud and as 
strong in the expression of that sense, if they were not 
well aware of the purposes for which all this declama- 
tion is employed. j r 4-u 

Corporate bodies are immortal for the good ot tne 
members, but not for their punishment. Nations them- 
selves are such corporations. As well might we in Eng- 
land think of waging inexpiable war upon all Frenchmen 
for the evils which they have brought upon us in the 
several periods of our mutual hostilities. You might 
on your part, think yourselves justified in falling upon all 
Englishmen on account of the unparalleled calamities 
brought upon the people of France by the unjust invasions 
of our Henries and our Edwards. Indeed we should be 
mutually justified in this exterminatory war upon each 
other, full as much as you are in the unprovoked persecu- 
tion of your present countrymen, on account of the 
conduct of men of the same name in other times. 

We do not draw the moral lessons we might from 



356 EDMUND BURKE. 

history. On the contrary, without care it may be used 
to vitiate our minds and to destroy our happiness. In 
history a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, 
drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past 
errors and infirmities of mankind. It may, in the perver- 
sion, serve for a magazine, furnishing offensive and 
defensive weapons for parties in church and state, and 
supplying the means of keeping alive or reviving dissen- 
sions and animosities, and adding fuel to civil fury. 
History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries 
brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, 
revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and 
all the train of disorderly appetites, which shake the 
public with the same 

. . . ' troublous storms that toss 

The private state, and render life unsvveet.' 

These vices are the causes of those storms. Religion, 
morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights 
of men, are the pretexts. The pretexts are always found 
in some specious appearance of a real good. You would 
not secure men from tyranny and sedition, by rooting 
out of the mind the principles to which these fraudulent 
pretexts apply ? If you did, you would root out every- 
thing that is valuable in the human breast. As these 
are the pretexts, so the ordinary actors and instruments 
in great public evils are kings, priests, magistrates, 
senates, parliaments, national assemblies, judges, and 
captains. You would not cure the evil by resolving, 
that there should be no more monarchs, nor ministers 
of state, nor of the Gospel ; no interpreters of law ; no 
general officers ; no pubUc councils. You might change 
the names. The things in some shape must remain. A 
certain quantum of power must always exist in the com- 
munity, in some hands, and under some appellation. 
Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to 
names ; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not 
to the occasional organs by which they act, and the 
transitory modes in which they appear. Otherwise you 



SELECTIONS. 357 

will be wise historically, a fool in practice. Seldom have 
two ages the same fashion in their pretexts and the same 
modes of mischief. Wickedness is a little more inventive. 
Whilst you are discussing fashion, the fashion is gone by. 
The very same vice assumes a new body. The spirit 
transmigrates ; and, far from losing its principle of hfe 
by the change of its appearance, it is renovated mits 
new organs with the fresh vigour of a juvenile activity. 
It walks abroad, it continues its ravages, whilst you are 
gibbeting the carcase, or demolishing the tomb. You are 
terrifying yourselves with ghosts and apparitions, whilst 
your house is the haunt of robbers. It is thus with all 
those who, attending only to the shell and husk of history, 
think they are waging war with intolerance, pride, and 
cruelty, whilst, under colour of abhorring the ill prin- 
ciples of antiquated parties, they are authorizing and 
feeding the same odious vices in different factions, and 
perhaps in worse. 

Your citizens of Paris formerly had lent themselves 
as the ready instruments to slaughter the followers of 
Calvin at the infamous massacre of St, Bartholomew. 
What should we say to those who could think of re- 
taliating on the Parisians of this day the abominations 
and horrors of that time? They are indeed brought 
to abhor that massacre. Ferocious as they are, it is not 
difficult to make them dislike it ; because the politicians 
and fashionable teachers have no interest in giving their 
passions exactly the same direction. Still, however, 
they find it their interest to keep the same savage disposi- 
tions alive. It was but the other day that they caused 
this very massacre to be acted on the stage for the diver- 
sion of the descendants of those who committed it. In 
this tragic farce they produced the Cardinal of Lorraine 
in.his robes of function, ordering general slaughter. Was 
this spectacle intended to make the Parisians abhor 
persecution, and loathe the effusion of blood ?— No ; it 
was to teach them to persecute their own pastors ; it was 
to excite them, bv raising a disgust and horror of their 
clergy, to an alacrity in hunting down to destruction an 



358 EDMUND BURKE. 

order, which, if it ought to exist at all, ought to exist not 
only in safety, but in reverence. It was to stimulate 
their cannibal appetites (which one would think had been 
gorged sufficiently) by variety and seasoning ; and to 
quicken them to an alertness in new murders and 
massacres, if it should suit the purpose of the Guises 
of the day. An assembly, in which sat a multitude of 
priests and prelates, was obliged to suffer this indignity 
at its door. The author was not sent to the galleys, 
nor the players to the house of correction. Not long 
after this exhibition, those players came forward to the 
assembly to claim the rites of that, very religion which 
they had dared to expose, and to show their prostituted 
faces in the senate, whilst the Archbishop of Paris, whose 
function was known to his people only by his prayers 
and benedictions, and his wealth only by alms, is forced 
to abandon his house, and to fly from his flock (as 
from ravenous wolves) because, truly, in the sixteenth 
century, the Cardinal of Lorraine was a rebel and a 
murderer.* 

Such is the effect of the perversion of history, by those 
who, for the same nefarious purposes, have perverted 
every other part of learning. But those who will stand 
upon that elevation of reason, which places centuries 
under our eye, and brings things to the true point of 
comparison, which obscures little names, and effaces 
the colours of little parties, and to which nothing can 
ascend but the spirit and moral quality of human 
actions, will say, to the teachers of the Palais Royal, — the 
Cardinal of Lorraine was the murderer of the sixteenth 
century, you have the glory of being the murderers in 
the eighteenth ; and this is the only difference between 
you. But history, in the nineteenth century, better 
understood and better employed, will, I trust, teach a 
ci\dlized posterity to abhor the misdeeds of both these 
barbarous ages. It will teach future priests and magis- 
trates not to retaliate upon the speculative and inactive 

* This is on a supposition of the truth of this story, but he was not 
in France at the time. One name serves as well as another. 



SELECTIONS. 359 

atheists of future times the enormities committed by the 
present practical zealots and furious fanatics of that 
wretched error, which, in its quiescent state, is more 
than punished, whenever it is embraced. It will teach 
posterity not to make war upon either religion or philo- 
sophy, for the abuse which the hypocrites of both have 
made of the two most valuable blessings conferred upon 
us by the bounty of the universal Patron, who m all 
things eminently favours and protects the race of man. 

If your clergy, or any clergy, should show themselves 
vicious beyond the fair bounds allowed to human in- 
firmity, and to those professional faults which can hardly 
be separated from professional virtues, though their 
vices never can countenance the exercise of oppression, 
I do admit that they would naturally have the effect of 
abating very much of our indignation against the tyrants 
who exceed measure and justice in their punishment. I 
can allow in clergymen, through all their divisions, 
some tenaciousness of their own opinion, some over- 
flowings of zeal for its propagation, some predilection to 
their own state and office, some attachment to the interest 
of their own corps, some preference to those who listen 
with docility to their doctrines beyond those who scorn 
and deride them. I allow all this, because I am a man 
who have to deal with men, and who would not, through 
a \iolence of toleration, run into the greatest of all 
intolerance. I must bear with infirmities until they 
fester into crimes. 

Undoubtedly the natural progress of the passions, 
from frailty to vice, ought to be prevented by a watch- 
ful eye and a firm hand. But is it true that the body of 
your clergy had passed those limits of a just allowance ? 
From the general style of your late publications of all 
sorts, one would be led to believe that your clergy^ in 
France were a sort of monsters ; a horrible cornposition 
of superstition, ignorance, sloth, fraud, avarice, and 
tyranny. But is this true ? Is it true that the lapse of 
time, the cessation of conflicting interests, the woeful 
experience of the evils resulting from party rage, have 



36o EDMUND BURKE. 

had uo sort of influence gradually to meliorate their 
minds ? Is it true that they were daily renemng inva- 
sions on the civil power, troubling the domestic quiet of 
their country, and rendering the operations of its govern- 
ment feeble and precarious ? Is it true, that the clergy 
of our times have pressed down the laity with an iron 
hand, and were, in all places, lighting up the fires of a 
savage persecution ? Did they by every fraud endeavour 
to increase their estates ? Did they use to exceed the 
due demands on estates that were their own ? Or, 
rigidly screwing up right into wrong, did they convert 
a legal claim into a vexatious extortion ? When not 
possessed of power, were they filled with the vices of 
those who envy it ? Were they inflamed with a violent, 
litigious spirit of controversy ? Goaded on with the 
ambition of intellectual sovereignty, were they ready to 
fly in the face of all magistracy, to fire churches, to 
massacre the priests of other descriptions, to pull down 
altars, and to make their way over the ruins of subverted 
governments to an empire of doctrine, sometimes flatter- 
ing, sometimes forcing, the consciences of men from the 
jurisdiction of public institutions into a submission to 
their personal authority, beginning with a claim of 
liberty and ending with an abuse of power ? 

These, or some of these, were the vices objected, and 
not wholly without foundation, to several of the church- 
men of former times, who belonged to the two great 
parties which then divided and distracted Europe. 

If there was in France, as in other countries there 
visibly is, a great abatement, rather than any increase 
of these vices, instead of loading the present clergy with 
the crimes of other men, and the odious character of 
other times, in common equity they ought to be praised, 
encouraged, and supported, in their departure from a 
spirit which disgraced their predecessors, and for having 
assumed a temper of mind and manners more suitable to 
their sacred function. 

When my occasions took me into France, towards the 
close of the late reign, the clergy, under all their forms, 



SELECTIONS. 361 

eneasred a considerable part Q^ my curiosity. So far 
from finding (except from one set of men not then very 
numerous though very active) the complaints and d s- 
contents against that body, which some publications had 
^ven me reason to expect, I perceived little or no public 
or private uneasiness on their account. On further 
examination, I found the clergy, in general persons of 
moderate minds and decorous manners ; I include the 
seculars, and the regulars of both sexes. h^d^^^^^^^^^^^^ 
good fortune to know a great many of the parochml 
clerKV • but in general I received a perfectly good account 
of thiir' morals and of their attention to their duties With 
some of the higher clergy I had a personal acquaintance 
and of the rest m that class, a very good means of intorma 
tion Thev were, almost all of them, persons of noble 
birth. They resembled others of their own rank ; and 
where there was any difference, it was m their favour. They 
were more fully educated than the military noblesse , so 
as by no means to disgrace their profession by igno^anje. 
or by want of fitness for the exercise of their authorrty 
They seemed to me, beyond the clerical character, libera 
an7open; with the hearts of gentlemen and men of 
honour; neither insolent nor ser^ale m their manners 
and conduct. They seemed to me rather a superior 
class; a set of men amongst whom you would not be 
surprised to find a Fenelon. I saw among the clergy m 
Paris (many of the description are not to be met w th 
anvwhere) men of great learning and candour , and 1 
liad reason to believe that this description was not con- 
fined to Paris. What I found in other places, I know 
was accidental ; and therefore to be presumed a fair 
sample. 1 spent a few days in a provincial town whjre 
in the absence of the bishop, I passed my evenings with 
three clergymen, his vicars-general, persons ^vho would 
have done honour to any church. They were all well 
informed ; two of them of deep, general and extensive 
erudition, ancient and modern, oriental and western , 
particularly in their own profession. They had a more 
extensive knowledge of our English' divines than i ex- 



362 EDMUND BURKE. 

pected ; and they entered into the genius of those writers 
with a critical accuracy. One of these gentlemen is since 
dead, the Abbe Morangis. I pay this tribute, without 
reluctance, to the memory of that noble, reverend, 
learned, and excellent person ; and I should do the 
same, with equal cheerfulness, to the merits of the others, 
who I believe are still living, if I did not fear to hurt those 
whom I am unable to serve. " 

Some of these ecclesiastics of rank, are, by their titles, 
persons deserving of general respect. They are deserving 
of gratitude from me, and from many English. If this 
letter should ever come into their hands, I hope they will 
believe there are those of our nation who feel for their 
unmerited fall, and for the cruel confiscation of their 
fortunes, with no common sensibility. What I say of 
them is a testimony, as far as one feeble voice can go, 
which I owe to truth. Whenever the question of this 
unnatural persecution is concerned, I will pay it. No 
one shall prevent me from being just and grateful. The 
time is fitted for the duty ; and it is particularly becoming 
to show our justice and gratitude, when those, who have 
deserved well of us and of mankind, are labouring under 
popular obloquy and the persecutions of oppressive 
power. 

You had before your Revolution about a hundred and 
twenty bishops. A few of them were men of eminent 
sanctity and charity without limit. When we talk of 
the heroic, of course we talk of rare virtue. I believe 
the instances of eminent depravity may be as rare amongst 
them as those of transcendent goodness. Examples of 
avarice and of licentiousness may be picked out, I do 
not question it, by those who delight in the investigation 
v/hich leads to such discoveries. A man as old as I am 
will not be astonished that several, in every description, 
do not lead that perfect life of self-denial, with regard 
to wealth or to pleasure, which is wished for by all, by 
some expected, but by none exacted with more rigour, 
than by those who are the most^attentive to their own 
interests, or the most indulgent to their own passions. 



SELECTIONS. 363 

When I was in France, I am certain that the number 
of vicious prelates was not great. Certam mdividuals 
amonethem not distinguishable for the regularity of 
tSvefm^ide some amends for their want of the severe 
virtues, in their possession of the liberal ; and were en- 
dowed with qualities which made them useful m the 
church and stlte. I am told that, with few excep K.ns^ 
Louis XVI had been more attentive to character, m his 
promotions to that rank, than his immediate predecessor ; 
Ind I beheve (as some spirit of reform has prevailed 
through the whole reign) that it may be true But the 
nresent ruling power has shown a disposition only to 
? under the church. It has punished cdl prelates ; which 
I to favour the vicious, at least m point of reputation 
It has made a degrading pensionary establishment, to 
which no man of liberal ideas or hberal condition will 
estine his children. It must settle into the lowest 
classes of the people. As with you the mferior clergy are 
not numerous enough for their duties ; as these duties are 
beyond measure, n?inute and toilsome, as you have left 
no middle classes of clergy at their ease, m future notlm^g 
of science or erudition can exist m the Gallican chuich. 
Incomplete the project, without the least attention to 
the rSs of patrons, the assembly has provided in futu e 
an elective clergy ; an arrangement which will drive out 
o?t^ e cTericafprof^ssion all men of sobriety ; all who can 
pre end to independence in their function or their con- 
duct ; and which will throw the whole direction of the 
public mind into the hands of a set "V'^'h r^.ndS 
crafty factious, flattering wretches, of such condition 
and ^ich habits of life as will make their contemptible 
pensions (m comparison of whicli the stipend of an emse^ 
man is lucrative and honourable) an object of low and 
illiberal intrigue. Those officers, whom they still call 
shop , are to be elected to a provision comparatively 
mean through the same arts, (that is, electioneering arts.) 
bv men of all religious tenets that are known or can be 
inveTiLd. The new lawgivers have not ascertamed 
anything whatsoever concerning their quahhcations. 



364 EDMUND BURKE. 

relative either to doctrine or to morals ; no more than 
they have done with regard to the subordinate clergy ; 
nor does it appear but that both the higher and the lower 
may, at their discretion, practise or preach any mode of 
religion or irreligion that they please. I do not yet see 
what the jurisdiction of bishops over their subordinates 
<ls to be, or whether they are to have any jurisdiction 
at all. 

In short, sir, it seems to me, that this new ecclesias- 
tical establishment is intended only to be temporary, 
and preparatory to the utter abolition, under any of its 
forms, of the Christian religion, whenever the minds 
of men are prepared for this last stroke against it, by 
the accomplishment of the plan for bringing its minis- 
ters into universal contempt. They who will not believe 
that the philosophical fanatics, who guide in these matters, 
have long entertained such a design, are utterly ignorant 
of their character and proceedings. These enthusiasts 
do not scruple to avow their opinion, that a state can 
subsist without any religion better than with one ; and 
that they are able to supply the place of any good which 
may be in it, by a project of their own — namely, by a 
sort of education they have imagined, founded in a know- 
ledge of the physical wants of men ; progressively 
carried to an enlightened self-interest, which, when well 
understood, they tell us, will identify with an interest 
more enlarged and public. The scheme of this education 
has been long known. Of late they distinguish it (as 
they have got an entirely new nomenclature of technical 
terms) by the name of a Civic Education. 

I hope their partisans in England (to whom I rather 
attribute very inconsiderate conduct than the ultimate 
object in this detestable design) will succeed neither in 
the pillage of the ecclesiastics, nor in the introduction 
of a principle of popular election to our bishoprics and 
parochial cures. This, in the present condition of the 
world, would be the last corruption of the church ; the 
utter ruin of the clerical character ; the most dangerous 
shock that the state ever received through a misunder- 



SELECTIONS. 365 

stood arrangement of religion. I know well enough that 
the bishopris and cures! under kingly and seignorial 
Datronage as now they are in England, and as they 
have been lately m France, are sometimes acquired by 
unworthy methods ; but the other mode of ecclesiastical 
canvass subjects them infinitely more surely and more 
SSy to all the evil arts of low ambition which, 
fperSing on and through greater numbers, will produce 

"Th'^sl o? yC!^ who have robbed the clergy think that 
thJy shaU ea'sily reconcile their conduct to all Protes^n 
nations- because the clergy, whom they have thus 
Xndered degraded, and given over to mockery and 
tT^re'oi fhe Roman Catholic, that is -f.^^^^^,-^^ 
pretended persuasion. I have no doubt that some 
mTserable bigots will be found here as well as elsewhere, 
wrhate sec!s and parties different |-.- ^^eir 7n more 
than thev love the substance of religion , and who are 
more angry with those who differ from them in their 
" nLKlans and systems than displea-d with^hose 
who attack the foundation of our common hope, i hese 
men w 11 write and speak on the subject m the manner 
Tha ilto be expected from their temper and character^ 
Rurnet savs that, when he was m France, in the year 
Vr?xf' the method which carried over the men of the 
fine t p 't's tTpo^ery was this : they brought themsev^ 
to doubt of the whole Christian religion. When that 
was once done, it seemed a more indferent tlnng of^^^^^^ 
side or form they continued outwardly. II this was men 
fe ecclesiastic i^olicy of France, it is what they have since 

but too much reason to repent °^; J^^^^ P fi'^'J^t 
atheism to a form of religion ^ot agreeable to their ideas^ 
They succeeded in destroymg that form . and atheism 
ias ^succeeded in destroying them. <^an readily gve 
I^rprlit to Rurnet's story ; because I have observed too 
much o? a Zila pirX '(for a little of it is ' much too 
much ■) amongst ou'rselves. The humour, however, is 

"'TheTeachers who reformed our religion in England 



366 EDMUND BURKE. 

bore no sort of resemblance to your present reforming 
doctors in Paris. Perhaps they were (like those whom 
they opposed) rather more than could be wished under 
the influence of a party spirit ; but they were most 
sincere believers ; men of the most fervent and exalted 
piety ; ready to die (as some of them did die) like true 
heroes in defence of their particular ideas of Christianity ; 
as they would with equal fortitude, and more cheerfully, 
for that stock of general truth, for the branches of which 
they contended with their blood. These men would 
have disavowed with horror those wretches who claimed 
a fellowship with them upon no other titles than those 
of their having pillaged the persons with whom they 
maintained controversies, and their having despised the 
common religion, for the purity of which they exerted 
themselves with a zeal, which unequivocally bespoke 
their highest reverence for the substance of that system 
which they wished to reform. Many of their descendants 
have retained the same zeal, but (as less engaged in con- 
flict) with more moderation. They do not forget that 
justice and mercy are substantial parts of religion. 
Impious men do not recommend themselves to their 
communion by iniquity and cruelty towards any descrip- 
tion of their fellow-creatures. 

We hear these new teachers continually boasting of 
their spirit of toleration. That those persons should 
tolerate all opinions, who think none to be of estimation, 
is a matter of small merit. Equal neglect is not impartial 
kindness. The species of benevolence, which arises from 
contempt, is no true charity. There are in England 
abundance of men who tolerate in the true spirit of tolera- 
tion. They think the dogmas of religion, though in 
different degrees, are all of moment ; and that amongst 
them there is, as amongst all things of value, a just ground 
of preference. They favour, therefore, and they tolerate. 
They tolerate, not because they despise opinions, but 
because they respect justice. They would reverently 
and affectionately protect all religions, because they love 
and venerate the great principle upon which they all agree^ 



SELECTIONS. 367 

and the great object to which they are all directed They 
begm^^^^^^^^^ plainly to discern that we have all 

a common cause, as against ^^^^^on enemy They 
wiU not be so misled by the spirit ot f^ct^o"' ^,^^°J J 
distinguish what is done in favour of their subdivision, 
from those acts of hostility, which, through some par- 
ti?2r description, are aimed at the whole corps, m which 
he^emsel^^^^ under another denomination are in- 
cluded. It is impossible for me to say what may be^he 
character of every description of men amongst ^s-^ut 

on such title, if your professors are adm tted to their 
communion, they must carefully conceal their doctane 
of the lawfulness of the proscnption 0/1^"°^^^^ ^^^^^ 
and that they must make restitution of all stolen goods 
whatsoever Till then they are none of ours. 

You may suppose that we do not approve your con- 
fiscation of the revenues of bishops, and , deans, and 
chapters and parochial clergy possessmg mdependent 
estates arising from land, because we have the same sort 
S fstabllshm'ent in England. That objection you vvil 
sav cannot hold as to the confiscation of the goods ot 
m^iksand nuns, and the abolition of th-r -^^^^^^^^^ 
true that this particular part of your general ^onfiscat^on 
does not affect England, as a Precedent in point . but 
the reason applies and it goes a great way. The long 
narliament confiscated the lands of deans and chapters 
Fn »d ol the same ideas upon which your assen^bly 
c;pt to sale the lands of the monastic orderb. But it is in 
"rp^ri^tpfe^f injustice that the danger lie^ and n<3Un 
the description of persons on whom it ^ ,^'tv oursued 
I see, in a country very near us, a course ^^ P^^/^y P^^^^^^ 
which sets justice, the common concern o ^nankind at 

defiance. With the National A^^«"^^^ ^ , ,^f^^/'f ,'ee 
possession is nothing, law and usage are nothing i see 
the National Assembly openly reprobate the doctr^ne^ 
prescription, which one of the greatest of their own 



368 EDMUND BURKE. 

lawyers'* tells us, with great truth, is a part of the law of 
nature. He tells us that the positive ascertainment of 
its limits, and its security from invasion, were among the 
causes for which civil society itself has been instituted. 
If prescription be once shaken, no species of property is 
secure, when it once becomes an object large enough to 
tempt the cupidity of indigent power. I see a practice 
perfectly correspondent to their contempt of this great 
fundamental part of natural law. I see the confiscators 
begin with bishops, and chapters, and monasteries ; but 
I do not see them end there. I see the princes of the 
blood, who, by the oldest usages of that kingdom held 
large landed estates (hardly with the compliment of a 
debate), deprived of their possessions, and, in lieu of 
their stable, independent property, reduced to the hope 
of some precarious, charitable pension, at the pleasure 
of an assembly, which of course will pay little regard to 
the rights of pensioners at pleasure, when it despises 
those of legal proprietors. Flushed with the insolence 
of the first inglorious victories, and pressed by the 
distresses caused by the lust of unhallowed lucre, disap- 
pointed but not discouraged, they have at length ventured 
completely to subvert all property of all descriptions 
throughout the extent of a great kingdom. They have 
compelled all men, in all transactions of commerce, in 
the disposal of lands, in civil dealing, and through the 
whole communion of life, to accept as perfect payment 
and good and lawful tender, the symbols of their specula- 
tions on a projected sale of their plunder. What vestiges 
of liberty or property have they left ? The tenant-right 
of a cabbage-garden, a year's interest in a hovel, the good- 
will of an ale-house or a baker's shop, the very shadow of 
a constructive property, are more ceremoniously treated 
in our parliament, tljan with you the oldest and most 
valuable landed possessions, in the hands of the most 
respectable personages, or than the whole body of the 
monied and commercial interest of your country. We 
entertain a high opinion of the legislative authority ; but 
* Domat. 



SELECTIONS. 369 

we have never dreamt that pariiaments had any right 
whatever to violate property, to over-rule prescription, 
or to force a currency of their own fiction in the place of 
that which is real, and recognized by the law of nations. 
But you, who began with refusing to submit to the most 
moderate restraints, have ended by establishing an 
unheard-of despotism. I find the ground upon which 
your confiscators go is this : that indeed their proceedings 
could not be supported in a court of justice ; but that 
the rules of prescription cannot bind a legislative assem- 
bly.* So that this legislative assembly of a free nation 
sits, not for the security, but for the destruction of 
property, and not of property only, but of every rule 
and maxim which can give it stability and of those instru- 
ments which can alone give it circulation. 

