BURKE, Edmund (1729-97), of Gregories, nr. Beaconsfield, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 12 Jan. 1729, 2nd surv. s. of Richard Burke, attorney in the ct. of Exchequer, of Dublin by Mary, da. of Peter Nagle of Ballyduff, co. Cork. educ. Monanimy sch., co. Cork; Smithfield, Dublin 1740-1; Ballitore sch., co. Kildare 1741-4; Trinity, Dublin 1744; M. temple 1750. m. 12 Mar. 1757, Jane da. of Christopher Nugent, physician, of Wimpole Street, Mdx., 1s. d.v.p. suc. bro. Garret Burke to Clogher, co. Cork 1765.
Private sec. to first ld. of Treasury July 1765-July 1766; PC 30 Mar. 1782; paymaster-gen. Mar.-July 1782, Apr.-Dec. 1783.
Rector, Glasgow Univ. 1783-5.
As the ideological oracle of the Rockingham Whigs, Burke had conducted parliamentary crusades against the misgovernment of the American colonies and Ireland and against the influence of the crown. ‘Economical reform’ was regarded as his most solid achievement, though he later admitted that by reducing rewards for political services it encouraged Pitt’s swamping of the peerage with new creations. Out of office again from 1784, he had launched another crusade, against the conduct of Warren Hastings in India, but, while acting as principal manager for the impeachment, was dismayed to discover, as the trial dragged on, that his zeal was not shared by Fox and other prominent Whigs who were reluctant to be drawn from mundane opposition into uneasy consultations with an acquiescent ministry. Burke’s admiring friend Sir Gilbert Elliot remarked of him:
he has now dragged his own party—the King—the ministry—the Parliament, and all the rest of the world, by the mere force of truth, and by his single vigour, into his measure. It was curious to see Pitt and Fox consulting amicably—Sheridan and Dundas settling their questions together—Burke lolling on the Treasury bench.
Yet, he added, ‘all this means nothing—not a feather in general politics’.1
The Regency crisis underlined the point: Burke’s vehement advocacy of unrestricted Regency and the language he dictated for the Prince of Wales’s adoption were found excessive by the Whig leaders, and had they come to power they had no intention of promoting Burke beyond the office of paymaster-general which he had held previously: they were concerned rather, at the instigation of the Duke of Portland, to pension their disgruntled Nestor. Burke became increasingly aware that he, the erstwhile archpriest of Whig orthodoxy, was not being consulted; as much a stranger at Brooks’s as at Carlton House, he nursed his grievances in a lacklustre domestic circle, ‘less like himself than that of any other man’, at Beaconsfield.2 His nature ‘with all its enlargement and nobility, was tainted occasionally with jealousy’ and it seems that he, who appeared to be ‘the youngest man of his age’ in politics, particularly resented being replaced as Fox’s mentor by Sheridan. Ailing from what he called ‘perpetual failure’, he thought of retirement, but felt bound by the trial of Hastings, though Fox’s acquiescence in the censure on Burke passed by the Commons on 4 May 1789 had disgusted him with the business to the extent of wishing it over: it was the only one of his crusades requiring any apology.3
His final crusade, against the French revolution, started as a temptation while the Hastings matter was at its nadir and soon became irresistible to him. It was an instrument to recover his hold on Fox and his party by a prophet’s exorcism; and although it was treated by them in their initial enthusiasm for the revolution as the last fling of a discredited and démodé Cassandra, it proved to be the culmination of Burke’s political philosophy and made him the apostle of European conservatism. In retrospect, Lord Glenbervie, remarking that Burke was one of the few who never expected anything from the French revolution, concluded:
But I think Burke’s sagacity on the occasion was extremely aided by the temper of his mind towards that time towards Fox, Sheridan, etc., who had disgusted him by neglect of that most favourite subject with him, the impeachment of Hastings, and a sort of quizzing of him which Sheridan and the younger men of the set scarcely concealed from him. Their profligate life and principles must also have been very offensive to a man of his moral and religious turn, and besides he was by early education and early prejudice a royalist and aristocrat, and those circumstances were very powerful with him. His powers of logic and eloquence only served to defend, illustrate and adorn notions infused by those antecedent causes. In short, I had foreseen long before the French revolution that Burke waited but for some favourable opportunity to break with that party. The desperate state of his affairs might secretly and unknown to himself increase that bias in his mind.
Philip Francis* so far agreed as to tell Lady Holland in 1799:
The arrow was sped long before the French principles became the test of morality and virtue. They were a popular ground for attack, and upon them that venom burst, which had been rankling in his breast since the Regency; for at that period, in the partition of offices etc., it appears Burke asked something, either for himself or son, which Fox denied him. From thence the enmity sprung, and was constantly fomented by a jealousy of Sheridan and various other trivial occurrences that would have passed unnoticed between sound friends, but were treasured up.4
Before his Reflections on the revolution in France and on the proceedings of certain societies in London was completely drafted, Burke had provoked a clash with Fox on the subject in the House on 9 Feb. 1790, into which Fox would not be drawn, but Sheridan was, and he and Burke, who published his speech, did not make it up. On 2 Mar. 1790, impelled by his equation of protestant dissent, which he had never understood, with political radicalism, Burke further wounded Fox by his opposition to the repeal of the Test Act; he also thereby severed his connexion with popular Whiggery, ruining his chances of being recalled to his old constituency of Bristol.5 He was content to sit once more as the representative of Rockingham’s heir, Earl Fitzwilliam, for Malton, even if he was unhappy about receiving unsolicited financial assistance from his patron to meet his debts.6
Although Burke’s Reflections, published in November 1790, were cast, as a matter of rhetorical strategy, in the form of a letter to Depont, a French apologist of the revolution, he admitted that his ‘object was not France in the first instance, but this country’; and when Philip Francis, on reading the work, drafted by February 1790, deprecated Burke’s entering ‘into a war of pamphlets with Doctor Price’, the dissenting leader whose public discourses Burke found so dangerous, he missed the point that Burke’s concern was to wean the Whig leadership from flirtation with revolutionary France. In this, Burke did not succeed: Fox had no intention of committing himself to a public debate on the subject, disapproved of the work ‘in the most unqualified manner’ and was equally immune to Burke’s private efforts, through Fitzwilliam, to discredit Sheridan’s influence on him with regard to the revolution. The Prince of Wales, too, called the work ‘a farrago of nonsense’, to the writer’s mortification. Burke had to be content with the plaudits of conservative public opinion at home and abroad. His method of contrasting the new French constitution unfavourably with the English one as a warning—what he called laudando admonere—compounded the complacency of his readers at home from the King downwards, while his superficial exoneration of the ancien régime provided an ideological prop to counter-revolution abroad. He was particularly gratified by the approval of ‘the old stamina of the Whigs’ and undaunted by the pamphlet warfare that ensued. Thomas Paine, from whom Burke had derived much of his information on the revolutionists’ intentions, James Mackintosh* and others might reply, but the Whig leaders did not then face up to one of the most crucial debates to have exercised the English public mind. Sheridan intended to, but nothing came of it.7
