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Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke. by Edmund Burke

Part 6 out of 9

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and their fillets, and bedewing me with their odours, as a preface to
the knocking me on the head with their consecrated axes. I have
injured, say they, the constitution; and I have abandoned the Whig
party and the Whig principles that I professed. I do not mean, my
dear sir, to defend myself against his Grace. I have not much
interest in what the world shall think or say of me; as little has
the world an interest in what I shall think or say of any one in it;
and I wish that his Grace had suffered an unhappy man to enjoy, in
his retreat, the melancholy privileges of obscurity and sorrow. At
any rate, I have spoken, and I have written, on the subject. If I
have written or spoken so poorly as to be quite forgot, a fresh
apology will not make a more lasting impression. "I must let the tree
lie as it falls." Perhaps I must take some shame to myself. I confess
that I have acted on my own principles of government, and not on
those of his Grace, which are, I dare say, profound and wise; but
which I do not pretend to understand. As to the party to which he
alludes, and which has long taken its leave of me, I believe the
principles of the book which he condemns are very conformable to the
opinions of many of the most considerable and most grave in that
description of politicians. A few indeed, who, I admit, are equally
respectable in all points, differ from me, and talk his Grace's
language. I am too feeble to contend with them. They have the field
to themselves. There are others, very young and very ingenious
persons, who form, probably, the largest part of what his Grace, I
believe, is pleased to consider as that party. Some of them were not
born into the world, and all of them were children, when I entered
into that connection. I give due credit to the censorial brow, to the
broad phylacteries, and to the imposing gravity, of those magisterial
rabbins and doctors in the cabala of political science. I admit that
"wisdom is as the gray hair to man, and that learning is like
honourable old age." But, at a time when liberty is a good deal
talked of, perhaps I might be excused, if I caught something of the
general indocility. It might not be surprising, if I lengthened my
chain a link or two, and in an age of relaxed discipline, gave a
trifling indulgence to my own notions. If that could be allowed,
perhaps I might sometimes (by accident, and without an unpardonable
crime) trust as much to my own very careful, and very laborious,
though, perhaps, somewhat purblind disquisitions, as to their
soaring, intuitive, eagle-eyed authority. But the modern liberty is a
precious thing. It must not be profaned by too vulgar an use. It
belongs only to the chosen few, who are born to the hereditary
representation of the whole democracy, and who leave nothing at all,
no, not the offal, to us poor outcasts of the plebeian race.


Amongst those gentlemen who came to authority, as soon, or sooner than
they came of age, I do not mean to include his Grace. With all those
native titles to empire over our minds which distinguish the others, he
has a large share of experience. He certainly ought to understand the
British constitution better than I do. He has studied it in the
fundamental part. For one election I have seen, he has been concerned in
twenty. Nobody is less of a visionary theorist; nobody has drawn his
speculations more from practice. No peer has condescended to superintend
with more vigilance the declining franchises of the poor commons. "With
thrice great Hermes he has outwatched the bear." Often have his candles
been burned to the snuff, and glimmered and stunk in the sockets, whilst
he grew pale at his constitutional studies; long sleepless nights has he
wasted; long, laborious, shiftless journeys has he made, and great sums
has he expended in order to secure the purity, the independence, and the
sobriety of elections, and to give a check, if possible, to the ruinous
charges that go nearly to the destruction of the right of election
itself. Amidst these his labours, his Grace will be pleased to forgive
me, if my zeal, less enlightened to be sure than his by midnight lamps
and studies, has presumed to talk too favourably of this constitution,
and even to say something sounding like approbation of that body which
has the honour to reckon his Grace at the head of it. Those, who dislike
this partiality, or, if his Grace pleases, this flattery of mine, have a
comfort at hand. I may be refuted and brought to shame by the most
convincing of all refutations--a practical refutation. Every individual
peer for himself may show that I was ridiculously wrong: the whole body
of those noble persons may refute me for the whole corps. If they
please, they are more powerful advocates against themselves, than a
thousand scribblers like me can be in their favour. If I were even
possessed of those powers which his Grace, in order to heighten my
offence, is pleased to attribute to me, there would be little
difference. The eloquence of Mr. Erskine might save Mr.-- from the
gallows, but no eloquence could save Mr. Jackson from the effects of his
own potion.


I shall not live to behold the unravelling of the intricate plot which
saddens and perplexes the awful drama of Providence now acting on the
moral theatre of the world. Whether for thought or for action, I am at
the end of my career. You are in the middle of yours. In what part of
its orbit the nation, with which we are carried along, moves at this
instant, it is not easy to conjecture. It may, perhaps, be far advanced
in its aphelion.--But when to return?

Not to lose ourselves in the infinite void of the conjectural world, our
business is with what is likely to be affected, for the better or the
worse, by the wisdom or weakness of our plans. In all speculations upon
men and human affairs, it is of no small moment to distinguish things of
accident from permanent causes, and from effects that cannot be altered.
It is not every irregularity in our movement that is a total deviation
from our course. I am not quite of the mind of those speculators who
seem assured that, necessarily, and by the constitution of things, all
states have the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude that
are found in the individuals who compose them. Parallels of this sort
rather furnish similitudes to illustrate or to adorn, than supply
analogies from whence to reason. The objects which are attempted to be
forced into an analogy are not found in the same classes of existence.
Individuals are physical beings subject to laws universal and
invariable. The immediate cause acting in these laws may be obscure; the
general results are subjects of certain calculation. But commonwealths
are not physical but moral essences. They are artificial combinations,
and, in their proximate efficient cause, the arbitrary productions of
the human mind. We are not yet acquainted with the laws which
necessarily influence the stability of that kind of work made by that
kind of agent. There is not in the physical order (with which they do
not appear to hold any assignable connection) a distinct cause by which
any of those fabrics must necessarily grow, flourish, or decay; nor, in
my opinion, does the moral world produce anything more determinate on
that subject than what may serve as an amusement (liberal, indeed, and
ingenious, but still only an amusement) for speculative men. I doubt
whether the history of mankind is yet complete enough, if ever it can be
so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory on the internal causes which
necessarily affect the fortune of a state. I am far from denying the
operation of such causes: but they are infinitely uncertain and much
more obscure, and much more difficult to trace, than the foreign causes
that tend to raise, to depress, and sometimes to overwhelm, a community.
It is often impossible in these political inquiries to find any
proportion between the apparent force of any moral causes we may assign
and their known operation. We are therefore obliged to deliver up that
operation to mere chance, or, more piously (perhaps, more rationally),
to the occasional interposition and irresistible hand of the Great
Disposer. We have seen states of considerable duration, which for ages
have remained nearly as they have begun, and could hardly be said to ebb
or flow. Some appear to have spent their vigour at their commencement.
Some have blazed out in their glory a little before their extinction.
The meridian of some has been the most splendid. Others, and they the
greatest number, have fluctuated, and experienced at different periods
of their existence a great variety of fortune. At the very moment when
some of them seemed plunged in unfathomable abysses of disgrace and
disaster, they have suddenly emerged. They have begun a new course and
opened a new reckoning; and, even in the depths of their calamity, and
on the very ruins of their country, have laid the foundations of a
towering and durable greatness. All this has happened without any
apparent previous change in the general circumstances which had brought
on their distress. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his
disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities
on a whole nation. A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an
inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of nature.

Such, and often influenced by such causes, has commonly been the fate of
monarchies of long duration. They have their ebbs and their flows. This
has been eminently the fate of the monarchy of France. There have been
times in which no power has ever been brought so low. Few have ever
flourished in greater glory. By turns elevated and depressed, that power
had been, on the whole, rather on the increase; and it continued not
only powerful but formidable to the hour of the total ruin of the
monarchy. This fall of the monarchy was far from being preceded by any
exterior symptoms of decline. The interior were not visible to every
eye; and a thousand accidents might have prevented the operation of what
the most clear-sighted were not able to discern, nor the most provident
to divine. A very little time before its dreadful catastrophe there was
a kind of exterior splendour in the situation of the Crown, which
usually adds to government strength and authority at home. The Crown
seemed then to have obtained some of the most splendid objects of state
ambition. None of the continental powers of Europe were the enemies of
France. They were all either tacitly disposed to her, or publicly
connected with her; and in those who kept the most aloof there was
little appearance of jealousy; of animosity there was no appearance at
all. The British nation, her great preponderating rival; she had
humbled; to all appearance she had weakened; certainly had endangered,
by cutting off a very large, and by far the most growing part of her
empire. In that its acme of human prosperity and greatness, in the high
and palmy state of the monarchy of France, it fell to the ground without
a struggle. It fell without any of those vices in the monarch which have
sometimes been the causes of the fall of kingdoms, but which existed,
without any visible effect on the state, in the highest degree in many
other princes; and, far from destroying their power, had only left some
slight stains on their character. The financial difficulties were only
pretexts and instruments of those who accomplished the ruin of that
monarchy. They were not the causes of it.

Deprived of the old government, deprived in a manner of all government,
France, fallen as a monarchy, to common speculators might have appeared
more likely to be an object of pity or insult, according to the
disposition of the circumjacent powers, than to be the scourge and
terror of them all: but out of the tomb of the murdered monarchy in
France has arisen a vast, tremendous unformed spectre, in a far more
terrific guise than any which ever yet have overpowered the imagination
and subdued the fortitude of man. Going straight forward to its end,
unappalled by peril, unchecked by remorse, despising all common maxims
and all common means, that hideous phantom overpowered those who could
not believe it was possible she could at all exist, except on the
principles which habit rather than nature had persuaded them were
necessary to their own particular welfare, and to their own ordinary
modes of action. But the constitution of any political being, as well as
that of any physical being, ought to be known, before one can venture to
say what is fit for its conservation, or what is the proper means of its
power. The poison of other states is the food of the new republic. That
bankruptcy, the very apprehension of which is one of the causes assigned
for the fall of the monarchy, was the capital on which she opened her
traffic with the world.