WTien the anabaptists of Munster, in the sixteenth 
century, had filled Germany with confusion, by their 
system of levelling and their wild opinions concerning 
property, to what country in Europe did not the progress 
of their fury furnish just cause of alarm ? Of all things, 
wisdom is the most terrified with epidemical fanaticism, 
because of all enemies it is that against which she is the 
least able to furnish any kind of resource. We cannot 
be ignorant of the spirit of atheistical fanaticism, that 
is inspired by a multitude of writings, dispersed with 
incredible assiduity and expense, and by sermons de- 
livered in all the streets and places of public resort in 
Paris. These wTitings and sermons have filled the popu- 
lace with a black and savage atrocity of mind, which 
supersedes in them the common feelings of nature, as well 
as all sentiments of morality and religion ; insomuch 
that these wretches are induced to bear with a sullen 
patience the intolerable distresses brought upon them 
by the violent convulsions and permutations that have 
been made in property, f The spirit of proselytism 

* Speech of Mr. Camus, published by order of the National Assembly. 

t VVhether the following description is strictly true I know not ; 
but it is what the publishers would have pass for true, in order to 
aiiiiuate others. In a letter from Toul, given in one of their papers, is 



o^o EDMUND BURKE. 

attends this spirit of fanaticism. They have societies l 
tf cabal and 'correspond at home and abroad for the 

propagation of their tenets. The ^^Pf '^^^^ .^\,f ^S 
one of the happiest, the most prosperous, and the best 
governed countries upon earth is one of tl- S-at <3bf^^^^^ 
It the destruction of which they aim. I am tokl t^ey 
have in some measure succeeded m sowing there the 
s^edsoML'ntent. They are busy throughout Ge^^^^^^ 
Spain and Italy have not been untried Er^gla^d is not 
left out of the comprehensive scheme of their mahgnani 
rhar?tv • and in England we find those who stretch out 
?W arms to them, who recommend their example from 
me thTn one pulpit, and who choose, in more than^one 
periodical meeting, pubhcly to correspond with them to 
applaud them, and to hold them up as objects for imta 
Tn ; who receive from them tokens oiconirsX^mty 
nnd standards consecrated amidst their rites ana 
mysteries; * who suggest to them leagues of perpetua 
amity, at the very time when the povver to ^^^^J^l 
cSisti ution has exclusively delegated ^he federatwe 
capacity of this kingdom, may find it expedient to make 

""t^rn'ot'th? confiscation of our church P-perty fro- 
th's example in France that I dread, though I thmk this^ 

the following passage concerning the people of that^grict^; ^Dans la- 
Revolution actuelle, lis ont resiste a touies Revolution. Ou- 

aux persecutions et aux tmcasseries des ennemis d^ la^ ,^^^^ 

llia^tleurs plus grands f^^^'''/^^ P°^^J|f ^^attS ^^^^ '' 

general qui ont. determine ^ Ass^'^ble^^^^ 

plaindre, suppnmer _ cette ^o"^«. Ji^^J'''" ''dant leur siege episcopal 
lesquels ils suhsistoient ; et n^*^"^,^.' ^^ P^t'^^'ou plutot qui devoit, en 
la seule de toutes ses ressources ^^^ PO^^";^'^ *^^ l^s effravante mishe 

toule eqrute, leur etre conseryee K^^'^'^'^l'^Zlrent lint ils restent iideles 
s^ns avo\v a.' nipiatreentendustlsne^nwmu^^^^^^ ^ ^^^^^^ 

aux principes du plus pur patnotisrne i s sont encor p ^^^ ^^.^^^ 
leur sang pour le maintien de la constitut on, qui va re 
ila plAplorahlenullitl^ . ^^rnP^Tn^l^truggle fSerTy, for the 
endured those sufferings and mjus ices ^^ a struggle or y^, ^^^.^ 

same account states truly that they had been aiwy^^ 
patience in beggary.and rum, and the r^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^^ 

t^^.SS^SSS.:'^^^^^ all over France is m 



SELECTIONS. 371 

would be no trifling evil. The great source of my solici- 
tude IS, lest it should ever be considered in England 
as the pohcy of a state to seek a resource in confiscations 
of any kind; or that any one description of citizens 
should be brought to regard any of the others as their 
proper prey.* Nations are wading deeper and deeper 
into an ocean of boundless debt. Public debts, which 
at first were a security to governments, by interesting 
many m the public tranquillity, are likely in their excess 
to become the means of their subversion. If govern- 
ments provide for these debts by heavy impositions, they 
perish by becoming odious to the people. If they do not 
provide for them, they will be undone by the efforts of 
the most dangerous of all parties ; I mean an extensive, 
discontented monied interest, injured and not destroyed.' 
The men who compose this interest look for their security] 
in the first instance, to the fidelity of government ; in 
the second, to its power. If they find the old govern- 
ments effete, worn out, and with their springs relaxed, 
so as not to be of sufficient vigour for their purposes, they 
may seek new ones that shall be possessed of more energy • 
and this energy will be derived, not from an acquisition 
of resources, but from a contempt of justice. Revolutions 
are favourable to confiscation ; and it is impossible to 
know under what obnoxious names the next confiscations 

* 'Si plures sunt iiquibus improbe datura est, quara illi nuibus in. 
juste ademptum est, idcirco plus etiara valent ? Non enim numero 
ha3C judicantur sed pondere. Quara autera habet aquitatera ut 

S^k""^ J?^u^'! '''''^■^' ^"* ^*'^"^ ^^"'^^ '^nte possessum, qui nullum 
habuit habeat ; qui autera habuit araittat ? Ac, propter hoc injS 
genus. Laceda^raonu Lysandrum Ephorura expulcrunt : Agin re-em 
(quod nunquam antea apud eos acciderat) necaverunt : exque^ eo 
tempore tantas discordias secuta; sunt, ut et tyranni existerint et 
optimates eocterrainarcntur, ct preclarissirae constituta respublica dila- 
beretur. Ncc vcro solura ipsa cecidit, sed etiam reliquam Gra-ciam 

f Jff =^ *'°A ff ^'""'^'^^■'''''''"f"?' "^""^ "" Lacedcpmoniis profccta- raanarunt 
latius. —After speaking of the conduct of the model of true patriots 
Aratus of Sicyon, which was in a very different spirit, he savs 'Sic nar 
est agere cum civibus ; non ut bis jam vidimus, hastam in foro ponere 
et bona ciyium voci subjicere pra;conis. At ille Gracus (id quod fuit 
sapientis et prajstantis viri) omnibus consulendum esse putavit • eaque 
est suraiua ratio et sapientia boni civis, commoda civium non divellere 
sed omncs eadem ajquitate contiuere.'— Cic. Off. 1. 2. 



372 EDMUND BURKE. 

will be authorized. I am sure that the principles pre- 
dominant in France extend to very many persons, and 
descriptions of persons, in all countries, who think their 
innoxious indolence their security. This kind of inno- 
cence in proprietors may be argued into inutility ; and 
inutility into an unfitness for their estates. Many parts 
of Europe are in open disorder. In many others there 
is a hollow murmuring underground ; a confused move- 
ment is felt that threatens a general earthquake in the 
political world. Already confederacies and correspond- 
ences of the most extraordinary nature are forming, in 
several countries.* In such a state of things we ought 
to hold ourselves upon our guard. In all mutations (if 
mutations must be) the circumstance which will serve 
most to blunt the edge of their mischief, and to promote 
what good may be in them, is that they should find 
us with our minds tenacious of justice, and tender of 
property. 

But it will be argued that this confiscation in France 
ought not to alarm other nations. They say it is not 
made from wanton rapacity ; that it is a great measure 
of national policy, adopted to remove an extensive, in- 
veterate superstitious mischief. It is with the greatest 
difficulty that I am able to separate policy from justice. 
Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society ; 
and any eminent departure from it, under any circum- 
stances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy 
at all. 

When men are encouraged to go into a certain mode 
of life by the existing laws, and protected in that mode 
as in a lawful occupation— when they have accommo- 
dated all their ideas and all their habits to it — when 
the law had long made their adherence to its rules 
a ground of reputation, and their departure from them 
a ground of disgrace and even of penalty — I am sure 
it is unjust in legislature, by an arbitrary act, to offer 

* See two books entitled, ' Einige Originalschriften des Illuminate- 

nordens.' ' System und Folgen des lUuminatenordens.' Miinchen, 

1787. 



SELECTIONS. 373 

a sudden violence to their minds and their feelings; 
forcibly to degrade them from their state and condi- 
tion, and to stigmatize with shame and infamy that 
character, and those customs, which before had been 
made the measure of their happiness and honour. If 
to this be added an expulsion from their habitations, 
and a confiscation of all their goods, I am not sagacious 
enough to discover how this despotic sport, made of 
the feelings, consciences, prejudices, and properties of 
men, can be discriminated from the rankest tyranny. 

If the injustice of the course pursued in France be 
clear, the policy of the measure, that is the public bene- 
fit to be expected from it, ought to be at least as evident, 
and at least as important. To a man who acts under 
the influence of no passion, who has nothing in view 
in his projects but the public good, a great difference 
will immediately strike him, between what policy would 
dictate on the original introduction of such institutions, 
and on a question of their total abolition, where they 
have cast their roots wade and deep, and where, by long 
hal^it, things more valuable than themselves are so 
adapted to them, and in a manner interwoven with 
them, that the one cannot be destroyed without notably 
impairing the other. He might be embarrassed if the 
case were really such as sophisters represent it in their 
paltry style of debating. But in this, as in most ques- 
tions of state, there is a middle. There is something 
else than the mere alternative of absolute destruction, 
or unreformed existence. Spariam nacins es ; hanc 
exorna. This is, in my opinion, a rule of profound 
sense, and ought never to depart from the mind of 
an honest reformer. I cannot conceive how any man 
can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, 
to consider his country as nothing but carte blanche, 
upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases. A 
man full of warm, speculative bene\'olence may wish 
his society otherwise constituted than he finds it ; but 
a good patriot, and a true politician, always considers 
how he shall make the most of the existintj materials 



374 EDMUND BURKE, 

of his country, A disposition to preserve, and an ability 
to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a 
statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, 
perilous in the execution. 

There are moments in the fortunes of states, when 
particular men are called to make improvements by 
great mental exertion. In those moments, even when 
they seem to enjoy the confidence of their prince and 
country, and to be invested with full authority, they 
have not always apt instruments. A politician, to do 
great things, looks for a power, what our workmen call 
a purchase ; and if he finds that power, in politics as in 
mechanics, he cannot be at a loss to apply it. In the 
monastic institutions, in my opinion, was found a great 
power for the mechanism of politic benevolence. There 
were revenues with a public direction ; there were men 
wholly set apart and dedicated to public purposes, 
without any other than public ties and public principles ; 
men without the possibility of converting the estate of 
the community into a private fortune ; men denied to 
self-interests, whose avarice is for some community ; 
men to whom personal poverty is honour, and implicit 
obedience stands in the place of freedom. In vain 
shall a man look to the possibility of making such things 
when he wants them. The winds blow as they list. 
These institutions are the products of enthusiasm ; 
they are the instruments of wisdom. Wisdom cannot 
create materials ; they are the gifts of nature or of 
chance ; her pride is in the use. The perennial exist- 
ence of bodies corporate and their fortunes are things 
particularly suited to a man who has long views ; who 
meditates designs that require time in fashioning, and 
which propose duration when they are accomplished. 
He is not deserving to rank high, or even to be men- 
tioned in the order of great statesmen, who, haying 
obtained the command and direction of such a power 
as existed in the wealth, the discipline, and the habits 
of such corporations, as those which you have rashly 
destroyed, cannot find any way of converting it to the 



SELECTIONS. 375 

great and lasting benefit of his country. On the view 
of this subject a thousand uses suggest themselves to 
a contriving mind. To destroy any power, growing 
wild from the rank productive force of the human 
mind, is almost tantamount, in the moral world, to 
the destruction of the apparently active properties of 
bodies in the material. It would be hke the attempt 
to destroy (if it were in our competence to destroy) 
the expansive force of fLxed air in nitre, or the power 
of steam, or of electricity, or of magnetism. These 
energies always existed in nature, and they were always 
discernible. They seemed, some of them unserviceable, 
some noxious, some no better than a sport to children ; 
until contemplative ability, combining with practical 
skill, tamed their wild nature, subdued them to use, 
and rendered them at once the most powerful and the 
most tractable agents, in subservience to the great 
views and designs of men. Did fifty thousand persons, 
whose mental and whose bodily labour you might direct, 
and so many hundred thousand a year of a revenue, 
which was neither lazy nor superstitious, appear too 
big for your abihties to wield ? Had you np way of 
using the men but by converting monks into pen- 
sioners ? Had you no way of turning the revenue to 
account, but through the improvident resource of a 
spendthrift sale ? If you were thus destitute of mental 
funds, the proceeding is in its natural course. Your 
politicians do not understand their trade ; and there- 
fore they sell their tools. 

But the institutions savour of superstition in their 
very principle ; and they nourish it by a permanent 
and standing influence. This I do not mean to dis- 
pute i but this ought not to hinder you from deriving 
from superstition itself any resources which may thence 
be furnished for the public advantage. You derive 
benelits from many dispositions and many passions of 
the human mind, which are of as doubtful a colour, in 
the moral eye, as superstition itself. It was your busi- 
ness to correct and mitigate everything which was 



376 EDMUND BURKE. 

noxious in this passion, as in all the passions. But is 
superstition the greatest of all possible vices ? In its 
possible excess I think it becomes a very great evil. 
It is, however, a moral subject ; and of course admits 
of all degrees and all modifications. Superstition is 
the religion of feeble minds ; and they must be tolerated 
in an intermixture of it, in some trifling or some enthusi- 
astic shape or other, else you will deprive weak minds 
of a resource found necessary to the strongest. The 
body of all true religion consists, to be sure, in obedience 
to the will of the Sovereign of the world ; in a confidence 
in his declarations ; and in imitation of his perfections. 
The rest is our own. It may be prejudicial to the 
great end ; it may be auxiliary. Wise men, who as 
such, are not admirers (not admirers at least of the 
Munera Tcrrce) are not violently attached to these 
things, nor do they violently hate them. Wisdom is 
not the most severe corrector of folly. They are the 
rival follies, which mutually wage so unrelenting a war ; 
and which make so cruel a use of their advantages, as 
they can happen to engage the immoderate vulgar, on 
the one side or the other, in their quarrels. Prudence 
would be neuter ; but if, in the contention between 
fond attachment and fierce antipathy concerning things 
in their nature not made to produce such heats, a pru- 
dent man were obliged to make a choice of what errors 
and excesses of enthusiasm he would condemn or bear, 
perhaps he would think the superstition which builds, 
to be more tolerable than that which demolishes — that 
which adorns a country, than that which deforms it — 
that which endows, than that which plunders — that 
which disposes to mistaken beneficence, than that 
which stimulates to real injustice — that which leads 
a man to refuse to himself lawful pleasures, than that 
which snatches from others the scanty subsistence of 
their self-denial. Such, I think, is very nearly the 
state of the question between the ancient founders of 
monkish superstition, and the superstition of the pre- 
tended philosophers of the hour. 



SELECTIONS. 377 

For the present I postpone all consideration of the 
supposed public profit of the sale which, however, 
I conceive to be perfectly delusive. I shall here 
only consider it as a transfer of property. On the 
policy of that transfer I shall trouble you with a few 
thoughts. 

In every prosperous community something more is 
produced than goes to the immediate support of the 
producer. This surplus forms the income of the landed 
capitalist. It will be spent by a proprietor who does 
not labour. But this idleness is itself the spring of 
labour ; this repose the spur to industry. The only 
concern for the state is, that the capital taken in rent 
from the land, should be returned again to the industry 
from whence it came ; and that its expenditure should 
be with the least possible detriment to the morals of 
those who expend it, and to those of the people to 
whom it is returned. 

In all the \^ews of receipt, expenditure, and personal 
employment, a sober legislator would carefully compare 
the possessor whom he was recommended to expel, 
with the stranger who was proposed to fill his place. 
Before the inconveniences are incurred which must 
attend all violent revolutions in property through 
extensive confiscation, we ought to have some rational 
assurance that the purchasers of the confiscated prop- 
erty will be in a considerable degree more laborious, 
more virtuous, more sober, less disposed to extort an 
unreasonable proportion of the gains of the labourer, or 
to consume on themselves a larger share than is fit for 
the measure of an individual ; or that they should be 
qualified to dispense the surplus in a more steady and 
equal mode, so as to answer the purposes of a politic 
expenditure; than the old possessors, call those pos- 
sessors bishops, or canons, or commendatory abbots, 
or monks, or what you please. The monks are lazy. 
Be it so. Suppose them no otherwise employed than 
by singing in the choir„ They are as usefully employed 
as those who neither sing nor say. As usefully even 



378 EDMUND BURKE. 

as those who sing upon the stage. They are as usefully 
employed as if they worked from dawn to dark in the 
innumerable servile, degrading, unseemly, unmanly, 
and often most unwholesome and pestiferous occupa- 
tions, to which by the social economy so many wretches 
are inevitably doomed. If it were not generally per- 
nicious to disturb the natural course of things, and to 
impede, in any degree, the great wheel of circulation 
which is turned by the strangely-directed labour of 
these unhappy people, I should be infinitely more 
inclined forcibly to rescue them from their miserable 
industry, than violently to disturb the tranquil repose 
of monastic quietude. Humanity, and perhaps policy, 
might better justify me in the one than in the other. 
It is a subject on which I have often reflected, and 
never reflected without feeling from it. I am sure that 
no consideration, except the necessity of submitting to 
the yoke of luxury, and the despotism of fancy, who in 
their own imperious way will distribute the surplus 
product of the soil, can justify the toleration of such 
trades and employments in a well-regulated state. 
But for this purpose of distribution, it seems to me, 
that the idle expenses of monks are quite as well directed 
as the idle expenses of us lay-loiterers. 

When the advantages of the possession and of the 
project are on a par, there is no motive for a change. 
But in the present case, perhaps they are not upon 
a par, and the difference is in favour of the possession. 
It does not appear to me, that the expenses of those 
whom you are going to expel do, in fact, take a course 
so directly and so generally leading to vitiate, and 
degrade, and render miserable those through whom they 
pass, as the expenses of those favourites whom you are 
intruding into their houses. Why should the expendi- 
ture of a great landed property, which is a dispersion 
of the surplus product of the soil, appear intolerable 
to you or to me, when it takes its course through the 
accumulation of great libraries, which are the history 
of the force and weakness of the human mind ; through 



SELECTIONS. 379 

great collections of ancient records, medals and coins, 
which attest and explain laws and customs ; through 
paintings and statues that, by imitating nature, seem 
to extend the limits of creation ; through grand monu- 
ments of the dead, which continue the regards and 
connexions of life beyond the grave ; through collec- 
tions of the specimens of nature, which become a repre- 
sentative assembly of ah the classes and families of the 
world, that by disposition facilitate, and, by exciting 
curiosity, open the avenues to science ? If, by great 
permanent establishments, all these objects of expense 
are better secured from the inconstant sport of personal 
caprice and personal extravagance, are they worse than 
if the same tastes prevailed in scattered individuals ? 
Does not the sweat of the mason and carpenter, who 
toil in order to partake the sweat of the peasant, flow 
as pleasantly and as salubriously, in the construction 
and repair of the majestic edifices of rehgion, as in the 
painted booths and sordid sties of vice and luxury ; as 
honourably and as profitably in repairing those sacred 
works, which grow hoary with innumerable years, as 
on the momentary receptacles of transient voluptuous- 
ness • in opera-houses, and brothels, and gaming- 
houses, and club-houses, and obelisks in the Champ de 
Mars ? Is the surplus product of the olive and the vine 
worse employed in the fmgal sustenance of persons, 
whom the fictions of a pious imagination raise to dignity 
by construing in the service of God, than in pampering 
the innumerable multitude of those who are degraded 
l:)y being made useless domestics, subservient to the 
pride of man ? Are the decorations of temples an 
expenditure less worthy a wise man, than ribbons, and 
laces, and national cockades, and petit maisons, and petit 
soupers, and all the innumerable fopperies and follies, 
in which opulence sports away the burden of its super- 
fluity ? 

We tolerate even these ; not from love of them, but 
lor fear of worse. We tolerate them, because property 
and liberty, to a degree, acquire that toleration. But 



38o EDMUND BURKE. 

wtiy proscribe the other, and surely, in every point of 
view, the more laudable use of estates ? Why, through 
the violation of all property, through an outrage of 
every principle of liberty, forcibly carry them from the 
better to the worse ? 

This comparison between the new individuals and the 
old corps is made upon a supposition that no reform 
could be made in the latter. But, in a question of 
reformation, I always consider corporate bodies, whether 
sole or consisting of many, to be much more suscep- 
tible of a public direction by the power of the state, 
in the use of their property, and in the regulation of 
modes and habits of life in their members, than private 
citizens ever can be, or perhaps ought to be ; and this 
seems to me a very material consideration for those 
who undertake anything which merits the name of 
a politic enterprise. — So far as to the estates of monas- 
teries. 

With regard to the estates possessed by bishops, and 
canons, and commendatory abbots, I cannot find out 
for what reason some landed estates may not be held 
otherwise than by inheritance. Can any philosophic 
spoiler undertake to demonstrate the positive or the 
comparative evil of having a certain, and that too a 
large portion of landed property, passing in succession 
through persons whose title to it is, always in theory, 
and often in fact, an eminent degree of piety, morals, 
and learning ; a property, which, by its destination, 
in their turn, and on the score of merit, gives to the 
noblest families renovation and support, to the lowest 
the means of dignity and elevation ; a property, the 
tenure of which is the performance of some duty, 
(whatever value you may choose to set upon that duty,) 
and the character of whose proprietors demands, at 
least, an exterior decorum, and gravity of manners ; 
who are to exercise a geneious but temperate hospitality, 
part of whose income they are to consider as a trust for 
charity; and who, even when they fail in their trust, 
when they slide from their character, and degenerate 



SELECTIONS. 381 

into a mere common secular nobleman or gentleman, 
are in no respect worse than those who may succeed 
them in their forfeited possessions ? Is it better that 
estates should be held by those who have no duty than 
by those who have one ?— by those whose character 
and destination point to virtues than by those who 
have no rule and direction in the expenditure of their 
estates but their own will and appetite ? Nor are 
these estates held together in the character or with the 
evils supposed inherent in mortmain. They pass from 
hand to hand with a more rapid circulation than any 
other. No excess is good ; and therefore too great a 
proportion of landed property may be held officially 
for life : but it does not seem to me of material injury 
to any commonwealth, that there should exist some 
estates that have a chance of being acquired by other 
means than the previous acquisition of money. 

This letter is grown to a great length, though it is 
indeed short with regard to the infinite extent of the 
subject. Various avocations have from time to time 
called my mind from the subject. I was not sorry to 
give myself leisure to observe whether, in the proceed- 
ings of the National Assembly, I might not find reasons 
to change or to qualify some of my first sentiments. 
Everything has confirmed me more strongly in my first 
opinions. It was my original purpose to take a view 
of the principles of the National Assembly with regard 
to the great and fundamental establishments ; and to 
compare the whole of what you have substituted in the 
place of what you have destroyed, with the several 
members of our British constitution. But this plan is 
of greater extent than at first I computed, and I find 
that you have little desire to take the advantage of any 
examples. At present I must content myself with 
some remarks upon your establishments ; reserving 
for another time what I proposed to say concerning the 
spirit of our British monarchy, aristocracy, and democ- 
racy, as practically they exist. 

I have taken a view of what has been done by the 



382 EDMUND BURKE. 

governing power in France. I have certainly spoke of 
it with freedom. Those whose principle it is to despise 
the ancient, permanent sense of mankind, and to set up 
a scheme of society on new principles, must naturally 
expect that such of us who think better of the judgment 
of the human race than of theirs, should consider both 
them and their devices as men and schemes upon their 
trial. They must take it for granted that we attend 
much to their reason, but not at all to their authority. 
They have not one of the great influencing preju- 
dices of mankind in their favour. They avow their 
hostility to opinion. Of course they must expect no 
support from that influence, which, with every other 
authority, they have deposed from the seat of its 
jurisdiction. 

I can never consider this assembly as anything else 
than a voluntary association of men, who have availed 
themselves of circumstances to seize upon the power 
of the state. They have not the sanction and authority 
of the character under which they first met. They have 
assumed another of a very different nature ; and have 
completely altered and inverted all the relations in 
which they originally stood. They do not hold the 
authority they exercise under any constitutional law 
of the state. They have departed from the instructions 
of the people by whom they v/ere sent ; which instruc- 
tions, as the assembly did not act in virtue of any 
ancient usage or settled law, were the sole source of 
their authority. The most considerable of their acts 
have not been done by great majorities ; and in this 
sort of near divisions, which carry only the constructive 
authority of the whole, strangers will consider reasons 
as well as resolutions. 

If they had set up this new, experimental govern- 
ment, as a necessary substitute for an expelled tjrranny, 
mankind would anticipate the time of prescription, 
which, through long usage, mellows into legality govern- 
ments that were violent in their commencement. All 
those who have affections which lead them to the 



SELECTIONS. 383 

conservation of civil order would recognize, even in 
its cradle, the child as legitimate, which has been pro- 
duced from those principles of cogent expediency to 
which all just governments owe their birth, and on 
which they justify their continuance. But they will 
be late and reluctant in gi\nng any sort of countenance 
to the operations of a power, which has derived its 
birth from no law and no necessity ; but which, on the 
contrary, has had its origin in those vices and sinister 
practices by which the social union is often disturbed 
and sometimes destroyed. This assembly has hardly 
a year's prescription. We have their own word for it 
that they have made a revolution. To make a revolu- 
tion is a measure which prima jronte, requires an apology. 
To make a revolution is to subvert the ancient state of 
our country; and no common reasons are called for 
to justify so violent a proceeding. The sense of man- 
kind authorizes us to examine into the mode of acquir- 
ing new power, and to criticise on the use that is made 
of it, with less awe and reverence than that which 
is usually conceded to a settled and recognized 

authority. 

In obtaining and securing their power, the assembly 
proceeds upon principles the most opposite to those 
which appear to chrect them in the use of it. An 
observation on this difference will let us into the true 
spirit of their conduct. Everything which they have 
done, or continue to do, in order to obtain and keep 
their power, is by the most common arts. They pro- 
ceed exactly as their ancestors of ambition have done 
before them.— Trace them through all their artifices, 
frauds, and violences, you can find nothing at all that 
is new. They follow precedents and examples with 
the punctilious exactness of a pleader. They never 
depart an iota from the authentic formulas of tyranny 
and usurpation. But in all the regulations relative to 
the public good, the spirit has been the very reverse of 
this. There they commit the whole to the mercy of 
untried speculations ; they abandon the dearest interests 



384 EDMUND BURKE. 

of the public to those loose theories, to which none of 
them would choose to trust the slightest of his private 
concerns. They make this difference, because in their 
desire of obtaining and securing power they are thor- 
oughly in earnest ; there they travel in the beaten road. 
The public interests, because about them they have no 
real solicitude, they abandon wholly to chance ; I say 
to chance, because their schemes have nothing in ex- 
perience to prove their tendency beneficial. 

We must always see with a pity not unmixed with 
respect, the errors of those who are timid and doubtful 
of themselves with regard to points wherein the happi- 
ness of mankind is concerned. But in these gentlemen 
there is nothing of the tender, parer.tal solicitude, 
which fears to cut up the infant for the ..'ke of an ex- 
periment. In the vastness of their promises, and the 
confidence of their predictions, they far out-do all the 
boasting of empirics. The arrogance of their pretensions, 
in a manner provokes and challenges us to an inquiry 
into their foundation. 