Encouraging noises about his ‘incomparable book’ were made by ministerialists, and when, at the opening of the session of November 1790, Burke sought the House’s ruling that the impeachment of Hastings did not lapse with the dissolution of Parliament and should now be resumed, he was ‘dulcified’ by the support of Pitt and Dundas, and ‘politically dead as he was, walked abroad in his metaphysical capacity to torment the House’ (17 Dec.). On 14 Feb. 1791, determined that the ‘infamy’ of the impeachment ‘must fall somewhere’, he consented to move the curtailment of the trial by limiting the articles of impeachment to be pleaded. On 1 Mar. when Fox attempted to extend the principle of Mitford’s English Catholic relief bill to all dissenters, Burke demurred on the grounds that separate measures should be devised for different denominations, hinting that the opinions of some of them were open to scrutiny. On 15 and 22 Mar. he made his opposition to the bill for appropriating the unclaimed balances at the Bank of England an occasion for an appeal to the landed and monied interests to join forces against such ‘popular innovation’ as had undermined France. On 29 Mar., in the debate on the armament against Russia, he prefaced his speech in favour of the amendment as being perhaps his last on a political question and deplored the alliance with an Asiatic and infidel power (Turkey), but deprecated the animosity shown towards Pitt by the Whig leaders, who were hoping to overthrow him on this question, in deference to Pitt’s collaboration with the managers of Hastings’s impeachment. He voted for Grey’s resolutions against the government, 12 Apr., but this was the subject of his last significant votes with opposition.8
On 15 Apr. 1791 when Fox paid tribute to the French revolution in a speech designed to dissuade Pitt from hostilities with Russia, Burke was provoked into attempting a reply, but was prevented by ‘the impatient cry for the question’. As if to clear the decks for action, on 19 Apr. he formally surrendered to Wilberforce, whose motion for the abolition of the slave trade he had supported on 4 Feb., the care of that cause, announcing that he had burnt his own scheme for the regulation of the trade. (When abolition proved impracticable at that time, he contrived, however, to send a copy of the scheme to Dundas in April 1792 to encourage the latter’s project of gradual abolition, and this was published and admitted on all sides to have been a worthy contribution to the subject.) The prospect of a public brawl between Fox and Burke was eagerly canvassed in the ministerial press; the occasion of it was the Quebec bill, 21 Apr. 1791. On that day, Fox and Thomas Grenville failed to persuade Burke before the debate to keep quiet, and when Fox advocated the deferment of the question, Burke protested that he must do his duty even at the expense of friendship. Sheridan averted disaster by securing an adjournment of the question until 6 May. As it was clear that Burke was resolved on that day ‘to counteract the impression which must be produced by Fox’s last panegyric on the French revolution’, and that Pitt would be the tertius gaudiens, attempts were made in advance to dissuade Fox from replying on such a ‘speculative’ subject, but Burke’s speech ruled that out. On the premise that the Canadians wished for the English rather than the French model for their constitution, Burke was embarking on a studied condemnation of the latter when he was repeatedly interrupted by Foxite calls for order. Likening himself to Paul before Festus, and to King Lear, Burke insisted on the relevance of his theme and, while Fox bewailed the end of their friendship, pointed out that Fox had long ceased to cultivate it and admonished him to ‘Fly from the French constitution’. In reply to Fox’s charges of inconsistency and of being encouraged by ministers, he replied, amid attempts to silence him, that he clung to the principles of the Whig revolution, but regarded the threat of substituting French ones for them as far more dangerous than the threat presented by Pitt in Whig eyes in 1784. Pitt, while he did not share Burke’s alarmism, endorsed his speech, of which Burke had given him notice. It was, however, to quote Adair, ‘a day of mourning to the Whig cause ... Men of their size could not break company without dividing the world between them.’ The lesion was not healed when the Quebec bill was again debated on 11 May; in reply to a speech of studied moderation by Fox, Burke ridiculed the notion current in the Whig press that his aim was to make Fox ‘pass for a republican, in order that he might sooner get into power himself’. He was ‘an isolated individual, perfectly separate, banished from his party, and receiving no support from any party’, who would not long remain in Parliament. Seeing his old party in danger of degenerating into a faction and excommunicated by them, he was ‘too old to seek another’ and neither honour nor charity could reclaim him to the fold. As to his emphasis on ‘the power of the crown’ which he had in the past assailed, he pointed out that he was simply coming to the defence of that part of the constitution which was now under the greatest threat.9
After this there were ‘some overtures of reconciliation from Burke’. He realized that owing to his acrimony Fox, who for all his tears was thought privately to care ‘not one farthing for Burke’, had emerged with more credit from the collision. Lord Holland, later giving the orthodox Whig account of the quarrel, found Burke ‘peremptory, extravagant, impetuous and overbearing ... all fury and unreasonableness’. The episode illustrated that Burke could not match his ‘comprehension of mind and fertility of genius’ by ‘wisdom of design and judgment in action ... His chief defect was an imperious and uncontrollable temper. This disfigured his manners, clouded his judgment, and sometimes corrupted his heart.’ While Burke’s ‘rectitude of intention and disinterestedness of conduct’ could no more be impeached than his patriotism, his opinions made him ‘almost a bigot’ and blinded him to justice, affection or moderation. The result was what Dudley North called ‘fine acting’ and it was received with distrust. William Windham, himself once a victim of ‘passion so unreasonable and manners so rude’, but who was to become Burke’s ablest apostle in Parliament, noted at the time the Reflections were published:
It is a work that may seem capable of overturning the National Assembly, and turning the stream of opinion throughout Europe. One would think, that the author of such a work, would be called to the government of his country, by the combined voice of every man in it. What shall be said of the state of things when it is remembered that the writer is a man decried, persecuted and proscribed; not being much valued, even by his own party, and by half the nation considered as little better than an ingenious madman.