In the case of the farmer and the labourer, their interests are
always the same, and it is absolutely impossible that their free
contracts can be onerous to either party. It is the interest of the
farmer, that his work should be done with effect and celerity: and
that cannot be, unless the labourer is well fed, and otherwise found
with such necessaries of animal life, according to his habitudes, as
may keep the body in full force, and the mind gay and cheerful. For
of all the instruments of his trade, the labour of man (what the
ancient writers have called the instrumentum vocale) is that on which
he is most to rely for the repayment of his capital. The other two,
the semivocale in the ancient classification, that is, the working
stock of cattle, and the instrumentum mutum, such as carts, ploughs,
spades, and so forth, though not all inconsiderable in themselves,
are very much inferior in utility or in expense; or, without a given
portion of the first, are nothing at all. For, in all things
whatever, the mind is the most valuable and the most important; and
in this scale the whole of agriculture is in a natural and just
order; the beast is as an informing principle to the plough and cart;
the labourer is as reason to the beast; and the farmer is as a
thinking and presiding principle to the labourer. An attempt to break
this chain of subordination in any part is equally absurd; but the
absurdity is the most mischievous in practical operation, where it is
the most easy, that is, where it is the most subject to an erroneous

It is plainly more the farmer's interest that his men should thrive,
than that his horses should be well fed, sleek, plump, and fit for use,
or than that his waggons and ploughs should be strong, in good repair,
and fit for service.

On the other hand, if the farmer cease to profit of the labourer, and
that his capital is not continually manured and fructified, it is
impossible that he should continue that abundant nutriment, and
clothing, and lodging, proper for the protection of the instruments he

It is therefore the first and fundamental interest of the labourer, that
the farmer should have a full incoming profit on the product of his
labour. The proposition is self-evident, and nothing but the malignity,
perverseness, and ill-governed passions of mankind, and particularly the
envy they bear to each other's prosperity, could prevent their seeing
and acknowledging it, with thankfulness to the benign and wise Disposer
of all things, who obliges men, whether they will or not, in pursuing
their own selfish interests, to connect the general good with their own
individual success.

But who are to judge what that profit and advantage ought to be?
Certainly no authority on earth. It is a matter of convention dictated
by the reciprocal conveniences of the parties, and indeed by their
reciprocal necessities.--But, if the farmer is excessively
avaricious?--why so much the better--the more he desires to increase his
gains, the more interested is he in the good condition of those upon
whose labour his gains must principally depend.

I shall be told by the zealots of the sect of regulation, that this may
be true, and may be safely committed to the convention of the farmer and
the labourer, when the latter is in the prime of his youth, and at the
time of his health and vigour, and in ordinary times of abundance. But
in calamitous seasons, under accidental illness, in declining life, and
with the pressure of a numerous offspring, the future nourishers of the
community, but the present drains and blood-suckers of those who produce
them, what is to be done? When a man cannot live and maintain his family
by the natural hire of his labour, ought it not to be raised by

On this head I must be allowed to submit, what my opinions have ever
been; and somewhat at large. And, first, I premise that labour is, as I
have already intimated, a commodity, and, as such, an article of trade.
If I am right in this notion, then labour must be subject to all the
laws and principles of trade, and not to regulation foreign to them, and
that may be totally inconsistent with those principles and those laws.
When any commodity is carried to market, it is not the necessity of the
vender, but the necessity of the purchaser, that raises the price. The
extreme want of the seller has rather (by the nature of things with
which we shall in vain contend) the direct contrary operation. If the
goods at market are beyond the demand, they fall in their value; if
below it, they rise. The impossibility of the subsistence of a man, who
carries his labour to a market, is totally beside the question in his
way of viewing it. The only question is, what is it worth to the buyer?

But if the authority comes in and forces the buyer to a price, who is
this in the case (say) of a farmer who buys the labour of ten or twelve
labouring men, and three or four handicrafts, what is it, but to make an
arbitrary division of his property among them?

The whole of his gains, I say it with the most certain conviction, never
do amount anything like in value to what he pays to his labourers and
artificers, so that a very small advance upon what ONE man pays to MANY
may absorb the whole of what he possesses, and amount to an actual
partition of all his substance among them. A perfect equality will
indeed be produced;--that is to say, equal want, equal wretchedness,
equal beggary, and on the part of the petitioners, a woeful, helpless,
and desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory
equalizations. They pull down what is above. They never raise what is
below: and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what
was originally the lowest.

If a commodity is raised by authority above what it will yield with a
profit to the buyer, that commodity will be the less dealt in. If a
second blundering interposition be used to correct the blunder of the
first, and an attempt is made to force the purchase of the commodity (of
labour for instance), the one of these two things must happen, either
that the forced buyer is ruined, or the price of the product of the
labour, in that proportion, is raised. Then the wheel turns round, and
the evil complained of falls with aggravated weight on the complainant.
The price of corn, which is the result of the expense of all the
operations of husbandry taken together, and for some time continued,
will rise on the labourer, considered as a consumer. The very best will
be, that he remains where he was. But if the price of the corn should
not compensate the price of labour, what is far more to be feared, the
most serious evil, the very destruction of agriculture itself, is to be

Nothing is such an enemy to accuracy of judgment as a coarse
discrimination: a want of such classification and distribution as the
subject admits of. Increase the rate of wages to the labourer, say the
regulators--as if labour was but one thing, and of one value. But this
very broad, generic term, LABOUR, admits, at least, of two or three
specific descriptions: and these will suffice, at least, to let
gentlemen discern a little the necessity of proceeding with caution in
their coercive guidance of those whose existence depends upon the
observance of still nicer distinctions and subdivisions than commonly
they resort to in forming their judgments on this very enlarged part of

The labourers in husbandry may be divided: 1st, into those who are able
to perform the full work of a man; that is, what can be done by a person
from twenty-one years of age to fifty. I know no husbandry-work (mowing
hardly excepted) that is not equally within the power of all persons
within those ages, the more advanced fully compensating by knack and
habit what they lose in activity. Unquestionably, there is a good deal
of difference between the value of one man's labour and that of another,
from strength, dexterity, and honest application. But I am quite sure,
from my best observation, that any given five men will, in their total,
afford a proportion of labour equal to any other five within the periods
of life I have stated; that is, that among such five men there will be
one possessing all the qualifications of a good workman, one bad, and
the other three middling, and approximating to the first and the last.
So that in so small a platoon as that of even five, you will find the
full complement of all that five men CAN earn. Taking five and five
throughout the kingdom, they are equal: therefore, an error with regard
to the equalization of their wages by those who employ five, as farmers
do at the very least, cannot be considerable. 2ndly. Those who are able
to work, but not the complete task of a day-labourer. This class is
infinitely diversified, but will aptly enough fall into principal
divisions. MEN, from the decline, which after fifty becomes every year
more sensible to the period of debility and decrepitude, and the
maladies that precede a final dissolution. WOMEN, whose employment on
husbandry is but occasional, and who differ more in effective labour one
from another, than men do, on account of gestation, nursing, and
domestic management, over and above the difference they have in common
with men in advancing, in stationary, and in declining life. CHILDREN,
who proceed on the reverse order, growing from less to greater utility,
but with a still greater disproportion of nutriment to labour than is
found in the second of these subdivisions: as is visible to those who
will give themselves the trouble of examining into the interior economy
of a poor-house.

This inferior classification is introduced to show, that laws
prescribing, or magistrates exercising, a very stiff and often
inapplicable rule, or a blind and rash discretion, never can provide the
just proportions between earning and salary on the one hand, and
nutriment on the other: whereas interest, habit, and the tacit
convention, that arise from a thousand nameless circumstances, produce a
TACT that regulates without difficulty, what laws and magistrates cannot
regulate at all. The first class of labour wants nothing to equalize it;
it equalizes itself. The second and third are not capable of any

But what if the rate of hire to the labourer comes far short of his
necessary subsistence, and the calamity of the time is so great as to
threaten actual famine? Is the poor labourer to be abandoned to the
flinty heart and griping hand of base self-interest, supported by the
sword of law, especially when there is reason to suppose that the very
avarice of farmers themselves has concurred with the errors of
government to bring famine on the land?


Before this of France, the annals of all time have not furnished an
instance of a COMPLETE revolution. That Revolution seems to have
extended even to the constitution of the mind of man. It has this of
wonderful in it, that it resembles what Lord Verulam says of the
operations of nature. It was perfect, not only in its elements and
principles, but in all its members and its organs from the very
beginning. The moral scheme of France furnishes the only pattern ever
known, which they who admire will INSTANTLY resemble. It is indeed an
inexhaustible repertory of one kind of examples. In my wretched
condition, though hardly to be classed with the living, I am not safe
from them. They have tigers to fall upon animated strength. They have
hyaenas to prey upon carcasses. The national menagerie is collected by
the first physiologists of the time; and it is defective in no
description of savage nature. They pursue even such as me, into the
obscurest retreats, and haul them before their revolutionary tribunals.
Neither sex, nor age,--nor the sanctuary of the tomb, is sacred to them.
They have so determined a hatred to all privileged orders, that they
deny even to the departed the sad immunities of the grave. They are not
wholly without an object. Their turpitude purveys to their malice; and
they unplumb the dead for bullets to assassinate the living. If all
revolutionists were not proof against all caution, I should recommend it
to their consideration, that no persons were ever known in history,
either sacred or profane, to vex the sepulchre, and, by their sorceries,
to call up the prophetic dead, with any other event, than the prediction
of their own disastrous fate.--"Leave me, oh leave me to repose!"


The British government in India being a subordinate and delegated
power, it ought to be considered as a fundamental principle in such a
system, that it is to be preserved in the strictest obedience to the
government at home. Administration in India, at an immense distance
from the seat of the supreme authority; intrusted with the most
extensive powers; liable to the greatest temptations; possessing the
amplest means of abuse; ruling over a people guarded by no distinct
or well-ascertained privileges, whose language, manners, and radical
prejudices render not only redress, but all complaint on their part,
a matter of extreme difficulty; such an administration, it is
evident, never can be made subservient to the interests of Great
Britain, or even tolerable to the natives, but by the strictest
rigour in exacting obedience to the commands of the authority
lawfully set over it.