I am convinced that there are men of considerable 
parts among the popular leaders in the National Assem- 
oly. Som.e of them display eloquence in their speeches 
and their writings. This cannot be without powerful 
and cultivated talents. But eloquence may exist 
without a proportionable degree of wisdom. When 
I speak of ability, I am obliged to distinguish. WTiat 
they have done towards the support of their system 
bespeaks no ordinary men. In the system itself, taken 
as the scheme of a republic constructed for procuring 
the prosperity and security of the citizen, and for pro- 
moting the strength and grandeur of the state, I con- 
fess myself unable to find out anything which displays, 
in a single instance, the work of a comprehensive and 
disposing mind, or even the provisions of a vulgar 
prudence. Their purpose everywhere seems to have 
been to evade and slip aside from difficulty. This it 
has been the glory of the great masters in all the arts 
to confront and to overcome ; and when they had over- 



SELECTIONS. 385 

come the first difficulty, to turn it into an instrument 
for new conquests over new difficulties . thus to enable 
them t^ extend the empire of their science ; and even to 
push forward beyond the reach of their original though^. 
the landmarks of the human understanding itself. Diffi- 
rn?tvkT severe instructor, set over us by the supreme 
'ol^^aLroTTparental guardian and legislator who 
knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves 
us better too. Pater ipse colendi hand faalem esse 
W toL. He that trestles with - «h-^, 
our nerves and sharpens our skill Onr ant^onisi 
?s our helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty 
obhges us^ to an intimate acquaintance with our 
obfec? and compels us to consider it m all 1 s rela- 
?k>ns It Will not suffer us to be superficial. It is the 
want of nerves of understanding for such a task, it is 
The degenerate fondness for trickmg short-cuts, and 
mtle faUacious facilities, that has m so many parts of 
the world created governments with arbitrary powers 
They have created the late arbitrary monarchy o 
France They have created the arbitrary republic of 
Paris With them defects in wisdom are to be supphed 
by the plentitude of force. They get "o hmg by t _ 
Commencing their labours on a Fmc^P^^^^ ^IS^^' ^^^ 

have the common fortune of ^j^^Vln^.'.n escaped 
culties, which they rather had eluded than escaped 
mPPt them acain n their course ; they multiply 
and thickTn on them ; they are involved through 
rtbyrinth of confused detail, in an mdustry with- 
ou S and without direction ; and in conclusion 
?he vZle of their work l^ecomes feeble, vicious, and 

'"Tt'"irthis inabiUtv to wrestle with difficulty which 
has obliged the arbitrary assembly of France to com- 

13 



386 EDMUND BURKE. 

that skill is displayed ? Your mob can do this as well 
at least as your assemblies. The shallowest under- 
standing, the rudest hand, is more than equal to that 
task. Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an 
hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can 
build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects 
of old establishments are visible and palpable. It 
calls for little ability to point them out ; and, where 
absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly 
to abolish the vice and the establishment together. 
The same lazy but restless disposition, which loves sloth 
and hates quiet, directs these politicians, when they 
come to work for supplying the place of what they 
have destroyed. To make everything the reverse of 
what they have seen is quite as easy as to destroy. No 
difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism 
is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has 
not existed ; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope 
have all the wide field of imagination, in which they 
may expatiate with little or no opposition. 

At once to preserve and to reform is quite another 
thing. When the useful parts of an old establishment 
are kept, and what is superadded is to be fitted to what 
is retained, a vigorous mind, steady, persevering atten- 
tion, various powers of comparison and combination, 
and the resources of an understanding fruitful in ex- 
pedients are to be exercised ; they are to be exercised 
in a continued conflict with the combined force of 
opposite vices, with the obstinacy that rejects all 
improvement, and the levity that is fatigued and dis- 
gusted with everything of which it is in possession. 

couronnent le malheur du peuple: pour le rendre heureux il faut le r£- 
nouvcler ; changer ses idees ; changer ses loix ; changer ses mceurs ; . . . 
changer les homnies ; changer les choses ; changer les mots . . . ioul 
d^truire ; aid, tout delruire ; puisque tout est A recrder!' This gentleman 
was chosen president in an assembly not sitting at Quinze-vingt, or the 
Petits Maisons ; and composed of persons giving themselves out to 
be rational beings ; but neither his ideas, language, or conduct, differ 
in the smallest degree from the discourses, opinions, and actions of 
those within and without the assembly, who direct the operations of 
the machine now at work in France. 



SELECTIONS. 387 

But vou may object—' A process of this kind is slow. 
ul not ftt for an assembly, which glories m performnag 
in a few months the work of ages. Such a mode of 
reforming, possibly, might take up many years 
Without question it might ; and it ought. _ It is one 
of the exc^ellences of a method in which time is amongst 
the assistants, that its operation is slow, and in some 
cases almost imperceptible. If circumspection and 
caution1?e a part^of Jsdom, when we work only upon 
inanimate matter, surely they become a Pfrt of duty 
too when the subject of our demolition and construe 
t?on is not brick and timber, but sentient beings, by the 
sudden alteration of whose state, ^^^/^ition and habits 
multitudes may be rendered miserable. But it seems 
as if it were the prevalent opinion m Pans that an 
unfeeUng heart and an undoubting confidence are the 
sole quJifications for a perfect legislator. Far different 
are my ideas of that lugh ofhce. The true lawgiver 
ought to have a heart fuU of sensibility. He ought to 
love and respect his kind, and to fear himself It may 
be allowed to his temperament to catch his ultimate 
object with an intmtive glance; but his movernen s 
towards it ought to be deliberate. Political arrange- 
ment as it is a work for social ends, is to be only wrought 
by social means. There mind must conspire with mind 
-nme is required to produce that union of mmds which 
alone can produce all the good we aim at Our patience 
will achieve more than our force. I I m.^gl^t ven ure 
to apical to what is so much out of fashion m Pans 
I mean to experience, I should tell you that m my 
course I have known and, according to my measure 
have co-oi^erated with great men. and I h^ye never 
yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the 
observations of those who were much inferior m under- 
standing to the person who took the lead in the busi- 
ness. By a slow but well-sustained progress, the effect 
of each step is watched ; the good or ill success of the 
first gives light to us in the second ; and so from light 
to light we are conducted with safety through the 



388 EDMUND BURKE. 

whole series. We see that the parts of the system do 
not clash. The evils latent in the most promising 
contrivances are provided for as they arise. One advan- 
tage is as little as possible sacrificed to another. We 
compensate, we reconcile, we balance. We are enabled 
to unite into a consistent whole the various anomalies 
and contending principles that are found in the minds 
and affairs of men. From hence arises, not an excel- 
lence in simplicity, but, one far superior, an excellence 
in composition. Where the great interests of man- 
kind are concerned through a long succession of gener- 
ations, that succession ought to be admitted into some 
share in the councils which are so deeply to affect them. 
If justice requires this, the work itself requires the aid 
of more minds than one age can furnish. It is from 
this view of things that the best legislators have been 
often satisfied with the establishment of some sure, 
solid, and ruling principle in government ; a power like 
that which some of the philosophers have called a plastic 
nature ; and, having fixed the principle, they have left 
it afterwards to its own operation. 

To proceed in this manner, that is, to proceed with 
a presiding principle, and a prolific energy, is with me 
the criterion of profound wisdom. What your poli- 
ticians think the marks of a bold, hardy genius, are 
only proofs of a deplorable want of ability. By their 
violent haste, and their defiance of the process of nature, 
they are delivered over blindly to every projector and 
adventurer, to every alchymist and empiric. They de- 
spair of turning to account anything that is common. 
Diet is nothing in their system of remedy. The worst 
of it is that this their despair of curing common distem- 
pers by regular methods, arises not only from defect 
of comprehension, but, I fear, from some malignity of 
disposition. Your legislators seem to have taken their 
opinions of all professions, ranks, and offices, from the 
declamations and buffooneries of satirists ; who would 
themselves be astonished if they were held to the letter 
of their own descriptions. By listening only to these. 



SELECTIONS. 389 

your leaders regard all things only on the side of their 
vices and faults, and view those vices and faults under 
every colour of exaggeration. It is undoubtedly true, 
though it may seem paradoxical ; but in general, those 
who are habitually employed in finding and displaymg 
faults, are unquaUfied for the work of reformation : 
because their minds are not only unfurnished with pat- 
terns of the fair and good, but by habit they come to 
take no dehght in the contemplation of those things. 
By hating vices too much, they come to love men too 
little. It is therefore not wonderful that they should 
be indisposed and unable to serve them. From hence 
arises the complexional disposition of some of your 
guides to pull everything in pieces. At this malicious 
game they display the whole of their quadnmanous 
activity. As to the rest, the paradoxes of eloquent 
writers, brought forth purely as a sport of fancy, to try 
their talents, to rouse attention, and excite surprise 
are taken up by these gentlemen, not in the spirit of 
the original authors, as means of cultivating their taste 
and improving their style. These paradoxes become 
with them serious grounds of action, upon which they 
proceed in regulating the most important concerns of 
the state. Cicero ludicrously describes Cato as endeav- 
ouring to act, in the commonwealth, upon the school 
paradoxes, which exercised the wits of the junior 
students in the Stoic philosophy. If this was true of 
Cato, these gentlemen copy after him in the manner of 
some persons who lived about his iime—pedc niido 
Catonem. Mr. Hume told me that he had from Rous- 
seau himself the secret of his principles of composition. 
That acute, though eccentric observer, had perceived, 
that to strike and interest the public, the marvellous 
must be produced ; that the mar\'ellous of the heathen 
mythology had long since lost its effects ; that giants, 
magicians, fairies, and heroes of romance which suc- 
ceeded, had exhausted the portion of creduhty which 
belonged to their age; that now nothing was left to a 
writer but that species of the marvellous, which might 



390 EDMUND BURKE. 

still be produced, and with as great an effect as ever, 
though in another way ; that is, the marvellous in life, 
in manners, in characters, and in extraordinary situa- 
tions, giving rise to new and unlooked for strokes in 
politics and morals, I believe that, were Rousseau 
alive and in one of his lucid intervals, he would be 
shocked at the practical frenzy of his scholars, who in 
their paradoxes are servile imitators ; and even in their 
incredulity discover an implicit faith. 

Men who undertake considerable things, even in 
a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume 
ability. But the physician of the state, who, not 
satisfied with the cure of distempers, undertakes to 
regenerate constitutions, ought to show uncommon 
powers. Some very unusual appearances of wisdom 
ought to display themselves on the face of the designs 
of those, who appeal to no practice and who copy after 
no model. Has any such been manifested ? I shall 
take a view (it shall for the subject be a very short one) 
of what the assembly has done with regard, first, to 
the constitution of the legislature; in the next place, 
to that of the executive power ; then to that of the 
judicature; afterwards to the model of the army; and 
conclude with the system of finance ; to see whether 
we can discover in any part of their schemes the por- 
tentous ability which may justify these bold under- 
takers in the superiority which they assume over 
mankind. 

It is in the model of the sovereign and presiding part 
of this new republic that we should expect their grand 
display. Here they were to prove their title to their 
proud demands. For the plan itself at large, and for 
the reasons on which it is grounded, I refer to the jour- 
nals of the assembly of the 29th of September, 1789, 
and to the subsequent proceedings which have made 
any alterations in the plan. So far as in a matter 
somewhat confused I can see light, the system remains 
substantially as it has been originally framed. My few 
remarks will be such as regard its spirit, its tendency. 



SELECTIONS. 39i 

and its fitness for framing a popular commonwealth, 
which they profess theirs to be, suited to the ends for 
which any commonwealth and particularly such a 
commonwealth, is made. At the same time I mean 
to consider its consistency with itself and its own 
principles. 

Old establishments are tried by their effects. If the 
people are happy, united, wealthy, and powerful, we 
presume the rest. We conclude that to be good from 
whence good is derived. In old establishments various 
correctives have been found for their aberrations from 
theory. Indeed they are the results of various neces- 
sities and expediencies. They are not often constructed 
after any theory ; theories are rather drawn from them. 
In them we often see the end best obtained where the 
means seem not perfectly reconcilable to what we may 
fancy was the original scheme. The means taught by 
experience may be better suited to political ends than 
those contrived in the original project. They agam 
re-act upon the primitive constitution, and sometimes 
improve the design itself, from which they seem to have 
departed. I think all this might be curiously exemph- 
fied in the British constitution. At worst, the errors 
and deviations of every kind in reckoning are found 
and computed, and the ship proceeds in her course. 
This is the case of old establishments ; but in a new 
and merely theoretic system, it is expected that every 
contrivance shall appear, on the face of it, to answer 
its ends ; especially where the projectors are no way 
embarrassed with an endeavour to accommodate the 
new building to an old one, either in the walls or on the 
foundations. 

The French builders, clearing away as mere rubbish 
whatever they found, and, like their ornamental gar- 
deners, forming everything into an exact level, propose 
to rest the whole local and general legislature on three 
bases of three different kinds ; one geometrical, one 
arithmetical, and the third financial ; the first of which 
they call the basis oj territory: the second, the basis 



392 EDMUND BURKE. 

of population; and the third, the basis of contrihiition. 
For the accomplishment of the first of these purposes, 
they divide the area of their country into eighty-three 
pieces, regularly square, of eighteen leagues by eighteen. 
These large divisions are called Departments. These 
they portion, proceeding by square measurement, into 
seventeen hundred and twenty districts, called Com- 
munes. These again they subdivide, still proceeding 
by square measurement, into smaller districts, called 
Cantons, making in all 6,400. 

At first view this geometrical basis of theirs presents 
not much to admire or to blame. It calls for no great 
legislative talents. Nothing more than an accurate 
land surveyor, with his chain, sight, and theodolite, is 
requisite for such a plan as this. In the old divisions 
of the country, various accidents at various times, and 
the ebb and flow of various properties and jurisdictions, 
settled their bounds. These bounds were not made 
upon any fixed system undoubtedly. They were subject 
to some inconveniences ; but they were inconveniences 
for which use had found remedies, and habit had sup- 
plied accommodation and patience. In this new pave- 
ment of square within square, and this organization, 
and semi-organization made on the system of Empe- 
docles and Buff on, and not upon any politic principle, 
it is impossible that innumerable local inconveniences, 
to which men are not habituated, must not arise. But 
these I pass over, because it requires an accurate 
knowledge of the country, which I do not possess, to 
specify them. 

When these state surveyors came to take a view of 
their work of measurement, they soon found that in 
politics the most fallacious of all things was geometrical 
demonstration. They had then recourse to another 
basis (or rather buttress) to support the building, which 
tottered on that false foundation. It was evident that 
the goodness of the soil, the number of the people, 
their wealth, and the largeness of their contribution, 
made such infinite variations between square and 



SELECTIONS. 393 

square, as to render mensuration a ridiculous standard 
of power in the commonwealth, and equaUty in geom- 
etry the most unequal of all measures in the distribu- 
tion of men. However, they could not give it up. But 
dividing their political and civil representation into 
three parts, they allotted one of those parts to the 
square measurement, without a single fact or calcula- 
tion to ascertain whether this territorial proportion of 
representation was fairly assigned, and ought upon any 
principle really to be a third. Having, however, given 
to geometry this portion (of a third for her dower) out 
of compliment, I suppose, to that sublime science, they 
left the other two to be scuffled for between the other 
parts, population and contribution. 

When they came to provide for population, they were 
not able to proceed quite so smoothly as they had done 
in the field of their geometry. Here their arithmetic 
came to bear upon their juridical metaphysics. Had 
they stuck to their metaphysic principles, the arith- 
merical process would be simple indeed. Men with 
them are strictly equal, and are entitled to equal nghts 
in their own government. Each head, on this system, 
would have its vote, and every man would vote directly 
for the person who was to represent him in the legis- 
lature. ' But soft— by regular degrees, not yet.' This 
metaphysic principle, to which law, custom, usage, 
policy, reason, were to yield, is to yield itself to their 
pleasure. There must be many degrees, and some 
stages, before the representative can come in contact 
with his constituent. Indeed, as we shall soon see, 
these two persons are to have no sort of communion 
with each other. First, the voters in the Canton, who 
compose what they call primary assemblies, are to have 
a qualification. What ! a qualification on the inde- 
feasible rights of men ? Yes ; but it shall be a very 
small qualification. Our injustice shall be very httle 
oppressive ; only the local valuation of three days 
labour paid to the public. Why, this is not much, I 
readily admit, for anything but the utter sub^•crsIon 



394 EDMUND BURKE, 

of your equalizing principle. As a qualification it 
might as well be let alone ; for it answers no one pur- 
pose for which qualifications are established ; and, on 
your ideas, it excludes from a vote the man of all others 
whose natural equality stands the most in need of pro- 
tection and defence : I mean the man who has nothing 
else but his natural equality to guard him. You order 
him to buy the right, which you before told him nature 
had given to him gratuitously at his birth, and of which 
no authority on earth could lawfully deprive him. 
With regard to the person who cannot come up to your 
market, a tyrannous aristocracy, as against him, is 
established at the very, outset, by you who pretend to 
be his sworn foe. 

The gradation proceeds. These primary assemblies 
of the Canton elect deputies to the Commune ; one for 
every two hundred qualified inhabitants. Here is the 
first medium put between the primary elector and the 
representative legislator ; and here a new turnpike is 
fixed for taxing the rights of men with a second quali- 
fication : for none can be elected into the Commune 
who does not pay the amount of ten days' labour. Nor 
have we yet done. There is still to be another grada- 
tion.* These Communes, chosen by the Canton, choose 
to the Department ; and the deputies of the Department 
choose their deputies to the National Assembly. Here 
is a third barrier of a senseless qualification. Every 
deputy to the National Assembly must pay, in direct 
contribution, to the value of a mark of silver. Of all 
these qualifying barriers we must think alike ; that 
they are impotent to secure independence ; strong only 
to destroy the rights of men. 

* The assembly, in executing the plan of their committee, made 
some alterations. They have struck out one stage in these gradations ; 
this removes a part of the objection ; but the main objection, namely, 
that in their scheme the first constituent voter has no connexion with 
the representative legislator, remains in all its force. There are other 
alterations, some possibly for the better, some certainly for the worse : 
but to the author the merit or demerit of these smaller alterations 
appears to be of no moment, where the scheme itself is fundamentally 
vicious and absurd. 



SELECTIONS. 395 

In all this process, which in its fundamental elements 
affects to consider only population upon a prmciple of 
natural right, there is a manifest attention to property: 
which, however just and reasonable on other schemes, 
is on theirs perfectly unsupportable. 

When they come to their third basis, that of Contri- 
bution, we find that they have more completely lost 
sight of the rights of men. This last basis rests entirely 
on property. A principle totaUy different from_ the 
equahty of men, and utterly irreconcilable to it, is 
thereby admitted ; but no sooner is this principle 
admitted, than (as usual) it is subverted ; and it is not 
subverted (as we shall presently see) to approximate 
the inequahty of riches to the level of nature. The 
additional share in the third portion of representation 
(a portion reserved exclusively for the higher contribu- 
tion) is made to regard the district only, and not the 
individuals in it who pay. It is easy to perceive, by 
the course of their reasonings, how much they were 
embarrassed by their contradictory ideas of the rights 
of men and the privileges of riches. The committee of 
constitution do as good as admit that they are wholly 
irreconcilable. 'The relation with regard to the con- 
tributions, is without doubt null (say they) when the 
question is on the balance of the political rights as 
between individual and individual; without which 
personal equality would be destroyed, and an aristocracy 
of the rich would be established. But this inconvenience 
entirely disappears when the proportional relation of 
the contribution is only considered in the great masses, 
and is solely between province and province ; it serves 
in that case only to form a just reciprocal proportion 
between the cities, without affecting the personal rights 
of the citizens.' 

Here the principle of contribution, as taken between 
man and man, is reprobated as null, and destructive to 
equality ; and as pernicious too ; because it ^ leads to 
the estabUshment of an aristocracy of the rich. How- 
ever, it must not be abandoned. And the way of get- 



396 EDMUND BURKE. 

ting rid of the difficulty is to establish the inequality 
as between department and department, leaving all 
the individuals in each department upon an exact par. 
Observe that this parity between individuals had been 
before destroyed, when the qualifications within the 
departments were settled ; nor does it seem a matter 
of great importance whether the equality of men be 
injured by masses or individually. An individual is 
not of the same importance in a mass represented by 
a few, as in a mass represented by many. It would 
be too much to tell a man, jealous of his equality, that 
the elector has the same franchise who votes for three 
members as he who votes for ten. 

Now take it in the other point of view, and let us 
suppose their principle of representation according to 
contribution, that is according to riches, to be well 
imagined, and to be a necessary basis for their republic. 
In this their third basis they assume that riches ought 
to be respected, and that justice and policy require that 
they should entitle men, in some mode or other, to 
a larger share in the administration of public affairs; 
it is now to be seen how the assembly provides for the 
pre-eminence, or even for the security of the rich, by 
conferring, in virtue of their opulence, that larger meas- 
ure of power to their district which is denied to them 
personally. I readily admit (indeed I should lay it 
down as a fundamental principle) that in a republican 
government, which has a democratic basis, the rich do 
require an additional security above what is necessary 
to them in monarchies. They are subject to envy 
and through envy to oppression. On the present scheme 
it is impossible to divine what advantage they derive 
from the aristocratic preference upon which the unequal 
representation of the masses is founded. The rich 
cannot feel it, either as a support to dignity, or as 
security to fortune : for the aristocratic mass is gener- 
ated from purely democratic principles ; and the prefer- 
ence given to it in the general representation has no 
sort of reference to, or connexion with, the persons. 



SELECTIONS. 397 

upon account of whose property this superiority of the 
mass is established. If the contrivers of this scheme 
meant any sort of favour to the rich, m consequence 
of their contribution, they ought to have conferred the 
privilege either on the individual rich, or on some class 
formed of rich persons (as historians represent Servms 
Tullius to have done in the early constitution of Rome) ; 
because the contest between the rich and the poor is 
not a struggle between corporation and corporation 
but a contest between men and men; a competition 
not between districts, but between descriptions. It 
would answer its purpose better if the scheme were 
inverted ; that the votes of the masses were rendered 
equal ; and that the votes within each mass were pro- 
portioned to property. .•/•,• 

Let us suppose one man in a district (it is an easy 
supposition) to contribute as much as a hundred of his 
neighbours. Against these he has but one vote. If 
there were but one representative for the mass, his poor 
neighbours would outvote him by a hundred to one 
for that single representative. Bad enough. But 
amends are to be made him. How ? The district, m 
virtue of his wealth, is to choose, say ten members 
instead of one : that is to say, by paying a very large 
contribution he has the happiness of being outvoted, 
a hundred to one, by the poor, for ten representatives, 
instead of being outvoted exactly in the same propor- 
tion for a single member. In truth, instead of bene- 
fiting by this superior quantity of representation, the 
rich man is subjected to an additional hardship. The 
increase of representation within his province sets up 
nine persons more, and as many more than nine as 
there may be democratic candidates, to cabal and 
intrigue, and to flatter the people at his expense and 
to his oppression. An interest is by this means held 
out to multitudes of .the inferior sort, in obtaining 
a salary of eighteen livres a day (to them a vast object) 
besides the pleasure of a residence in Pans, and their 
share in the government of the kingdom. The more the 



398 EDMUND BURKE. 

objects of ambition are multiplied and become demo- 
cratic, just in that proportion the rich are endangered. 

Thus it must fare between the poor and the rich in 
the province deemed aristocratic, which in its internal 
relation is the very reverse of that character. In its 
external relation, that is, in its relation to the other 
provinces, I cannot see how the unequal representation, 
which is given to masses on account of wealth, becomes 
the means of preserving the equipoise and the tran- 
quillity of the commonwealth. For if it be one of the 
objects to secure the weak from being crushed by the 
strong (as in all society undoubtedly it is) how are the 
smaller and poorer of these masses to be saved from 
the tyranny of the more wealthy ? Is it by adding to 
the wealthy further and more systematical means of 
oppressing them ? When we come to a balance of 
representation, between corporate bodies, provincial 
interests, emulations, and jealousies are full as likely 
to arise among them as among individuals ; and their 
divisions are likely to produce a much hotter spirit of 
dissension, and something leading much more nearly 
to a war. 

I see that these aristocratic masses are made upon 
what is called the principle of direct contribution: 
Nothing can be a more unequal standard than this. 
The indirect contribution, that which arises frorri 
duties on consumption, is in truth a better standard, 
and follows and discovers wealth more naturally than 
this of direct contribution. It is difficult, indeed, to 
fix a standard of local preference on account of the 
one, or of the other, or of both, because some provinces 
may pay the more of either or of both, on account of 
causes not intrinsic, but originating from those very 
districts over whom they have obtained a preference 
in consequence of their ostensible contribution. If 
the masses were independent, sovereign bodies, who 
were to provide for a federative treasury by distinct 
contingents, and that the revenue had not (as it has) 
many impositions running through the whole, which 



SELECTIONS. 399 

affect men individually, and not corporately and 
which by their nature, confound aU territorial lunits, 
something might be said for the basis of contribution 
as founded on masses. But of aU things, this repre- 
sentation, to be measured by contribution, is the most 
difficult to settle upon principles of equity m the country, 
which considers its districts as members of a whole. 
For a great city, such as Bordeaux, or Pans, appears 
to pay a vast body of duties, almost out of all assignable 
proportion to other places, and its mass is considered 
accordingly. But are these cities the true contributors 
in that proportion? No. The consumers of the com- 
modities imported into Bordeaux, who are scattered 
through all France, pay the import duties of Bordeaux. 
The produce of the vintage in Guienne and Languedoc 
eive to that city the means of its contribution growing 
out of an export commerce. The landholders who 
spend their estates in Paris, and are thereby the creators 
of that city, contribute for Paris from the provinces 
out of which their revenues arise. Very nearly the 
same arguments will apply to the representative share 
given on account of direct contribution : because the 
direct contribution must be assessed on wealth real or 
presumed ; and that local wealth wiU itself arise from 
causes not local and which therefore m equity ought 
not to prpduce a local preference. 

It is very remarkable that in this fundamental 
regulation which settles the representation of the mass 
upon the direct contribution, they have not yet settled 
how that direct contribution shall be laid, and how 
apportioned. Perhaps there is some latent policy 
towards the continuance of the present assembly in 
this strange procedure. However, until they do this 
they can have no certain constitution. It must depend 
at last upon the system of taxation, and must vary 
with every variation in that system. As they have 
contrived matters, their taxation does not so much 
depend on their constitution, as their constitution on 
their taxation. This must introduce great confusion 



400 EDMUND BURKE. 

among the masses ; as the variable quaUfication for votes 
within the district must, if ever real contested elections 
take place, cause infinite internal controversies. 

To compare together the three bases, not on their 
political reason, but on the ideas on which the assembly 
works, and to try its consistency with itself, we cannot 
avoid observing, that the principle which the committee 
call the basis of population, does not begin to operate 
from the same point with the two other principles called 
the bases of territory and of contribution, which are both 
of an aristocratic nature. The consequence is that, 
where all three begin to operate together, there is the 
most absurd inequality produced by the operation of 
the former on the two latter principles. Every canton 
contains four square leagues, and is estimated to con- 
tain, on the average, 4,000 inhabitants, or 680 voters 
in the primary assemblies, which vary in numbers with 
the population of the canton, and send one deputy to 
the commune for every 200 voters. Nine cantons make 
a commune. 

Now let us take a canton containing a seaport town 
of trade, or a great manufacturing town. Let us suppose 
the population of this canton to be 12,700 inhabitants, 
or 2,193 voters, forming three primary assemblies, and 
sending ten deputies to the commune. 

Oppose to this one canton two others of the remaining 
eight in the same commune. These we may suppose 
to have their fair population of 4,000 inhabitants, and 
680 voters each, or 8,000 inhabitants and 1,360 voters, 
both together. These will form only two primary 
assemblies, and send only six deputies to the commune. 

