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strikes down another dead at his feet. For my own part, when I saw his attack upon the king, I own my blood ran cold. I thought he had ventured too far, and that there was an end to his triumphs ; not that he had not asserted many bold truths. Yes, sir, there are in that composition many bold truths by which a wise prince might profit. It was the rancour and venom with which I was struck. But while I expected from this daring flight his final ruin and fall, behold him rising still higher, and coming down souse upon both Houses of Parliament. Yes, he made you his quarry; and you still bleed from the effects of his talons. You crouched, and still crouch beneath his rage. Nor has he dreaded the terror of your brow, sir, * for he has attacked even you; and I believe you have no reason to triumph in the encounter. Not content with carrying our royal eagle away in his pounces, and dashing him against a rock, he has laid you prostrate, and king, lords, and commons thus become but the sport of his fury. Were he a member of this House, what might not be expected from his knowledge, his firmness, and his integrity? He would be easily known by his contempt of all danger, by his penetration, and by his vigour. Nothing would escape his vigilance and activity. But ministers could conceal nothing from his sagacity, nor could promises nor threats induce him to conceal anything from the public.” At this time Burke was the acknowledged leader of
He had not yet exhausted the attention of the House by his excursive prolixity and endless “refining;” and in all the political questions which came before Parliament, he displayed the vast scope of his intellectual powers, the breadth of his sympathies, and the soundness of his judgment. As yet the French Revolution had not thrown him off his balance; he was fully master of bimself and his resources, totus in se. The State of New
* An allusion to the heavy black eyebrows of the Speaker, Sir Fletcher Norton.
York recognised the generosity and vigour of his defence of colonial liberties by appointing him its agent (1771). He was on the side of freedom as against privilege when the House of Commons unwisely attempted to prohibit the publication of reports of its proceedings, and summoned to its bar the printers of the principal London newspapers. * In this warfare Colonel Onslow was foremost; he had been ridiculed as "little Cockney George, and his amour propre grievously wounded. To his motion for summoning the printers, a member moved an amendment to the effect that they should bring with them their “compositors, pressmen, correctors, blackers, and devils; " and Burke supported it, remarking, “ It would be as irregular for the printer to come to your bar without them, as it would be for you, sir, to come to the House without your mace, or a Marshal of the King's Bench without his tipstaff, or a First Lord of the Treasury without his majority.” When Colonel Onslow boasted of the part he had played as specially befitting one who was descended from three Speakers, Burke retorted :“I have not the advantage of a parliamentary genealogy. I was not born, like the honourable gentleman, with * Order' running through my veins. But as that gentleman boasts of his father, his son will never boast of him. The parliamentary line is cut off.” It is needless to say that the House was beaten in the struggle, and did not retire from it without some loss of dignity.
We again find Burke on the side of moderation and enlightenment when, in 1772, a proposal was submitted for the relief of Dissenting ministers from the necessity of subscribing the Thirty-Nine Articles. This he fervidly supported, while at the same time opposing the concession of a similar relief to clergymen of the Established Church, because their subscription was the condition under which they held their benefices. In 1773, when advocating a further measure of relief, he defined in beautiful language what he conceived to be the true position and duty of the Church of England.
* The three papers attacked were the Gazetteer, the Middlesex Chronicle, and the London Evening Post.
“At the same time,” he said, “ that I would cut up the very roots of Atheism, I would respect all conscience--all conscience that is really such, and which perhaps its very tenderness proves to be sincere. I wish to see the Established Church of England great and powerful ; I wish to see her foundations laid low and deep, that she may crush the giant powers of rebellious darkness; I would have her head raised up to that heaven to which she conducts me. I would have her open wide her hospitable gates by a noble and liberal comprehension, but I would have no breaches in her wall; I would have her cherish all those who are within, and pity all those who are without; I would have her a common blessing to the world, an example, if not an instructor, to those who have not the happiness to belong to her; I would have her give a lesson of peace to mankind, that a vexed and wandering generation might be taught to seek for repose and toleration in the maternal bosom of Christian charity, and not in the harlot lap of infidelity and indifference. Nothing has driven people more into that house of seduction than the mutual hatred of Christian congregations. Long may we enjoy our Church under a learned and edifying Episcopacy."
In the debates upon the affairs of British India, which occupied the House in the Session of 1773, Burke gave astonishing proof of the variety and extent of his information, and the statesman-like breadth and solidity of his views. During the recess he paid a visit to Paris, and saw the young queen, Marie Antoinette, in all the grace
and radiance of her young beauty. He was appalled by the social disorganisation which had overtaken the country, and especially by the absolute contempt into which religion had fallen; and in the following session of Parliament he took occasiou to point out this “ conspiracy
of Atheism” to the vigilance of Government. Though it was contrary to his political principles to call in the aid of the secular arm to suppress doctrines and opinions, yet, if ever it were raised, he said, it should be against those enemies of their kind, who would take from man the noblest prerogative of his nature—that of being a religious animal.
Already, under the systematic attacks of these men, I see many of the props of good government beginning to fail. I see propagated principles which will not leave to religion even a toleration, and make virtue herself less than a name."
The dispute between England and her American colonies was daily assuming a graver character, and the Whig statesmen perceived that an amicable settlement of it was essential to the honour and security of the mother-country. The rift, at first so inconsiderable, was rapidly broadening, and threatened to open into a chasm which it would be impossible to close up or bridge over. In December 1773, when the English tea-ships arrived at Boston, the townsmen boarded them at night, and threw their cargoes into the sea. The news of this decisive act reached England in January. The Government unhappily determined at once on a policy of repression, while the Opposition urged the adoption of a policy of conciliation. Burkein vain poured forth his most vehement eloquence in support of moderate measures. It had been said that the tax upon tea imposed by the English Government, which was the fons et origo mali, not in itself,
but in the principle underlying it—the principle of taxation without representation—was trifling
“Could anything," said Burke, “be a subject of more just alarm to America than to see you go out of the plain highroad of finance, and give up your most certain revenues and your dearest interest, merely for the sake of insulting your colonies ? No man ever doubted that the commodity of tea would bear an imposition of threepence. But no commodity will bear threepence, or will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irritated, and two millions of people are resolved not to pay. The feelings of the colonies were probably the feelings of Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feelings of Mr. Hampden, when called upon for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune ? No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it was demanded, would have made him a slave."
Referring to a speech made by Lord Carmarthenhis maiden speech-Burke continued :
“A noble lord, who spoke some time ago, is full of the fire of ingenuous youth ; and when he has modelled the ideas of a lively imagination by further experience, he will be an ornament to his country in either House. He has said that the Americans are our children, and how can they revolt against their parent ? He says that if they are not free in their present state, England is not free; because Manchester and other considerable places are not represented. So then, because some towns in England are not represented, America is to have no representative at all. They are our children,' but when children ask for bread, we are not to give a stone. Is it because the natural resistance of things, and the various mutations of time, hinder our Government, or any scheme of government, from being any more than a sort of approximation to the right—is it therefore that the colonies are to recede from it infinitely? When this child of ours wishes to assimilate to its parent, and to reflect with a true