My exertions, whatever they have been, were such as no hopes of
pecuniary reward could possibly excite; and no pecuniary compensation
can possibly reward them. Between money and such services, if done by
abler men than I am, there is no common principle of comparison: they
are quantities incommensurable. Money is made for the comfort and
convenience of animal life. It cannot be a reward for what mere animal
life must indeed sustain, but never can inspire. With submission to his
Grace, I have not had more than sufficient. As to any noble use, I trust
I know how to employ, as well as he, a much greater fortune than he
possesses. In a more confined application, I certainly stand in need of
every kind of relief and easement much more than he does. When I say I
have not received more than I deserve, is this the language I hold to
majesty? No! Far, very far, from it! Before that presence, I claim no
merit at all. Everything towards me is favour, and bounty. One style to
a gracious benefactor; another to a proud and insulting foe.

His Grace is pleased to aggravate my guilt, by charging my acceptance of
his majesty's grant as a departure from my ideas, and the spirit of my
conduct with regard to economy. If it be, my ideas of economy were false
and ill-founded. But they are the Duke of Bedford's ideas of economy I
have contradicted, and not my own. If he means to allude to certain
bills brought in by me on a message from the throne in 1782, I tell him,
that there is nothing in my conduct that can contradict either the
letter or the spirit of those acts. Does he mean the Pay-office Act? I
take it for granted he does not. The act to which he alludes, is, I
suppose, the Establishment Act. I greatly doubt whether his Grace has
ever read the one or the other. The first of these systems cost me, with
every assistance which my then situation gave me, pains incredible. I
found an opinion common through all the offices, and general in the
public at large, that it would prove impossible to reform and methodize
the office of paymaster-general. I undertook it, however; and I
succeeded in my undertaking. Whether the military service, or whether
the general economy of our finances, have profited by that act, I leave
to those who are acquainted with the army, and with the treasury, to



Of all things, an indiscreet tampering with the trade of provisions is
the most dangerous, and it is always worst in the time when men are most
disposed to it: that is, in the time of scarcity. Because there is
nothing on which the passions of men are so violent, and their judgment
so weak, and on which there exists such a multitude of ill-founded
popular prejudices.


The great use of government is as a restraint; and there is no
restraint which it ought to put upon others, and upon itself too,
rather than that which is imposed on the fury of speculating under
circumstances of irritation. The number of idle tales, spread about
by the industry of faction, and by the zeal of foolish
good-intention, and greedily devoured by the malignant credulity of
mankind, tends infinitely to aggravate prejudices, which, in
themselves, are more than sufficiently strong. In that state of
affairs, and of the public with relation to them, the first thing
that government owes to us, the people, is INFORMATION; the next is
timely coercion:--the one to guide our judgment; the other to
regulate our tempers.


To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government.
It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The
people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of
government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in
this, or perhaps in anything else. It is not only so of the state and
statesmen, but of all the classes and descriptions of the rich--they are
the pensioners of the poor, and are maintained by their superfluity.
They are under an absolute, hereditary, and indefeasible dependence on
those who labour, and are miscalled the poor.


The labouring people are only poor, because they are numerous. Numbers
in their nature imply poverty. In a fair distribution among a vast
multitude none can have much. That class of dependent pensioners called
the rich is so extremely small, that if all their throats were cut, and
a distribution made of all they consume in a year, it would not give a
bit of bread and cheese for one night's supper to those who labour, and
who in reality feed both the pensioners and themselves.


But the throats of the rich ought not to be cut, nor their magazines
plundered; because in their persons they are trustees for those who
labour, and their hoards are the banking-houses of these latter. Whether
they mean it or not, they do, in effect, execute their trust--some with
more, some with less, fidelity and judgment. But, on the whole, the duty
is performed, and everything returns, deducting some very trifling
commission and discount, to the place from whence it arose. When the
poor rise to destroy the rich, they act as wisely for their own purposes
as when they burn mills, and throw corn into the river, to make bread


When I say, that we of the people ought to be informed, inclusively I
say, we ought not to be flattered; flattery is the reverse of
instruction. The POOR in that case would be rendered as improvident as
the rich, which would not be at all good for them.


Nothing can be so base and so wicked as the political canting language,
"The labouring POOR." Let compassion be shown in action, the more the
better, according to every man's ability; but let there be no
lamentation of their condition. It is no relief to their miserable
circumstances; it is only an insult to their miserable understandings.
It arises from a total want of charity, or a total want of thought. Want
of one kind was never relieved by want of any other kind. Patience,
labour, sobriety, frugality, and religion, should be recommended to
them; all the rest is downright FRAUD. It is horrible to call them "The
ONCE HAPPY labourer."


Whether what may be called the moral or philosophical happiness of the
laborious classes is increased or not, I cannot say. The seat of that
species of happiness is in the mind; and there are few data to ascertain
the comparative state of the mind at any two periods. Philosophical
happiness is to want little. Civil or vulgar happiness is to want much,
and to enjoy much. IX.

If the happiness of the animal man (which certainly goes somewhere
towards the happiness of the rational man) be the object of our
estimate, then I assert without the least hesitation, that the condition
of those who labour (in all descriptions of labour, and in all
gradations of labour, from the highest to the lowest inclusively) is on
the whole extremely meliorated, if more and better food is any standard
of melioration. They work more, it is certain, but they have the
advantage of their augmented labour; yet whether that increase of labour
be on the whole a GOOD or an EVIL, is a consideration that would lead us
a great way, and is not for my present purpose. But as to the fact of
the melioration of their diet, I shall enter into the detail of proof
whenever I am called upon: in the mean time, the known difficulty of
contenting them with anything but bread made of the finest flour, and
meat of the first quality, is proof sufficient.


I further assert, that even under all the hardships of the last year,
the labouring people did, either out of their direct gains, or from
charity (which it seems is now an insult to them), in fact, fare better
than they did in seasons of common plenty, fifty or sixty years ago; or
even at the period of my English observation, which is about forty-four
years. I even assert, that full as many in that class as ever were known
to do it before continued to save money; and this I can prove, so far as
my own information and experience extend.


It is not true that the rate of wages has not increased with the nominal
price of provisions. I allow it has not fluctuated with that price, nor
ought it; and the squires of Norfolk had dined when they gave it as
their opinion, that it might or ought to rise and fall with the market
of provisions. The rate of wages in truth has no DIRECT relation to that
price. Labour is a commodity like every other, and rises or falls
according to the demand. This is in the nature of things; however, the
nature of things has provided for their necessities. Wages have been
twice raised in my time: and they bear a full proportion or even a
greater than formerly, to the medium of provision during the last bad
cycle of twenty years. They bear a full proportion to the result of
their labour. If we were wildly to attempt to force them beyond it, the
stone which we had forced up the hill would only fall back upon them in
a diminished demand, or what indeed is the far lesser evil, an
aggravated price, of all the provisions which are the result of their
manual toil.


There is an implied contract, much stronger than any instrument or
article of agreement between the labourer in any occupation and his
employer--that the labour, so far as that labour is concerned, shall be
sufficient to pay to the employer a profit on his capital, and a
compensation for his risk; in a word, that the labour shall produce an
advantage equal to the payment. Whatever is above that, is a direct TAX;
and if the amount of that tax be left to the will and pleasure of
another, it is an ARBITRARY TAX.


The true cause of his drawing so shocking a picture is no more than
this, and it ought rather to claim our pity than excite our
indignation;--he finds himself out of power; and this condition is
intolerable to him. The same sun which gilds all nature, and
exhilarates the whole creation, does not shine upon disappointed
ambition. It is something that rays out of darkness, and inspires
nothing but gloom and melancholy. Men in this deplorable state of mind
find a comfort in spreading the contagion of their spleen. They find an
advantage too; for it is a general popular error to imagine the loudest
complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare. If
such persons can answer the ends of relief and profit to themselves,
they are apt to be careless enough about either the means or the


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 overcome the first
difficulty, to turn it into an instrument for new conquests over new
difficulties; thus to enable them to extend the empire of their science;
and even to push forward, beyond the reach of their original thoughts,
the landmarks of the human understanding itself. Difficulty is a severe
instructor, set over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental Guardian
and Legislator, who knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves
us better too. Pater ipse colendi haud facilem esse viam voluit. He that
wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our
antagonist is our helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty obliges
us to an intimate acquaintance with our object, and compels us to
consider it in all its relations. 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 tricking short-cuts, and little
fallacious facilities, that has in so many parts of the world created
governments with arbitrary powers. They have created the late arbitrary
monarchy of France; they have created the arbitrary republic of Paris.
With them defects in wisdom are to be supplied by the plenitude of
force. They get nothing by it. Commencing their labours on a principle
of sloth, they have the common fortune of slothful men. The
difficulties, which they rather had eluded than escaped, meet them again
in their course; they multiply and thicken on them; they are involved,
through a labyrinth of confused detail, in an industry without limit,
and without direction; and, in conclusion, the whole of their work
becomes feeble, vicious, and insecure.

It is this inability to wrestle with difficulty which has obliged the
arbitrary Assembly of France to commence their schemes of reform with
abolition and total destruction. But is it in destroying and pulling
down that skill is displayed? Your mob can do this as well at least as
your assemblies. The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand, is more
than equal to that task. Rage and phrensy 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.


With regard to the sovereign jurisdictions, I must observe, Sir, that
whoever takes a view of this kingdom in a cursory manner will imagine,
that he beholds a solid, compacted, uniform system of monarchy; in
which all inferior jurisdictions are but as rays diverging from one
centre. But on examining it more nearly, you find much eccentricity and
confusion. It is not a monarchy in strictness. But, as in the Saxon
times this country was an heptarchy, it is now a strange sort of
PENTARCHY. It is divided into five several distinct principalities,
besides the supreme. There is indeed this difference from the Saxon
times, that as in the itinerant exhibitions of the stage, for want of a
complete company, they are obliged to throw a variety of parts on their
chief performer; so our sovereign condescends himself to act not only
the principal, but all the subordinate, parts in the play. He
condescends to dissipate the royal character, and to trifle with those
light, subordinate, lacquered sceptres in those hands that sustain the
ball representing the world, or which wield the trident that commands
the ocean. Cross a brook, and you lose the king of England; but you
have some comfort in coming again under his majesty, though "shorn of
his beams," and no more than prince of Wales. Go to the north, and you
find him dwindled to a duke of Lancaster; turn to the west of that
north, and he pops upon you in the humble character of earl of Chester.
Travel a few miles on, the earl of Chester disappears; and the king
surprises you again as count palatine of Lancaster. If you travel
beyond Mount Edgecombe, you find him once more in his incognito, and he
is duke of Cornwall. So that, quite fatigued and satiated with this
dull variety, you are infinitely refreshed when you return to the
sphere of his proper splendour, and behold your amiable sovereign in
his true, simple, undisguised, native character of majesty.