When the assembly of the commune comes to vote 
on the basis of territory, which principle is first admitted 
to operate in that assembly, the single canton which 
has half the territory of the other two, will have ten 
voices to six in the election of three deputies to the 
assembly of the department, chosen on the express 
ground of a representation of territory. This inequality, 
striking as it is, will be yet highly aggravated, if we 



SELECTIONS. 401 

suppose, as we fairly may, the several other cantons of 
the commune to fall proportionably short of the average 
population, as much as the principal canton exceeds it. _ 
Now as to the basis of contribution, which also is 
a principle admitted first to operate m the assembly 
of the commtme. Let us again take one canton such 
as is stated above. If the whole of the direct contribu- 
tions paid by a great trading or manufacturing town 
be divided equaUy among the inhabitants, each indivi- 
dual will be found to pay much more than an individual 
living in the country according to the same average 
The whole paid by the inhabitants of the former will 
be more than the whole paid by the inhabitants of the 
latter— we may fairly assume one-third more, then 
the 12,700 inhabitants, or 2,193 voters of the canton 
wiU pay as much as 19,050 inhabitants, or 3,289 voters 
of the other cantons, which are nearly the estimated 
proportion of inhabitants and voters oi five other 
cantons. Now the 2,193 votes will, as I before said 
send only ten deputies to the assembly; the 3,259 
voters wm send sixteen. Thus, for an equal share in 
the contribution of the whole commune, there wiU be 
a difference of sixteen voices to ten in voting for deputies 
to be chosen on the principle of representing the general 
contribution of the whole commune. u ^^ f. a 

Bv the same mode of computation we shall hnd 
15,875 inhabitants, or 2,741 voters of the oj/.^r cantons, 
who pay one-sixth less to the contribution_of the whole. 
commune, will have three voices more than the 12,700 
inhabitants, or 2.193 voters of the one canton 

Such is the fantastical and unjust inequality between 
mass and mass, in this curious repartition of the rights 
of representation arising out of territory and contribu- 
tion The qualifications which these confer are m 
truth negative qualifications, : that give a right m an 
inverse proportion to the possession of them. 

In this whole contrivance of the three bases, consider 
it in any light you please, I do not see a variety of 
objects reconciled in one consistent whole, but several 



402 EDMUND BURKE. 

contradictory principles reluctantly and irreconcilably 
brought and held together by your philosophers, like 
wild beasts shut up in a cage, to claw and bite each 
other to their mutual destruction. 

I am afraid I have gone too far into their way of 
considering the formation of a constitution. They 
have much, but bad, metaphysics ; much, but bad, 
geometry ; much, but false, proportionate arithmetic ; 
but if it were all as exact as metaphysics, geometry, 
and arithmetic ought to be, and if their schemes were 
perfectly consistent in all their parts, it would make 
only a more fair and sightly vision. Is it remarkable, 
that, in a great arrangement of mankind, not one 
reference whatsoever is to be found to anything moral 
or anything politic ; nothing that relates to the con- 
cerns, the actions, the passions, the interests of men. 
Hommem non sapiunt. 

You see I only consider this constitution as electoral, 
and leading by steps to the National Assembly. I do 
not enter into the internal government of the depart- 
ments, and their genealogy through the communes and 
cantons. These local governments are, in the original 
plan, to be as nearly as possible composed in the same 
manner and on the same principles with the elective 
assemblies. They are each of them bodies perfectly 
compact and rounded in themselves. 

You cannot but perceive in this scheme that it has 
a direct and immediate tendency to sever France into 
a variety of republics, and to render them totally inde- 
pendent of each other, without any direct constitutional 
means of coherence, connexion, or subordination, except 
what may be derived from their acquiescence in the 
determinations of the general congress of the ambas- 
sadors from each independent republic. Such in reality 
is the National Assembly, and such governments I 
admit do exist in the world, though in forms infinitely 
more suitable to the local and habitual circumstances 
of their people. But such associations, rather than 
bodies politic, have generally been the effect of neces- 



SELECTIONS. 403 

sitv not choice; and I believe the present French 
power is the very first body of citizens who, having 
obtained full authority to do with their country what 
they pleased, have chosen to dissever it in this barbarous 

manner. , , . ^, ■ -i. ^( 

It is impossible not to observe that, m the spirit ot 
this geometrical distribution and arithmetical arrange- 
ment these pretended citizens treat France exactly 
like a country of conquest. Acting as conquerors, they 
have imitated the policy of the harshest of that harsh 
race The policy of such barbarous victors, who con- 
temn a subdued people and insult their feelings, has 
ever been, as much as in them lay, to destroy all 
vestiges of the ancient country, in religion m pohty 
in laws and in manners; to confound all territorial 
limits • to produce a general poverty ; to put up their 
properties to auction ; to crush their princes, nobles 
and pontiffs ; to lay low everything which had lifted 
its head above the level, or which could serve to combine 
or rally in their distresses, the disbanded people, under 
the standard of old opinion. They have made France 
free in the manner in which those sincere friends to the 
rights of mankind, the Romans, freed Greece Macedon, 
and other nations. They destroyed the bonds of their 
union, under colour of providing for the independence 
of each of their cities. u a- ^ 

When the members who compose these new bodies 
of cantons communes, and departments, arrangements 
purposely produced through the medium of confusion, 
begin to act, they will find themselves, in a great meas- 
ure, strangers to one another.. The electors and 
elected throughout, especially in the rural cantons, mil 
be frequently without any civil habitudes or connexions 
or any of that natural discipline which is the soul of 
a true republic. Magistrates and collectors of revenue 
-ire now no longer acquainted with their districts, 
bishops with their dioceses, or curates with their parishes. 
These new colonies of the rights of men bear a strong 
resemblance to that sort of military colonies which 



404 EDMUND BURKE. 

Tacitus has observed upon in the decHning poHcy of 
Rome. In better and wiser days (whatever course 
they took with foreign nations) they were careful to 
make the elements of a methodical subordination and 
settlement to be coeval ; and even to lay the founda- 
tions of disciphne in the military.* But, when all the 
good arts had fallen into ruin, they proceeded, as your 
assembly does, upon the equality of men, and with as 
little judgment and as httle care for those things 
which make a republic tolerable or durable. But in 
this, as well as almost every instance, your new com- 
monwealth is born, and bred, and fed, in those corrup- 
tions which mark degenerated and worn-out repubhcs. 
Your child comes into the world with the symptoms of 
death ; the fades Hippocratica forms the character of 
its physiognomy, and the prognostic of its fate. 

The legislators who framed the ancient republics 
knew that their business was too arduous to be accom- 
plished with no better apparatus than the metaphysics 
of an undergraduate, and the mathematics and arith- 
metic of an exciseman. They had to do with men 
and they were obliged to study human nature. They 
had to do with citizens and they were obliged to study 
the effects of those habits which are communicated by 
the circumstances of civil hfe. They were sensible that 
the operation of this second nature on the first produced 
a new combination ; and thence arose many djversities 
amongst men, according to their birth, their education, 
their professions, the periods of their lives, their resi- 
dence in towns or in the country, their several ways of 
acquiring and of fixing property, and according to the 
quality of the property itself, all which rendered them 

* Non, ut olim, universae legiones deducebantur cum tribunis, et 
centurionibus, et sui cujusque ordinis militibus, ut consensu et caritate 
rempublicam afficerent ; sed ignoti inter se, diversis manipulis, sine 
rectore, sine affectibus rautuis, quasi ex alio genere mortaliura, repente 
in unura collecti, numerus magis quara colonia. Tac. Annal. 1. 14, 
sect. 27. Ail this will be still more applicable to the unconnected,' 
rotatory, biennial national assemblies, in this absurd and senseless 
constitution. 



SELECTIONS. 405 

as it were so many different species of animals. From 
hence they thought themselves obliged to dispose their 
citizens into such classes, and to place them m such 
situations in the state as their pecuhar habits might 
qualify them to fill, and to allot to them such appro- 
priated privileges as might secure to them what their 
specific occasions required, and which might turnish 
to each description such force as might protect it in 
the conflict caused by the diversity of interests _ that 
must exist, and must contend, in all complex society : 
for the legislator would have been ashamed that the 
coarse husbandman should well know how to assort 
and to use his sheep, horses, and oxen, and should have 
enough of common sense not to abstract and equahze 
them all into animals, without providing for each kind 
an appropriate food, care, and employment ; whilst he. 
the economist, disposer, and shepherd of his own kin- 
dred, subliming himself into an airy metaphysician, 
was resolved to know nothing of his flocks but as men 
in general It is for this reason that Montesquieu 
observed very justly that, in their classification of the 
citizens, the great legislators of antiquity made the 
greatest display of their powers, and even soared above 
themselves It is here that your modern legislators 
have gone deep into the negative series and sunk even 
iK'low their own nothing. As the first sort of legislators 
attended to the different kinds of citizens, and combined 
them into one commonwealth, the others, the meta- 
physical and alchcmistical legislators, have taken the 
directly contrary course. They have attempted to 
confound all sorts of citizens, as well as they could into 
one homogeneous mass ; and then they divided this 
their amalgama into a number of incoherent republics. 
They reduce men to loose counters, merely for the sake 
nl simple telling, and not to figures wlwse power is to 
arise from their place in the table. The elements of 
their own metaphysics might Iku-c taught them better 
lessons. The troll of their categorical table might have 
informed them that there was something else in tHe 



4o6 EDMUND BURKE. 

intellectual world besides substance and quantity. They 
might learn from the catechism of metaphysics that 
there were eight heads more,* in every complex de- 
liberation, which they have never thought of; though 
these, of all the ten, are the subjects on which the skill 
of man can operate anything at all. 

So far from this able disposition of some of the old 
republican legislators, which follows with a solicitous 
accuracy the moral conditions and propensities of men, 
they have levelled and crushed together all the orders 
which they found, even under the coarse unartificial 
arrangement of the monarchy, in which mode of 
government the classing of the citizens is not of so much 
importance as in a republic. It is true, however, that 
every such classification, if properly ordered, is good 
in all forms of government ; and composes a strong 
barrier against the excesses of despotism, as well as 
it is the necessary means of giving effect and perma- 
nence to the republic. For want of something of this 
kind, if the present project of a republic should fail, all 
securities to a moderated freedom fail along with it ; all 
the indirect restraints which mitigate despotism are 
removed ; insomuch that if monarchy should ever again 
obtain an entire ascendency in France, under this or 
any other dynasty, it will probably be, if not volun- 
tarily tempered, at setting out, by the wise and virtuous 
counsels of the prince, the most completely arbitrary 
power that has ever appeared on earth. This is to play 
a most desperate game. 

The confusion which attends on all such proceedings, 
they even declare to be one of their objects, and they 
hope to secure their constitution by a terror of a return 
of those evils which attended their making it. ' By 
this,' say they, ' its destruction will become difficult 
to authority, which cannot break it up without the 
entire disorganization of the whole state.' They pre- 
sume, that if this authority should ever come to the 
same degree of power that they have acquired, it would 

• Qtialitas, Relatio, Actio, Passio, Ubi, Quando, Situs, Habitus. 



SELECTIONS. 407 

make a more moderate and chastised use of it, and would 
piously tremble entirely to disorganize the state m the 
savage manner that they have done. They expect frorn 
the virtues of returning despotism, the security which 
is to be enjoyed by the offspring of their popular vices. 

I wish sir, that you and my readers would give an 
attentive perusal to the work of M. de Calonne on this 
subject. It is indeed not only an eloquent but an able 
and instructive performance. I confine myself to what 
he says relative to the constitution of the new state 
and to the condition of the revenue. As to the disputes 
of this minister with his rivals, I do not wish to pro- 
nounce upon them. As little do I mean to hazard 
any opinion concerning his ways and means, hnanciai 
or political, for taking his countiy out of its present 
disgraceful and deplorable situation of servitude, 
anarchy, bankruptcy; and beggary. I cannot speculate 
quite so sanguinely as he does : but he is a Frenchman 
and has a closer duty relative to those objects and 
better means of judging of them, than I can have. 
I wish that the formal avowal which he refers to, made 
by one of the principal leaders in the assembly con- 
cerning the tendency of their scheme to bring France 
not only from a monarchy to a republic, but from a 
republic to a mere confederacy, may be very particularly 
attended to. It adds new force to my observations ; 
and indeed M. de Calonne's work supplies my deficiencies 
l)y many new and striking arguments on most ot the 
subjects of this letter.* . 

It is this resolution, to break their country into 
separate republics, which has driven them into the 
greatest number of their difficulties and contradictions. 
If it were not for this, all the questions of exact equality 
and these balances, never to be settled, o individual 
ritihts, population, and contribution, would be wholly 
useless The representation, though derived from 
parts, would be a duty which equally regarded the 
whole. Each deputy to the assembly would be the 

* See ri^tat Ac la Franco, p. 3fi3. 



4o'8 EDMUND BURKE. 

representative of France, and of all its descriptions, 
of the many and of the few, of the rich and of the poor, 
of the great districts and of the small. All these dis- 
tricts would themselves be subordinate to some standing 
authority, existing independently of them, an authority 
in which their representation, and everything that 
belongs to it, originated, and to which it was pointed. 
This standing, unalterable, fundamental government 
would make, and it is the only thing which could make, 
that territory truly and properly a whole. With us, 
when we elect popular representatives, we send them 
to a council, in which each man individually is a subject, 
and submitted to a government complete in all its 
ordinary functions. With you the elective assembly 
is the sovereign, and the sole sovereign ; all the mem- 
bers are therefore integral parts of this sole sovereignty. 
But with us it is totally different. With us the repre- 
sentative, separated from the other parts, can have no 
action and no existence. The government is the point 
of reference of the several members and districts of our 
representation. This is the centre of our unity. This 
government of reference is a trustee for the whole, and 
not for the parts. So is the other branch of our public 
council, I mean the House of Lords. With us the king 
and the lords are several and joint securities for the 
equality of each district, each province, each city. 
When did you hear in Great Britain of any province 
suffering from the^ inequality of its representation ; 
what district from having no representation at all ? 
Not only our monarchy and our peerage secure the 
equality on which our unity depends, but it is the 
spirit of the House of Commons itself. The very 
inequality of representation, which is so foolishly com- 
plained of, is perhaps the very thing which prevents us 
from thinking or acting as members for districts. Corn- 
wall elects as many members as all Scotland. But 
is Cornwall better taken care of than Scotland ? Few 
trouble their heads about any of your bases, out of 
some giddy clubs. Most of those who wish for any 



SELECTIONS. 409 

change, upon any plausible grounds, desire it on dif- 
ferent ideas. 

Your new constitution is the very reverse of ours m 
its principle; and I am astonished how any persons 
could dream of holding out anything done in it, as an 
example for Great Britain. With you there is little, 
or rather no connexion between the last representative 
and the first constituent. The member who goes to 
the National Assembly is not chosen by the people, nor 
accountable to them. There are three elections before 
he is chosen ; two sets of magistracy intervene between 
him and the primary assembly, so as to render him, 
as I have said, an ambassador of a state, and not the 
representative of the people within a state. By this 
the whole spirit of the election is changed ; nor can 
any corrective, which your constitution-mongers have 
devised, render him anything else than what he is. 
The very attempt to do it would inevitably introduce 
a confusion, if possible, more horrid than the present. 
There is no way to make a connexion between the 
original constituent and the representative, but by the 
circuitous means which may lead the candidate to 
apply in the first instance to the primary electors in 
order that by their authoritative instructions (and 
something more perhaps) these primary electors may 
force the two succeeding body of electors to make a 
choice agreeable to their wishes. But this would 
plainly subvert the whole scheme. It would be to 
iilunge them back into that tumult and confusion of 
popular election which, by their interposed gradation 
of elections, they mean to avoid, and at length to risk 
the whole fortune of the state with those who have the 
least knowledge of it and the least interest m it. This 
is a perpetual dilemma, into which they are thrown by 
the vicious, weak, and contradictory principles they 
have chosen. Unless the people break up and level 
this gradation, it is plain that they do not at all sub- 
stantially elect to the assembly ; indeed they elect as 
little in appearance as reality. 



410 EDMUND BURKE. 

What is it we all seek for in an election ? To answer 
its real purposes ; you must first possess the means 
of knowing the fitness of your man ; and then you 
must retain some hold upon him by personal obliga|tion 
or dependence. For what end are these primary 
electors complimented, or rather mocked with a choice ? 
They can never know anything of the quahties of him 
that is to serve them nor has he any obligation what- 
soever to them. Of all the powers unfit to be delegated 
by those who have any real means of judging, that 
most peculiarly unfit is what relates to a personal 
choice. In case of abuse that body of primary electors 
can never call the representative to an account for 
his conduct. He is too far removed from them in the 
chain of representation. If he acts improperly at the 
end of his two years' lease, it does not concern him 
for two years more. By the new French constitution 
the best and the wisest representatives go equally with 
the worst into this Limbus Patrum. Their bottoms 
are supposed foul and they must go into dock to be 
refitted. Every man who has served in an assembly 
is ineligible for two years after. Just as these magis- 
trates begin to learn their trade, Uke chimney-sweepers, 
they are disqualified for exercising it. Superficial, new, 
petulant acquisition, and interrupted, dronish, broken, 
ill recollection, is to be the destined character of all 
your future governors. Your constitution has too much 
of jealousy to have much of sense in it. You consider 
the breach of trust in the representative so principally 
that you do not at all regard the question of his fitness 
to execute it. 

This purgatory interval is not unfavourable to a 
faithless representative, who may be as good a can- 
vasser as he was a bad governor. In this time he may 
cabal himself into a superiority over the wisest and 
most virtuous. As, in the end, all the members of this 
elective constitution are equally fugitive, and exist only 
for the election, they may be no longer the same per- 
sons who had chosen him, to whom he is to be respon- 



SELECTIONS. 411 

sible when he soHcits for a renewal of his trust. To 
call all the secondary electors of the commune to account, 
is ridiculous, impracticable, and unjust; they may 
themselves have been deceived in their choice, as the 
third set of electors, those of the department, may 
be in theirs. In your elections responsibility cannot 

exist. 

Finding no sort of principle of coherence with each 
other in the nature and constitution of the several new 
republics of France, I considered what cement the 
legislators had provided for them from any extraneous 
materials. Their confederations, their spectacles, their 
civic feasts, and their enthusiasm, I take no notice of; 
they are nothing but mere tricks ; but, tracing their 
policy through their actions, I think I can distinguish 
the arrangements by which they propose to hold these 
republics together. The first is the confiscation, with 
the compulsory paper currency annexed to it ; the 
second is the supreme power of the city of Pans ; the 
third, is the general army of the state. Of this last 
I shall reserve what I have to say until I come to con- 
sider the army as a head by itself. _ 

As to the operation of the first (the confiscation and 
paper currency) merely as a cement, I cannot deny 
that these, the one depending on the other, may for 
some time compose some sort of cement, if their mad- 
ness and folly in the management, and in the tcmpenng 
of the parts together, does not produce a repulsion m 
the very outset. But allowing to the scheme some 
coherence and some duration, it appears to me that if 
after a while, the confiscation should not be found 
sufficient to support the paper coinage (as I am morally 
certain it will not), then, instead of cementing, it will 
add infinitely to the dissociation, distraction, and con- 
fusion of these confederate republics, both with relation 
to each other, and to the several parts within themselves. 
But if the confiscation should so far succeed as to sink 
the paper currency, the cement is gone with the circula- 
tion In the meantime its binding force will be very 



4X2 EDMUND BURKE. 

uncertain and it will straighten or relax with every 

variation in the credit of the paper 

One thing only is certain in this scheme, which is an 
effect seemingly collateral, but direct, I have no doubt, 
in the minds of those who conduct this business, that 
is, its effect in producing an oligarchy in every one of 
the republics. A paper circulation, not founded on 
any real money deposited or engaged for, amounting 
already to four-and-forty millions of English money, 
and this currency by force substituted in the place of 
the coin of the kingdom, becoming thereby the sub- 
stance of its revenue, as well as the medium of all its 
commercial and civil intercourse, must put the whole 
of what power, authority, and influence is left, in any 
form whatsoever it may assume, into the hands of the 
managers and conductors of this circulation. 

In England we feel the influence of the Bank ; though 
it is only the centre of a voluntary dealing. He knows 
little indeed of the influence of money upon mankind 
who does not see the force of the management of a 
monied concern, which is so much more extensive, 
and in its nature so much more depending on the 
managers than any of ours. But this is not merely 
a money concern. There is another member in the 
system inseparably connected with this money manage- 
ment. It consists in the means of drawing out at dis- 
cretion portions of the confiscated lands for sale ; and 
carrying on a process of continual transmutation of 
paper into land, and of land into paper. When we 
follow this process in its effects, we may conceive some- 
thing of the intensity of the force with which this system 
must operate. By this means the spirit of money 
jobbing and speciilation goes into the mass of land 
itself, and incorpoiates with it. By this kind of opera- 
tion, that species of property becomes (as it were) 
volatilized ; it assumes an unnatural and monstrous 
activity, and thereby throws into the hands of the 
several managers, principal and subordinate, Parisian 
and provincial, all the representative of money, and 



SELECTIONS. 4i3 

perhaps a fuU tenth part of all the land in France, 
which has now acquired the worst and most pernicious 
part of the evil of a paper circulation, the greatest 
possible uncertainty in its value. They have reversed 
the Latonian kindness to the landed property of Delos 
They have sent theirs to be blown about, like the light 
fragments of a wreck, or as et littora circum. 

The new dealers, being aU habitually adventurers 
and without any fixed habits or local predilections, will 
purchase to job out again, as the market of paper, or 
of money, or of land, shall present an advantage tor 
though a holy bishop thinks that agriculture will derive 
great advantages from the ' enlightened ' usurers who 
are to purchase the church confiscations, I, who am 
not a good, but an old farmer, with great humility beg 
leave to tell his late lordship that usury is not tutor of 
agriculture ; and if the word ' enlightened be under- 
stood according to the new dictionary, as it always is 
in vour new schools, I cannot conceive how_ a mans 
not believing in God can teach him to cultivate the 
earth with the least of any additional skill or encourage- 
ment 'Diis immortalibus sero,' said an old Roman 
when he held one handle of the plough, whilst Death 
held the other. Though you were to join in the com- 
mission all the directors of the two academies to the 
directors of the Caisse d'Escompte, an old experienced 
peasant is worth them all. I have got more informa- 
tion upon a curious and interesting branch of husbandry, 
in one short conversation with an old Carthusian monk 
than I have derived from all the Bank directors that 
I have ever conversed with. However, there is no 
cause for apprehension from the meddling of money- 
dealers with rural economy. These gentlemen are too 
wise in their generation. At first, perhaps, their tender 
and susceptible imaginations may be captivated with 
the innocent and unprofitable delights of a pastoral 
life • but in a httle time they will find that agriculture 
IS a'trade much more laborious, and much less lucrative 
than that which they had left. After making its pane- 



414 EDMUND BURKE. 

gyric, they will turn their backs on it hke their great pre- 
cursor and prototype. They may, hke him, begin by 
singing ' Beaius ille ' — but what will be the end ? 

Haec ubi locutus foenerator Alphius, 
Jam jam futurus rusticus 
Omnem relegit idibus pecuniam ; 
Quffirit calendis ponere. 

They will cultivate the Caisse d'Aglise, under the sacred 
auspices of this prelate, with much more profit than its 
vineyards and its corn-fields. They will employ their 
talents according to their habits and their interests. 
They will not follow the plough whilst they can direct 
treasuries and govern provinces. 

Your legislators, in everything new, are the very 
first who have founded a commonwealth upon gaming, 
and infused this spirit into it as its vital breath. The 
great object in these politics is to metamorphose France, 
from a great kingdom into one great play-table ; to 
turn its inhabitants into a nation of gamesters ; to 
make speculation as extensive as life ; to mix it with 
all its concerns ; and to divert the whole of the hopes 
and fears of the people from their usual channels into 
the impulses, passions, and superstitions of those who 
live on chances. They loudly proclaim their opinion 
that this their present system of a repubhc cannot 
possibly exist without this kind of gaming fund ; and 
that the very thread of its life is spun out of the staple 
of these speculations. The old gaming in funds was 
mischievous enough undoubtedly ; but it was so only 
to individuals. Even when it had its greatest extent, 
in the Mississippi and South Sea, it affected but 
few, comparatively ; where it extends further, as in 
lotteries, the spirit has but a single object. But where 
the law, which in most circumstances forbids and in 
none countenances gaming, is itself debauched, so as 
to reverse its nature and policy, and expressly to force 
the subject to this destructive table, by bringing the 
spirit and symbols of gaming into the minutest matters. 



SELECTIONS. 4i5 

and engaging everybody in it, and in everything, a niore 
dreadful epidemic distemper of that kmd is spread than 
yet has appeared in the world. With you a man can 
neither earn nor buy his dinner without a speculation. 
What he receives in the morning will not have the same 
value at night. What he is compehed to take as pay 
for an old debt will not be received as the same when 
he comes to pay a debt contracted by himself ; nor will 
it be the same when by prompt payment he would avoid 
contracting any debt at all. Industry must Wither 
away. Economy must be driven from your country 
Careful provision will have no existence. Who will 
labour without knowing the amount of his pay ? Who 
will study to increase what none can estimate .^ Wfio 
will accumulate when he does not know the value ot 
what he saves ? If you abstract it from its uses m 
gaming, to accumulate your paper wealth, would be 
not the providence of a man, but the distempered instinct 

of a iackdaw. ^ , ,. r . 

The truly melancholy part of the policy of syste- 
matically making a nation of gamesters is this, that, 
though all are forced to play, few can understand the 
game ; and fewer still are in a condition to avail them- 
selves of that knowledge. The many must be the dupes 
of the few who conduct the machine of these specula- 
tions. What effect it must have on the country people 
is visible. The townsman can calculate from day to 
day • not so the inhabitant of the country. When the 
peas'ant first brings his corn to market, the magistrate 
m the town obliges him to take the assignat at par ; 
when he goes to the shop with this money, he hnd^ it 
seven per cent, the worse for crossing the way. ihis 
market he will not readily resort to again. The towns- 
people will be inflamed ! they will force the country- 
people to bring tlieir corn. Resistance will begin, and 
the murders of Paris and St. Denis may be renewed all 

through France. • i + +u 

What signifies the empty compliment paid to tne 
country, by giving it, perhaps, more than its share m 



4i6 EDMUND BURKE. 

the theory of your representation ? Where have you 
placed the real power over monied and landed circula- 
tion ? Where have you placed the means of raising 
and falling the value of every man's freehold ? Those, 
whose operations can take from, or add ten per cent, 
to, the possessions of every man in France, must be 
the masters of every man in France. The whole of the 
power obtained by this revolution will settle in the 
towns among the burghers and the monied directors 
who lead them. The landed gentleman, the yeoman, 
and the peasant have, none of them, habits, or inclina- 
tions, or experience, which can lead them to any share 
in this the sole source of power and influence now left 
in France. The very nature of a country hfe, the very 
nature of landed property, in all the occupations, and 
all the pleasures they afford, render combination and 
arrangement (the sole way of procuring and exerting 
influence) in a manner impossible amongst country 
people. Combine them by all the art you can, and all 
the industry, they are always dissolving into individ- 
uality. Anything in the nature of incorporation is 
almost impracticable amongst them. Hope, fear, 
alarm, jealousy, the ephemerous tale that does its busi- 
ness, and dies in a day, all these things, which are the 
reins and spurs by which leaders check or urge the 
minds of followers, are not easily employed, or hardly 
at all, amongst scattered people. They assemble, they 
arm, they act with the utmost difficulty, and at the 
greatest charge. Their efforts, if ever they can be 
commenced cannot be sustained. They cannot proceed 
systematically. If the country gentlemen attempt an 
influence through the mere income of their property, what 
is it to that of those who have ten times their income to 
sell, and who can ruin their property by bringing their 
plunder to meet it at market ? If the landed man wishes 
to mortgage, he falls the value of his land and raises the 
value of assignats. He augments the power of his enemy 
by the very means he must take to contend with him. 
The country gentleman therefore, the officer by sea and 



SELECTIONS. 4^7 

land, the man of liberal views and habits, attached to no 
profession, will be as completely excluded from the 
government of his country as if he were legislatively 
proscribed. It is obvious that in the towns all the 
things which conspire against the country gentlemen 
combine in favour of the money manager and director. 
In towns combination is natural. The habits of burghers, 
their occupations, their diversion, their business, their 
idleness, continuaUy bring them into mutual contact. 
Their virtues and their vices are sociable ; they are 
always in garrison ; and they come embodied and half 
disciplined into the hands of those who mean to form 
them for civil or military action. 