This latter view was certainly echoed. The historian Gibbon wrote, 31 May 1791, ‘Poor Burke is the most eloquent and rational madman that I ever knew’. Sir Gilbert Elliot remarked on ‘the utter impossibility of satisfying Burke except by adopting his opinions in toto’; and it was recalled of Burke’s reception of a Foxite delegation who came to parley with him after the breach, that ‘he treated them as if he had never seen them before’. Even though on 12 May 1791, the day the Morning Chronicle confidently announced his retirement, Burke was the seconder of Grey’s motion for the relief of prisoners for debt, and on 25 May was reported to be in the opposition division on the Russian war, he was not reconciled to Fox. His Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, dated 19 Jan. 1791, which first appeared in Paris, was published in London on 21 May. This ‘answer to some objections to his book on French affairs’, reckoned by Horace Walpole ‘far less brilliant, as well as much shorter’ than its predecessor, was not read by Fox, who informed Lord Holland that it was ‘in general thought to be mere madness, and especially in those parts where he is for a general war’.10
His ‘old particular friends’ clung to Burke, despite his now being labelled ‘a Tory’, but the Foxites found amicable intercourse with him possible only by avoiding his b’te noire of the French revolution. Although Pitt paid little attention to him, his being invited to dine with Dundas on 14 June led to a newspaper comment that ‘There are more unlikely things happen daily, than Mr Burke’s being admitted to take the first vacant secondary appointment under administration; and so far report goes’. Burke made it clear that the condition of his reconciliation with Fox was that Fox should submit to a test renouncing the French revolution, at the instigation of the Duke of Portland, but there was no question of this. Meanwhile, he devoted himself to the justification of the length of Warren Hastings’s trial against the latter’s friends in the House, 23, 27 May 1791, and on 30 May wound up the managers’ case for the prosecution. In the same session he had irked the East India Company directors by his dogged and successful pursuit of a pension for one of their neglected servants, Joseph Fowke. At the end of the session, he reminded his patron that as soon as the Hastings impeachment was over, his seat would be at Fitzwilliam’s disposal.11
Seeing that Fox was the hero of Whig orthodoxy, at least in Whig Club eyes, and he himself regarded as ‘an apostate’, Burke made a further bid to stimulate a ‘public declaration’ against a revolutionary course by the Whig leadership in his Appeal from the new to the old Whigs, advertised in June and published on 3 Aug. 1791. This publication was frowned on as a divisive remedy by Portland who, as nominal head of the party, had no wish to be left leader of the ‘Old Whigs’, while Fox headed the ‘New Whigs’. In the name of party unity Burke’s Appeal, once a bid to suppress it had failed, was therefore ignored and deprecated on the Whig side except by Fitzwilliam, and Burke chose to regard Fox’s warm public reception on his tour to Yorkshire that autumn as ‘a slap to me’. He did not see how much his unpopularity was provoked by his own ‘want of art and versatility in such times as these’, as his friend Mrs Crewe put it. If the Appeal was, to quote the diarist Greville, ‘a wonderful monument of his genius’ and ‘shows him to be in the political what Shakespeare was in the moral world’, it misfired at the time. It was remarked of Burke that he ‘wrote with so much passion, so much vehemence, that instead of convincing he created doubts in the minds of his readers, who hesitated to believe a man so carried away by his feelings’. Yet he was ‘too fond of the right to pursue the expedient’. By the autumn of 1791 he and his son Richard were acting as intermediaries with ministers for the French royalists and, in particular, for the claims of the princes of the blood, but finding that ministers were too timid to give official recognition to their cause and were embarrassed by such unofficial interventions in continental affairs, father and son were frustrated. Burke, feeling that his ‘retreat’ had been ‘imperiously ordered’ by the Whigs and his views disowned by ministers, found solace in writing his Thoughts on French affairs, which called for a European coalition to assist the French counter-revolutionaries.12
From 1792 onwards, Burke relied more on correspondence and the printed word as a vehicle for his admonitions than on parliamentary intervention; it was the year when a collection of his works was first published. To his Malton colleague William Weddell he wrote, 31 Jan. 1792, that as his services had been rejected, he would take no part in Parliament ‘except on some deep constitutional question’. He regarded himself as the champion of ‘an aristocratic party ... equally removed from servile court compliances, and from popular levity, presumption, and precipitation’; as such, his aim must be to separate ‘those who cultivate a rational and sober liberty upon the plan of our existing constitution, from those who think they have no liberty, if it does not comprehend a right in them of making to themselves new constitutions at their pleasure’. The preservation of aristocracy which Burke approved as the basis of constitutional reform in the Austrian Netherlands and Poland was more crucial than that of royalty, as the French experiment of a ‘democracie royale’, based not on liberty but on slavery, attested. Burke noted with dismay the ‘democratic’ entourage of the Prince of Wales as tending in the same direction and attributed it to a dissenters’ conspiracy to spread French notions in this country by which the Whig leaders had been seduced.13
Ministers equally disappointed Burke: Pitt had ignored his Thoughts on French affairs. They were allegedly disappointed that Burke had not spoken for them on the address after they had inserted, as bait, a quotation from his Reflections at the end of the King’s speech. Burke’s championship of the Irish Catholic franchise, publicized, against his better judgment, in his letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, 18 Feb. 1792, and his encouraging his son Richard to act as agent to the Irish Catholic committee was unwelcome to ministers, although he wrote to his son on 23 Mar.:
I think he must be a strange man, a strange Christian, and a strange Englishman, who would not rather see Ireland, a free, flourishing, happy, Catholic country, though not one Protestant existed in it, than an enslaved, beggared, insulted, degraded Catholic country as it is—with some Protestants here and there scattered through it for the purpose not of instructing the people but of rendering them miserable.
Believing, however, that ministers wished ‘to be rid of my interference in anything’ he maintained, ‘I never stay in the House to hear any debate, much less to divide on any question’. Only on Hastings’s impeachment did he secure ministerial backing: Pitt and Dundas consented to frustrate Hastings’s attempt to discredit his impeachers on the grounds of expense to the public, 5 Apr.14
On 30 Apr. 1792, when Burke at length spoke with his ‘usual intemperance’ against Grey’s motion for parliamentary reform, he remarked that
he had not of late much troubled the House ... He stood alone, as an independent man. He had some time since felt a dictation from Providence to abandon those with whom he could no longer act with honour; and it would not be handsome for him to join that side of the House whom he had opposed.
He added, however, that the constitution was endangered by the Friends of the People, the association formed that month, and he rebuked Fox for giving countenance to visionary and speculative remedies. Of the French national assembly he noted that ‘of all the seven hundred men ... only six were men of fortune; none of the rest possessed as much as £100 a year.’ Fox’s motion of 11 May to abolish religious disabilities was also obnoxious to Burke, who had resolved that he could not again abstain from voting on the question and gave it a decided negative. In the same month he began a campaign to win over Portland to a coalition with government, which would isolate Fox and his little platoon of New Whigs. On 9 June at Portland’s house he harangued the company for an hour on Fox’s desertion of his ‘old friends’ for ‘a new set in the party’, explaining that ‘Fox was a host—that great harm and great good must follow him always—that a union of all the abilities, all the weight, and all the wealth of this country was necessary—the times required it etc’. He would not envisage any office for himself.
This campaign lasted two years and at length succeeded as events favourable to it increased its momentum; but before the excesses of the French revolution became marked in the autumn of 1792, Burke had to admit that he could not hope to win over Portland as long as Fox had such personal sway over him, for it was Fox who persuaded Portland to give up Pitt’s overtures in the summer of 1792. Portland had the forlorn hope of a grand coalition, including Fox and Pitt as equals serving under a third man, which Burke, although not averse to Fox’s inclusion as such, thought ‘utterly impracticable’ and ‘an overture to the French and dissenting scheme of things’, as he informed Lord Loughborough, 13 June. It was his hope that Loughborough, the medium of negotiations with Pitt, would accept office in any case and pave the way for others. Meanwhile in a letter ostensibly to his son, 29 July, he repudiated the Polish subscription raised by the Whigs to encourage resistance to Russia as a mere stratagem to bring about an alliance with the French regime: ‘the next grant will be to the National Assembly’. In August the plight of the French royal family caused him to urge on the Foreign secretary Lord Grenville the merits of intervention in French affairs: but the response was so tepid that he tried again the following month. He explained to William Burke†, 3 Sept., that he could not be disappointed at the failure of a bid for a coalition government in which neither party appreciated the French menace, and one consisted of ‘amateurs of the French revolution’; but that Portland, concerned that the Whig party as a whole should not be annihilated by coalition, had missed the opportunity to have a show-down with Fox about his ‘French principles’ at a time when they must be embarrassing to him. Burke was then active in promoting the committee of relief for the French émigré clergy, whose plight provoked him more than that of other victims of the revolution. On 5 Oct. he wrote a jeremiad to Fitzwilliam in which, apart from complaining of Fox’s conduct, he added to his case against the government their lack of interest in Ireland and, the last straw, the appointment of Shore, one of the Hastings gang, to the government of Bengal. (Of this he also complained bitterly to Dundas and to the chairman of the East India Company.)15