Every one must remember that the cabal set out with the most astonishing
prudery, both moral and political. Those, who in a few months after
soused over head and ears into the deepest and dirtiest pits of
corruption, cried out violently against the indirect practices in the
electing and managing of parliaments, which had formerly prevailed. This
marvellous abhorrence which the court had suddenly taken to all
influence, was not only circulated in conversation through the kingdom,
but pompously announced to the public, with many other extraordinary
things, in a pamphlet which had all the appearance of a manifesto
preparatory to some considerable enterprise. Throughout it was a satire,
though in terms managed and decent enough, on the politics of the former
reign. It was indeed written with no small art and address.

In this piece appeared the first dawning of the new system; there first
appeared the idea (then only in speculation) of SEPARATING THE COURT
FROM THE ADMINISTRATION; of carrying everything from national connection
to personal regards; and of forming a regular party for that purpose,
under the name of KING'S MEN.

To recommend this system to the people, a perspective view of the court,
gorgeously painted, and finely illuminated from within, was exhibited to
the gaping multitude. Party was to be totally done away, with all its
evil works. Corruption was to be cast down from court, as Ate was from
heaven. Power was thenceforward to be the chosen residence of public
spirit; and no one was to be supposed under any sinister influence,
except those who had the misfortune to be in disgrace at court, which
was to stand in lieu of all vices and all corruptions. A scheme of
perfection to be realized in a monarchy far beyond the visionary
republic of Plato. The whole scenery was exactly disposed to captivate
those good souls, whose credulous morality is so invaluable a treasure
to crafty politicians. Indeed there was wherewithal to charm everybody,
except those few who are not much pleased with professions of
supernatural virtue, who know of what stuff such professions are made,
for what purposes they are designed, and in what they are sure
constantly to end. Many innocent gentlemen, who had been talking prose
all their lives without knowing anything of the matter, began at last to
open their eyes upon their own merits, and to attribute their not having
been lords of the treasury and lords of trade many years before, merely
to the prevalence of party, and to the ministerial power, which had
frustrated the good intentions of the court in favour of their
abilities. Now was the time to unlock the sealed fountain of royal
bounty, which had been infamously monopolized and huckstered, and to let
it flow at large upon the whole people. The time was come to restore
royalty to its original splendour.


If a few puny libellers, acting under a knot of factious politicians,
without virtue, parts, or character (such they are constantly
represented by these gentlemen), are sufficient to excite this
disturbance, very perverse must be the disposition of that people
amongst whom such a disturbance can be excited by such means. It is
besides no small aggravation of the public misfortune, that the
disease, on this hypothesis, appears to be without remedy. If the
wealth of the nation be the cause of its turbulence, I imagine it is
not proposed to introduce poverty, as a constable to keep the peace. If
our dominions abroad are the roots which feed all this rank luxuriance
of sedition, it is not intended to cut them off in order to famish the
fruit. If our liberty has enfeebled the executive power, there is no
design, I hope, to call in the aid of despotism, to fill up the
deficiencies of law. Whatever may be intended, these things are not
yet professed. We seem therefore to be driven to absolute despair: for
we have no other materials to work upon but those out of which God has
been pleased to form the inhabitants of this island. If these be
radically and essentially vicious, all that can be said is, that those
men are very unhappy, to whose fortune or duty it falls to administer
the affairs of this untoward people. I hear it indeed sometimes
asserted, that a steady perseverance in the present measures, and a
rigorous punishment of those who oppose them, will in course of time
infallibly put an end to these disorders. But this, in my opinion, is
said without much observation of our present disposition, and without
any knowledge at all of the general nature of mankind. If the matter of
which this nation is composed be so very fermentable as these gentlemen
describe it, leaven never will be wanting to work it up, as long as
discontent, revenge, and ambition, have existence in the world.
Particular punishments are the cure for accidental distempers in the
state; they inflame rather than allay those heats which arise from the
settled mismanagement of the government, or from a natural
indisposition in the people. It is of the utmost moment not to make
mistakes in the use of strong measures; and firmness is then only a
virtue when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. In truth,
inconstancy is a sort of natural corrective of folly and ignorance.


It is a law of nature, that whoever is necessary to what we have made
our object, is sure, in some way, or in some time or other, to become
our master. All this, however, is submitted to, in order to avoid that
monstrous evil of governing in concurrence with the opinion of the
people. For it seems to be laid down as a maxim, that a king has some
sort of interest in giving uneasiness to his subjects: that all who are
pleasing to them, are to be of course disagreeable to him: that as soon
as the persons who are odious at court are known to be odious to the
people, it is snatched at as a lucky occasion of showering down upon
them all kinds of emoluments and honours. None are considered as
well?wishers to the crown, but those who advised to some unpopular
course of action; none capable of serving it, but those who are obliged
to call at every instant upon all its power for the safety of their
lives. None are supposed to be fit priests in the temple of government,
but the persons who are compelled to fly into it for sanctuary. Such is
the effect of this refined project; such is ever the result of all the
contrivances, which are used to free men from the servitude of their
reason and from the necessity of ordering their affairs according to
their evident interests. These contrivances oblige them to run into a
real and ruinous servitude, in order to avoid a supposed restraint that
might be attended with advantage.


I never govern myself--no rational man ever did govern himself--by
abstractions and universals. I do not put abstract ideas wholly out of
any question, because I well know, that under that name I should
dismiss principles; and that without the guide and light of sound,
well-understood principles, all reasonings in politics, as in
everything else, would be only a confused jumble of particular facts
and details, without the means of drawing out any sort of theoretical
or practical conclusion. A statesman differs from a professor in an
university: the latter has only the general view of society; the
former--the statesmen--has a number of circumstances to combine with
those general ideas, and to take into his consideration. Circumstances
are infinite, are infinitely combined; are variable and transient; he
who does not take them into consideration is not erroneous, but stark
mad--dat operam ut cum ratione insaniat--he is metaphysically mad. A
statesman, never losing sight of principles, is to be guided by
circumstances; and judging contrary to the exigencies of the moment he
may ruin his country for ever.

I go on this ground, that government, representing the society, has a
general superintending control over all the actions, and over all the
publicly propagated doctrines of men, without which it never could
provide adequately for all the wants of society; but then it is to use
this power with an equitable discretion, the only bond of sovereign
authority. For it is not, perhaps, so much by the assumption of unlawful
powers, as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of those which are most
legal, that governments oppose their true end and object; for there is
such a thing as tyranny as well as usurpation. You can hardly state to
me a case, to which legislature is the most confessedly competent, in
which, if the rules of benignity and prudence are not observed, the most
mischievous and oppressive things may not be done. So that after all, it
is a moral and virtuous discretion, and not any abstract theory of
right, which keeps governments faithful to their ends. Crude,
unconnected truths are in the world of practice what falsehoods are in

A reasonable, prudent, provident, and moderate coercion may be a means
of preventing acts of extreme ferocity and rigour; for by propagating
excessive and extravagant doctrines, such extravagant disorders take
place, as require the most perilous and fierce corrections to oppose
them. It is not morally true, that we are bound to establish in every
country that form of religion which in OUR minds is most agreeable to
truth, and conduces most to the eternal happiness of mankind. In the
same manner it is not true that we are, against the conviction of our
own judgment, to establish a system of opinions and practises directly
contrary to those ends, only because some majority of the people, told
by the head, may prefer it. No conscientious man would willingly
establish what he knew to be false and mischievous in religion, or in
anything else. No wise man, on the contrary, would tyrannically set up
his own sense so as to reprobate that of the great prevailing body of
the community, and pay no regard to the established opinions and
prejudices of mankind or refuse to them the means of securing a
religious instruction suitable to these prejudices. A great deal depends
on the state in which you find men.


The foundations on which obedience to governments is founded, are not
to be constantly discussed. That we are here, supposes the discussion
already made and the dispute settled. We must assume the rights of what
represents the public to control the individual, to make his will and
his acts to submit to their will, until some intolerable grievance
shall make us know that it does not answer its end, and will submit
neither to reformation nor restraint. Otherwise we should dispute all
the points of morality before we can punish a murderer, robber, and
adulterer; we should analyze all society. Dangers by being despised
grow great; so they do by absurd provision against them. Stulti est
dixisse non putaram. Whether an early discovery of evil designs, an
early declaration, and an early precaution against them, be more wise
than to stifle all inquiry about them, for fear they should declare
themselves more early than otherwise they would, and therefore
precipitate the evil--all this depends on the reality of the danger. Is
it only an unbookish jealousy, as Shakspeare calls it? It is a question
of fact. Does a design against the constitution of this country exist?
If it does, and if it is carried on with increasing vigour and activity
by a restless faction, and if it receives countenance by the most
ardent and enthusiastic applauses of its object, in the great council
of this kingdom, by men of the first parts, which this kingdom
produces, perhaps by the first it has ever produced, can I think that
there is no danger? If there be danger, must there be no precaution at
all against it? If you ask whether I think the danger urgent and
immediate, I answer, thank God, I do not. The body of the people is yet
sound, the constitution is in their hearts, while wicked men are
endeavouring to put another into their heads. But if I see the very
same beginnings, which have commonly ended in great calamities, I ought
to act as if they might produce the very same effects. Early and
provident fear is the mother of safety; because in that state of things
the mind is firm and collected, and the judgment unembarrassed. But
when the fear, and the evil feared, come on together, and press at once
upon us, deliberation itself is ruinous, which saves upon all other
occasions; because when perils are instant, it delays decision; the man
is in a flutter, and in a hurry, and his judgment is gone, as the
judgment of the deposed king of France and his ministers was gone, if
the latter did not premeditately betray him. He was just come from his
usual amusement of hunting, when the head of the column of treason and
assassination was arrived at his house. Let not the king, let not the
prince of Wales, be surprised in this manner. Let not both houses of
parliament be led in triumph along with him, and have law dictated to
them by the constitutional, the revolution, and the Unitarian
societies. These insect reptiles, whilst they go on only caballing and
toasting, only fill us with disgust; if they get above their natural
size, and increase the quantity, whilst they keep the quality, of their
venom, they become objects of the greatest terror. A spider in his
natural size is only a spider, ugly and loathsome; and his flimsy net
is only fit for catching flies. But, good God! suppose a spider as
large as an ox, and that he spread cables about us, all the wilds of
Africa would not produce anything so dreadful--

"Quale portentum neque militaris
Daunia in latis alit esculetis,
Nec Jubae tellus generat leonum
Arida nutrix."