All these considerations leave no doubt on my mmd 
that, if this monster of a constitution can continue, 
France will be wholly governed by the agitators m 
corporations, by societies in the towns formed of directors 
in assignats, and trustees for the sale of church lands 
attorneys, agents, money jobbers, speculators, and 
adventurers, composing an ignoble oligarchy, founded on • 
the destruction of the crown, the church, the nobility, 
and the people. Here end all the deceitful dreams^ and 
visions of the equality and rights of men. In ' the 
Serbonian bog' of this base oligarchy they are all absorbed, 
sunk, and lost for ever. 

Though human eyes cannot trace them, one would be 
tempted to think some great offences in France must cry 
to heaven, which has thought fit to punish it with a sub- 
jection to a vile and inglorious domination, in which 
no comfort or compensation is to be found in any even 
of those false splendours which, playing about other 
tyrannies, prevent mankind from feeling themselves 
dishonoured even whilst they are oppressed. I must 
confess I am touched with a sorrow, mixed with some 
indignation, at the conduct of a few men, once of great 
rank, and still of great character, who, deluded with 
specious names, have engaged in a business too deep for 
the line of their understanding to fathom ; who have 
lent their fair reputation, and the authority of their high- 

14 



4i8 EDMUND BURKE. 

sounding names, to the designs of men with whom they 
could not be acquainted ; and have thereby made their 
very virtues operate to the ruin of their country. 
So far as to the first cementing principle. 
The second material of cement for their new republic 
is the superiority of the city of Paris : and this I admit 
is strongly connected with the other cementing principle 
of paper circulation and confiscation. It is in this part 
of the project we must look for the cause of the destruc- 
tion of all the old bounds of provinces and jurisdictions, 
ecclesiastical and secular, and the dissolution of all 
ancient combinations of things, as well as the formation 
of so many small unconnected republics. The power 
of the city of Paris is evidently one great spring of all 
their politics. ' It is through the power of Paris, now 
become the centre and focus of jobbing, that the leaders 
of this faction direct, or rather command, the whole 
legislative and the whole executive government. Every- 
thing therefore must be done which can confirm the 
authority of that city over the other republics. Paris 
is compact ; she has an enormous strength, wholly dis- 
proportioned to the force of any of the square republics ; 
and this strength is collected and condensed within a 
very narrow compass. Paris has a natural and easy 
connexion of its parts, which will not be affected by any 
scheme of a geometrical constitution, nor does it much 
signify whether its proportion of representation be more 
or less, since it has the whole draft of fishes in its drag-net. 
The other divisions of the kingdom being hackled and 
torn to pieces, and separated from all their habitual 
means and even principles of union, cannot, for some 
time at least, confederate against her. Nothing was to 
be left in all the subordinate members but weakness, 
disconnexion, and confusion. To confirm this part of 
the plan, the assembly has lately come to a resolution 
that no two of their republics shall have the same com- 
mander-in-chief. 

To a person who takes a view of the whole, the strength 
of Paris, thus formed, will appear a system of general 



SELECTIONS. 4^9 

weakness. It is boasted that the geometrical policy 
has been adopted, that all local ideas should be sunk, 
and that the people should be no longer Gascons, Picards, 
Bretons, Normans ; but Frenchmen, with one country, 
one heart, and one assembly. But instead of being all 
Frenchmen, the greater likelihood is, that the inhabitants 
of that region will shortly have no country. No man 
ever was attached by a sense of pride, partiality, or real 
affection to a description of square measurements. He 
never will glory in belonging to the chequer No. 71, or to 
any other badge-ticket. We begin our pubhc affections 
in our families. No cold relation is a zealous citizen. 
We pass on to our neighbourhoods, and our habitual 
provincial connexions. These are inns and resting 
places. Such divisions of our country as have been 
formed by habit, and not by a sudden jerk of authority, 
were so many httle images of the great country in which 
the heart found something which it could fill. The love 
to the whole is not extinguished by this subordinate 
partiahty. Perhaps it is a sort of elemental training to 
those higher and more large regards, by which alone men 
come to be affected, as with their own concern, in the 
prosperity of a kingdom so extensive as that of France. 
In that general territory itself, as in the old name of 
provinces, the citizens are interested from old prejudices 
and unreasoned habits, and not on account of the geo- 
metric properties of its figure. The power and pre- 
eminence of Paris, does certainly press down and hold 
these republics together as long as it lasts. But, for the 
reasons I have already given you, I think it cannot last 
very long. 

Passing from the civil creating and the civil cementing 
principles of this constitution to the National Assembly 
wliich is to appear and act as sovereign, we see a body 
in its constitution with every possible power, and no 
possible external control. We see a body without funda- 
mental laws, without established maxims, without 
respected rules of proceeding, wliich nothing can keep 
firm to any system whatsoever. Their idea of their 



420 EDMUND BURKE. 

powers is always taken at the utmost stretch of legislative 
competency, and their examples for common cases from 
the exception of the most urgent necessity. The future 
is to be in most respects like the present assembly ; but 
by the mode of the new elections and the tendency of the 
new circulations, it will be purged of the small degree of 
internal control existing in a minority chosen originally 
from various interests, and preserving something of their 
.spirit. If possible, the next assembly must be worse 
than the present. The present, by destroying and 
altering everything, will leave to their successors appar- 
ently nothing popular to do. They will be roused by 
emulation and example to enterprises the boldest and 
the most absurd. To suppose such an assembly sitting 
in perfect quietude is ridiculous. 

Your all-suificient legislators, in their hurry to do 
everything at once, have forgot one thing that seems 
essential, and which, I believe, never has been before, 
in the theory or the practice, omitted by any projector 
of a republic. They have forgot to constitute a senate, 
or something of that nature and character. Never, 
before this time, was heard of a body politic composed 
of one legislative and active assembly, and its executive 
officers, without such a council ; without something to 
which foreign states might connect themselves ; some- 
thing to which, in the ordinary detail of government, 
the people could look up ; something which might give 
a bias and steadiness and preserve something like con- 
sistency in the proceedings of state. Such a body kings 
generally have as a council. A monarchy may exist 
without it : but it seems to be in the very essence of a 
republican government. It holds a sort of middle place 
between the supreme power exercised by the people, or 
immediately delegated from them, and the mere executive. 
Of this there are no traces in your constitution ; and in 
providing nothing of this kind, your Solons and Numas 
have, as much as in any thing else, discovered a sovereign 
incapacity. 

Let us now turn our eyes to what they have done 



SELECTIONS. 421 

towards the formation of an executive power. For this 
they have chosen a degraded king. This their first 
executive officer is to be a machine, without any sort 
of deUberative discretion in any one act of his function. 
At best he is but a channel to convey to the National 
\ssembly such matter as it may import that body to 
know. If he had been made the exclusive channel, the 
power would not have been without its importance ; 
though infinitely perilous to those who would choose to 
exercise it. But pubHc intelligence and statement of 
facts may pass to the assembly with equal authenticity, 
through any other conveyance. As to the means, there- . 
fore of giving a direction to measures by the statement 
of an authorized reporter, this office of intelligence is as 

nothing. ^ . „ 

To consider the French scheme for an executive officer, 
in its two natural divisions of civil and political— m the 
first it must be observed that, according to the new con- 
stitution, the higher parts of judicature, in either of its 
lines are not in the king. The King of France is not the 
fountain of justice. The judges, neither the ongmal nor 
the appellate, are of his nomination. He neither pro- 
poses the candidates, nor has a negative on the choice. 
He is not even the public prosecutor. He serves only as 
a notary to authenticate the choice made of the judges m 
the several districts. By his officers he is to execute 
their sentence. When we look into the true nature of 
his authority, he appears to be nothing more than a chief 
of bumbailiffs, scrjcants-at-macc, catchpolcs, jailers, and 
hangmen. It is impossible to place anything called 
royalty in a more degrading point of view. A thousand 
times better had it been for the dignity of this unhappy 
prince, that he had nothing at all to do with the adminis- 
tration of justice, deprived as he is of all that is vmcrable 
and all that is consolatory in that function, without 
power of originating any process : without a power of 
suspension, mitigation or pardon. Everythmg in justice 
that is vile and odious is tlirowTi upon him. It was not 
for nothing that the assembly has been at such pains to 



422 EDMUND BURKE. 

remove the stigma from certain offices, when they were 
resolved to place the person who had lately been their 
king in a situation but one degree above the executioner, 
and in an office nearly of the same quahty. It is not in 
nature that, situated as the King of the French now is, 
he can respect himself or can be respected by others. 

View this new executive officer on the side of his 
political capacity, as he acts under the orders of the 
National Assembly. To execute laws is a royal office ; 
to execute orders is not to be a king. However, a political 
executive magistracy, though merely such, is a great 
trust. It is a trust, indeed, that has much depending 
upon its faithful and diligent performance, both in the 
person presiding in it and in all its subordinates. Means 
of performing this duty ought to be given by regulation ; 
and dispositions towards it ought to be infused by the 
circumstances attendant on the trust. It ought to be 
environed with dignity, authority, and consideration, 
and it ought to lead to glory. The office of execution is 
an office of exertion. It is not from impotence we are 
to expect the tasks of power. What sort of person is a 
king to command executory service, who has no means 
whatsoever to reward it ? Not in a permanent office ; 
not in a grant of land ; no, not in a pension of fifty pounds 
a year ; not in the vainest and most trivial title. In 
France the king is no more the fountain of honour than 
he is the fountain of justice. All rewards, all distinctions, 
are in other hands. Those who serve the king can be 
actuated by no natural motive but fear ; by a fear of 
everything except their master. His functions of internal 
coercion are as odious as those which he exercises in the 
department of justice. If relief is to be given to any 
municipality, the assembly gives it. If troops are to be 
sent to reduce them to obedience to the assembly, the 
king is to execute the order ; and upon every occasion 
he is to be spattered over with the blood of his people. 
He has no negative ; yet his name and authority is used 
to enforce every harsh decree. Nay, he must concur in 
the butchery of those who shall attempt to free him from. 



SELECTIONS. 423 

his imprisonment, or show the slightest attachment to 
his person or to his ancient authority. 

Executive magistracy ought to be constituted in such 
a manner that those who compose it should be disposed 
to love and to venerate those whom they are bound to 
obey. A purposed neglect, or, wliat is worse, a little but 
perverse and malignant obedience must be the ruin of the 
wisest councils. In vain will the law attempt to antici- 
pate or to follow such studied neglects and fraudulent 
attentions. To make them act zealously is not in the 
competence of law. Kings, even such as are truly kings, 
may and ought to bear the freedom of subjects that are 
obnoxious to them. They may too, without derogating 
from themselves, bear even the authority of such persons, 
if it promotes their service. Louis XIII mortally hated 
the Cardinal de Richelieu ; but his support of that 
minister against his rivals was the source of all the glory 
of his reign and the solid foundation of his throne itseh. 
Louis XIV, when come to the throne, did not love the 
Cardinal Mazarin ; but for his interests he preserved him 
in power. When old, he detested Louvois ; but for 
years, whilst he faithfully served his greatness, he endured 
his person. When George II took Mr. Pitt, who certainly 
was not agreeable to him, into his councils, he did noth- 
ing which could humble a wise sovereign. But these 
ministers who were chosen by affairs, not by affections, 
acted in the name of, and in trust for, kings ; and not as 
their avowed, constitutional, and ostensible masters. I 
think it impossible that any king, when he has recovered 
his first terrors, can cordially infuse vivacity and vigour 
into measures which he knows to be dictated by those, 
who, he must be persuaded, are in the highest degree ill 
affected to his person. Will any ministers who serve 
such a king (or whatever he may be called) with but a 
decent appearance of respect cordially obey the orders 
of those whom but the other day in his name they had 
committed to the Bastille ? will they obey the orders 
of those whom, whilst they were exercising despotic 
justice upon them, they conceived they were treating 



424 EDMUND BURKE. 

with lenit}/ ; and for whom, in a prison, they thought 
they had provided an asylum ? If you expect such 
obedience, amongst your other innovations and regenera- 
tions, you ought to make a revolution in nature and 
provide a new constitution for the human mind. Other- 
wise, your supreme government cannot harmonize with 
its executory system. There are cases in which we cannot 
take up with names and abstractions. You may call half 
a dozen leading individuals, whom we have reason to fear 
and hate, the nation. It makes no difference than to 
make us fear and hate them the more. If it had been 
thought justifiable and expedient to make such a revolu- 
tion by such means, and through such persons, as you 
have made yours, it would have been more wise to have 
completed the business of the fifth and sixth of October. 
The new executive officer would then owe his situation 
to those who are his creators as well as his masters j and 
he might be bound in interest, in the society of crime, and 
(if in crimes there could be virtues) in gratitude to serve 
those who had promoted him to a place of great lucre and 
great sensual indulgence j and of something more : for 
more he must have received from those who certainly 
would not have limited an aggrandized creature, as they 
have done a submitting antagonist. 

A king circumstanced as the present, if he is totally 
stupified by his misfortunes, so as to think it not the 
necessity, but the premium and privilege of life, to eat 
and sleep, without any regard to glory, can never be fit 
for the office. If he feels as men commonly feel, he 
must be sensible that an office so circumstanced is one 
in which he can obtain no fame or reputation. He has 
no generous interest that can excite him to action. At 
best, his conduct will be passive and defensive. To 
inferior people such an office might be matter of honour. 
But to be raised to it, and to descend to it, are different 
things, and suggest different sentiments. Does he really 
name the ministers ? They will have a sympathy with 
him. Are they forced upon him ? The whole business 
between them and the nominal king will be mutual 



SELECTIONS. 4^5 

counteraction. In all other countries the office of 
irinisters of state is of the highest dignity. In France 
it is full of peril, and incapable of glory. Rivals, however, 
they will have in their nothingness, whilst shallow am- 
bition exists in the world, or the desire of a miserable 
salary is an incentive to short-sighted avarice. Those 
competitors of the ministers are enabled by your constitu- 
tion to attack them in their vital parts, whilst they have 
not the means of repelling their charges m any other than 
the degrading character of culprits. The ministers of 
state in France are the only persons in that country who 
are incapable of a share in the national councils. What 
ministers! What councils! What a nation! But 
they are responsible. It is a poor service that is to be 
had from responsibihty. The elevation of mmd to be 
derived from fear will never make a nation glorious. 
Responsibility prevents crimes. It makes all attempts 
against the laws dangerous. But for a principle of active 
and zealous service, none but idiots could think of it. Is 
the conduct of a war to be trusted to a man who may 
abhor its principle ; who, in every step he may take to 
render it successful, confirms the power of those by whom 
he is oppressed ? Will foreign states seriously treat with 
him who has no prerogative of peace or war ; no, not so 
much as in a single vote by himself or his ministers, or 
by any one whom he can possibly influence ? A state 
r«f contempt is not a state f< )r a prince : better get rid of 
him at once. , 

I know it will be said that these humours in the court 
and executive government will continue only through 
this generation ; and that the king has been brought to 
declare the dauphin shall be educated in a confornuty 
to his situation. If he is made to conform to his situa- 
tion, he will have no education at all. His training 
must be worse even than that of an arbitrary monarch. 
If he reads— whether he reads or not, some good or 
evil genius will tell him his ancestors were kings. 
Thenceforward his object must be to assert himself and 
to avenge his parents. This you N\ill say is not his duty. 



426 EDMUND BURKE. 

That may be ' but it is nature ; and whilst you pique 
nature against you, you do unwisely to trast to duty. 
In this futile scheme of polity the state nurses in its 
bosom, for the present, a source of weakness, per- 
plexity, counteraction, inefficiency, and decay j and 
it prepares the means of its final ruin. In short, I see 
nothing in the executive force (I cannot call it authority) 
that has even an appearance of vigour, or that has the 
smallest degree of just correspondence or S3rmmetry, 
or amicable relation with the supreme power, either as 
it now exists or as it is planned for the future govern- 
ment. 

You have settled, by an economy as perverted as 
the policy, two * establishments of government ; one 
real, one fictitious. Both maintained at a vast ex- 
pense ; but the fictitious at, I think, the greatest. 
Such a machine as the latter is not worth the grease of 
its wheels. The expense is exorbitant ; and neither the 
show nor the use deserve the tenth part of the charge. 
Oh! but I don't do justice to the talents of the legis- 
lators : I don't allow, as I ought to do, for necessity. 
Their scheme of executive force was not their choice. 
This pageant must be kept. The people would not 
consent to part with it. Right ; I understand you. 
You do, in spite of your grand theories, to which you 
would have heaven and earth to bend, you do know 
how to conform yourselves to the nature and circum- 
stances of things. But when you were obhged to con- 
form thus far to circumstances, you ought to have 
carried your submission farther, and to have made, 
what you were obliged to take, a proper instrument 
and useful to its end. That was in your power. For 
instance, among many others, it was in your power to 
leave to your king the right of peace and war. What ! 
to leave to the executive magistrate the most dangerous 
of all prerogatives ? I know none more dangerous 
nor any one more necessary to be so trusted. I do 
not say that this prerogative ought to be trusted to 

♦ Til reality ihvcp, to reckon the provincial republican establishments. 



SELECTIONS. 427 

your king, unless he enjoyed other auxiliary trusts along 
with it which he does not now hold. But, if he did 
possess' them, hazardous as they are undoubtedly, 
advantages would arise from such a constitution, more 
than compensating the risk. There is no other way of 
keeping the several potentates of Europe from mtngumg 
distinctly and personally with the members of your 
assembly, from intermeddling in all your concerns, and 
fomenting, in the heart of your country, the most per- 
nicious of all factions ; factions in the interest and 
under the direction of foreign powers. From that 
worst of evils, thank God, we are still free. Your skill, • 
if you had any, would be well employed to find out 
indirect correctives and controls upon this perilous 
trust. If you did not like those which m England we 
have* chosen, your leaders might have exerted their 
abilities in contriving better. If it were necessary to 
exemplify the consequences of such an executive govern- 
ment as yours, in the ^'management of great affairs, I 
should refer you' to the late reports of M. de Montmorm 
to the National Assembly and all the other proceedings 
relative to the differences between Great Britain and 
Spain. It would be treating your understanding with 
disrespect to point them out to you. 

I hear that the persons who are called ministers have 
signified an intention of resigning their places. I am 
rather astonished that they have not resigned long 
since. For the universe I would not have stood in the 
situation in which they have been for this last twelve- 
month. They wished well, I take it for granted, to the 
revolution. Let this fact be as it may, they could not, 
placed as they were upon an eminence, though an erni- 
nence of humiliation, but be the first to see collectively, 
and to feel each in his own department, the evils vyhich 
have been produced by that revolution. In every 
step which they took, or forbore to take, they must 
have felt the degraded situation of their country, and 
their utter incapacity of serving it. They are in a 
species of subordinate servitude, in which no men 



428 EDMUND BURKE. 

before them were ever seen. Without confidence from 
their sovereign, on whom they were forced, or from the 
assembly who forced them upon him, all the noble func- 
tions of their ofhce are executed by committees of the 
assembly, without any regard whatsoever to their 
personal, or their official authority. They are to 
execute, without power ; they are to be responsible, 
without discretion ; they are to deliberate, without 
choice. In their puzzled situation, under two sovereigns, 
over neither of whom they have any influence, they 
must act in such a manner as (in effect, whatever they 
may intend) sometimes to betray the one, sometimes the 
other, and always to betray themselves. Such has been 
their situation ; such must be the situation of those 
who succeed them. I have much respect, and many 
good wishes, for Mr. Necker. I am obliged to him for 
attentions. I thought, when his enemies had driven 
him from Versailles, that his exile was a subject of 
most serious congratulation — sed multce urbes et puhlica 
vota vicerunt. He is now sitting on the ruins of the 
finances and of the monarchy of France. 

A great deal more might be observed on the strange 
constitution of the executory part of the new govern- 
ment ; but fatigue must give bounds to the discussion of 
subjects which in themselves have hardly any limits. 

As little genius and talent am I able to perceive in 
the plan of judicature formed by the National Assembly. 
According to their invariable course, the framers of 
your constitution have begun with the utter abolition 
of the parliaments. These venerable bodies, like the 
rest of the old government, stood in need of reform, 
even though there should be no change made in the 
monarchy. They required several more alterations 
to adapt them to the system of a free constitution. 
But they had particulars in their constitution, and 
those not a few, which deserved approbation from the 
wise. They possessed one fundamental excellence ; they 
were independent. The most doubtful circumstance 
attendant on their office, that of its beinsf vendible, 



SELECTIONS. 429 

contributed, however, to this independency of character. 
They held for Ufe. Indeed, they may be said to have 
held by inheritance. Appointed by the monarch, they 
were considered as nearly out of his power. The most 
determined exertions of that authority agamst them 
only showed their radical independence. They com- 
posed permanent bodies pohtic, constituted to resist 
arbitrary innovation ; and from that corporate consti- 
tution and from most of their forms, they were well 
calculated to afford both certainty and stability to the 
laws. They had been a safe asylum to secure ttiese 
laws in all the revolutions of humour and opinion. They 
had saved that sacred deposit of the country during 
the reigns of arbitrary prices, and the struggles ot 
arbitrary factions. They kept alive the memory and 
record of the constitution. They were the great 
security to private property; which might be said 
(when personal liberty had no existence) to be, in 
fact, as well guarded in France as in any other country 
Whatever is supreme in a state, ought to have as much 
as possible its judicial authority so constituted, as 
not only not to depend upon it but in some sort to 
balance it. It ought to give a security to its justice 
against its power. It ought to make its judicature, as 
it were, something exterior to the state. 

These parliaments had furnished, not the best 
certainly but some considerable corrective to the ex- 
cesses and vices of the monarchy. Such an independent 
iudicature was ten times more necessary when a demo- 
cracy became the absolute power of the country. In 
that constitution, elective, temporary, local judges, 
such as you have contrived, exercising their dependent 
functions in a narrow society, must be the worst of all 
tribunals. In them it will be vain to look for any re- 
appearance of justice towards strangers, towards the 
obnoxious rich, towards the minority of routed parties 
towards all those who in the election have sui-)porte(l 
unsuccessful candidates. It will be impossible to keep 
the new tribunals clear of the worst spirit of faction. 



430 EDMUND BURKE. 

All contrivances by ballot we know experimentally to 
be vam and childish to prevent a discovery of inclina- 
tions. Where they may the best answer the purposes 
of concealment, they answer to produce suspicion, and 
this is a still more mischievous cause of partiahty. 

If the parliaments had been preserved, instead of 
being dissolved at so ruinous a change to the nation, 
they might have served in this new commonwealth' 
perhaps not precisely the same (I do not mean an exact 
parallel) but nearly the same purposes as the court and 
senate of Areopagus did in Athens ; that is, as one of 
the balances and correctives to the evils of a light and 
unjust democracy. Every one knows that this tribunal 
was the great stay of that state ; every one knows with 
what care it was upheld, and with what a religious awe 
it was consecrated. The parliaments were not wholly 
free from faction, I admit ; but this evil was exterior 
and accidental, [and not so much the vice of their con- 
stitution itself, as it must be in your new contrivance of 
sexennial elective judicatories. Several English com- 
mend the abolition of the old tribunals, as supposing 
that they determined everything by bribery and cor- 
ruption. But they have stood the test of monarchic 
and republican scrutiny. The court was well disposed 
to prove corruption on those bodies when they were 
dissolved in 1771.— Those who have again dissolved 
them would . have done the same if they could— but 
both inquisitions having failed, I conclude that gross 
pecuniary corruption must have been rather rare 
amongst them. 

It would have been prudent, along with the parlia- 
ments, to preserve their ancient power of registering 
and of remonstrating at least, upon all the decrees of the 
National Assembly, as they did upon those which passed 
m the time of the monarchy. It would be a means of 
squaring the occasional decrees of a democracy to some 
pnnciples of general jurisprudence. The vice of the 
ancient democracies, and one cause of their ruin, was 
that they ruled, as you do, by occasional decrees. 



SELECTIONS. 43i 

pscbhismata. This practice soon broke in upon the 
fenor and consistency of the laws ; ^^ f^f^^f/^^! 
respect of the people towards them ; and totally de 
stroved them in the end. -u-^-u ;„ 

Your vesting the power of remonstrance which m 
the time of the monarchy, existed in the parliament of 
Paris, in vour principal executive officer whom m spite 
of common sense, you persevere m callmg king, is the 
height of. absurdity. You ought never to suffer 
remonstrance from him who is to execute. This s to 
understand neither council nor execution; neither 
authority nor obedience. The Person whom you caU 
king, ought not to have this power, or he ought to have 

""Your present arrangement is strictly judicial. In- 
stead of imitating your monarchy, and seating your 
judges on a bench of independence your object is to 
reduce them to the most blind obedience. As you 
have changed all things, you have invented new prmc^ 
pies of order. You first appoint judges, who I suppose 
are to determine according to law, and then you let 
them know that, at some time or other, you intend to 
g^vTthem some law by which they are to determine 
Any studies which they have made (if any they have 
made) are to be useless to them But to supply these 
studies, they are to be sworn to obey all the rules, orders 
and instructions, which from time to time they are to 
receive from the National Assembly. These it they 
submit to, they leave no ground of law to the subject 
They become complete and most dangerous instruments 
in the hands of the governing power which, in the 
midst of a cause, or on the prospect of it, may wholly 
change the rule of decision. If these orders of the 
National Assembly come to be contrary to the will ot 
the people, who locally choose those judges such con- 
fusion must happen as is terrible to think of. For the 
judges owe their places to the local authority ; and the 
commands they are sworn to obey come from those who 
have no share in their appointment. In the meantime 



432 EDMUND BURKE, 

they have the example of the court of Chdtelet to en- 
courage and guide them in the exercise of their functions. 
That court is to try criminals sent to it by the National 
Assembly, or brought before it by other courses of dela- 
tion. They sit under a guard to save their own lives. 
They know not by what law they judge, nor under what 
authority they act, nor by what tenure they hold. It 
is thought that they are sometimes obliged to condemn 
at the peril of their lives. This is not perhaps certain, nor 
can it be ascertained ; but when they acquit, we know 
they have seen the persons whom they discharge, with 
perfect impunity to the actors, hanged at the door of 
their court. 