The retreat of the Duke of Brunswick, commander of the counter-revolutionary army, incensed Burke, who saw no alternative but ‘a cordon to hedge in the cuckoo’. He condemned Britain’s continued neutrality and advocated a strong continental alliance against the French regime. Accordingly he drafted Heads for consideration on the present state of affairs for ministerial consideration and came to London in November 1792 to recruit Loughborough and William Windham for talks with ministers. He and Windham saw Pitt and Lord Grenville on 13 Nov. and boldly informed them that if government acted vigorously at home and abroad there would be a disposition to support them, without looking to office, among their principal friends, which would give the ministry the advantage of the backing of ‘the strong permanent aristocratic interests of the country’. Ministers called for more concrete assurances of support and Burke and Windham referred it to their friends, but were unable to command sufficient support to reassure government. Portland, though not at first consulted, was ‘not displeased’, so Burke thought, at the manoeuvre, but he placed his veto on Loughborough’s accepting office and would not give up Fox. In a lettre justificative to Fitzwilliam, who resented the ‘proffer of his party to Pitt’, 29 Nov., Burke reported that while Fox was unrepentant, Portland was fully alive to the French menace and the only hope was for ‘a small well ordered phalanx’ rather than ‘an apparently great, but confused, and radically discordant corps’, to rally to government. Fox clung to opposition, but Burke’s view was that ‘party ought to be made for politics not politics for party purposes’.16
On 14 Dec. 1792 Burke combated Fox’s amendment to the address, deploring any communication with the French regime; next day he opposed Fox’s motion for an embassy to France. In the following week he defended both the army estimates against Fox and the naval armament against Sheridan, the latter ‘in a strain of anger’. The debate on 28 Dec. when Burke, consulted by Pitt on the question, defended the aliens bill, resolved itself into a clash between him and Fox over the attempt, in which Burke was keenly interested, to get Portland to commit himself against Fox. It was during this speech that Burke produced the ‘revolutionary’ dagger of Birmingham manufacture and threw it on the floor of the House as a protest against ‘the introduction of French principles and of French daggers’. Amid laughter, ‘some asked where the fork was’. The rejoinder was, ‘When you smile, I see blood trickling down your face’. It was on this occasion, according to Wraxall, that Burke ‘crossed to the Treasury bench, where he squeezed himself in between Dundas and Pitt’, impervious to Fox’s tears. He had ‘shifted his place more than once before he finally passed over to the government side of the House’. But Portland once again wriggled out of the attempt to commit him. The episode illustrated James Mackintosh’s criticism of Burke: ‘qu’il connaissait l’homme, mais non pas les hommes’.17
In January 1793 when Loughborough accepted the great seal, Burke was present at a cabinet meeting, it being Pitt’s wish that he should move an address in favour of the hard line against France. He did not in fact do so, but he did reply to Fox in justification of war, 12 Feb., and led the opposition on 18 Feb. to Fox’s resolutions against it. Conscious of Pitt’s willingness to acquire recruits to office, he also encouraged the formation of a ‘third party’ pledged to support the government during war, initiated at Windham’s house on 10 Feb., and on 28 Feb. instigated a meeting of 18 at the St. Albans Tavern to draft an open letter of resignation from the Whig Club in view of the Club’s commitment to Fox. When on 5 Mar. this letter, with 44 signatures, was read out at the Club, ‘A profound silence prevailed, till the names of Mr Burke and his son were read, when the company almost unanimously expressed their abhorrence’. Next day Burke, Windham and Sir Gilbert Elliot met Pitt and Dundas at their own request to complain of slackness in the naval line and were promised any information they needed to give effective support to government, while Burke gave Pitt ‘a little political instruction, in a very respectful and cordial way, but with the authority of an old and most informed statesman’; ‘although’, according to Elliot, ‘nobody ever takes the whole of Burke’s advice, yet he often, or rather always, furnishes very important and useful matter, some part of which sticks and does good’. Burke summed up his own role when he quoted Lucan to Grattan, in a letter of congratulation on the achievement of the Irish Catholic franchise, 8 Mar. 1793: ‘Patriam tutore carentem, accepit’. Sheridan and Grey now engaged in a campaign of Burke-baiting in the House: his opposition to the Nottingham reform petition on 21 Feb. provoked it. He retaliated on Sheridan’s motion about sedition, 4 Mar., when he again opposed reform, accused Fox of being an arbitrary faction leader and again justified the war, though, as Sheridan had already insinuated to the House, his grounds were not those of the government. The debate was resumed on 22 Mar. and 9 Apr. over the traitorous correspondence bill, defended by Burke, who had counselled Pitt to adopt ‘the strongest measures’. The House coughed him down on Sheridan’s motion against Lord Auckland later that month, but on 17 June he was heard against Fox’s peace motion. Meanwhile, as ‘the soul of the impeachment’, he had been obliged to appeal to ministers for help in blocking Hastings’s effort, after his defence had ended abruptly on 24 May 1793, to secure an immediate reply from the managers for the prosecution, for which they were not prepared. Foreseeing Hastings’s acquittal, he had sought on 30 May to promote an inquiry to vindicate the managers’ conduct, but it was rejected by 71 votes to 67. The prosecution reply was, however, adjourned until February 1794.18
In April 1793 Burke was described by Sir Gilbert Elliot as ‘in closer communication with ministers than anyone out of office’; but Elliot was at a loss to say what ministers could do for him as a ‘mark of favour’. Burke had
such a train after him as would sink anybody but himself:—his son, who is quite nauseated by all mankind; his brother, who is liked better than his son, but is rather oppressive with animal spirits and brogue; and his cousin, Will Burke, who is just returned unexpectedly from India, as much ruined as when he went many years ago, and who is a fresh charge on any prospects of power Burke may ever have. Mrs Burke has in her train Miss French, the most perfect She Paddy that ever was caught ... Notwithstanding these disadvantages, Burke is in himself a sort of power in the state. It is even not too much to say that he is a sort of power in Europe, though totally without any of those means, or the smallest share in them, which give or maintain power in other men.
Burke’s irritation at these circumstances was at times revealed. In July 1793 when Portland became chancellor of Oxford University, he refused the doctorate which the university had not consented to bestow on him at his friends’ behest after the publication of his Reflections. In August his son, who regarded Fitzwilliam’s disinclination to bring him in for Malton on a vacancy there as ‘a sentence of condemnation on ... my father’, was informed by the patron that his father had become the standard-bearer of Pitt’s empire. Richard Burke claimed in reply that his father had set up his own standard which Pitt had joined, and his father added ‘a severe remonstrance’ which sickened Fitzwilliam, though reconciliation followed. On 29 Sept. Burke further sent Portland, for his and Fitzwilliam’s perusal on ‘a day of compulsory reflexion’, his ‘Observations on the conduct of the minority, particularly in the last session of Parliament ...’. He rebuked the two peers for treating ‘this perilous crisis of all human affairs’ as ‘an ordinary party squabble’ and described the ‘Observations’, which consisted of an indictment of Fox on 54 counts, as ‘my most deliberate, solemn, and even testamentary protest, against the proceedings and doctrines which have hitherto produced so much mischief in the world’. Burke saw and Portland in his reply admitted that suspicion of Pitt and attachment to Fox prevented the Old Whigs from joining administration even when it could be described as a national duty in emergency: they were still loath to accept his premise of ‘a general war against Jacobins and Jacobinism, as the only possible chance of saving Europe, (and England as included in Europe) from a truly frightful revolution’.19
On the other hand, Burke was discontented with the government’s strategic aims in the war, on which he thought he should have been more consulted. The Dunkirk expedition involved the deployment of forces on the French frontier when it was essential to penetrate into the interior of France and, as this was in effect a civil war for the restoration of monarchy, Britain should come to the aid of the royalist rebels in Poitou and give up Caribbean conquests. He himself had been suggested for the governorship of Dunkirk, but asked only for office for his son, whose abilities he always overrated. Sir Gilbert Elliot went to Toulon as commissioner, ‘fully charged with Burke’s ideas upon the subject’, but unwilling to adopt them all, which led to the suspension of their friendship. As Lord Milton later pointed out, Burke
in opposition, hallooed the government on to a war, which they conducted upon principles directly contrary to those upon which he recommended it. When once the war was begun he lost all guidance of it, and I have no hesitation in expressing my belief that he would much rather have had no war than such a war as Pitt and Dundas carried on.