Think of them, who dare menace in the way they do in their present
state, what would they do if they had power commensurate to their
malice. God forbid I ever should have a despotic master; but if I must,
my choice is made. I will have Louis XVI. rather than Monsieur Bailly,
or Brissot, or Chabot; rather George III., or George IV., than Dr.
Priestley or Dr. Kippis, persons who would not load a tyrannous power by
the poisoned taunts of a vulgar, low-bred insolence. I hope we have
still spirit enough to keep us from the one or the other. The
contumelies of tyranny are the worst parts of it.


To the sublime in building, greatness of dimension seems requisite; for
on a few parts, and those small, the imagination cannot rise to any
idea of infinity. No greatness in the manner can effectually compensate
for the want of proper dimensions. There is no danger of drawing men
into extravagant designs by this rule; it carries its own caution along
with it. Because too great a length in buildings destroys the purpose
of greatness, which it was intended to promote; the perspective will
lessen it in height as it gains in length, and will bring it at last to
a point; turning the whole figure into a sort of triangle, the poorest
in its effect of almost any figure that can be presented to the eye. I
have ever observed, that colonnades and avenues of trees of a moderate
length were, without comparison, far grander than when they were
suffered to run to immense distances. A true artist should put a
generous deceit on the spectators, and effect the noblest designs by
easy methods. Designs that are vast only by their dimensions, are
always the sign of a common and low imagination. No work of art can be
great, but as it deceives; to be otherwise is the prerogative of nature
only. A good eye will fix the medium betwixt an excessive length or
height (for the same objection lies against both), and a short or
broken quantity: and perhaps it might be ascertained to a tolerable
degree of exactness, if it was my purpose to descend far into the
particulars of any art.


The second branch of the social passions is that which administers to
SOCIETY IN GENERAL. With regard to this, I observe, that society, merely
as society, without any particular heightenings, gives us no positive
pleasure in the enjoyment; but absolute and entire SOLITUDE, that is,
the total and perpetual exclusion from all society, is as great a
positive pain as can almost be conceived. Therefore in the balance
between the pleasure of general SOCIETY, and the pain of absolute
solitude, PAIN is the predominant idea. But the pleasure of any
particular social enjoyment outweighs very considerably the uneasiness
caused by the want of that particular enjoyment; so that the strongest
sensations relative to the habitudes of PARTICULAR SOCIETY are
sensations of pleasure. Good company, lively conversations, and the
endearments of friendship, fill the mind with great pleasure; a
temporary solitude, on the other hand, is itself agreeable. This may
perhaps prove that we are creatures designed for contemplation as well
as action; since solitude as well as society has its pleasures; as from
the former observation we may discern, that an entire life of solitude
contradicts the purposes of our being, since death itself is scarcely an
idea of more terror.


I therefore freely admit to the East-India their claim to exclude their
fellow-subjects from the commerce of half the globe. I admit their claim
to administer an annual territorial revenue of seven millions sterling;
to command an army of sixty thousand men; and to dispose (under the
control of a sovereign, imperial discretion, and with the due observance
of the natural and local law) of the lives and fortunes of thirty
millions of their fellow-creatures. All this they possess by charter,
and by acts of parliament (in my opinion), without a shadow of

Those who carry the rights and claims of the company the furthest do not
contend for more than this; and all this I freely grant. But granting
all this, they must grant to me, in my turn, that all political power
which is set over men, and that all privilege claimed or exercised in
exclusion of them, being wholly artificial, and for so much a derogation
from the natural quality of mankind at large, ought to be some way or
other exercised ultimately for their benefit.

If this is true with regard to every species of political dominion, and
every description of commercial privilege, none of which can be
original, self-derived rights, or grants for the mere private benefit of
the holders, then such rights, or privileges, or whatever else you
choose to call them, are all in the strictest sense a TRUST; and it is
of the very essence of every trust to be rendered ACCOUNTABLE; and even
totally to CEASE, when it substantially varies from the purposes for
which alone it could have a lawful existence.

This I conceive, Sir, to be true of trusts of power vested in the
highest hands, and of such as seem to hold of no human creature. But
about the application of this principle to subordinate, DERIVATIVE
trusts, I do not see how a controversy can be maintained. To whom then
would I make the East-India Company accountable? Why, to parliament, to
be sure; to parliament, from which their trust was derived; to
parliament, which alone is capable of comprehending the magnitude of its
object, and its abuse; and alone capable of an effectual legislative
remedy. The very charter, which is held out to exclude parliament from
correcting malversation with regard to the high trust vested in the
company, is the very thing which at once gives a title and imposes on us
a duty to interfere with effect, wherever power and authority
originating from ourselves are perverted from their purposes, and become
instruments of wrong and violence. If parliament, Sir, had nothing to do
with this charter, we might have some sort of Epicurean excuse to stand
aloof, indifferent spectators of what passes in the company's name in
India and in London. But if we are the very cause of the evil, we are in
a special manner engaged to the redress; and for us passively to bear
with oppressions committed under the sanction of our own authority, is
in truth and reason for this house to be an active accomplice in the

That the power, notoriously, grossly abused, has been bought from us is
very certain. But this circumstance, which is urged against the bill,
becomes an additional motive for our interference; lest we should be
thought to have sold the blood of millions of men, for the base
consideration of money. We sold, I admit, all that we had to sell; that
is, our authority, not our control. We had not a right to make a market
of our duties.

I ground myself therefore on this principle--that if the abuse is
proved, the contract is broken, and we re-enter into all our rights;
that is, into the exercise of all our duties. Our own authority is
indeed as much a trust originally, as the company's authority is a trust
derivatively; and it is the use we make of the resumed power that must
justify or condemn us in the resumption of it. When we have perfected
the plan laid before us by the right honourable mover, the world will
then see what it is we destroy, and what it is we create. By that test
we stand or fall; and by that test I trust that it will be found in the
issue, that we are going to supersede a charter abused to the full
extent of all the powers which it could abuse, and exercised in the
plenitude of despotism, tyranny, and corruption; and that in one and the
same plan, we provide a real chartered security for the RIGHTS OF MEN,
cruelly violated under that charter.

This bill, and those connected with it, are intended to form the magna
charta of Hindostan. Whatever the treaty of Westphalia is to the liberty
of the princes and free cities of the empire, and to the three religions
there professed; whatever the great charter, the statute of tallege, the
petition of right, and the declaration of right, are to Great Britain,
these bills are to the people of India. Of this benefit, I am certain,
their condition is capable; and when I know that they are capable of
more, my vote shall most assuredly be for our giving to the full extent
of their capacity of receiving; and no charter of dominion shall stand
as a bar in my way to their charter of safety and protection.

The strong admission I have made of the company's rights (I am conscious
of it) binds me to do a great deal. I do not presume to condemn those
who argue a priori, against the propriety of leaving such extensive
political powers in the hands of a company of merchants. I know much is,
and much more may be, said against such a system. But, with my
particular ideas and sentiments, I cannot go that way to work. I feel an
insuperable reluctance in giving my hand to destroy any established
institution of government, upon a theory, however plausible it may be.
My experience in life teaches me nothing clear upon the subject. I have
known merchants with the sentiments and the abilities of great
statesmen; and I have seen persons in the rank of statesmen, with the
conceptions and characters of pedlars. Indeed, my observation has
furnished me with nothing that is to be found in any habits of life or
education, which tends wholly to disqualify men for the functions of
government, but that by which the power of exercising those functions is
very frequently obtained, I mean a spirit and habits of low cabal and
intrigue; which I have never, in one instance, seen united with a
capacity for sound and manly policy. 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. 1st. The
object affected by the abuse should be great and important. 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 be 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, before I should strike
off an atom of their charter.


All are agreed, that parliaments should not be perpetual; the only
question is, what is the most convenient time for their duration? On
which there are three opinions. We are agreed, too, that the term ought
not to be chosen most likely in its operation to spread corruption, and
to augment the already overgrown influence of the Crown. On these
principles I mean to debate the question. It is easy to pretend a zeal
for liberty. Those, who think themselves not likely to be encumbered
with the performance of their promises, either from their known
inability, or total indifference about the performance, never fail to
entertain the most lofty ideas. They are certainly the most specious,
and they cost them neither reflection to frame, nor pains to modify, nor
management to support. The task is of another nature to those, who mean
to promise nothing that it is not in their intention, or may possibly be
in their power, to perform; to those, who are bound and principled no
more to delude the understandings than to violate the liberty of their
fellow-subjects. Faithful watchmen we ought to be over the rights and
privileges of the people. But our duty, if we are qualified for it as we
ought, is to give them information, and not to receive it from them; we
are not to go to school to them to learn the principles of law and
government. In doing so, we should not dutifully serve, but we should
basely and scandalously betray, the people, who are not capable of this
service by nature, nor in any instance called to it by the constitution.
I reverentially look up to the opinion of the people, and with an awe
that is almost superstitious. I should be ashamed to show my face before
them, if I changed my ground, as they cried up or cried down men, or
things, or opinions; if I wavered and shifted about with every change,
and joined in it, or opposed, as best answered any low interest or
passion; if I held them up hopes, which I knew I never intended, or
promised what I well knew I could not perform. Of all these things they
are perfect sovereign judges, without appeal; but as to the detail of
particular measures, or to any general schemes of policy, they have
neither enough of speculation in the closet, nor of experience in
business, to decide upon it. They can well see whether we are tools of a
court, or their honest servants. Of that they can well judge; and I
wish, that they always exercised their judgment; but of the particular
merits of a measure I have other standards.**** That the frequency of
elections proposed by this bill has a tendency to increase the power and
consideration of the electors, not lessen corruptibility, I do most
readily allow; so far it is desirable; this is what it has, I will tell
you now what it has not: 1st. It has no sort of tendency to increase
their integrity and public spirit, unless an increase of power has an
operation upon voters in elections, that it has in no other situation in
the world, and upon no other part of mankind. 2nd. This bill has no
tendency to limit the quantity of influence in the Crown, to render its
operation more difficult, or to counteract that operation, which it
cannot prevent, in any way whatsoever. It has its full weight, its full
range, and its uncontrolled operation on the electors exactly as it had
before. 3rd. Nor, thirdly, does it abate the interest or inclination of
ministers to apply that influence to the electors: on the contrary, it
renders it much more necessary to them, if they seek to have a majority
in parliament to increase the means of that influence, and redouble
their diligence, and to sharpen dexterity in the application. The whole
effect of the bill is therefore the removing the application of some
part of the influence from the elected to the electors, and further to
strengthen and extend a court interest already great and powerful in
boroughs; here to fix their magazines and places of arms, and thus to
make them the principal, not the secondary theatre of their manoeuvres
for securing a determined majority in parliament. I believe nobody will
deny, that the electors are corruptible. They are men; it is saying
nothing worse of them; many of them are but ill informed in their minds,
many feeble in their circumstances, easily over-reached, easily seduced.
If they are many, the wages of corruption are the lower; and would to
God it were not rather a contemptible and hypocritical adulation than a
charitable sentiment to say, that there is already no debauchery, no
corruption, no bribery, no perjury, no blind fury, and interested
faction among the electors in many parts of this kingdom: nor is it
surprising, or at all blamable, in that class of private men, when they
see their neighbours aggrandised, and themselves poor and virtuous
without that eclat or dignity, which attends men in higher situations.