The assembly indeed promise that they will form 
a body of law, which shall be short, simple, clear, and 
so forth. That is by their short laws, they will leave 
much to the discretion of the judge, whilst they have 
exploded the authority of all the learning which could 
make judicial discretion (a thing perilous at best) 
deserving the appellation of a sound discretion. 

It is curious to observe, that the administrative bodies 
are carefully exempted from the jurisdiction of these 
new tribunals. That is, those persons are exempted 
from the power of the laws, who ought to be the most 
entirely submitted to them. Those who execute pubhc 
pecuniary trusts, ought of all men to be the most strictly 
held to their duty. One would have thought that it 
must have been among your earliest cares, if you did 
not mean that those administrative bodies should be 
real, sovereign, independent states, to form an awful 
tribunal, like your late parliaments, or like our king's 
bench, where all corporate officers might obtain pro- 
tection in the legal exercise of their functions, and 
would find coercion if they trespassed against their 
legal duty. But the cause of the exemption is plain. 
These administrative bodies are the great instruments 
of the present leaders in their progress through democ- 
racy to oligarchy. They must therefore be put above 
the law. It will be said that the legal tribunals which 



SELECTIONS. 433 

you have made are unfit to coerce them. They are 
undoubtedly. They are unfit for any rational purpose. 
It will be said, too, that the administrative bodies will 
be accountable to the general assembly. This, I fear, 
is talking without much consideration of the nature of 
that assembly or of these corporations. However, to 
be subject to the pleasure of that assembly, is not to 
be subject to law either for protection or for constraint. 

This estabhshment of judges as yet wants something 
to its completion. It is to be crowned by a new tribunal. 
This is to be a grand state judicature ; and it is to 
judge of crimes committed against the nation, that is, 
against the power of the assembly. It seems as if they 
had something in their view of the nature of the high 
court of justice erected in England during the time of 
the great usurpation. As they have not yet finished 
this part of the scheme, it is impossible to form a direct 
judgment upon it. However, if great care is not taken 
to form it in a spirit very different from that which has 
guided them in their proceedings relative to state 
offences, this tribunal, subservient to their inquisition, 
the committee of research, will extinguish the last sparks 
of hberty in France, and settle the most dreadful and 
arbitrary tyranny ever known in any nation. If they 
wish to give to this tribunal any appearance of liberty 
and justice, they must evoke them, or send to it, the 
causes relative to their own members, at their pleasure. 
They must also remove the seat of that tribunal out 
of the republic of Paris.* 

Has more wisdom been displayed in the constitution 
of your army than what is discoverable in your plan of 
judicature ? The able arrangement of this part is the 
more difficult, and requires the greater skill and atten- 
tion, not only as a great concern in itself, but as it is 
the third cementing principle in the new body of 
republics, which you call the French nation. Truly it 
is not easy to divine what that army may become at 

* For further elucidations upon the subject of all these judicatures, 
and of the committee of research, see M. de Caloaae's work. 



434 EDMUND BURKE. 

last. You have voted a very large one, and on good ap- 
pointments, at least fully equal to your apparent means 
of payment. But what is the principle of its disciphne ? 
or whom is it to obey ? You have got the wolf by the 
ears, and I wish you joy of the happy position in which 
you have chosen to place yourselves, and in which you 
are well circumstanced for a free deliberation, relatively 
to that army, or to anything else. 

The minister and secretary of state for the war 
department is M. de la Tour du Pin. This gentleman, 
like his colleagues in administration, is a most zealous 
assertor of the revolution, and a sanguine admirer of 
the new constitution, which originated in that event. 
His statement of facts, relative to the military of 
France, is important, not only from his official and 
personal authority, but because it displays very clearly 
the actual condition of the army in France, and because 
it throws light on the principles upon which the assem- 
bly proceeds, in the administration of this critical 
object. It may enable us to form some judgment, how 
far it may be expedient in this country to imitate the 
martial policy of France. 

M. de la Tour du Pin, on the 4th of last June, comes 
to give an account of the state of his department, as it 
exists under the auspices of the National Assembly. 
No man knows it so well ; no man can express it 
better. Addressing himself to the National Assembly, 
he says, ' His majesty has this day sent me to apprise 
you of the multiplied disorders of which every day he 
receives the most distressing inteUigence. The army 
[le corps miUtaire] threatens to fall into the most 
turbulent anarchy. Entire regiments have dared to 
violate at once the respect due to the laws, to the 
king, to the order estabhshed by your decrees, and 
to the oaths which they have taken with the most awful 
solemnity. Compelled by my duty to give you infor- 
mation of these excesses, my heart bleeds when I con- 
sider who they are that have committed them. Those, 
against whom it is not in my power to withhold the 



SELECTIONS. 435 

most grievous complaints, are a part of that very 
soldiery which to this day have been so full of honour 
and loyalty, and with whom, for fifty years, I have lived 
the comrade and the friend, 

' What incomprehensible spirit of delirium and de- 
lusion has all at once led them astray? Whilst you 
are indefatigable in establishing uniformity in the empire 
and moulding the whole into one coherent and con- 
sistent body ; whilst the French are taught by you, at 
once the respect which the laws owe to the rights of 
man, and that which the citizens owe to the laws, the 
administration of the army presents nothing but dis- 
turbance and confusion. I see in more than one corps 
the bonds of discipline relaxed or broken;' the _ most 
unheard-of pretensions avowed directly and without 
any disguise ; the ordinances without force ; the 
chiefs without authority; the military chest and the 
colours carried off ; the authority of the king himself 
[risum teneatis ?] proudly defied ; the officers despised, 
degraded, threatened, driven away, and some of them 
prisoners' in the midst of their corps, dragging _ on a 
precarious life in the bosom of disgust and humiliation. 
To fill up the measure of all these horrors, the com- 
mandants of places have had their throats cut, under 
the eyes and almost in the arms of their own soldiers. 

' These evils are great ; but they are not the worst 
consequences which may be produced by such military 
insurrections. Sooner or later they may menace the 
nation itself. The nature of things requires that the 
army should never act but as an instrument. The 
moment that, erecting itself into a deliberate body, it 
shall act according to its own resolutions, the govern- 
ment, be it what it may, will immediately degenerate into 
a military democracy ; a species of political monster, 
which has always ended by devouring those who have 
produced it. 

' After all this, who must not be alarmed at the irreg- 
ular consultations, and turbulent committees,^ formed in 
some regiments by the common soldiers and non-com- 



436 EDMUND BURKE. 

missioned officers, without the knowledge, or even in 
contempt of the authority of their superiors ; although 
the presence and concurrence of those superiors could 
give no authority to such monstrous democratic 
assemblies [comices]/ 

It is not necessary to add much to this finished 
picture ; finished as far as its canvas admits ; but as 
I apprehend, not taking in the whole of the nature and 
cornplexity of the disorders of this mihtary democracy, 
which, the minister at war truly and wisely observes, 
wherever it exists, must be the true constitution of 
the state, by whatever formal appellation it may pass. 
For, though he informs the assembly that the more 
considerable part of the army have not cast off their 
obedience but are still attached to their duty, yet 
those travellers, who have seen the corps whose conduct 
is the best, rather observe in them the absence of mutiny 
than the existence of discipline. 

I cannot help pausing here for a moment, to reflect 
upon the expressions of surprise which this minister has 
let fall relative to the excesses he relates. To him the 
departure of the troops from their ancient principles 
of loyalty and honour seems quite inconceivable. 
Surely those to whom he addresses himself know the 
causes of it but too well. They know the doctrines 
which they have preached, the decrees which they have 
passed, the practices which they have countenanced. 
The soldiers remember the 6th of October. They 
recollect the French guards. They have not forgotten 
the taking of the king's castles in Paris and at Mar- 
seilles. That the governors in both places were mur- 
dered with impunity, is a fact that has not passed out 
of their minds. They do not abandon the principles 
laid down so ostentatiously and laboriously of the 
equality of men. They cannot shut their eyes to 
the degradation of the whole noblesse of France, and 
the suppression of the very idea of a gentleman. The 
total aboUtion of titles and distinctions is not lost 
upon them. But M. du Pin is astonished at their 



SELECTIONS. 437 

disloyalty, when the doctors of the assembly have 
taught them at the same time the respect due to laws. 
It is easy to judge which of the two sorts of lessons 
men with arms in their hands are likely to learn. As 
to the authority of the king, we may collect from the 
minister himself (if any argument on that head were 
not quite superfluous) that it is not of more considera- 
tion with these troops than it is with everybody else. 
' The king,' says he, ' has over and over agam repeated 
his orders to put a stop to these excesses : but m so 
terrible a crisis, your [the assembly's] concurrence is 
become indispensably necessary to prevent the evils 
which menace the state. You unite to the forces of 
the legislative power, that of opinion still more impor- 
tant.' To be sure the army can have no opinion cf 
the power or authority of the king. Perhaps the 
soldier has by this time learned, that the assembly itself 
does not enjoy a much greater degree of liberty than 
that royal figure. 

It is now to be seen what has been proposed in this 

exigency, one of the greatest that can happen in a state. 

The minister requests the assembly to array itself in 

all its terrors, and to call forth all its majesty. He 

desires that the grave and severe principles announced 

by them may give vigour to the king's proclamation. 

After this we should have looked for courts civil and 

martial ; breaking of some coq^s, decimating of others, 

and all the terrible means which necessity has employed 

in such cases to arrest the progress of the most terrible 

of all evils ; particularly, one might expect, that a 

serious inquiry would be made into the murder of 

commandants in the view of their soldiers. Not one 

word of all this, or of anything like it. After they had 

been told that the soldiery tram])led upon the decrees 

of the assembly promulgated by the king, the assembly 

pass new decrees ; and they authorize the king to make 

new proclamations. After the secretary-at-war had 

stated that the regiments had oaid no regard to oaths 

prit^s avee la plus imposante solemnity— ihev propose — 



438 EDMUND BURKE. 

what ? More oaths. They renew decrees and proclama- 
tions as they experience their insufficiency, and they 
multiply oaths in proportion as they weaken, in the 
minds of men, the sanctions of religion. I hope that 
handy abridgments of the excellent sermons of Voltaire, 
d'Alembert, Diderot, and Helvetius, on the Immortality 
of the Soul, on a particular superintending Providence, 
and on a Future State of Rewards and Punishments, 
are sent down to the soldiers along with their civic oaths. 
Of this I have no doubt ; as I understand that a certain 
description of reading makes no inconsiderable part of 
their military exercises, and that they are full as well 
supplied with the ammunition of pamphlets as of car- 
tridges. 

To prevent the mischiefs arising from conspiracies, 
irregular consultations, seditious committees, and mon- 
strous democratic assemblies [ * comitia, comices '] of 
the soldiers, and all the disorders arising from idleness, 
luxury, dissipation, and insubordination, I believe 
the most astonishing means have been used that ever 
occurred to men, even in all the inventions of this prolific 
age. It is no less than this : — The king has promul- 
gated in circular letters to aU the regiments his direct 
authority and encouragement, that the several corps 
should join themselves with the clubs and confedera- 
tions in the several municipalities, and mix with them 
in their feasts and civic entertainments ! This jolly 
discipline, it seems, is to soften the ferocity of their 
minds ; to reconcile them to their bottle companions 
of other descriptions ; and to merge particular con- 
spiracies in more general associations.* That this 
remedy would be pleasing to the soldiers, as they are 

* Corame sa majeste y a reconnu, non une systeme d' associations 
particulieres, mais une reunion de volontes de tous les Francois pour 
la liberte at la prosperite communes, ainsi pour la maintien de I'ordre 
publique ; il a pense qu'il convenoit que chaque regiment prit part a 
ces fStes civiques pour multiplier les rapports, et referrer les liens 
d'lmion entre les citoyens et les troupes. — Lest I should not be credited, 
1 insert the words, authorizing the troops to feast with the popular 
cftnfederacies. 



SELECTIONS. 439 

described by M. de la Tour du Pin, I can readily believe ; 
and that, however mutinous otherwise, they will duti- 
fully submit themselves to these royal proclamations. 
But I should question whether all this civic swearmg, 
clubbing, and feasting, would dispose them more than 
at present they are disposed to an obedience to their 
officers ; or teach them better to submit to the austere 
rules of military discipline. It will make them admir- 
able citizens after the French mode, but not quite so 
good soldiers after any mode. A doubt might well 
arise, whether the conversations at these good tables 
would fit them a great deal the better for the character 
of mere instruments, which this veteran officer and 
statesman justly observes the nature of things always 
requires an army to be. 

Concerning the likelihood of this improvement in 
discipline, by the free conversation of the soldiers with 
the municipal festive societies, which is thus officially 
encouraged by royal authority and sanction, we may 
judge by the state of the municipalities themselves, 
furnished to us by the war minister in this very speech. 
He conceives good hopes of the success of his endeavours 
towards restoring order for the present from the good 
disposition of certain regiments ; but he finds some- 
thing cloudy with regard to the future. As to prevent- 
ing the return of confusion, ' for this, the administra- 
tion (says he) cannot be answerable to you, as long as 
they see the municipalities arrogate to themselves an 
authority over the troops, which your institutions 
have reserved wholly to the monarch. You have fixed 
the limits of the miUtary authority and the municipal 
authority. You have bounded the action which you 
iiave permitted to the latter over the former, to the 
right of requisition ; but never did the letter or the 
spirit of your decrees authorize the commons in these 
municipalities to break the officers, to try them, to give 
orders to the soldiers, to drive them from the posts 
rommitted to their guard, to stop them in their marches 
ordered by the king, or, in a word, to enslave the troops 



440 EDMUND BURKE. 

to the caprice of each of the cities, or even market towns, 
through which they are to pass.' 

Such is the character and disposition of the municipal 
society which is to reclaim the soldiery, to bring them 
back to the true principles of military subordination, 
and to render them machines in the hands of the 
supreme power of the country ! Such are the distempers 
of the French troops ! Such is their cure ! As the army 
is, so is the navy. The municipahties supersede the 
orders of the assembly, and the seamen in their turn 
supersede the orders of the municipalities. From my 
heart I pity the condition of a respectable servant 
of the public, like this war minister, obliged in his old 
age to pledge the assembly in their civic cups, and to 
enter with a hoary head into all the fantastic vagaries 
of these juvenile politicians. Such schemes are not like 
propositions coming from a man of fifty years' wear 
and tear amongst mankind. They seem rather such 
as ought to be expected from those grand compounders 
in politics who shorten the road to their degrees in the 
state ; and have a certain inward fanatical assurance 
and illumination upon all subjects ; upon the credit 
of which one of their doctors has thought fit, with great 
applause, and greater success, to caution the assembly 
not to attend to old men, or to any persons who valued 
themselves upon their experience. I suppose all the 
ministers of state must qualify, and take this test ; 
wholly abjuring the errors and heresies of experience 
and observation. Every man has his own relish. But 
I think if I could not attain to the wisdom, I would at 
least preserve something of the stiff and peremptory 
dignity of age. These gentlemen deal in regeneration: 
but at any price I should hardly yield my rigid fibres 
to be regenerated by them ; nor oegin, in my grand 
chmacteric, to squall in their new accents, or to stammer 
in my second cradle, the elemental sounds of their 
barbarous metaphysics.* Si isti mihi largiantur ut 
repiierascam, et in eorum cunis vagiam, valde reciisem I 

* The war minister has since quitted the school, and resigned his office. 



SELECTIONS. 44^ 

The imbecility of any part of the puerile and pedan- 
tic system, which they call a constitution, cannot be 
laid open without discovering the utter insufficiency and 
mischief of every other part with which it comes m 
contact, or that bears any the remotest relation to it._ 
You cannot propose a remedy for the incompetence of 
the crown, without displaying the debility of the 
assembly. You cannot deliberate on the confusion of 
the army of the state, without disclosing the worse 
disorders of the armed municipahties. The military 
lays open the civil, and the civil betrays the mihtary 
anarchy. I wish everybody carefully to peruse the 
eloquent speech (such it is) of Mons. de la Tour du Pin. 
He attributes the salvation of the municipalities to the 
good behaviour of some of the troops. These troops 
are to preserve the well-disposed part of the munici- 
pahties, which is confessed to be the weakest, from the 
pillage of the worst disposed, which is the strongest. 
But the municipahties affect a sovereignty, and will 
command those troops which are necessary for their 
protection. Indeed they must command them or 
court them. The municipalities, by the necessity of 
their situation, and by the republican powers they 
have obtained, must, with relation to the military, be 
the masters, or the servants, or the confederates, or 
each successively ; or they must make a jumble of all 
together, according to circumstances. What govern- 
ment is there to coerce the army but the municipality, 
or the municipality but the army ? To preserve con- 
cord where authority is extinguished, at the hazard 
of all consequences, the assembly attempts to cure 
the distempers by the distempers themselves ; and 
they hope to preserve themselves from a purely military 
democracy by giving it a debauched interest in the 
municipal. 

If the soldiers once come to mix for any time in the 
municipal clubs, cabals, and confederacies, an elective 
attraction will draw them to the lowest and most des- 
perate part. With them will be their habits, affections. 



442 EDMUND BURKE. 

and sympathies. The military conspiracies, which are 
to be remedied by civic confederacies ; the rebelHous 
municipalities, which are to be rendered obedient by 
furnishing them with the means of seducing the very 
armies of the state that are to keep them in order ; 
all these chimeras of a monstrous and portentous policy 
must aggravate the confusion from which they have 
arisen. There must be blood. The want of common 
judgment manifested in the construction of all their 
descriptions of forces, and in all their kinds of civil 
and judicial authorities, will make it flow. Disorders 
may be quieted in one time and in one part. They will 
break out in others ; because the evil is radical and 
intrinsic. All these schemes of mixing mutinous sol- 
diers with seditious citizens must weaken still more 
and more the military connexion of soldiers with their 
officers, as well as add military and mutinous audacity 
to turbulent artificers and peasants. To secure a real 
army, the officer should be first and last in the eye of 
the soldier ; first and last in his attention, observance 
and esteem. Officers it seems there are to be, whose 
chief qualification must be temper and patience. They 
are to manage their troops by electioneering arts. They 
must bear themselves as candidates, not as commanders. 
But as by such means power may be occasionally in 
their hands, the authority by which they are to be 
nominated becomes of high importance. 

What you may do finally does not appear ; nor is it 
of much moment, whilst the strange and contradictory 
relation between your army and all the parts of your 
republic, as well as the puzzled relation of those parts 
to each other and to the whole, remain as they are. 
You seem to have given the provisional nomination of 
the officers, in the first instance, to the king, with a 
reserve of approbation by the National Assembly. 
Men who have an interest to pursue are extremely 
sagacious in discovering the true seat of power. They 
must soon perceive that those who can negative in- 
definitely in reality appoint. The officers must there- 



SELECTIONS. 443 

fore look to their intrigues in the assembly, as the 
sole certain road to promotion. Still, however, by 
your new constitution they must begin their solicitation 
at court. This double negotiation for military rank 
seems to me a contrivance as well adapted, as if it were 
studied for no other end, to promote faction in the 
assembly itself, relative to this past military patronage ; 
and then to poison the corps of officers with factions 
of a nature still more dangerous to the safety of govern- 
ment upon any bottom on which it can be placed, and 
destructive in the end to the efficacy of the army itself. 
Those ofacers, who lose the promotions intended for 
therti by the crown, must become of a faction opposite 
to that of the assembly which has rejected their claims, 
and must nourish discontents in the heart of the army 
against the ruHng powers. Those officers, on the other 
hand, who, by carrying their point through an interest 
in the assembly, feel themselves to be at best only 
second in the good-will of the crown, though first m that 
of the assembly, must slight an authority which would 
not advance and could not retard their promotion. If 
to avoid these evils you will have no other rule for 
command or promotion than seniority, you will have an 
army of formality ; at the same time it will become 
more independent and more of a military republic. 
Not they, but the king is the machine. A king is not 
to be deposed by halves. If he is not everything in the 
command of an army, he is nothing. What is the 
effect of a power placed nominally at the head of the 
army, who to that army is no object of gratitude or of 
fear'?' Such a cipher is not fit for the administration of 
an object, of all things the most delicate, the supreme 
command of military men. They must be constrained 
(and their inclinations lead them to what their necessities 
require) by a real, vigorous, effective, decided, personal 
authority. The authority of the assembly itself suffers 
by passing through such a debilitating channel as they 
have chosen. The army will not long look to an 
assembly acting through the organ of false show, and 



444 EDMUND BURKE, 

palpable imposition. They will not seriously yield 
obedience to a prisoner. They will either despise a 
pageant, or they will pity a captive king. This relation 
of your army to the crown will, if I am not greatly mis- 
taken, become a serious dilemma in your politics. 

It is besides to be considered, whether an assembly 
like yours, even supposing that it was in possession of 
another sort of organ through which its orders were to 
pass, is fit for promoting the obedience and discipline 
of an army. It is known that armies have hitherto 
yielded a very precarious and uncertain obedience to 
any senate, or popular authority ; and they will least 
of all yield it to an assembly which is only to have a 
continuance of two years. The officers must totally 
lose the characteristic disposition of military men, if 
they see with perfect submission and due admiration, 
the dominion of pleaders ; especially when they find 
that they have a new court to pay to an endless 
succession of those pleaders ; whose military policy, and 
the genius of whose command (if they should have any), 
must be as uncertain as their duration is transient. In 
the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluc- 
tuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for 
some time mutinous and full of faction, until some 
popular general, who understands the art of conciliating 
the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of com- 
mand, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. 
Armies will obey him on his personal account. There 
is no other way of securing military obedience in this 
state of things. But the moment in which that event 
shall happen, the person who really commands the army 
is your master ; the master (that is little) of your king, 
the master of your assembly, the master of your whole 
republic. 

How came the assembly by their present power over 
the army ? Chiefly, to be sure, by debauching the 
soldiers from their officers. They have begun by a 
most terrible operation. They have touched the central 
point, about which the particles that compose armies 



SELECTIONS. 445 

are at repose. They have destroyed the principle 
of obedience in the great, essential, cntical hnk be- 
tween the officer and the soldier, just where the chain 
of miUtary subordination commences, and on which 
the whole of that system depends. The soldier is told 
he is a citizen, and has the rights of man and citizen. 
The right of a man, he is told, is to be his own governor, 
and to be ruled only by those to whom he delegates 
that self-government. It is very natural he should 
think that he ought most of aU to have his choice where 
he is to yield the greatest degree of obedience. He 
will therefore, in all probability, systematically do 
what he does at present occasionally ; that is, he wll 
exercise at least a negative in the choice of his officers. 
At present the officers are known at best to be only 
permissive, and on their good behaviour. In fact, 
there have been many instances in which they, have 
been cashiered by their corps. Here is a second negative 
on the choice of the king ; a negative as effectual at 
least as the other of the assembly. The soldiers know 
already that it has been a question, not ill received 
in the National Assembly, whether they ought not 
to have the direct choice of their officers, or some pro- 
portion of them ? When such matters are in delibera- 
tion it is no extravagant supposition that they will 
incline to the opinion most favourable to their pre- 
tensions. They will not bear to be deemed the army 
of an imprisoned king, whilst another army in the 
same country, with whom too they are to feast and 
confederate, is to be considered as the free army of a 
free constitution. They will cast their eyes on the 
other and more permanent army ; I mean the muni- 
cipal. That corps, they well know, does actually elect 
its own officers. They may not be able to discern 
the grounds of distinction on which they are not to 
elect a Marquis de la Fayette (or what is his new name ?) 
i)f their own. If this election of a commander-in-chief 
be a part of the rights of men, why not of theirs ? They 
see elective justices of peace, elective judges, elective 



446 EDMUND BURKE. 

curates, elective bishops, elective municipalities, and 
elective commanders of the Parisian army. — Why 
should they alone be excluded ? Are the brave troops 
of France the only men in that nation who are not 
the fit judges of military merit, and of the qualifications 
necessary for a commander-in-chief ? Are they paid 
by the state, and do they therefore lose the rights of 
men ? They are a part of that nation themselves, 
and contribute to that pay. And is not the king, is 
not the National Assembly, and are not all who elect 
the National Assembly, likewise paid ? Instead of 
seeing all these forfeit their rights by their receiving 
a salary, they perceive that in all these cases a salary 
is given for the exercise of those rights. All your resolu- 
tions, all your proceedings, all your debates, all the 
works of your doctors in religion and politics, have in- 
dustriously been put into their hands ; and you expect 
that they will apply to their own cause just as much 
of your doctrines and examples as suits your pleasure. 

Everything depends upon the army in such a govern- 
ment as yours ; for you have industriously destroyed 
all the opinions and prejudices, and as far as in you lay, 
all the instincts which support government. Therefore 
the moment any difference arises between your National 
Assembly and any part of the nation, you must have 
recourse to force. Nothing else is left to you ; or 
rather you have left nothing else to yourselves. You 
see, by the report of your war minister, that the distri- 
bution of the army is in a great measure made with 
a view of internal coercion.* You must rule by an 
army ; and you have infused into that army by which 
you rule, as well as into the whole body of the nation, 
principles which after a time must disable you in the 
use you resolve to make of it. The king is to call out 
troops to act against his people, when the world has 
been told, and the assertion is still ringing in our ears, 
that troops ought not to fire on citizens. The colonies 

* Courrier Frangois, 3oth|July, 1790. Assemblee Nationale, Numero 

2IO. 



SELECTIONS. 447 

assert to themselves an independent constitution and a 
free trade. They must be constramed by troops. In 
what chapter of your code of the rights of men are they 
able to read that it is a part of the rights of men to have 
their commerce monopolized and restramed for the 
benefit of others ? As the colonists rise on you, the 
negroes rise on them. Troops again-massacre tor- 
ture, hanging ! These are your rights of men ! These 
are the fruits of metaphysic declarations wantonly 
made and shamefully retracted ! It was but the other 
dav that the farmers of land in one of your provmces 
refused to pay some sorts of rents to the lord of the soil. 
In consequence of this, you decree, that the country 
people shaU pay all rents and dues except those which 
as grievances you have abolished ; and if they refuse, 
then you order the king to march troops against them. 
You lay down metaphysic propositions which mter 
universal consequences, and then you attempt to limit 
logic by despotism. The leaders of the present system 
tell them of their rights, as men, to take fortresses, to 
murder guards, to seize on kings, without the least 
appearance of authority even from the assembly, 
whilst as the sovereign legislative body, that assembly 
was sitting in the name of the nation— and yet these 
leaders presume to order out the troops which have 
acted in these very disorders, to coerce those who shall 
judge on the principles, and follow the examples, which 
have been guaranteed by their own approbation. 