It is, however, impossible to support Milton’s last contention; in October 1793 Burke rallied Windham, who was discouraged by the misconduct of the war, to the support of government, there being no alternative: ‘We cannot be neuter. We are on the stage: and cannot occasionally jump into the pit or boxes to make observations on our brother actors.’ But he had to admit that, after importuning ministers, he felt isolated: ‘Here I am without any assistance, out of my own walls, to correct, or to advise me, or to co-operate with me. In the world, as well as in the House of Commons, no motion is received that is not seconded.’ In the same strain he wrote to the Comte d’Artois, 6 Nov., regretting that d’Artois was ignored by the government: ‘I am not in his Majesty’s service; or at all consulted in his affairs ... Perhaps I do not seek it. My political being begins and ends with the session of Parliament.’ The fact was that, even when he was not consulted, he lectured ministers. Only a week before, he had sent Dundas (too late) his criticisms of the declaration of war aims by the ministry, and he had just composed his Remarks on the policy of the allies with respect to France for their enlightenment. Nor was it enough to him to be consulted; he wished his views to prevail. He harangued and they were expected to listen; he listened to no views but his own. Friends who sought to preserve independence of judgment, like Sir Gilbert Elliot, dreaded his imprecations, and those who were prepared to echo his views, like Windham, were rallied relentlessly with phials full of doctrine. Another disciple, William Elliot*, thought Burke should be in the cabinet but, hearing this, Sylvester Douglas remarked that Pitt must be desperate to admit him as a colleague: ‘Burke is so unpopular with many people of all parties and has such an indiscreet contempt for the persons and the measures which he does not approve of, that I am afraid such an appointment would give great dissatisfaction’. There is no evidence that Burke expected it; by October 1793 he knew that an acknowledgment of his services had received royal sanction and this meant a pension, not office. He wished nevertheless to put the war on the right footing. The declaration of war aims had called for indemnity, but it was being pursued in the West Indies and not in France, where the royalists were abandoned to their fate; it called for the restoration of the monarchy, but the Bourbon princes were denied the title of regent. ‘Our politics want directness and simplicity’, because ministers were ‘bewildered in the labyrinth of their own politics’ and too fearful of the Jacobins, so he complained to Windham, 25 Nov. Four days later, writing to Fitzwilliam to decline a further offer of financial assistance, he regretted that the prolongation of the impeachment precluded him from vacating his seat, but added that he was not conscious of having given ‘a single vote’ contrary to Fitzwilliam’s opinion.20
On 7 Dec. 1793 Burke and Windham saw Pitt to press for a firmer war policy, but Burke came away from that conference and from further discussion at Loughborough’s, despondent; he saw no plan or energy in the conduct of war and remained anxious to promote a junction of some of his friends with ministry. The loss of Toulon proved his point that ‘Frenchmen are best for French affairs’, but it was to him more ‘a matter of sorrow than of censure’. Explaining this to Loughborough, 12 Jan. 1794, he pointed out that as long as the allies lost sight of the extinction of Jacobinism as their war aim, they would fail. His Remarks on the policy of the allies with respect to France recently completed—it was his third memorial on French affairs and all three were to be published in 1797—had emphasized the same point: ‘But they excused my weakness on account of my zeal, and they naturally followed wiser counsels’. He would readily retire but ‘my views are very single, my principles are very much fixed, my time of political service and natural existence are very short’. A new kind of warfare had to be explained to the world.21
On 19 Jan. 1794 Portland, weary of being the reeling buffer between the pugilists and having decided that there was no hope for Fox, invited Burke to attend the pre-sessional meeting at Burlington House of those Whigs who were now prepared to support the government during the war under his leadership. Burke consulted Pitt, who advised him to attend. He himself felt disinclined to, thinking that he could be neither useful nor welcome, being ‘under a sort of actual interdict’, but on reflection he complied. Subsequently he dined regularly with the Portland Whigs, who had at length adopted the role foreshadowed for them by Burke and Windham’s ‘third party’ a year before. As Charles Williams Wynn recalled, ‘he was not led by his party but carried it with him by the superiority of his judgment and knowledge’. At the opening of the session he encouraged Windham’s efforts in debate, while behind the scenes at Burlington House his ‘inimitable sagacity’ on such matters as the Prussian subsidy secured Pitt valuable support. The death of his brother Richard, 5 Feb., was reported to have brought Burke, who was inordinately fond of him, to the point of retirement. French Laurence*, his successor as editor of the Annual Register, claimed the credit for preventing it. In any case the resumption of the impeachment proceedings on 13 Feb. tied him down and he was chagrined to find the Lords prepared to sustain Hastings’s objections to the evidence used by the managers in their reply to his defence. The prevalence of his influence on the Portland Whigs also exposed him to bitter clashes in the House with the Foxites, particularly when he denigrated the character of their hero General Lafayette, 17 Mar. 1794. On 1 Apr. Sheridan twitted Burke, who was sitting on the Treasury bench, with his change of sides, for which he was duly rebuked; yet when Karl Anton Hickel, the Austrian artist, painted his picture of the House in debate, ‘Burke insisted on being placed on the opposition side and on it being filled as before the late change of political sentiment’; after all, it was principle rather than passion that dictated his break with Fox. On Harrison’s motion that the emoluments of placemen and pensioners be surrendered, 8 Apr., Burke made an eloquent defence of so-called ‘sinecures’ as public rewards, vindicated them as the property of the holders and deprecated their arbitrary application to the relief of distress as a Jacobinical notion. On 11 and 17 Apr., at Pitt’s request, he defended the embodiment of the émigré corps in the army against Sheridan and Fox, and on 16 May he ‘very ably supported’ the suspension of habeas corpus on the strength of the findings of the secret committee on sedition, of which he was a member. Meanwhile, he had insisted on an inquiry to vindicate the protraction of Hastings’s impeachment, which he concluded with a nine-day speech for the prosecution on 16 June. On 20 June he acknowledged the House’s thanks to the managers of the impeachment and let Philip Francis, who had egged him on throughout, defend him against his critics. The verdict was postponed, but he applied on 21 June for the Chiltern Hundreds, granted on 24 June. Fitzwilliam awarded his seat to Richard Burke. On 11 July Burke had the satisfaction of seeing Portland, Fitzwilliam, Spencer, Windham and Mansfield accepted into office.22
A suitable reward for Burke’s public services was now imminent: that he was to have a pension was agreed, but as he had debts of about £30,000 to clear, the award was a ticklish problem; as for the peerage of Beaconsfield, hoped for by his friends, Pitt was eventually obliged to demur. Evidently the King was so averse to it that unless Pitt made it a ‘great ministerial point’, he could not carry it. Burke was believed to care for it only on his son’s behalf. The latter, protesting at what he regarded as a slight on his father’s services, admitted that the pension was the indispensable thing, but prevailed on Windham to press Pitt for the peerage as a security, when it became clear that the details of the pension could not be settled that session. Burke swallowed his pride and submitted a memorandum of his claims to Pitt. But on 2 Aug. Richard Burke died and his father fell into a stupor; the peerage now had no meaning for him and he cherished his grief ‘as a duty’. As Richard alone knew the extent of Burke’s financial problems, it was as well that Pitt was able to announce on 30 Aug. a civil list pension, for two lives, of £1,200, which eventually operated from 5 Jan. 1793 with further provision to follow. (Windham had asked for means to clear Burke’s debts and leave him £2,500 p.a. clear, and Fitzwilliam provided temporary relief.) In his ostensible reply to Pitt, 31 Aug., Burke conceded that ‘in some instances of my public conduct I might have erred’. The King, who signed the warrant on 20 Sept., on learning this commented:
Misfortunes are the greatest softeners of the human mind: and have in the instance of this distressed man made him own what his warmth of temper would not have allowed under other circumstances, viz., that he may have erred. One quality I take him to be very susceptible of, that is gratitude, which I think covers many failings, and makes me therefore happy at being able to relieve him.