But admit it were true, that the great mass of the electors were too
vast an object for court influence to grasp, or extend to, and that in
despair they must abandon it; he must be very ignorant of the state of
every popular interest, who does not know, that in all the corporations,
all the open boroughs, indeed in every district of the kingdom, there is
some leading man, some agitator, some wealthy merchant, or considerable
manufacturer, some active attorney, some popular preacher, some
money-lender, etc. etc. who is followed by the whole flock. This is the
style of all free countries.

"--Multum in Fabia valet hic, valet ille Velina;
Cuilibet hic fasces dabit eripietque curule."

These spirits, each of which informs and governs his own little orb, are
neither so many, nor so little powerful, nor so incorruptible, but that
a minister may, as he does frequently, find means of gaining them, and
through them all their followers. To establish, therefore, a very
general influence among electors will no more be found an impracticable
project, than to gain an undue influence over members of parliament.
Therefore I am apprehensive, that this bill, though it shifts the place
of the disorder, does by no means relieve the constitution. I went
through almost every contested election in the beginning of this
parliament, and acted as a manager in very many of them; by which,
though as at a school of pretty severe and rugged discipline, I came to
have some degree of instruction concerning the means, by which
parliamentary interests are in general procured and supported.

Theory, I know, would suppose, that every general election is to the
representative a day of judgment, in which he appears before his
constituents to account for the use of the talent, with which they
intrusted him, and for the improvement he has made of it for the public
advantage. It would be so, if every corruptible representative were to
find an enlightened and incorruptible constituent. But the practice and
knowledge of the world will not suffer us to be ignorant, that the
constitution on paper is one thing, and in fact and experience is
another. We must know, that the candidate, instead of trusting at his
election to the testimony of his behaviour in parliament, must bring the
testimony of a large sum of money, the capacity of liberal expense in
entertainments, the power of serving and obliging the rulers of
corporations, of winning over the popular leaders of political clubs,
associations, and neighbourhoods. It is ten thousand times more
necessary to show himself a man of power, than a man of integrity, in
almost all the elections with which I have been acquainted. Elections,
therefore, become a matter of heavy expense; and if contests are
frequent, to many they will become a matter of an expense totally
ruinous, which no fortunes can bear; but least of all the landed
fortunes, encumbered as they often, indeed as they mostly, are with
debts, with portions, with jointures; and tied up in the hands of the
possessor by the limitations of settlement. It is a material, it is in
my opinion a lasting, consideration in all the questions concerning
election. Let no one think the charges of elections a trivial matter.
The charge therefore of elections ought never to be lost sight of in a
question concerning their frequency; because the grand object you seek
is independence. Independence of mind will ever be more or less
influenced by independence of fortune; and if, every three years, the
exhausting sluices of entertainments, drinkings, open houses, to say
nothing of bribery, are to be periodically drawn up and renewed;--if
government-favours, for which now, in some shape or other, the whole
race of men are candidates, are to be called for upon every occasion, I
see that private fortunes will be washed away, and every, even to the
least, trace of independence borne down by the torrent. I do not
seriously think this constitution, even to the wrecks of it, could
survive five triennial elections. If you are to fight the battle, you
must put on the armour of the ministry; you must call in the public, to
the aid of private, money. The expense of the last election has been
computed (and I am persuaded that it has not been over-rated) at
1,500,000 pounds;--three shillings in the pound more in the land tax.
About the close of the last parliament, and the beginning of this,
several agents for boroughs went about, and I remember well, that it was
in every one of their mouths--"Sir, your election will cost you three
thousand pounds, if you are independent; but if the ministry supports
you, it may be done for two, and perhaps for less;" and, indeed, the
thing spoke itself. Where a living was to be got for one, a commission
in the army for another, a lift in the navy for a third, and
custom-house offices scattered about without measure or number, who
doubts but money may be saved? The treasury may even add money; but
indeed it is superfluous. A gentleman of two thousand a year, who meets
another of the same fortune, fights with equal arms; but if to one of
the candidates you add a thousand a-year in places for himself, and a
power of giving away as much among others, one must, or there is no
truth in arithmetical demonstration, ruin his adversary, if he is to
meet him and to fight with him every third year. It will be said, I do
not allow for the operation of character; but I do; and I know it will
have its weight in most elections; perhaps it may be decisive in some.
But there are few in which it will be prevent great expenses.

The destruction of independent fortunes will be the consequence on the
part of the candidate. What will be the consequence of triennial
corruption, triennial drunkenness, triennial idleness, triennial
law-suits, litigations, prosecutions, triennial phrensy, of society
dissolved, industry interrupted, ruined; of those personal hatreds, that
will never be suffered to soften; those animosities and feuds, which
will be rendered immortal; those quarrels, which are never to be
appeased; morals vitiated and gangrened to the vitals? I think no stable
and useful advantages were ever made by the money got at elections by
the voter, but all he gets is doubly lost to the public; it is money
given to diminish the general stock of the community, which is in the
industry of the subject. I am sure, that it is a good while before he or
his family settle again to their business. Their heads will never cool;
the temptations of elections will be for ever glittering before their
eyes. They will all grow politicians; every one, quitting his business,
will choose to enrich himself by his vote. They will all take the
gauging-rod; new places will be made for them; they will run to the
custom-house quay, their looms and ploughs will be deserted.

So was Rome destroyed by the disorders of continual elections, though
those of Rome were sober disorders. They had nothing but faction,
bribery, bread, and stage plays, to debauch them. We have the
inflammation of liquor superadded, a fury hotter than any of them. There
the contest was only between citizen and citizen; here you have the
contest of ambitious citizens on one side, supported by the Crown, to
oppose to the efforts (let it be so) of private and unsupported ambition
on the other. Yet Rome was destroyed by the frequency and charge of
elections, and the monstrous expense of an unremitted courtship to the
people. I think, therefore, the independent candidate and elector may
each be destroyed by it; the whole body of the community be an infinite
sufferer; and a vitious ministry the only gainer.


In a Christian commonwealth the church and the state are one and the
same thing, being different integral parts of the same whole. For the
church has been always divided into two parts, the clergy and the
laity; of which the laity is as much an essential integral part, and
has as much its duties and privileges, as the clerical member; and in
the rule, order, and government of the church has its share. Religion
is so far, in my opinion, from being out of the province of the duty of
a Christian magistrate, that it is, and it ought to be, not only his
care, but the principal thing in his care; because it is one of the
great bonds of human society; and its object the supreme good, the
ultimate end and object of man himself. The magistrate, who is a man,
and charged with the concerns of men, and to whom very specially
nothing human is remote and indifferent, has a right and a duty to
watch over it with an unceasing vigilance, to protect, to promote, to
forward it by every rational, just, and prudent means. It is
principally his duty to prevent the abuses, which grow out of every
strong and efficient principle, that actuates the human mind. As
religion is one of the bonds of society, he ought not to suffer it to
be made the pretext of destroying its peace, order, liberty, and its
security. Above all, he ought strictly to look to it when men begin to
form new combinations, to be distinguished by new names, and especially
when they mingle a political system with their religious opinions, true
or false, plausible or implausible.

It is the interest, and it is the duty, and because it is the interest
and the duty, it is the right of government to attend much to opinions;
because, as opinions soon combine with passions, even when they do not
produce them, they have much influence on actions. Factions are formed
upon opinions; which factions become in effect bodies corporate in the
state;--nay, factions generate opinions in order to become a centre of
union, and to furnish watch-words to parties; and this may make it
expedient for government to forbid things in themselves innocent and
neutral. I am not fond of defining with precision what the ultimate
rights of the sovereign supreme power in providing for the safety of the
commonwealth may be, or may not extend to. It will signify very little
what my notions, or what their own notions, on the subject may be;
because, according to the exigence, they will take, in fact, the steps
which seem to them necessary for the preservation of the whole; for as
self-preservation in individuals is the first law of nature, the same
will prevail in societies, who will, right or wrong, make that an object
paramount to all other rights whatsoever.