The leaders teach the people to abhor and reject all 
feodaUty as the barbarism of tyranny, and they tell 
them afterwards how much of that barbarous tyranny 
they arc to bear with patience. As they are prodigal of 
light with regard to grievances, so the people find them 
sparing in the extreme with regard to redress. They 
know tliat not only certain quit-rents and personal 
duties, which you have permitted them to redeem (but 
have furnished no money for the redemption), arc as 
nothing to those burdens for which you have made no 
provision at all. They know that almost the whole 



448 EDMUND BURKE. 

system of landed property in its origin is feudal ; that 
it is the distribution of the possessions of the original 
proprietors, made by a barbarous conqueror to his 
barbarous instruments ; and that the most grievous 
effects of the conquest are the land rents of every kind, 
as without question they are. 

The peasants, in all probability, are the descendants 
of these ancient proprietors, Romans or Gauls. But if 
they fail, in any degree, in the titles which they make 
on the principles of antiquaries and lawyers, they retreat 
into the citadel of the rights of men. There they 
find that men are equal ; and the earth, the kind and 
equal mother of all, ought not to be monopolized to 
foster the pride and luxury of any men, who by nature 
are no better than themselves, and who, if they do not 
labour for their bread, are worse. They find that by 
the laws of nature the occupant and subduer of the soil 
is the true proprietor ; that there is no prescription 
against nature ; and that the agreements (where any 
there are) which have been made with the landlords, 
during the time of slavery, are only the effect of duress 
and force ; and that when the people re-entered into 
the rights of men, those agreements were made as void 
as everything else which had been settled under the 
prevalence of the old feudal and aristocratic tjnranny. 
They will tell you that they see no difference between 
an idler with a hat and a national cockade, and an 
idler in a cowl, or in a rochet. If you ground the title 
to rents on succession and prescription, they tell you 
from the speech of Mr. Camus, published by the National 
Assembly for their information, that things ill begun 
cannot avail themselves of prescription ; that the title 
of these lords was vicious in its origin ; and that force 
is at least as bad as fraud. As to the title by succession, 
they will tell you, that the succession of those who have 
cultivated the soil is the true pedigree of property, and 
not rotten parchments and silly substitutions ; that the 
lords have enjoyed their usurpation too long ; and that 
if they allow to these lay monks any charitable pension. 



SELECTIONS. 449 

thev ought to be thankful to the bounty of the true 
proprS^^^^ IS so generous towards a false claimant 

'" When'?he%easants give you back that com of sophistic 
reason on which you have set your image and super- 
scSon you cry it down as base money and tel them 
vou S' pay for the future with French guards and 
dmgoTns and hussars. You hold up, to chastise them 
?he second-hand authority of a king, who is only the 
nstrument of destroying: without any power of pro- 
tectinrekher the people or his own person. Through 
him it seems you will make yourselves obeyed They 
anTwer vou have taught us that there are no gentlemen ; 
and which of your principles teach us to bow to kmgs 
whom we have not elected ? We know, without you 
Teachinl, that lands were given f- the suppor^ of feuda^ 
dimities feudal titles, and feudal offices. When you 
tS down the cause as a grievance, why should the 
r^ore ^evous effect remain? As there are now no 
heredit? y honours, and no distinguished families, why 
are we taxed to maintain what you tell us ought not o 
exist > You have sent down our old aristocratic Ian - 
fords in no other character, and with no other title but 
that of exactors under your authority Have you 
ndeavoured to make these your rent-gatherers resp^ t^ 
able to us? No. You have sent them to us witn 
?heL arms reversed, their shields broken, their im- 
presses defaced ; and so disphimed, degraded and 
metSorphosed, such unfeathered two-legged things, 
Sat^ve no longer know them. They are strangers to 
us The^do not even go by the names of our ancient 
Ws Physically they may be the same men ; though 
ve a^e not^quite sure of that, on your new philosophic 
octr'ne of personal identity. In all other respects they 
are totally changed. We do not see why we have not 
as\^ood alright to refuse them their rents as you have 
to abrogate all their honours, titles, and distinctions 
This we have never commissioned you to do; and it 
nc instance among many, indeed, of your assump- 



IS () 

15 



450 EDMUND BURKE, 

tion of undelegated power. We see the burghers of 
Paris, through their clubs, their mobs, and their national 
guards, directing you at their pleasure, and giving that 
as law to you, which, under your authority, is trans- 
mitted as law to us. Through you, these burghers 
dispose of the lives and fortunes of us all. Why should 
not you attend as much to the desires of the laborious 
husbandman with regard to our rent, by which we are 
affected in the most serious manner, as you do to the 
demands of these insolent burghers, relative to distinc- 
tions and titles of honour, by which neither they nor we 
are affected at all ? But we find you pay more regard 
to their fancies than to our necessities. Is it among 
the rights of man to pay tribute to his equals ? Before 
this measure of yours we might have thought we were 
not perfectly equal. We might have entertained some 
old, habitual, unmeaning prepossession in favour of 
those landlords ; but we cannot conceive with what 
other view than that of destroying all respect to them, 
you could have made the law that degrades them. 
You have forbidden us to treat them with any of the 
old formalities of respect, and now you send troops to 
sabre and to bayonet us into a submission, to fear and 
force, which you did not suffer us to yield to the mild 
authority of opinion. 

The ground of some of these jarguments is horrid and 
ridiculous to all rational ears ; but to the politicians of 
metaphysics who have opened schools for sophistry, and 
made establishments for anarchy, it is solid and con- 
clusive. It is obvious that, on a mere consideration of 
the right, the leaders in the assembly would not in 
the least have scrupled to abrogate the rents along with 
the titles and family ensigns. It would be only to 
follow up the principle of their reasonings and to com- 
plete the analogy of their conduct. But they had 
newly possessed themselves of a great body of landed 
property by confiscation. They had this commodity 
at market ; and the market would have been wholly 
destroyed, if they were to permit the husbandmen to 



SELECTIONS. 45 1 

riot in the speculations with which they so freely 
Intoxicated themselves. The only security which prop- 
erty enioys m any one of its descriptions is from the 
fnteresti of their rapacity with -§-rd to some oth r 
They have left nothing but their own ^^^^^^^^ J^^^? 
to determine what property is to be protected and what 

'""Ndthethave they left any principle by which any of 
their municipahties can be bound to obedience ; or even 

conscientiously obliged not to ^^P^^^^^f °^ ^^Vsome 
to become independent, or to connect itself ^^ith some 
other state. The people of Lyons it seems, have refu ed 
lately to pay taxes. Why should they not ? What 
awful authority is there left to exact them ? The king 
imposed some of them. The old states, n^ethocbzed by 
orders, settled the more ancient. Ihey may say to the 
assembly Who are you, that are not our kings, nor the 
sfaLs w'e'have elected nor sit on the principles c.r wh.ch 
we have elected you ? And who are we. that when ^e 
see the gabelles. which you have ordered to be paid, 
wholly shaken o'ff. when we see the act of disobedience 
afterwards ratified by yoursch-es. who are we that we 
are not to iudge what taxes we ought or ought not to 
I'y. and are not to avail ourselves of the same powers 
he validity of which you have approved m others ? 
To this the answer is. We will send troops. The ast 
reason of kings is always the first with your assemb^ 
This military aid may serve for a time, ^^hilst the im 
pression of the increase of pay remains and the van y 
of being umpires in all disputes is flattered. But this 
weapoif will^nap short, unfaithful to the hand that 
emplovs it. The assembly keep a school, where, sys- 
tematically, and with unremitting perseverance they 
e"ch prin'^^iples and fom. regulations destructive o 
all spirit of subordination, civil and mihtary-and then 
they expect that they shall hold m obedience an anaicluc 



""The municipal army which, according to their new 
policy, is to balance this national army, if considered m 



452 EDMUND BURKE. 

itself only, is of a constitution much more simple, and in 
every respect less exceptionable. It is a mere demo- 
cratic body, unconnected with the crown or the king- 
dom ; armed, and trained, and officered at the pleasure 
of the districts to which the corps severally belong ; ^nd 
the personal service of the individuals, who compose, 
or the fine in lieu of personal service, are directed by 
the same authority.* Nothing is more uniform. If, 
however, considered in any relation to the crown, to 
the National Assembly, to the public tribunals, or to 
the other army, or considered in a view to any coherence 
or connexion between its parts, it seems a monster, and 
can hardly fail to terminate its perplexed movements 
in some great national calamity. It is a worse pre- 
servative of a general constitution, than the systasis of 
Crete, or the confederation of Poland, or any other ill- 
devised corrective which has yet been imagined, in 
the necessities produced by an ill-constructed system 
of government. 

Having concluded my few remarks on the constitu- 
tion of the supreme power, the executive, the judicature, 
the military, and on the reciprocal relation of all these 
establishments, I shall say something of the ability 
showed by your legislators with regard to the revenue. 

In their proceedings relative to this object, if possible, 
still fewer traces appear of political judgment or financial 
resource. When the states met, it seemed to be the 
great object to improve the system of revenue, to enlarge 
its collection, to cleanse it of oppression and vexation, 
and to establish it on the most solid footing. Great 
were the expectations entertained on that head through- 
out Europe. It was by this grand arrangement that 
France was to stand or fall ; and this became, in my 
opinion, very properly, the test by which the skill and 

* I see by Mr. Necker's account that the national guards of Paris 
have received, over and above the money levied within their own 
city, about 145,000/. sterling out of the public treasure. Whether 
this be an actual payment for the nine months of their existence, or 
an estimate of their yearly charge, I do not clearly perceive. It is of 
no great importance, as certainly they may take whatever they please. 



SELECTIONS. 453 

patriotism of those who ruled in that assembly would 
be tried The revenue of the state is the state. In 
effect all depends upon it, whether for support or or 

eformation."^ The « of ^-fjy .^.'^^ifZ^Xlt 
depends upon the quantity and the kind of virtue that 
may be exerted m it. As all great qualities of the mmd 
whfch operate in pubhc. and are not merely sutfermg 
and passive, require force for their display. I had almost 
iTdiTv the r unequivocal existence, the revenue, which 
isthe spring of all power, becomes in its administration 
the sphere of eveiy active virtue. Pubhc virtue being 
o^ a nature magnificent and splendid, instituted for 
Sea^ things, and conversant about great concerns 
Squires abundant scope and room, and cannot spread 
and^ow under confinement, and m circumstances 
straiteCd narrow, and sordid. Through the revenue 
alone the body pohtic can act in its true genms and 
rharacter and therefore it will display ]ust as much of 
scoSive virtue, and as much of that virtue which 
mv characterize those who move it, and are as it were 
?s life and guiding principle, as it is possessed o a ]ust 
revenue For fiom hence not only magnanimity and 
hlirahty, and beneficence, fortitude and providence 
and the tutelary protection of all good arts, dern-e then 
?ood and the ^^rnvth of their organs, but continence, 
and scU-denial, and labour, and .-igilance, and frjigality 
and whatever else there is in which the mmd shows 
.:( .hrZ the aDDetite are nowhere more m their 
; Jclr clemeS thTTn the provision and distribution 
^TXo nubhc wealth It is therefore not without reason 
t thfscienc of speculative and practical finance, 
ich must take to its' aid so many auxiliary branches 
of knowledge, stands high in the estimation not only o 
?hc ordinao^ sort, but of the wisest and best men ; a^d 
MS th's science has grown with the progress of its object. 
tL prosperity and improvement of nations has gener- 
^ly^LTease'd ^rith the increase of their revenues 
and thev will both continue to grow and flourish as 
Cg as l[hr balance between what is left to strengthen 



454 EDMUND BURKE, 

the efforts of individuals, and what is collected for 
the common efforts of the state, bear to each other 
a due reciprocal proportion, and are kept in a close 
correspondence and communication. And perhaps it 
may be owing to the greatness of revenues, and to the 
urgency of state necessities, that old abuses in the 
constitution of finances are discovered, and their true 
nature and rational theory comes to be more perfectly 
understood; insomuch that a smaller revenue might 
have been more distressing in one period than a far 
greater is found to be in another ; the proportionate 
wealth even remaining the same. In this state of 
things, the French assembly found something in their 
revenues to preserve, to secure, and wisely to administer, 
as well as to abrogate and alter. Though their proud 
assumption might justify the severest test, yet in trying 
their abihties on their financial proceedings, I would 
only consider what is the plain, obvious duty of a common 
finance minister, and try them upon that and not upon 
models of ideal perfection. 

The objects of a financier are, then, to secure an 
ample revenue ; to impose it with judgment and equality ; 
to employ it economically ; and, when necessity obliges 
him to make use of credit, to secure its foundations in 
that instance, and for ever, by the clearness and candour 
of his proceedings, the exactness of his calculations, 
and the solidity of his funds. On these heads we 
may take a short and distinct view of the merits and 
abilities of those in the National Assembly, who have 
taken to themselves the management of this arduous 
concern. Far from any increase of revenue in their 
hands, I find, by a report of M. Vernier, from the com- 
mittee of finances, of the second of August last, that the 
amount of the national revenue, as compared with its 
piroduce before the Revolution, was diminished by the 
sum of two hundred milhons, or eight millions sterling 
of the annual income, considerably more than one third 
of the whole. 

If this be the result of great ability, never surely was 



SELECTIONS. 455 

ability displayed in a more distinguished manner or 
^vith so powerful an effect. No common folly, no vulgar 
incapacity, no ordinary offtcial negligence even no 
official crime, no corruption, no peculation, hardly any 
direct hostihty which we have seen in the modern world, 
could in so short a time have made so complete an over- 
throw of the finances, and with them, of the strength 
of a great kingdom.— C^^^o qui vestram rempuhhcam 
tantam amisistis tarn cito ? 

The sophisters and declaimers, as soon as the assembly 
met, began with decrying the ancient constitution of 
the revenue in many of its most essential branches, such 
as the public monopoly of salt. They charged it, as 
truly as unwisely, with being ill-contrived, oppressive 
and partial. This representation they were not satished 
to make use of in speeches preliminary to some plan of 
reform • they declared it in a solemn resolution or 
pubhc sentence, as it were judicially passed upon it; 
and this they dispersed throughout the nation. At the 
time they passed the decree, with the same gravity they 
ordered the same absurd, oppressive, and partial tax 
to be paid, until they could find a revenue to replace it 
The consequence was inevitable. The provinces which 
had been always exempted from this salt monopoly, 
some of whom were charged with other contnbutions 
perhaps equivalent, were totally dismchned to beai any 
part of the burden, which by an equal distribution was 
to redeem the others. As to the . assembly occupied 
IS it was with the declaration and violation of the lights 
i.f men, and with their arrangements for general con- 
lusion, it had neither leisure nor capacity to contrive, 
nor authority to enforce, any plan of any kind relative 
to the replacing the tax or equalizing it. or compensating 
the provinces, or for conducting their ininds to any 
scheme of accommodation with the other districts which 
were to be relieved. . , 

The people of the salt provinces impatient under 
taxes, damned by the authority which had directed 
their payment, very soon found their patience e.xhausted. 



456 EDMUND BURKE. 

They thought themselves as skilful in demolishing as 
the assembly could be. They relieved themselves by 
throwing off the whole burden. Animated by this 
example, each district, or part of a district, judging of 
its own grievance by its own feeling, and of its remedy 
by its own opinion, did as it pleased with other taxes. 

We are next to see how they have conducted them- 
selves in contriving equal impositions, proportioned to 
the means of the citizens, and the least likely to lean 
heavy on the active capital employed in the generation 
of that private wealth, from whence the public fortune 
must be derived. By suffering the several districts, 
and several of the individuals in each district, to judge 
of what part of the old revenue' they might withhold, 
instead of better principles of equality, a new inequality 
was introduced of the most oppressive kind. Pay- 
ments were regulated by dispositions. The parts of the 
kingdom which were the most submissive, the most 
orderly, or the most affectionate to the commonwealth, 
bore the whole burden of the state. Nothing turns 
out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble govern- 
ment. To fill up all the deficiencies in the old imposi- 
tions, and the new deficiencies of every kind which 
were to be expected, what remained to a state without 
authority ? The National Assembly called for a volun- 
tary benevolence ; for a fourth part of the income of 
all the citizens, to be estimated on the honour of those 
who were to pay. They obtained something more 
than could be rationally calculated, but what was far 
indeed from answerable to their real necessities, and 
much less to their fond expectations. Rational people 
could have hoped for little from this their tax in the 
disguise of a benevolence ; a tax weak, ineffective, and 
unequal ; a tax by which luxury, avarice, and selfish- 
ness were screened, and the load thrown upon pro- 
ductive capital, upon integrity, generosity, and public 
spirit — a tax of regulation upon virtue. At length the 
mask is thrown off, and they are now trying means (with 
little success) of exacting their benevolence by force. 



SELECTIONS. 457 

This benevolence, the rickety offspring of weakness, 
was to be supported by another resource, the twin 
brother of the^same prolific imbecility. The patriotic 
donations were to make good the failure of the patriotic 
contribution. John Doe was ^o become secunty foi 
Richard Roe. By this scheme they took thmgs o 
much prire from the giver, comparatively of s^al 
vahie tS the receiver ; they ruined several trades , they 
nUUged the crown of its ornaments, the churches of 
rhdr^te, and the people of their Pe-o-1 f -f^^^^^^^^^ 
The invention of these juvenile pretenders to hberty 
vvas in reality nothing more than a servile imitatio^n of 
one oi the po^orest resources of doting despotism. They 
?ook an o\d huge full-bottomed P-JS ^f^fv o 
wardrobe of the antiquated frippery of Louis Xi\ to 
cover the premature baldness of the Nationa Assembl>^ 
They produced this old-fashioned formal folly, though 
it had been so abundantly exposed in the Memoirs o 
he Duke de St. Simon, if to reasonable men it hacl 
nnted any arguments to display its mischief and 
nsufhciencj. A device of the same kind was tried m 
mv memo5y by Louis XV, but it answered at no time. 
Sow^v^ the necessities of ruinous w;ars were some 
excuse for desperate projects. The deliberations of 
calamkv are rarely wise. But here was a season for 
^SDOsirion and providence. It was in a time of pro- 
found p^ace then enjoyed for five ye^rs and promising 
rmuch longer continuance, that they had recourse to 
thiT desperate trifling. They were sure to lose more 
eputation by sporting, m their serious situation, with 
hrse toys and playthings of finance, w uch have fillcc 
Lalf thefr journlls/than -uld possibly lx_compen^^^^^^^^ 
bv the poor temporary supply which thev atiorael 
Tseemefl as if those who adopted such projects ue 
whollv i-norant of their circumstances oi xvhollv 
nequal i their necessities. W hatever N-ntue may be 
n Zse deNices, it is obvious that neither the patrumc 
"fts nor the patriotic contribution, can ever be les.nted 
to again. The resources of public folly arc soon ex- 



458 EDMUND BURKE. 

hausted. The whole indeed of their scheme of revenue 
is to make, by any artifice, an appearance of a full 
reservoir for the hour, whilst at the same time they 
cut off the springs and living fountains of perennial 
supply. The account not long since furnished by 
Mr. Necker was meant, without question, to be favour- 
able. He gives a flattering view of the means of getting 
through the year; but he expresses, as it is natural he 
should, some apprehension for that which was to suc- 
ceed. On this last prognostic, instead of entering into 
the grounds of this apprehension, in order, by a proper 
foresight, to prevent the prognosticated evil, Mr. Necker 
receives a sort of friendly reprimand from the president 
of the assembly. 

As to their other schemes of taxation, it is impossible 
to say anything of them with certainty ; because they 
have not yet had their operation : but nobody is so 
sanguine as to imagine they will fill up any perceptible 
part of the wide gaping breach which their incapacity 
has made in their revenues. At present the state of 
their treasury sinks every day more and more in cash, 
and swells more and more in fictitious representation. 
When so little within or without is now found but paper, 
the representative not of opulence but of want, the 
creature not of credit but of power, they imagine that 
our flourishing state in England is owing to that bank- 
paper, and not the bank-paper to the flourishing condi- 
tion of our commerce, to the solidity of our credit, and 
to the total exclusion of all idea of power from any part 
of the transaction. They forget that, in England, not 
one shilling of paper-money of any description is received 
but of choice ; that the whole has had its origin in cash 
actually deposited ; and that it is convertible, at pleasure, 
in an instant, and without the smallest loss, into cash' 
again. Our paper is of value in commerce, because in 
law it is of none. It is powerful on 'Change, because in 
Westminster Hall it is impotent. In payment of a 
debt of twenty shillings, a creditor may refuse all the 
paper of the; Bank of England. Nor is thero amongst 



SELECTIONS. 459 

us a single public security of any quality or nature 
whatsoever, that is enforced by authority In fact it 
mieht be easily shoxvn that our paper wealth, mstead o 
Ssenine the real coin, has a tendency to increase it 
instead 'of being a substitute for money, it only facihtates 
its entry its exit, and its circulation ; that it is tne 
symbcTof prosperity, and not the badge of distress 
Ne^er was a scarcity of cash, and an exubeiance of paper, 
a subiect of complaint m this nation. 

We 1 ' but a lessening of prodigal expenses and the 
economy which has been introduced by the yirtuous and 
sWnT assembly make amends for the osses sustained 
'nThe receipt of revenue. In this at least they have 
fulfilled the duty of a financier.-Have those who say 
o'?ookerat%lfe expenses of f^^^^^^f, ^^'''j, 
itself^ of the municipahties ? of the city ot Fans.;- oi 
the ncreased pay of the two armies ? of the new police ? 
oHhe new judicatures ? Have they even care fu^^^^^^^^^ 
nared the present pension hst with the former .-' ihese 
Scians have been cruel, not economical. Comparing 
fhe exiSises of the former prodigal government and is 
relatiXto the then revenues with the expenses of this 
ne\v system as opposed to the state of its new treasury 
I beuJve the present will be found beyond all comparison 

Tt%:mS^.lv to consider the proofs of financial 
abiUty!Turnished by the present French managers when 

* The reader will observe that I ^-«,y^"*,/\t''WS;"fiVancei;' a" 
demanded nothing more) on the cond on «-^ ^he ^renc ^^, ^^^ 

connected with the demands upon tl^^-m- It {'^ are not altogether 
otherwise, the materials mn^y hands [';^-'^^' ,;^ j^f^^j'^C^ h-nne's work ; 
perfect. On th,s ^^'bject I refer the reackr^to M c ^^^ ^^^^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^_ 

and the tremendous display that .^^f ''^^^ .'?'^^%„irs y[ France, caused 
vastation in the pubhc -';f':> j^f^i ,f,, t^l^co and incapacity, 
bv the presumptuous good i tcntu.ns <'i f^ Looking over that 

Such effects those caus<-s will '^»^^;'^Xth S^^>'^^''^ "^"*^'' "^""'■' 
account with a pretty strict eye, aid.vth perhaps i ^..^^cier 

deducting everything which may ^e placed tuaccoi 
„ut of place, who might be f''PP^^f 'l^^, '^ " 'that a more salutar? 
the most of his cause, I believe '*. w'» ^^ f.. k hat^a mo y 

l..sson of caution against the daring ^P"'"- ''^^J'^',: "'^laf at any time 
Uas been supplied al cUo expense ol tranct, never > 

himished to mankind. 



46o EDMUND BURKE. 

the}^ are to raise supplies on credit. Here I am a little 
at a stand ; for credit, properly speaking, they have none. 
The credit of the ancient government ^^•as not indeed the 
best ; but they could always, on some terms, command 
money, not only at home, but from most of the countries 
of Europe where a surplus capital was accumulated ; 
and the credit of that government was improving daily. 
The establishment of a system of liberty would of course 
be supposed to give it new strength : and so it would 
actually have done, if a system of liberty had been estab- 
lished. What offers has their government of pretended 
liberty had from Holland, from Hamburgh, from Switzer- 
land, from Genoa, from England, for a dealing in their 
paper ? Why should these nations of commerce and 
economy enter into any pecuniary dealings with a people 
who attempt to reverse the very nature of things ; 
amongst whom they see the debtor prescribing, at the 
point of the bayonet, the medium of his solvency to the 
creditor ; discharging one of his engagements with 
another ; turning his very penury into his resource ; and 
paying his interest with his rags ? 

Their fanatical confidence in the omnipotence of 
church plunder has induced these philosophers to over- 
look all care of the public estate, just as the dream of 
the philosopher's stone induces dupes, under the more 
plausible delusion of the hermetic art, to neglect all 
rational means of improving their fortunes. With these 
philosophic financiers, this universal medicine made of 
church mummy is to cure all the evils of the state. These 
gentlemen perhaps do not believe a great deal in the 
miracles of piety ; but it cannot be questioned, that they 
have an undoubting faith in the prodigies of sacrilege. Is 
there a debt which presses them ? — Issue assignats. Are 
compensations to be made, or a maintenance decreed to 
those whom they have robbed of their freehold in their 
office, or expelled from their profession ? — Assignats. Is 
a fleet to be fitted out ? — Assignats. If sixteen millions 
sterling of these assignats forced on the people, leave the 
wants of the state as urgent as ever — tissue, says one, 



SELECTIONS. 461 

thirty millions sterling of assignais—s^ys another, issue 
fourscore millions more of assignats. The only difference 
among their financial factions is on the greater or the 
lesser quantity of assignats to be imposed on the public 
sufferance. They are all professors of assignats. Even 
those whose natural good sense and knowledge of com- 
merce, not obliterated by philosophy furmsh decisive 
arguments against this delusion, conclude their arguments 
by proposing the emission of assignats. I suppose they 
must talk of assignats, as no other language would be 
understood. All experience of their mefficacy does not 
m the least discourage them. Are the old asstgnats 
depreciated at market ? What is the remedy ? Issue 
new assignats.-Mais si maladia, ofimatna, non vuU 
se garrire, qmd illi facere ? assignare-^posteaasstgnare 
cnLue asslgnare. The word is a tnfk altered The 
I atin of your present doctors may be better than that of 
your old comedy ; their wisdom and the variety of their 
resources are the same. They have not more notes in 
their song than the cuckoo ; though, far from the soft- 
ness of that harbinger of summer and plenty, their voice 
is as harsh and as ominous as that of the raven. 

WTio but the most desperate ad%'cnturers in philos- 
ophy and finance could at all have thought of destroy- 
mg^the settled revenue of the state the sole security 
fo? the public credit, in the hope of rebuilding it with the 
materials of confiscated property ? If. however, an 
Excessive zeal for the state should have led a pious and 
venerable prelate (by anticipation a father of the church*) 
o pi lage h own o^rder and. for the good of the church 
and people, to take upon himself the p ace of grand 
finander of confiscation, and comptroller-general of 
sacrilege he and his coadjutors were, m my o])inion, 
bound'to show, by tlu.ir su^bsequent conduct that they 
knew something of the ofiice they assumed. W hen they 
tad resolved to' appropriate to the fisc a certain por ion 

.,f the landed property of \^^'\,^^^^r7\''uTur^^ 

was their business to render their bank a real fund 

* La Bruy^rc of Bossuct. 



462 EDMUND BURKE. 

of credit ; as far as such a bank was capable of be- 
coming so. 