This may be compared with Fanny Burney’s judgment of Burke:
That he was upright in heart, even when he acted wrong, I do truly believe. He was as generous as kind, and as liberal in his sentiments as he was luminous in intellect and extraordinary in abilities and eloquence. Though free from all little vanity, high above envy, and glowing with zeal to exalt talents and merit in others, he had, I believe, a consciousness of his own greatness, that shut out those occasional and useful self-doubts which keep our judgment in order by calling our motives and our passions to account.23
Burke’s closing years out of Parliament were far from being, as he alleged, ‘buried in the anticipated grave of a feeble old age, forgetting and forgotten in an obscure and melancholy retreat’. With his ‘perpetual stream’ of mind, he reverted to an earlier pattern of life—but, with all the weight of his parliamentary career to sustain him, was the most observed of publicists.
His abiding concern for Ireland24 was brought to the fore by Fitzwilliam’s prospective lord lieutenancy. He himself had declined the suggestion that he should become provost of Trinity College, Dublin. Instead he loaded Fitzwilliam with advice, the pith of which was that the lord lieutenant should dissociate himself from the jobbery of the ‘Castle gang’ at Dublin. Burke saw no practical necessity for Anglo-Irish union and even the eligibility of Catholics to sit in Parliament, he thought, would be negligible in its effect. In October 1794, however, his main concern was to prevent a dissolution of the cabinet when Pitt took fright at Fitzwilliam’s intentions in Ireland. The secession of the Portland Whigs would have defeated his political aims since 1790 and he was prepared to mediate: ‘I eat the bread of the public’. But his unfitness as a mediator was apparent to others; Dundas would not see him and it was upon Windham and Loughborough that he had to rely to paper over the cracks. He contented himself with the fragmentary Reflections on the present breach in the Ministry, which started from the alarming premise that ‘at the bottom the dispute is about power’. His final advice to Fitzwilliam, that it was better ‘to be turned out than resign’, determined the course of events. On 6 Nov. 1794 Burke and Grattan assured Loughborough from Fitzwilliam that he would not rock the boat in Ireland and Loughborough achieved reconciliation: ‘I believe compromises are the very condition of our existence’, was Burke’s comment. In February 1795, he was looking forward to the establishment of the Catholic church in Ireland, a buttress against Jacobinism, as the greatest good that could at present be achieved there, a view he publicized in his Second letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, when Fitzwilliam was dished by the ‘Castle gang’, acting on the anxieties of the English cabinet. Burke, ‘lost and confounded’, endeavoured to save the situation by rallying ministers, but in vain. He was left the hapless task of comforting Fitzwilliam and helping him to vindicate himself, without alienating his friends in government, who had further disappointed him by failing to take the offensive in France. He was convinced that Fitzwilliam was the scapegoat in a bid by ministers to bring about ‘a sansculotic peace’ with France. When the Duke of Norfolk in a debate on Fitzwilliam’s conduct in the Lords on 8 May deprecated Burke’s views, he justified himself for ‘the seasonable energy of a single man’ in a letter to William Elliot, 26 May, which was published after his death.25
On 23 Apr. 1795 Hastings was acquitted, as Burke had long feared: he began, but was dissuaded by his admirers from pursuing, a campaign against the East India Company’s proposal to reward Hastings for his services, an ‘audacious turpitude’ which seemed to set at nought all his aims in the impeachment and reduced it to a farce in which hero and villain alike were pensioned by the public. ‘If he is innocent ... I deserve to be hanged’, he informed Dundas. He demanded that French Laurence should vindicate him in a history of the impeachment, which never materialized. Nevertheless his espousal of a policy of responsibility towards the millions of India, ‘the unhappy ruined grandees and people’, as against exploitation, was future orthodoxy and the futility of impeachment as a means of redress so amply illustrated as to discourage it in an Indian context thereafter. On 22 Sept. 1795, after a delay exacerbated by Pitt’s fears of the publicity it might occasion, Burke was granted two annuities charged on the 4½ per cent West Indian revenues for three lives, coeval with his civil list pension, of which the larger was to be vendible for the discharge of his debts: this completed his financial security or, as he put it, ‘the conservation of a ruin’.26
The receipt from Lord Auckland of his pamphlet Some remarks on the apparent circumstances of the war in the fourth week of October 1795, favouring peace negotiations, was the immediate inspiration for Burke’s Letters on a regicide peace; though his first letter was in fact published posthumously as the fourth and last. These letters insisted on the futility of any peace negotiation with the French regime. Burke’s immediate and personal reply to Auckland anticipated this, and on his showing it to Pitt, who affected to prefer the style of Bolingbroke, the prime minister remarked that it was ‘like other rhapsodies from the same pen, in which there is much to admire, and nothing to agree with’. Yet Pitt was the recipient early in November of Burke’s Thoughts and details on scarcity, published in 1800 as ‘originally presented to the Rt. Hon. William Pitt in ... Nov. 1795’; and an attack on his pension by the Duke of Bedford in the Lords on 13 Nov. and by Lauderdale on 1 Dec. spurred Burke on to write his ‘universally admired’, if ‘injudicious’ Letter to a noble lord [i.e. Fitzwilliam], published 24 Feb. 1796, in which he forcefully showed that the pot had called the kettle black. He also urged Windham, who had defended him from a similar attack by Curwen in the Commons on 16 Nov., to stand up for John Reeves, whose writings on the constitution had so incensed the Foxite Whigs, and himself sketched the defence.27
In March 1796, ‘just stepping into the grave’, Burke found scope for his philanthropic energies in the establishment of the school for the sons of French émigrés at Penn; by his will he left the care of it to trustees and it flourished until 1820. Professing to be out of touch with public affairs and ‘far from well’ in consequence of a carcinoma of the stomach, he lamented the lack of weight of his remaining admirers in office, against whom he felt that the ‘duumvirate’ of Pitt and Dundas had closed their doors. But, writing to Fitzwilliam to thank him for returning his élève Dr Laurence to Parliament, 2 Sept. 1796, he admitted that, as English politics in general were reduced to a personal struggle between Pitt and Fox as chieftains of clans, he must prefer Pitt, shabby and selfish as he was, to Fox. Two letters on a regicide peace, long expected, were published on 20 Oct. 1796, anticipated a day before by a pirated edition, and Burke at once began another. The prospect of negotiation with France horrified him and he encouraged Fitzwilliam to protest in the Lords and Laurence in the Commons. He warned Fitzwilliam that Pitt and Fox were merely contending as to ‘who should be the viceroy’s deputy under a French lord paramount’. The indifference of the English government and people to the threat of an invasion of Ireland also exercised him. Ireland was left in a dilemma between the tyranny of the ‘Castle gang’, a ‘Lilliputian Directory’, who made the English government their instrument, and the Jacobinism of the United Irishmen, a Protestant republican gang who made the unsuspecting Irish Catholics their instrument. The ignominious return of Lord Malmesbury from his peace mission in December 1796 seemed to vindicate Burke’s views; of the emissary’s slow progress to Paris he had remarked, ‘people always travelled slow upon their knees’. The fact was that Pitt ‘cannot make peace and he will not make war’.28