The bottom of this theory of persecution is false. It is not permitted
to us to sacrifice the temporal good of any body of men to our own ideas
of the truth and falsehood of any religious opinions. By making men
miserable in this life, they counteract one of the great ends of
charity; which is, inasmuch as in us lies, to make men happy in every
period of their existence, and most in what most depends upon us. But
give to these old persecutors their mistaken principle, in their
reasoning they are consistent, and in their tempers they may be even
kind and good-natured. But whenever a faction would render millions of
mankind miserable, some millions of the race co-existent with
themselves, and many millions in their succession, without knowing, or
so much as pretending to ascertain, the doctrines of their own school
(in which there is much of the lash and nothing of the lesson), the
errors, which the persons in such a faction fall into, are not those
that are natural to human imbecility, nor is the least mixture of
mistaken kindness to mankind an ingredient in the severities they
inflict. The whole is nothing but pure and perfect malice. It is,
indeed, a perfection in that kind belonging to beings of a higher order
than man, and to them we ought to leave it. This kind of persecutors,
without zeal, without charity, know well enough, that religion, to pass
by all questions of the truth or falsehood of any of its particular
systems (a matter I abandon to the theologians on all sides), is a
source of great comfort to us mortals in this our short but tedious
journey through the world. They know, that to enjoy this consolation,
men must believe their religion upon some principle or other, whether of
education, habit, theory, or authority. When men are driven from any of
those principles, on which they have received religion, without
embracing with the same assurance and cordiality some other system, a
dreadful void is left in their minds, and a terrible shock is given to
their morals. They lose their guide, their comfort, their hope. None but
the most cruel and hard-hearted of men, who had banished all natural
tenderness from their minds, such as those beings of iron, the atheists,
could bring themselves to any persecution like this. Strange it is, but
so it is, that men, driven by force from their habits in one mode of
religion, have, by contrary habits, under the same force, often quietly
settled in another. They suborn their reason to declare in favour of
their necessity. Man and his conscience cannot always be at war. If the
first races have not been able to make a pacification between the
conscience and the convenience, their descendants come generally to
submit to the violence of the laws, without violence to their minds.


The legislature of Ireland, like all legislatures, ought to frame its
laws to suit the people and the circumstances of the country, and not
any longer to make it their whole business to force the nature, the
temper, and the inveterate habits of a nation to a conformity to
speculative systems concerning any kind of laws. Ireland has an
established government, and a religion legally established, which are to
be preserved. It has a people, who are to be preserved too, and to be
led by reason, principle, sentiment, and interest to acquiesce in that
government. Ireland is a country under peculiar circumstances. The
people of Ireland are a very mixed people; and the quantities of the
several ingredients in the mixture are very much disproportioned to each
other. Are we to govern this mixed body as if it were composed of the
most simple elements, comprehending the whole in one system of
benevolent legislation; or are we not rather to provide for the several
parts according to the various and diversified necessities of the
heterogeneous nature of the mass? Would not common reason and common
honesty dictate to us the policy of regulating the people in the several
descriptions of which they are composed, according to the natural ranks
and classes of an orderly civil society, under a common protecting
sovereign, and under a form of constitution favourable at once to
authority and to freedom; such as the British constitution boasts to be,
and such as it is, to those who enjoy it?


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 the Fourth. 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 in
dethroning his successor and descendant; a man, as good natured, at the
least, as Henry the Fourth; 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 him to 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. Because he knew how to make his virtues
respected by the ungrateful, he has merited the praises of those, whom
if they had lived in his time, he would have shut up in the Bastile,
and brought to punishment along with the regicides whom he hanged after
he had famished Paris into a surrender.


In a discussion which took place in the year 1790, Mr. Burke declared
his intention, in case the motion for repealing the Test Acts had been
agreed to, of proposing to substitute the following test in the room of
what was intended to be repealed. "I, A.B. do, in the presence of God,
sincerely profess and believe, that a religious establishment in this
state is not contrary to the law of God, or disagreeable to the law of
nature, or to the true principles of the Christian religion, or that it
is noxious to the community; and I do sincerely promise and engage,
before God, that I never will, by any conspiracy, contrivance, or
political device whatever, attempt, or abet others in any attempt, to
subvert the constitution of the church of England, as the same is now by
law established, and that I will not employ any power or influence,
which I may derive from any office corporate, or any other office which
I hold, or shall hold, under his majesty, his heirs and successors, to
destroy and subvert the same; or, to cause members to be elected into
any corporation, or into parliament, give my vote in the election of any
member or members of parliament, or into any office, for or on account
of their attachment to any other or different religious opinions or
establishments, or with any hope, that they may promote the same to the
prejudice of the established church; but will dutifully and peaceably
content myself with my private liberty of conscience, as the same is
allowed by law.

"So help me God."


If, however, you could find out these pedigrees of guilt, I do not think
the difference would be essential. History records many things, which
ought to make us hate evil actions; but neither history, nor morals, nor
policy, can teach us to punish innocent men on that account. What lesson
does the iniquity of prevalent factions read to us? It ought to lesson
us into an abhorrence of the abuse of our own power in our own day; when
we hate its excesses so much in other persons and in other times. To
that school true statesmen ought to be satisfied to leave mankind. They
ought not to call from the dead all the discussions and litigations
which formerly inflamed the furious factions, which had torn their
country to pieces; they ought not to rake into the hideous and
abominable things, which were done in the turbulent fury of an injured,
robbed, and persecuted people, and which were afterwards cruelly
revenged in the execution, and as outrageously and shamefully
exaggerated in the representation, in order, a hundred and fifty years
after, to find some colour for justifying them in the eternal
proscription and civil excommunication of a whole people.


This business appears in two points of view. 1. Whether it is a matter
of grievance. 2. Whether it is within our province to redress it with
propriety and prudence. Whether it comes properly before us on a
petition upon matter of grievance, I would not inquire too curiously. I
know, technically speaking, that nothing agreeable to law can be
considered as a grievance. But an over-attention to the rules of any
act does sometimes defeat the ends of it, and I think it does so in
this parliamentary act, as much at least as in any other. I know many
gentlemen think, that the very essence of liberty consists in being
governed according to law; as if grievances had nothing real and
intrinsic; but I cannot be of that opinion. Grievances may subsist by
law. Nay, I do not know whether any grievance can be considered as
intolerable until it is established and sanctified by law. If the act
of toleration were not perfect, if there were a complaint of it, I
would gladly consent to amend it. But when I heard a complaint of a
pressure on religious liberty, to my astonishment, I find that there
was no complaint whatsoever of the insufficiency of the act of King
William, nor any attempt to make it more sufficient. The matter
therefore does not concern toleration, but establishment; and it is not
the rights of private conscience that are in question, but the
propriety of the terms, which are proposed by law as a title to public
emoluments; so that the complaint is not, that there is not toleration
of diversity in opinion, but that diversity in opinion is not rewarded
by bishoprics, rectories, and collegiate stalls. When gentlemen
complain of the subscription as matter of grievance, the complaint
arises from confounding private judgment, whose rights are anterior to
law, and the qualifications, which the law creates for its own
magistracies, whether civil or religious. To take away from men their
lives, their liberty, or their property, those things, for the
protection of which society was introduced, is great hardship and
intolerable tyranny; but to annex any condition you please to benefits,
artificially created, is the most just, natural, and proper thing in
the world. When e novo you form an arbitrary benefit, an advantage,
pre-eminence, or emolument, not by nature, but institution, you order
and modify it with all the power of a creator over his creature. Such
benefits of institution are royalty, nobility, priesthood; all of which
you may limit to birth; you might prescribe even shape and stature. The
Jewish priesthood was hereditary. Founders' kinsmen have a preference
in the election of Fellows in many colleges of our universities; the
qualifications at All Souls are, that they should be--optime nati, bene
vestiti, mediocriter docti.

By contending for liberty in the candidate for orders, you take away the
liberty of the elector, which is the people; that is, the state. If they
can choose, they may assign a reason for their choice; if they can
assign a reason, they may do it in writing, and prescribe it as a
condition; they may transfer their authority to their representatives,
and enable them to exercise the same. In all human institutions a great
part, almost all regulations, are made from the mere necessity of the
case, let the theoretical merits of the question be what they will. For
nothing happened at the reformation, but what will happen in all such
revolutions. When tyranny is extreme, and abuses of government
intolerable, men resort to the rights of nature to shake it off. When
they have done so, the very same principle of necessity of human
affairs, to establish some other authority, which shall preserve the
order of this new institution, must be obeyed, until they grow
intolerable; and you shall not be suffered to plead original liberty
against such an institution. See Holland, Switzerland.

If you will have religion publicly practised and publicly taught, you
must have a power to say what that religion will be which you will
protect and encourage; and to distinguish it by such marks and
characteristics, as you in your wisdom shall think fit. As I said
before, your determination may be unwise in this as in other matters,
but it cannot be unjust, hard, or oppressive, or contrary to the liberty
of any man, or in the least degree exceeding your province.

It is therefore as a grievance fairly none at all, nothing but what is
essential not only to the order, but to the liberty, of the whole


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 commensurate to its will. I
would not be supposed to confine 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
I 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 public 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 rapture.


When any dissenters, or any body of people, come here with a petition,
it is not the number of people, but the reasonableness of the request,
that should weigh with the house. A body of dissenters come to this
house, and say, Tolerate us--we desire neither the parochial advantage
of tithes, nor dignities, nor the stalls of your cathedrals. No! let the
venerable orders of the hierarchy exist with all their advantages. And
shall I tell them, I reject your just and reasonable petition, not
because it shakes the church, but because there are others, while you
lie grovelling upon the earth, that will kick and bite you? Judge which
of these descriptions of men comes with a fair request--that, which
says, Sir, I desire liberty for my own, because I trespass on no man's
conscience;--or the other, which says, I desire that these men should
not be suffered to act according to their consciences, though I am
tolerated to act according to mine. But I sign a body of articles, which
is my title to toleration; I sign no more, because more are against my
conscience. But I desire that you will not tolerate these men, because
they will not go so far as I, though I desire to be tolerated, who will
not go as far as you. No, imprison them, if they come within five miles
of a corporate town, because they do not believe what I do in point of
doctrines. Shall I not say to these men, "Arrangez-vous, canaille?" You,
who are not the predominant power, will not give to others the
relaxation, under which you are yourself suffered to live. I have as
high an opinion of the doctrines of the church as you. I receive them
implicitly, or I put my own explanation on them, or take that which
seems to me to come best recommended by authority. There are those of
the dissenters, who think more rigidly of the doctrine of the articles
relative to predestination, than others do. They sign the article
relative to it ex animo, and literally. Others allow a latitude of
construction. These two parties are in the church, as well as among the
dissenters; yet in the church we live quietly under the same roof. I do
not see why, as long as Providence gives us no further light into this
great mystery, we should not leave things as the Divine wisdom has left
them. But suppose all these things to me to be clear (which Providence
however seems to have left obscure), yet whilst dissenters claim a
toleration in things which, seeming clear to me, are obscure to them,
without entering into the merit of the articles, with what face can
these men say, Tolerate us, but do not tolerate them? Toleration is good
for all, or it is good for none.