To establish a current circulating credit upon any 
land-hank, under any circumstances whatsoever, has 
hitherto proved difficult at the very least. The attempt 
has commonly ended in bankruptcy. But when the 
assembly were led, through a contempt of moral, to a 
defiance of economical principles, it might at least have 
been expected that nothing would be omitted on their 
part to lessen this difficulty, to prevent any aggrava- 
tion of this bankruptcy. It might be expected, that, to 
render your land-hank tolerable, every means would be 
adopted that could display openness and candour in the 
statement of the security ; everything which could aid 
the recovery of the demand. To take things in their 
most favourable point of view, your condition was that 
of a man of a large landed estate, which he wished to 
dispose of for the discharge of a debt and the supply of 
certain services. Not being able instantly to sell, you 
wished to mortgage. What would a man of fair inten- 
tions, and a commonly clear understanding, do in such 
circumstances ? Ought he not first to ascertain the 
gross value of the estate ; the charges of its manage- 
ment and disposition ; the incumbrances perpetual and 
temporary of all kinds that affect it ; then, striking a net 
surplus, to calculate the just value of the security ? 
When that surplus (the only security to the creditor) 
had been clearly ascertained and properly vested in the 
hands of trustees ; then he would indicate the parcels to 
be sold and the time and conditions of sale ; after this, he 
would admit the public creditor, if he chose it, to sub- 
scribe his stock into this new fund ; or he might receive 
proposals for an assignat from those who would advance 
money to purchase this species of security. 

This would be to proceed like men of business, methodi- 
cally and rationally ; and on the only principles of public 
and private credit that have an existence. The dealer 
would then know exactly what he purchased ; and the 
only doubt which could hang upon his mind would be. 



SELECTIONS. 4^3 

the dread of the resumption of the spoil, which one day 
mieht be made (perhaps with an addition of punishment) 
from the sacrilegious grip of those execrable wretches 
who could become purchasers at the auction ot their 
innocent fellow-citizens. . , , i r .u 

An open and exact statement of the clear value ot the 
property and of the time, the circumstances, the place ot 
sale were all necessary, to efface as much as possible the 
stigma that has hitherto been branded on every kind ot 
land-bank. It became necessary on another principle, 
that is on account of a pledge of faith previously gn'en 
on that subject, that their future fidelity m a slippery 
concern might be established by their adherence to their 
first engagement. When they had finally determined on 
a state resource from church booty, they came, on the 
14th of \pril, 1790, to a solemn resolution on the subject , 
and pledged themselves to their country that m the 
statement of the public charges for each year, there 
should be brought to account a sum sufficient for defray- 
ing the expenses of the R. C. A. religion the support of 
the ministers at the altars, the relief of the poor, the 
pensions to the ecclesiastics, secular as we 1 as regular, 
of the one and of the other sex, in order Hud the estates 
and goods which are at the disposal of the nation may be 
disengaged of all charges, and employed by the representa- 
tives or the legislative bodv, to the great and most pressing 
exigencies of the state.' They further engaged, on the 
same day. that the sum necessary for the year 1791 
should be forthwith determined. . , , ^ ■, 

In this resolution they admit it their duty to show 
distinctly the expense of the above objects which by 
..ther resolutions, they had before engaged should be 
first in the order of provision. They admit that they 
ought to show the estate clear and disengaged o all 
charges, and that they should show it immediately 
Have they done this immediately or at any time ? 
Have they ever furnished a rent-roll of the immovable 
estate, or given in an inventory of the niovable effects 
which they confiscate to their assignats ? in what 



464 EDMUND BURKE. 

manner the}^ can fulfil their engagements of holding out 
to public service ' an estate disengaged of all charges/ 
without authenticating the value of the estate, or the 
quantum of the charges, I leave it to their English ad- 
mirers to explain. Instantly upon this assurance, and 
previously to any one step towards making it good, they 
issue, on the credit of so handsome a declaration, sixteen 
millions sterling of their paper. This was manly. Who, 
after this masterly stroke, can doubt of their abilities in 
finance ? — But then, before any other emission of these 
financial indulgences, they took care at least to make 
good their original promise ! — If such estimate, either of 
the value of the estate or the amount of the incumbrances, 
has been made, it has escaped me. I never heard of it. 

At length they have spoken out, and they have made 
a full discovery of their abominable fraud, in holding out 
the church lands as a security for any debts, or any 
service whatsoever. They rob only to enable them to 
cheat ; but in a very short time they defeat the ends 
both of the robbery and the fraud, by making out 
accounts for other purposes, which blow up their whole 
apparatus of force and of deception. I am obliged to 
M. de Calonne for his reference to the document which 
proves this extraordinarj^ fact : it had by some means 
escaped me. Indeed it was not necessary to make out 
my assertion as to the breach of faith on the declaration 
of the 14th of April, 1790. By a report of their com- 
mittee it now appears, that the charge of keeping up the 
reduced ecclesiastical establishments, and other expenses 
attendant on rehgion, and maintaining the religious of 
both sexes, retained or pensioned, and the other con- 
comitant expenses of the same nature, which they have 
brought upon themselves by this convulsion in property, 
exceeds the income of the estates acquired by it in the 
enormous sum of two millions sterling annually ; besides 
a debt of seven millions and upwards. These are the 
calculating powers of imposture ! This is the finance of 
philosophy ! This is the result of all the delusions held 
out to engage a miserable people in rebellion, murder. 



SELECTIONS. 465 

and sacrilege, and to make them prompt and zealous 
instruments in the ruin of their country ! Never did a 
state, in any case, enrich itself by the confiscations of 
the citizens. This new experiment has succeeded like 
all the rest. Every honest mind, every true lover of 
liberty and humanity, must rejoice to find that injustice 
is not always good policy, nor rapine the high road to 
riches. I subjoin with pleasure, in a note, the able and 
spirited observations of M. de Calonne on this subject.* 

In order to persuade the world of the bottomless re- 
source of ecclesiastical confiscation, the assembly have 
proceeded to other confiscation of estates in offices, which 
could not be done with any common colour without being 
compensated out of this grand confiscation of landed 
property. They have thrown upon this fund which was 
to show a surplus, disengaged of all charges, a new charge ; 
namely, the compensation to the whole body of the dis- 
banded judicature ; and of all suppressed offices and 
estates ; a charge which I cannot ascertain, but which 
unquestionably amounts to many French millions. An- 
other of the new charges is an annuity of four hundred 

♦ • Ce n'est point k Tasserablte entiere que je m'adresse ici ; je ne 
parle qu'^ ceux qui I'egarent, en lui cachant sous des gazes seduisantes 
le but oti ils I'entrainent. C'est k eux que je dis : votre objet, vous 
u'en disconviendrez pas, c'cst d'oter tout espoir au clerge, et de con- 
sommer sa ruine ; c'cst-la, en ne vous soup^onnant d aucune com- 
binaisoa de cupidite, d'aucun regard sur le jeu des eltfts publics c est-lA 
ce qu'on doit croire que vous avez en vue dans la terrible operation que 
vousproposez ; c'est ce qui doit en 6tre le fruit. Mais le peuple qui vous 
y int^ressez, quel avantage pcut-il y trouver ? En vous servant sans 
cesse de lui, que faites-vous pour lui ? Ricn absolunicnt nen ; et, 
au contraire vous faites ce qui ne conduit qu k 1 accabler de nouyelles 
charges Vous avez rejete, k son prejudice, une offre de 400 millions, 
dont I'acceptation pouvoit devenii un raoyen de soulagement en sa 
faveur ; et k cette ressource, aussi profitable que legitime, vmis avez 
substitue une injustice ruineuse, qui, do votre propre ayeu charge le 
trcsor public, et par consequent le peuple, d un surcroit de d6pense 
annuclle de 50 millions au moins, etd'un remboursement de 150 millions 
' Malheureux peuple ! voil^i ce que vous vaut en dernier resultat 
rexpropriation d'feglise, et la duret6 des d6crets taxateiu-s du traite- 
merit des miuistres d'une religion bienfaisante ; et desormais lis seront 
k votre charge : leurs charit6s soulageoicnt les pauvres ; et vous allez 
etre imposes pour subvenir i leur entretien ! '—Df I Etat ,ir la I- ranee, 
p. 81. See also p. 92, and the following pages. 



466 EDMUND BURKE. 

and eighty thousand pounds sterling, to be paid (if they 
choose to keep faith) by daily payments, for the interest 
of the first assignats. Have they ever given themselves 
the trouble to state fairly the expense of the manage- 
ment of the church lands in the hands of the municipalities, 
to whose care, skill, and diligence, and that of their legion 
of unknown under-agents, they have chosen to commit 
the charge of the forfeited estates, and the consequence 
of which had been so ably pointed out by the Bishop of 
Nancy ? 

But it is unnecessary to dwell on these obvious heads 
of incumbrance. Have they made out any clear state 
of the grand incumbrance of all, I mean the whole of the 
general and municipal establishments of all sorts, and 
compared it with the regular income by revenue ? Every 
deficiency in these becomes a charge on the confiscated 
estate, before the creditor can plant his cabbages on an 
acre of church property. There is no other prop than this 
confiscation to keep the whole state from tumbling to the 
ground. In this situation they have purposely covered 
all that they ought industriously to have cleared ''Adth a 
thick fog ; and then, blindfold themselves, like bulls 
that shut their eyes when they push, they drive, by the 
point of the bayonets, their slaves, blindfolded indeed no 
worse than their lords, to take their fictions for currencies, 
and to swallow down paper pills by thirty-four millions 
sterling at a dose. Then they proudly lay in their claim 
to a future credit, on failure of all their past engage- 
ments, and at a time when (if in such a matter anything 
can be clear) it is clear that the surplus estates will never 
answer even the iirst of their mortgages, I mean that of 
the four hundred millions (or sixteen millions sterling) 
of assignats. In all this procedure I can discern neither 
the solid sense of plain dealing, nor the subtle dexterity 
of ingenious fraud. The objections within the assembly 
to pulling up the flood-gates for this inundation of fraud 
are unanswered ; but they are thoroughly refuted by a 
hundred thousand financiers in the street. These are the 
numbers by which the metaphysic arithmeticians com- 



SELECTIONS. 467 

pute. These are the grand calculations on which a 
philosophical public credit is founded in France. They 
cannot raise supplies ; but they can raise mobs. Let 
them rejoice in the applauses of the club at Dundee, for 
their wisdom and patriotism in having thus applied the 
plunder of the citizens to the service of the state. I hear 
of no address upon this subject from the directors of the 
Bank of England ; though their approbation would be 
of a little more weight in the scale of credit than that of 
the club at Dundee. But, to do justice to the club, I 
believe the gentlemen who compose it to be wiser than 
they appear ; that they will be less liberal of their money 
than of their addresses ; and that they would not give a 
dog's ear of their most rumpled and ragged Scotch paper 
for twenty of vour fairest assignats. 

Early in this year the assembly issued paper to the 
amount of sixteen millions sterling: what must have 
been the state into which the assembly has brought your 
affairs, that the relief afforded by so vast a supply has been 
liardly perceptible ? This paper also felt an almost im- 
mediate depreciation of five per cent., which in a little 
time came to about seven. The effect of these assignats 
on the receipt of the revenue is remarkable. Mr. Necker 
found that the collectors of the revenue, who received m 
coin, paid the treasury in assignats. The collectors made 
seven per cent, by thus receiving in money and accounting 
in depreciated pajx^r. It is not very difficult to foresee that 
this must be inevitable. It was, however, not the less em- 
barrassing. Mr. Necker was obliged (I believe, for a con- 
siderable part, in the market of London) to buy gold and 
silver for the mint, which amounted to aiwut t\yclve thou- 
sand pounds above the value of the commodity gained. 
That minister was of opinion that, whatever their secret 
nutritive virtue might be, the state could not live upon 
assignats alone ; that some real silver was necessary, 
particularly for the satisfaction of those who, having 
iron in their hands, were not likely to distinguish them- 
selves for patience, when they should perceive that 
whilst an increase of pay was held out io them in real 



468 EDMUND BURKE, 

money, it was again to be fraudulently drawn back 
by depreciated paper. The minister, in this very 
natural distress, appHed to the assembly, that they 
should order the collectors to pay in specie what in specie 
they had received. It could not escape him that, if the 
treasury paid three per cent, for the use of a currency, 
which should be returned seven per cent, worse than 
the minister issued it, such a dealing could not very 
greatly tend to enrich the public. The assembly took 
no notice of his recommendation. They were in this 
dilemma — if they continued to receive the assignats, 
cash must become an ahen to their treasury : if the 
treasury should refuse those paper amulets, or should 
discountenance them in any degree, they must destroy 
the credit of their sole resource. They seem then to 
have made their option ; and to have given some sort 
of credit to their paper by taking it themselves ; at the 
same time in their speeches they made a sort of swag- 
gering declaration, something, I rather think, above 
legislative competence ; that is, that there is no differ- 
ence in value between metallic money and their 
assignats. This was a good, stout, proof article of faith, 
pronounced under an anathema, by the venerable 
fathers of this philosophic synod. Cvedat who will — 
certainly not Judceus Apella. 

A noble indignation rises in the minds of your popular 
leaders, on hearing the magic lantern in their show of 
finance compared to the fraudulent exhibitions of Mr. 
Law. They cannot bear to hear the sands of the Mis- 
sissippi compared with the rock of the church on which 
they build their system. Pray let them suppress this 
glorious spirit, until they show to the world what piece 
of solid ground there is for their assignats, which they 
have not pre-occupied by other charges. They do 
injustice to that great, mother fraud, to compare it 
with their degenerate imitation. It is not true that 
Law built solely on a speculation concerning the Mis- 
sissippi. He added the East India trade ; he added 
the African trade ; he added the farms of all the farmed 



SELFXTIONS. 4^)9 

revenue of France. All these together unquestionably 
could not support the structure which the public en- 
thusiasm, not he, chose to build upon these bases. But 
these were, however, in comparison, generous delusions. 
They supposed, and they aimed at an increase of the 
commerce of France. They opened to it the whole 
range of the two hemispheres. They did not think of 
feeding France from its own substance. A grand 
imagination found in this flight of commerce some- 
thing to captivate. It was wherewithal to dazzle 
the eye of an eagle. It was not made to entice the 
smell of a mole ; nuzzling and burying himself in his 
mother earth, as yours is. Men were not then quite 
shrunk from their natural dimensions by a degrading 
and sordid philosophv, and fitted for low and vulgar 
deceptions. Above all, remember that, in imposing 
on the imagination, the then managers of the system 
made a compliment to the freedom of men. In their 
fraud there was no mixture of force. This was reserved 
to our time, to quench the little glimmerings of reason 
which might break in upon the solid darkness of this 
enlightened age. 

On recollection, I have said nothing of a scherne of 
finance which may be urged in favour of the abilities of 
these gentlemen, and which has been introduced with 
great pomp, though not yet finally adopted in the 
National Assembly. It comes with something solid in 
aid of the credit of the pajjer circulation ; and much 
has been said of its utility and its elegance. I mean 
the project for coining into money the bells of the suj)- 
pressed churches. This is their alchymy. There are 
some follies which bailie argument ; which go beyond 
ridicule ; and which excite no feeling in us but disgust ; 
and therefore I sav no more upon it. 

It is as little worth remarking any farther upon all 
their drawing and re-drawing, on their circulation for 
putting off the evil day, on the play between the treasury 
and the Caissc d'Escompte, and on all these old, exploded 
contrivance*^ of mercantile fraud, now exalted into policy 



470 EDMUND BURKE. 

of state. The revenue will not be trifled with. The 
prattling about the rights of men will not be accepted 
in payment of a biscuit or a pound of gunpowder. Here 
then the metaphysicians descend from their airy spec- 
ulations and faithfuHy follow examples. What ex- 
amples ? The examples of bankrupts. But defeated, 
baffled, disgraced, when their breath, their strength, 
their inventions, their fancies desert them, their con- 
fidence still maintains its ground. In the manifest 
failure of their abilities, they take credit for their benev- 
olence. When the revenue disappears in their hands, 
they have the presumption, in some of their late pro- 
ceedings, to value themselves on the relief given to the 
people. _ They did not relieve the people. If they 
entertained such intentions, why did they order the 
obnoxious taxes to be paid ? The peojDle reheved 
themselves in spite of the assembly. 

But waving all discussion on the parties who may 
claim the merit of this fallacious relief, has there been, 
in effect, any relief to the people in any form ? Mr, 
Bailly, one of the grand agents of paper circulation, lets 
you into the nature of this relief. His speech to the 
National Assembly contained a high and laboured 
panegyric on the inhabitants of Paris, for the constancy 
and unbroken resolution with which they have borne 
their distress and misery. A fine picture of pubhc 
felicity ! What ! great courage and unconquerable 
firmness of mind to endure benefits, and sustain redress ? 
One would think from the speech of this learned lord 
mayor that the Parisians, for this twelvemonth past, 
had been suffering the straits of some dreadful blockade ; 
that Henry IV had been stopping up the avenues to 
their supply, and Sully thundering with his ordnance 
at the gates of Paris ; when in reality they are besieged 
by no other enemies than their own madness and folly, 
their own credulity and perverseness. But Mr. Bailly 
will sooner thaw the eternal ice of his atlantic regions, 
than restore the central heat to Paris, whilst it rem.ains 
f smitten with the cold, dry, petrific mace * of a false 



SELECTIONS. 471 

and unfeeling philosophy. Some time after this speech, 
that is, on the 13th of last August, the same magistrate, 
giving an account of his government at the bar of the 
same assembly, expresses himself as follows : ' In the 
month of July 1789 ' [the period of everlastmg com- 
memoration], ' the finances of the city of Pans were yet 
in good order ; the expenditure was counterbalanced 
by the receipt, and she had at that time a million ' 
[forty thousand pounds sterHngj ' in bank. The expenses 
which she has been constrained to incur, subsequent 
to the Revolution, amount to 2,500,000 Hvres. From 
these expenses, and the great falling off in the product 
of the free gifts, not only a momentary, but a total want 
of money has taken place.' This is the Paris, upon 
whose nourishment, in the course of the last year, such 
immense sums, drawn from the vitals of all France, 
have been expended. As long as Pans stands mthe 
place of ancient Rome, so long she will be mamtamed 
bv the subject provinces. It is an evil mevitably 
attendant on the dominion of sovereign democratic 
republics. As it happened in Rome, it may survive 
that republican domination which gave rise to it. In 
that case despotism itself must submit to the vices of 
i)opularity. Rome, under her emperors, united the 
evils of both systems ; and this unnatural combination 
was one great cause of her ruin. 

To tell the people that they are relieved by the di- 
lapidation of their public estate, is a cruel and insolent 
imposition. Statesmen, before they valued themselves 
on the relief given to the people by the destruction of 
their revenue, ought first to have carefully attended 
to the solution of this problem :— Whether it be more 
advantageous to the people to pay considerably, and 
to gain in proportion ; or to gain little or nothing, and 
to be disburdened of all contribution ? My mind is 
made up to decide in favour of the first proposition. 
l':xperience is with me and, I believe, the best opinions 
;ilso. To keep a balance between the power of acmiisi- 
tion on the part of th(' subioct and ihc demands he is 



472 EDMUND BURKE, 

to angwer on the part of the state, is the fundamental 
part of the skill of a true politician. The means of 
acquisition are prior in time and in arrangement. Good 
order is the foundation of all good things. To be en- 
abled to acquire, the people, without being servile, 
must be tractable and obedient. The magistrate must 
have his reverence, the laws their authority. The 
body of the people must not find the principles of na- 
tural subordination by art rooted out of their minds. 
They must respect that property of which they cannot 
partake. They must labour to obtain what by labour 
can be obtained j and when they find, as they commonly 
do, the success disproportioned to the endeavour, they 
must be taught their consolation in the final proportions 
of eternal justice. Of this consolation whoever deprives 
them deadens their industry, and strikes at the root 
of all acquisition as of all conservation. He that does 
this is the cruel oppressor, the merciless enemy of the 
poor and wretched ; at the same time that by his wicked 
speculations he exposes the fruits of successful industry, 
and the accumulations of fortune, to the plunder of the 
negligent, the disappointed, and the unprosperous. 

Too many of the financiers by profession are apt to 
see nothing in revenue but banks, and circulations, and 
annuities on lives, and tontines, and perpetual rents, 
and all the small wares of the shop. In a settled order 
of the state, these things are not to be sUghted, nor is 
the skill in them to be held in trivial estimation. They 
are good, but then only good, when they assume the 
effects of that settled order, and are built upon it. But 
when men think that these beggarly contrivances may 
supply a resource for the evils which result from break- 
ing up the foundations of public order, and from causing 
or suffering tlie principles of property to be subverted, 
they will, in tlie ruin of their country, leave a melancholy 
-ind lasting monument of the eit'ect of preposterous 
politics, and presumptuous, short-siglited, narrow- 
minded wisdom. 
The effects of the incapacity shown by the popular 



SET.FXTIONS. 473 

leaders in all the great members of the commonwealth 
are to be covered with the ' all-atoning name ' of liberty. 
In some people I see great hberty indeed ; m many il 
not in the most, an oppressive, degradmg servitude. 
But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue ? 
It is the greatest of all possible evils ; for it is folly, 
vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those, 
who' know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see 
it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their 
having high-sounding words in their mouths. Grand, 
swelhng sentiments of liberty, I am sure I do not despise. 
They warm the heart } they enlarge and liberalize our 
minds ; they animate our courage in a time of conflict. 
Old as I am, I read the fine raptures of Lucan and Cor- 
neille with pleasure. Neither do I wholly condemn the 
little arts and devices of popularity. They facilitate the 
carrying of many points of moment • they keep the 
people together ■ "they refresh the mind in its exertions ; 
and they diffuse occasional gaiety over the severe brow 
of moral freedom. Every politician ought to sacrifice 
to the graces ; and to join compUance with reason. 
But in such an undertaking as that in France, all these 
subsidiary sentiments and artifices are of little avail. 
To make a government requires no great prudence. 
Settle the seat of power; teach obedience: and the 
work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It 
is not necessan' to guide ; it only requires to let go the 
rein. But to form a free government ; that is, to temper 
together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint 
in one consistent work, requires much thought, deep 
reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind. 
This I do not find in those who take the lead in the 
National Assembly. Perhaps they are not so miserab y 
deticient as they appear. I rather believe it. It would 
put them below the common level of human under- 
standing. But when the leaders choose to make them- 
selves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, 
in the construction of the state, will be of no service. 
They will become flatterers instead of legislators ; the 



474 EDMUND Bl^RKE. 

instruments, not the guides of the people. If any of 
them should happen to propose a scheme of Hberty, 
soberly limited, and defined with proper qualifications^ 
he will be immediately outbid by his competitors, who 
will produce something more splendidly popular. ' Sus- 
picions will be raised of his fidehty to his cause. Modera- 
tion will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards j and 
compromise as the prudence of traitors ; until, in 
hopes of preserving the credit which may enable him 
to temper and moderate, on some occasions, the popular 
leader is obUged to become active in propagating doc- 
trines, and establishing powers, that will afterwards 
defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might 
have aimed. 

But am I so unreasonable as to see nothing at all that 
deserves commendation in the indefatigable labours of 
this assembly ? I do not deny that among an infinite 
number of acts of violence and folly, some good may 
have been done. They who destroy everything cer- 
tainly will remove some grievance. They who make 
everything new, have a chance that they may establish 
something beneficial. To give them credit for what 
they have done in virtue of the authority they have 
usurped, or to excuse them in the crimes by which that 
authority has been acquired, it must appear that the 
same things could not have been accomplished without 
producing such a revolution. Most assuredly they 
might ; because almost every one of the regulations 
made by them, which is not very equivocal, was either, 
m the cession of the king, voluntarily made at the 
meeting of the states, or in the concurrent instructions 
to the orders. Some usages have been abolished on 
just grounds; but they were such that, if they had 
stood as they were to all eternity, they would little 
detract from the happiness and prosperity of any state. 
The improvements of the National Assembly are super- 
ficial, their errors fundamental. 

Whatever they are, I wish my countrymen rather 
to recommend to our neighbours the example of the 



SELECTIONS. 475 

British constitution, than to take models from them 
for the improvement of our own. In the former they 
have got an invaluable treasure. They are not, I thmk, 
without some causes of apprehension and complaint ; 
but these they do not owe to their constitution, but_ to 
their own conduct. I think our happy situation owing 
to our constitution ■ but owing to the whole of it, and 
not to any part singly ; owing in a great measure to 
what we have left standing in our several reviews and 
reformations, as well as to what we have altered or 
superadded. Our people will find employment enough 
for a truly patriotic, free and independent spirit, in 
guarding what they possess from violation. I would 
not exclude alteration neither 5 but even when I changed, 
it should be to preserve. I should be led to my remedy 
by a great grievance. In what I did, I should follow 
the example of our ancestors. I would make the repara- 
tion as nearly as possible in the style of the building. 
A politic caution, a guarded circumspection, a moral 
rather than a complexional timidity, were among the 
ruling principles of our forefathers in their most de- 
cided conduct. Not being illuminated with the light 
of which the gentlemen of France tell us they have got 
so abundant a share, they acted under a strong im- 
pression of the ignorance and fallibility of mankind. 
He, that had made them thus fallible, rewarded them 
lor' having in their conduct attended to their nature. 
Let us imitate their caution, if we wish to deserve their 
fortune, or to retain their bequests. Let us add, if we 
l)lease, but let us preserve what they have left ; and, 
standing on the firm ground of the British constitution, 
let us be satisfied to admire, rather than attempt to 
follow in their desperate flights the aeronauts of France. 
I have told you candidly my sentiments. I think 
tiiey are not likely to alter yours. I do not know that 
they ought. You are young ; vou cannot guide, but 
must follow the fortune of your country. But hereafter 
they may be of some use to you, in some future form 
which your conunonwcalth ma}' take. In the present 



476 EDMUND BURKE. 

it can hardly remain ; but before its final settlement 
it may be obliged to pass, as one of our poets says, 
' through great varieties of untried being,' and in all 
its transmigrations to be purified by fire and blood. 

I have little to recommend my opinions but long 
observation and much impartiality. They come from 
one who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of great- 
ness ; and who in his last acts does not wish to belie the 
tenor of his life. They come from one, almost the whole 
of whose public exertion has been a struggle for the 
liberty of others ; from one in whose breast no anger 
durable or vehement has ever been kindled, but by 
what he considered as tyranny ; and who snatches 
from his share in the endeavours which are used by 
good men to discredit opulent oppression, the hours he 
has employed on your affairs ; and who in so doing 
persuades himself he has not departed from his usual 
office : they come from one who desires honours, dis- 
tinctions, and emoluments, but little ; and who expects 
them not at all ; who has no contempt for fame, and 
no fear of obloquy ; who shuns contention, though he 
will hazard an opinion : from one who wishes to preserve 
consistency, but who would preserve consistency by 
varying his means to secure the unity of his end ; and, 
when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails 
may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is 
desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to 
that which may preserve its equipoise. 



THE END. 



Established i 


;98 




wBk ' '^*' 


^H^^iiiiij 


i 





T. NELSON 
AND SONS 

PRINTERS AND 
PUBLISHERS 



THE LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

Santa Barbara 



THIS BOOK IS DUE ON THE LAST DATE 
STAMPED BELOW. 




UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 




AA 000 234 726 



.-^^