On 13 Feb. 1797, through the treachery of Burke’s former secretary Swift, his Letter on the conduct of the minority, indicting Fox, was published, and before he stopped it by Chancery injunction at least 3,000 copies were sold. He did not, however, disclaim its sentiments. He nevertheless informed Laurence that on the stoppage of cash payments by the Bank in 1797 he would have voted with opposition rather than join the parliamentary ‘armed neutrality’ then formed: third parties ought not to endure long. Canning later recalled Burke’s prophecy that bank-notes would expel guineas. Burke’s last ‘mental eructations’, as he called them, were in fact very critical of Pitt, whom he now regarded as an oppressor of the national spirit, who ‘at double the expense ... makes no war at all’. A coalition government would answer, but the state of the civil list would not permit of it. Of the naval mutiny he commented wryly ‘the Revolution is accomplished, even before the Jacobin peace’. Of Ireland, the first and last subject of his writings, he despaired; neither government’s indifference nor Grattan’s secession augured well for her. As his life ebbed away, described by Windham as ‘vox et praeterea nihil’, he was consulted ‘like Ahitophel of old’ and cited as an authority in debate even by Fox who, not satisfied with pious formality, in vain sought a last minute interview to make his peace with him. When he died on 9 July 1797, Burke was mourned by his admirers as ‘the principal prop of the civilized world’. By his will, he left mourning rings to the Old Whig magnates, headed by Fitzwilliam, who had not disowned him, and directed that his funeral should be private, that he might be buried en famille with his hopes, but that his coffin was to be concealed to avert desecration by triumphant Jacobins. When his third letter on a regicide peace appeared in November 1797, the Morning Chronicle commented: ‘Ministers employed his powerful voice to sound the charge; but they follow him to the battle at a distance’.29
Burke regarded Membership of the House of Commons as his ‘sole worldly honour’, but retained it after 1790 ostensibly only with a view to concluding the prosecution of Warren Hastings. He had no hesitation in retiring at once when that was over. He had been ‘in a state of continual agitation and disappointment ever since the French revolution’, portrayed by the caricaturists as Don Quixote, or a Jesuit casuist, or the weird sister of Beaconsfield. James Mackintosh, a convert prepared to undertake a biography, admitted that ‘Burke’s best style was before the Indian business and the French revolution had inflamed him’, and thought his last years distinguished only for his ‘spirit of philosophical prophecy’. Burke enriched the language by his sybilline utterances, but as Peltier observed, ‘His prophetic genius only astonished the nation which it ought to have governed’. Thus Lord de Dunstanville, looking back in 1810, could remark, ‘All he foretold has been realized; he had the largest comprehension and was the most extraordinary man of his time’. Yet his later speeches in the House were ‘not often listened to, owing to his notions being felt to be visionary and impracticable and his speeches too diffusive to secure attention’. Even Windham conceded that his ‘digression and parenthesis’ in speaking told against him. Lady Bessborough had this to say: ‘Burke’s eloquence always appears to me like a torrent pouring down and carrying all before it, overwhelming friend and foe, without any one being able to guess which way it tends, or where the ravage will stop’. George III thought that Burke ‘had spoken till the House would no longer bear him’, while John Nicholls* noted that he ‘did not obtain the great end of a public speaker, in bringing his auditors over to his opinion’. The unsuccessful prosecution of Hastings, in which even his admirers admitted that he needed ‘a flapper’ and in which his last efforts were thought ‘very dull and tedious ... abusive without wit or entertainment’, seemed to confirm this and ‘sunk to his heart’. Nevertheless, he was ‘if not the most accomplished orator, yet the most eloquent man of his age’.30
The crux of the problem, doubtless, was that Burke ‘surveyed politics from a higher elevation than others have done’, providing ‘a pair of spectacles for short sighted politicians’. It was probably scant comfort to Warren Hastings, if he was listening, to learn from Burke’s closing speech that his trial transcended his own supposed iniquities and was part of a battle for the constitution which must be preserved from French convulsions, or, soaring further, that it was also an aspect of eternal justice; but it was his refusal to lose sight of such elevated objects that dignified what is commonly regarded as Burke’s most misjudged campaign.31
Burke’s influence on his contemporaries was subject to a twofold limitation. In earlier life his reverence for the Whig aristocracy prevented them from recognizing him as an equal and, identifying himself with Cicero as a ‘novus homo’, he became their idéologue instead. In later life his role was challenged when Fox, whom he regarded virtually as a pupil and who possessed the charisma of a Rockingham while Portland, the nominal leader of the party, was ‘a nullity’, resisted Burke’s instructions and embraced the ideals of a younger generation. Burke could not compete with Fox for the Whig leadership but, by his repeated challenges to Fox’s position vis-à-vis the French revolution, he called forth all the powers of that reluctant statesman in clarifying the abiding issue between them, and not only ensured the break up of the old Whig party, but gave the new Whigs under Fox’s leadership their terms of reference— awarded them the doctrine that sustained them in the new century, the sovereignty of the people. He, on the other hand, reiterated on his deathbed his oligarchic ideal: that form of government was best which placed the ‘efficient sovereignty in the hands of the natural aristocracy of a country, subjecting them, in its exercise, to the control of the people at large’.32
While Fox continued to draw freely on Burke’s ideas after they had parted company, he and his friends shunned Burke’s general influence. Canning’s Anti-Jacobin was a tribute to it, but Burke himself had no friends, only admirers. His patron Fitzwilliam, William Windham, his apostle and procrastinating agent in the cabinet, his son Richard, his protégés French Laurence and William Elliot and his convert James Mackintosh preserved his ideas, defended his reputation, evoked his ghost, craved a portion of his soul and published his works, but they buried his life. In his early career so secretive, he was in later life so ready to publicize his personal feelings that his works—and according to Charles Williams Wynn ‘no application of his talents could have been more beneficial than that which enabled him to bequeath so invaluable a legacy to posterity’—not only guaranteed him the greatest reputation as a political philosopher ever accorded a Member of the English Parliament, but also, in more recent times, the most intense scrutiny of his problematic life, from which he emerges with unblemished character as one of the cultural heroes of the English speaking world.33
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
The Chicago/Cambridge edition of the Burke Corresp. has been used throughout. F. O’Gorman, The Whig Party and the French Revolution and L. Mitchell, C. J. Fox and the Disintegration of the Whig Party 1782-94 pay the closest attention to Burke’s political role in this period.
- 1. EHR, lxxxix, 1-24; Minto, i. 122; Holland, Mems. Whig Party, i. 9.
- 2. Minto, i. 174, 226, 243, 251, 260-3, 268, 290, 328; Burke Corresp. v. 438.
- 3. Mackintosh Mems. ii. 477; Burke Corresp. v. 436; vi. 1, 55; HMC Charlemont, ii. 197.