The discussion this day is not between establishment on one hand, and
toleration on the other, but between those, who being tolerated
themselves, refuse toleration to others. That power should be puffed up
with pride, that authority should degenerate into rigour, if not
laudable, is but too natural. But this proceeding of theirs is much
beyond the usual allowance to human weakness; it not only is shocking to
our reason, but it provokes our indignation. Quid domini facient, audent
cum talia fures? It is not the proud prelate thundering in his
commission court, but a pack of manumitted slaves with the lash of the
beadle flagrant on their backs, and their legs still galled with their
fetters, that would drive their brethren into that prison-house from
whence they have just been permitted to escape. If, instead of puzzling
themselves in the depths of the Divine counsels, they would turn to the
mild morality of the Gospel, they would read their own condemnation:--O
thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst
me: shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellow-servant, even
as I had pity on thee?


In the last session, the corps called the "king's friends" made a hardy
attempt, all at once, TO ALTER THE RIGHT OF ELECTION ITSELF; to put it
into the power of the House of Commons to disable any person
disagreeable to them from sitting in parliament, without any other rule
than their own pleasure; to make incapacities, either general for
descriptions of men, or particular for individuals; and to take into
their body, persons who avowedly never been chosen by the majority of
legal electors, nor agreeably to any known rule of law.

The arguments upon which this claim was founded and combated, are not my
business here. Never has a subject been more amply and more learnedly
handled, nor upon one side, in my opinion, more satisfactorily; they who
are not convinced by what is already written would not receive

I too have thought on this subject: but my purpose here, is only to
consider it as a part of the favourite project of government; to observe
on the motives which led to it; and to trace its political consequences.

A violent rage for the punishment of Mr. Wilkes was the pretence of the
whole. This gentleman, by setting himself strongly in opposition to the
court cabal, had become at once an object of their persecution, and of
the popular favour. The hatred of the court party pursuing, and the
countenance of the people protecting him, it very soon became not at all
a question on the man, but a trial of strength between the two parties.
The advantage of the victory in this particular contest was the present,
but not the only, nor by any means the principal, object. Its operation
upon the character of the House of Commons was the great point in view.
The point to be gained by the cabal was this; that a precedent should be
established, tending to show, THAT THE FAVOUR OF THE PEOPLE WAS NOT SO
POPULAR TRUSTS. A strenuous resistance to every appearance of lawless
power; a spirit of independence carried to some degree of enthusiasm; an
inquisitive character to discover, and a bold one to display, every
corruption and every error of government; these are the qualities which
recommend a man to a seat in the House of Commons, in open and merely
popular elections. An indolent and submissive disposition; a disposition
to think charitably of all the actions of men in power, and to live in a
mutual intercourse of favours with them; an inclination rather to
countenance a strong use of authority, than to bear any sort of
licentiousness on the part of the people; these are unfavourable
qualities in an open election for members of parliament. The instinct
which carries the people towards the choice of the former, is justified
by reason; because a man of such a character, even in its exorbitances,
does not directly contradict the purposes of a trust, the end of which
is a control on power. The latter character, even when it is not in its
extreme, will execute this trust but very imperfectly; and, if deviating
to the least excess, will certainly frustrate instead of forwarding the
purposes of a control on government. But when the House of Commons was
to be new modelled, is principle was not only to be changed but
reversed. Whilst any errors committed in support of power were left to
the law, with every advantage of favourable construction, of mitigation,
and finally of pardon: all excesses on the side of liberty, or in
pursuit of popular favour, or in defence of popular rights and
privileges, were not only to be punished by the rigour of the known law,
but by a DISCRETIONARY proceeding, which brought on THE LOSS OF THE
POPULAR OBJECT ITSELF. Popularity was to be rendered, if not directly
penal, at least highly dangerous. The favour of the people might lead
even to a disqualification of representing them. Their odium might
become, strained through the medium of two or three constructions, the
means of sitting as the trustee of all that was dear to them. This is
punishing the offence in the offending part. Until this time, the
opinion of the people, through the power of an assembly, still in some
sort popular, led to the greatest honours and emoluments in the gift of
the crown. Now the principle is reversed; and the favour of the court is
the only sure way of obtaining and holding those honours which ought to
be in the disposal of the people.

It signifies very little how this matter may be quibbled away. Example,
the only argument of effect in civil life, demonstrates the truth of my
proposition. Nothing can alter my opinion concerning the pernicious
tendency of this example, until I see some man for his indiscretion in
the support of power, for his violent and intemperate servility,
rendered incapable of sitting in parliament. For as it now stands, the
fault of overstraining popular qualities, and, irregularly if you
please, asserting popular privileges, has led to disqualification; the
opposite fault never has produced the slightest punishment. Resistance
to power has shut the door of the House of Commons to one man;
obsequiousness and servility, to none.

Not that I would encourage popular disorder, or any disorder. But I
would leave such offences to the law, to be punished in measure and
proportion. The laws of this country are for the most part constituted,
and wisely so, for the general ends of government, rather than for the
preservation of our particular liberties. Whatever, therefore, is done
in support of liberty, by persons not in public trust, or not acting
merely in that trust, is liable to be more or less out of the ordinary
course of the law; and the law itself is sufficient to animadvert upon
it with great severity. Nothing indeed can hinder that severe letter
from crushing us, except the temperaments it may receive from a trial by
jury. But if the habit prevail OF GOING BEYOND THE LAW, and superseding
this judicature, of carrying offences, real or supposed, into the
legislative bodies, who shall establish themselves into COURTS OF
CRIMINAL EQUITY (so THE STAR CHAMBER has been called by Lord Bacon), all
the evils of the STAR CHAMBER are revived. A large and liberal
construction in ascertaining offences, and a discretionary power in
punishing them, is the idea of CRIMINAL EQUITY; which is in truth a
monster in jurisprudence. It signifies nothing whether a court for this
purpose be a committee of council, or a house of commons, or a house of
lords; the liberty of the subject will be equally subverted by it. The
true end and purpose of that house of parliament which entertains such a
jurisdiction, will be destroyed by it. I will not believe, what no other
man living believes, that Mr. Wilkes was punished for the indecency of
his publications, or the impiety of his ransacked closet. If he had
fallen in a common slaughter of libellers and blasphemers, I could well
believe that nothing more was meant than was pretended. But when I see,
that, for years together, full as impious, and perhaps more dangerous,
writings to religion, and virtue, and order, have not been punished, nor
their authors discountenanced; that the most audacious libels on royal
majesty have passed without notice; that the most treasonable invectives
against the laws, liberties, and constitution of the country, have not
met with the slightest animadversion; I must consider this as a shocking
and shameless pretence. Never did an envenomed scurrility against
everything sacred and civil, public and private, rage through the
kingdom with such a furious and unbridled licence. All this while the
peace of the nation must be shaken, to ruin one libeller, and to tear
from the populace a single favourite.

Nor is it that vice merely skulks in an obscure and contemptible
impunity. Does not the public behold with indignation, persons not only
generally scandalous in their lives, but the identical persons who, by
their society, their instruction, their example, their encouragement,
have drawn this man into the very faults which have furnished the cabal
with a pretence for his persecution, loaded with every kind of favour,
honour, and distinction, which a court can bestow? Add but the crime of
servility (the foedum crimen servitutis) to every other crime, and the
whole mass is immediately transmuted into virtue, and becomes the just
subject of reward and honour. When therefore I reflect upon this method
pursued by the cabal in distributing rewards and punishments, I must
conclude that Mr. Wilkes is the object of persecution, not on account of
what he has done in common with others who are the objects of reward,
but for that in which he differs from many of them: that he is pursued
for the spirited dispositions which are blended with his vices; for his
unconquerable firmness, for his resolute, indefatigable, strenuous
resistance against oppression.

In this case, therefore, it was not the man that was to be punished, nor
his faults that were to be discountenanced. Opposition to acts of power
was to be marked by a kind of civil proscription. The popularity which
should arise from such an opposition was to be shown unable to protect
it. The qualities by which court is made to the people, were to render
every fault inexpiable, and every error irretrievable. The qualities by
which court is made to power, were to cover and to sanctify everything.
He that will have a sure and honourable seat in the House of Commons,
must take care how he adventures to cultivate popular qualities;
otherwise he may remember the old maxim, Breves et infaustos populi
Romani amores. If, therefore, a pursuit of popularity expose a man to
greater dangers than a disposition to servility, the principle which is
the life and soul of popular elections will perish out of the


It is now given out for the usual purposes, by the usual emissaries,
that Lord Rockingham did not consent 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 proposed 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 desperate cause are at
this time spread abroad, with incredible 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 submit 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 particular connection (except Lord Egmont, who acted, 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 undermine 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
gentlemen 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; and a glorious cause. We had a great battle to
fight, 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 (General Conway.) 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. When, 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 involuntary 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.
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 represented, 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 fundamentally from
the schemes of both parties; but they preserved the objects of both.
They preserved the authority of Great Britain. They made the Declaratory
Act; they repealed the Stamp Act. They did both FULLY; because the
Declaratory Act was without QUALIFICATION; and the repeal of the Stamp
Act TOTAL. This they did in the situation I have described.


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,
generosity, good faith, and justice, are palliated with so much milky
good-nature towards the actors, and born 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 question:--What is that cause of liberty, and what are
those exertions in its favour, to which the 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 unknown 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 secluded 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 means
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 full
perfection. Your leaders in France began by affecting 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 country. 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."
(Discourse on the Love of our Country, 3rd edition page 39.) 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 a 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 corruptly chosen, it becomes a
NUISANCE." Dr. Price considers this inadequacy of representation as our
FUNDAMENTAL GRIEVANCE; and though, as to the corruption of this
semblance 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 POWER
again provokes our resentment, or some GREAT CALAMITY again alarms our
fears, or perhaps till the acquisition of a PURE AND EQUAL
kindles our shame." To this he subjoins a note in these words. "A
representation chosen chiefly by the treasury, and a FEW thousands of
the DREGS of the people, who are generally paid for their votes."

You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists, who, when
they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community
with the greatest contempt, 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 of the terms "inadequate

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