« EelmineJätka »
or Catholic dissenters. The diversified but connected fabric of universal justice is well cramped and bolted together in all its parts ; and depend upon it, I never have employed, and I never shall employ, any engine of power which may come into my hands, to wrench it asunder. All shall stand, if I can help it, and all shall stand connected. After all, to complete this work, much remains to be done; much in the East, much in the West. But great as the work is, if our will be ready, our powers are not deficient.
os Since you have suffered me to trouble you so much on this subject, permit me gentlewen, to detain you a little longer. I am indeed most solicitous to give you perfect satisfaction. I find there are some of a better and softer nature than the persons with whom I have supposed myself in debate, who neither think ill of the act of relief, nor by any means to desire the repeal, yet who, not accusing but lamenting what was done, on account of the consequences, have frequently expressed their wish, that the late act had never been made. Some of this description, and persons of worth, I have met with in this city. They conceive, that the prejudices, whatever they might be, of a large part of the people, ought not to have been shocked; that their opinions ought to have been previously taken, and much attended to; and that thereby the late horrid scenes might have been prevented.
" I confess, my notions are widely different; and I never was less
sorry for any action of my life. I like the bill the better, on account of the events of all kinds that followed it. It relieved the real sufferers; it strengthened the state ; and, by the disorders that ensued, we had clear evidence that there lurked a temper somewhere, which ought not to be fostered by the laws. No ill consequences whatever could be attributed to the act itself. We knew beforehand, or we were poorly instructed, that toleration is odious to the intolerant ; freedom to oppressors ; pro
perty to robbers ; and all kinds and degrees of prosperity to the envious. We knew, that all these kinds of men would gladly gratify their evil disposition under the sanction of law and religion, if they could : if they could not, yet, to make way to their objects, they would do their utmost to subvert all religion and all law. This we certainly knew. But knowing this, is there any reason, because thieves break in and steal, and thus bring detriment to you, and draw ruin on themselves, that I am to be sorry that you are in possession of shops, and of warehouses, and of wholesome laws to protect them? Are you to build no houses, because desperate men may pull them down upon their own heads ? Or, if a malignant wretch will cut his own throat, because he sees you give alms to the necessitous and deserving; shall his destruction be attributed to your charity, and not to his own deplorable madness? If we repent of our good actions, what, I pray you, is left for our faults and follies ? It is not the beneficence of the laws, it is the unnatural temper which beneficence can fret and sour, that is to be lamented. It is this temper which, by all rational means, ought to be sweetened and corrected. If forward men should refuse this cure, can they vitiate any thing but themselves ? Does evil so re-act upon good, as not only to retard its motion, but to change its nature? If it can so operate, then good men will always be in the power of the bad ; and virtue, by a dreadful reverse of order, must lie under perpetual subjection and bondage to vice.
“ As to the opinion of the people, which some think, in such cases, is to be implicitly obeyed; near two years' tranquillity, which followed the act, and its instant imitation in Ireland, proved abundantly, that the late horrible spirit was, in a great measure, the act of insidious art, and perverse industry, and gross misrepresentation. But suppose that the dislike had been much more deliberate, and much more general than I am persuaded it was-When we know that the opinions of even the greatest multitudes are the standard of rectitude, I shall think myself obliged to make those opinions the masters of my conscience. But if it be doubted whether Omnipotence itself is competent to alter the essential constitution of right and wrong, sure I am, that such things, as they and I, are possessed of no such power. No man carries farther than I do the policy of making government pleasing to the people. But the widest range of this politic complaisance is confined within the limits of justice. I would not only consult the interest of the people, but I would cheerfully gratify their humors. We are all a sort of children that must be soothed and managed. I think I am not austere or formal in my nature. I would bear, I would even myself play my part in, any innocent buffooneries, to divert them. But I never will act the tyrant for their amusement. If they will mix malice in their sports, I shall never consent to throw them any living, sentient, creature whatsoever, no, not so much as a kitling to torment.
“ But, if I profess all this impolitic stubbornness, “ I may chance never to be elected into parliament.” It is certainly not pleasing to be put out of the public service. But I wish to be a member of parliament, to have
. my share of doing good and resisting evil. It would therefore be absurd to renounce my objects, in order to obtain my seat. I deceive myself indeed most grossly, if I had not much rather pass the remainder of my life, hidden in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding my mind even with the visions and imaginations of such things, than to be placed on the most splendid throne of the universe, tantalized with a denial of the practice of all which can make the greatest situation any other than the greatest curse. Gentlemen, I have had my day. I can never sufficiently express my gratitude to you for having set me in a place, wherein I could lend the slightest help to
great and laudable designs. If I have had my share in any measure in giving quiet to private property, and private conscience; if by my vote I have aided in securing to fami
lies the best possession, peace ; if I have joined in reconcil: ing Kings to their subjects, and subjects to their prince; if
I have assisted to loosen the foreign holdings of the citizen, and taught him to look for his protection to the laws of his country, and for his comfort to the good will of his countrymen ; if I have thus taken my part with the best of men in the best of their actions, I can shut the book I might wish to read a page or two more-but this is enough for my measure—I have not lived in vain.
“And now, gentlemen, on this serious day, when I come, as it were, to make up my account with you, let me take to myself some degree of honest pride on the nature of the charges that are against me. I do not here stand before you accused of venality, or of neglect of duty. It is not said, that, in the long period of my service, I have, in a single instance, sacrificed the slightest of your interests to my ambition, or to my fortune. It is not alleged, that to gratify any anger, or revenge of my own, or of my party, I have had a share in wronging or oppressing any description of men, or any one man in any description. No! the charges against me are all of one kind, that I have pushed the principles of general justice and benevolence too far ; further than a cautious policy would warrant; and further than the opinions of many would go along with me.-In every accident which may happen through life, in pain, in sorrow, in depression, and distress--I will call to mind this accusation, and be comforted.
“ Gentlemen, I submit the whole to your judgment. Mr. Mayor, I thank you for the trouble you have taken on this occasion. In your state of health it is particularly obliging. If this company should think it advisable for me to withdraw, I shall respectfully retire: if you think
otherwise, I shall go directly to the Council-house and to the 'Change, and, without a moment's delay, begin my canvass.”
The company, whose zeal for Mr. BURKE was not a little increased by this candid and eloquent vindication of his conduct, immediately came to the following resolutions :
I. “ That Mr. Burke, as a representative for this city, has done all possible honor to himself as a senator and a man, and that we do heartily and honestly approve of his conduct, as the result of an enlightened loyalty to his sovereign ; a warm and zealous love to his country, through its widely-extended empire ; a jealous and watchful care of the liberties of his fellow-subjects ; an enlarged and liberal understanding of our commercial interest; a humane attention to the circumstances of even the lowest ranks of the community; and a truly wise, politic, and tolerant spirit in supporting the national church, with a reasonable indulgence to all who differ from it ; and we wish to express the most marked abhorrence of the base arts which have been employed without regard to truth and reason, to misrepresent his eminent services to his country.
II. “ That this resolution be copied out, and signed by the chairman, and be by him presented to Mr. Burke, as the fullest expression of the respectful and grateful sense we entertain of his merits and services, public and private, to the citizens of Bristol, as a man and a representative.
IV. “ That it is the earnest request of this meeting to Mr. BURKE, that he should again offer himself a candidate to represent this city in parliament; assuring him of that full and strenuous support which is due to the merits of so excellent a representative."
The third resolution was a vote of thanks in the usual form to the Mayor, who had presided at the meeting.