- 4. Wraxall Mems. ed. Wheatley, iv. 385; v. 316; R. Aris, Hist. Pol. Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815 ; H. G. Schenk, The Aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, 7; Add. 37890, f. 287; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 154; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 269.
- 5. Minto, i. 349-52; U. Henriques, Religious Toleration in England 1787-1833, p. 123; Public Advertiser, 9 July 1790.
- 6. Burke Corresp. vi. 449.
- 7. R. R. Fennessy, Burke, Paine and the Rights of Man, 145-6; Burke Corresp. vi. 59, 85, 125, 140-1, 158, 178. 219; Farington, iv. 22; Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xi. 131, 169; Minto, i. 364-6, 369; A. Cobban, Burke and the Revolt against the 18th Cent. 120-1 and Aspects of the French Revolution, 29-32.
- 8. Add. 34434, f. 22; PRO 30/8/369, f. 217; Life of Wilberforce (1838), i. 284; Stanhope, Pitt, ii. 83; Senator, i. 28, 66, 151, 156, 316, 465; ii. 120, 184, 295; Minto, i. 373.
- 9. Senator, i. 269; ii. 635; iii. 13, 30-66, 78, 89, 159, 183, 193; Life of Wilberforce, i. 152; v. 157; Burke Corresp. vi. 253; vii. 122; ix. 307; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F115/53, 54, 55, 57; Chatsworth mss, Lady E. Foster jnl. 6 May 1791; Fox Corresp. iv. 11; Horace Walpole Corresp. xi. 263; R. Adair, A Whig’s Apology for his Consistency (1795), 23.
- 10. Mems. Sir P. Francis, ii. 459; Windham Diary, 167, 213, 226; Chatsworth mss, Lady E. Foster jnl., 25 May 1791; Romilly, Mems. i. 426; Horace Walpole Corresp. xi. 277, 293, 300; xxxiv. 118; Holland, i. 4-12; Gibbon Letters ed. Norton, iii. 229; Broughton, Recollections, v. 59; vi. 12; Minto, i. 375; NLS mss 11137, f. 24; Fox Corresp. iii. 363.
- 11. Spencer mss, Spencer to his mother, 11 Mar. 1792; Minto, i. 375, 379; Add. 51705, Pelham to Lady Webster, 13 June 1791; Stanhope, ii. 97; Public Advertiser, 15 June 1791; Senator, iii. 347, 458, 479, 632-7; Burke Corresp. vi. 271.
- 12. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F115/25; Burke Corresp. vi. 306, 334, 377, 401, 405, 441, 450; Horace Walpole Corresp. xi. 300; Portland mss PwF6239-41; PwG130; Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, iii. 156; Farington, i. 271; ii. 181.
- 13. Burke Corresp. vii. pp. vii, 52.
- 14. Ibid. 81, 107, 117, 118.
- 15. Ibid. 118, 143, 149, 150, 157, 173, 179, 192, 206, 217, 232, 246, 266; Senator, v. 722, 793; Gibbon Letters, iii. 257; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 453, 466, 481; Minto, ii. 52; Holland, i. 4.
- 16. Burke Corresp. vii. 271, 277, 288, 291, 303, 304, 306; Fitzwilliam mss, box 44, Grenville to Fitzwilliam, 15, 17 Nov.; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 15, 25 Nov. 1792; Portland mss PwF 9229.
- 17. Senator, vi. 52, 74, 118, 128, 153; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/5; Croker Pprs. ed. Jennings, i. 409; Auckland Jnl. ii. 474; Wraxall Mems. v. 317; Mackintosh Mems. i. 171.
- 18. Corresp. of W. A. Miles, ii. 42; Add. 34448, f. 296; Auckland Jnl. iii. 37; Burke Corresp. vii. 353, 361, 371; Morning Post, 6 Mar. 1793; Senator, vi. 330, 348, 379, 453, 534, 589, 876, 960; Minto, ii. 113, 121-2, 127-8; P. J. Marshall, The Impeachment of W. Hastings, 81.
- 19. Minto, ii. 135-7; NLS mss 11048, f. 238; Burke Corresp. vii. 396, 410, 416, 436, 447.
- 20. Burke Corresp. vii. 423, 428, 430, 431, 438, 445, 451, 461, 465, 472, 476, 480, 489, 494; Holland, i. 9; Brougham mss 1492; Glenbervie Jnls. 116; Farington, i. 103, 191.
- 21. Add. 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 7 Dec. 1793; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/9, 10; Burke Corresp. vii. 514, 516, 519.
- 22. Burke Corresp. vii. 525-9, 531, 533, 537, 552-5; NLS mss 11138, f. 57; NLW mss 4814, Williams Wynn to Southey, 12 Nov. 1812; HMC Charlemont, ii. 230; Portland mss PwF6246; Add. 33629, f. 11; 33631, ff. 4-5; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1070; Senator, ix. 660, 825, 913; x. 992, 1064, 1190; Woodfall, iii. 355; iv. 361; Farington, i. 64; Prior, Life of Burke (1854), 395; Mems. Sir P. Francis, ii. 285.
- 23. Burke Corresp. vii. 550, 557, 562, 563, 569, 574, 577-8; viii. 13, 16-18; Portland mss PwF3767; NLS mss 11138, ff. 71, 79, 89; PRO 30/8/190, f. 240; J. H. Rose, Pitt and Napoleon, 228; Diary of Madame d’Arblay ed. Dobson, v. 332; Farington, i. 66, 187.
- 24. T. H. D. Mahoney, E. Burke and Ireland .
- 25. Burke Corresp. vii. 570; viii. 20, 34, 35, 43, 50, 53, 62, 70-74, 82, 127, 157, 161, 164, 173, 188, 205, 226, 230, 239; Fitzwilliam mss, X512/15, Ld. to Lady Fitzwilliam [Nov. 1794].
- 26. Burke Corresp. viii. 239, 260, 296, 330, 384, 401, 402-4, 415, 418, 422-3, 435-7; ix. 62; Marshall, 87, 186-7; NLS mss 11138, ff. 123, 133; Wraxall Mems. iv. 385.
- 27. Burke Corresp. viii. 333-4, 337, 339, 342, 345, 349, 392; Auckland Jnl. iii. 317, 320; Farington, iv. 198; NLS mss 11138, f. 168; Colchester, i. 38.
- 28. Burke Corresp. viii. 436; ix. 47, 56, 64, 78, 88, 97, 99, 112, 139, 151, 158, 161, 205, 211, 240-1; Windham Diary, 340; Leveson Gower, i. 138.
- 29. Burke Corresp. ix. 239-40, 245, 247, 270-1, 299, 314, 332, 347, 368, 373-5; Windham Diary, 370; Leveson Gower, i. 166; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 211; Morning Chron. 14 Nov. 1797.
- 30. Burke Corresp. viii. 437; Carlisle mss, Holland to Morpeth [c. 9 July 1797]; M. D. George, Cat. Pol. and Personal Satires, vi. 7678-9, 7685, 7824, 7864-5; Mackintosh Mems. ii. 475; Add. 37890, f. 287; G. W. Chapman, E. Burke: The Practical Imagination, 236-7; Gent. Mag. (1797), ii. 621; Farington, i. 54, 119, 191; ii. 78; iii. 261; vi. 135; Leveson Gower, i. 131; Diary of Madame d’Arblay, iv. 386; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 150; Morning Chron. 10 July 1797.
- 31. Farington, i. 187; M. D. George, vi. 7858.
- 32. Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition, 397; Mackintosh Mems. i. 87.