Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/361

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Burke
Burke
355

his self-control at a later period, is only partially true of him in 1782. The most effectual cause of his exclusion was the narrow jealousy with which the whig oligarchs regarded the rise of the Irish adventurer. Burke was a pointed paymaster of the forces. He actively forwarded the concession of self-government made to Ireland by the repeal of 6 Geo. I and other acts. ‘Her cause,' he said on 16 April, ‘was nearest to his heart, and nothing gave him so much satisfaction when he was first honoured with a seat in that house, as that it might be in his power to be of service to the country that gave him birth’ (Parl. Hist, xxiii, 33). Burke's proposals for economical reform formed the chief subject of discussion in the cabinet. An attempt was made to place the matter in the hands of the crown. Burke drew up reasons to be urged by Rockingham on the king, showing that the reform ought to proceed from parliament (Works, i, 492). The king yielded. A compromise was effected; and though Burke was forced to give up a large part of his scheme, he was able to carry some substantial reforms affecting public offices. Among these was the regulation of the office he himself held. It had been the custom for the paymaster to keep the balances of public money in his own hands until the audit. Burke fixed the salary at 4,000l. a year, and paid in his balances to the Bank of England, thus increasing the income of the country by a large sum. He made his son Richard his deputy, with a salary of 500l. At the same time he was given to understand that ‘something considerable’ would be secured for his wife and son (ib. i. 500). By the death of Rockingham on l July Burke lost not only a true friend, but a wise leader who directed and controlled his fervour (Life of Fox, i. 319). In his difficulties with Shelburne Fox took counsel with Burke, who, while advising him to refuse to act ‘as a clerk in Lord Shelburne’s administration,' urged him toput off his resignation until the next session (Mem. and Corresp. of C. J. Fox, i. 457), Fox, however, resigned at once, and Burke followed him out of office.

Having thus lost office before the promised provision had been made for his wife and son, Burke sought to secure for his son the reversion of the rich sinecure of the clerkship of the pells. He failed in his attempt. His conduct in this matter has been severely blamed (ib. i. 451). He had, however, been led to expect some reward; he had certainly a far stronger claim than the crowd of noble place-men and pensioners who enjoyed the wealth of the country in idleness, and, however objectionable such arrangements were, they formed the recognised mode of rewarding public services. Burke acquiesced in the extraordinary coalition between Fox and North, and on the overthrow of Shelburne’s administration in February 1783 again accepted the oflice of paymaster in the Portland government. On his return to oiltice he incurred considerable censure by reinstating two clerks, Powell and Bembridge, who had been dismissed by his predecessor for fraud. Powell was believed to have been mixed up with ‘the Burkes’ in their operations in India stock (Drum), and his suicide and the conviction of Bembridge were held to be proofs of Burke’s corrupt motives. He warmly defended his conduct, and in a debate on 2 May waxed so violently angry that Sheridan pulled him down on his seat from a motive of friendship. He declared that ‘he acted upon his conscience and his judgment in protecting men he believed to the simply unfortunate’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 801, 902). The ministers were pledged to take measures to promote the good government of India. Burke had for man years been deeply interested in the affairs of that country. He highly disapproved of North’s Regulating Act, and as early as l773 expressed his distrust of Hastings, the first governor-general appointed in accordance with it (Macknight, ii. 25). He served on the select committee on the affairs of the East India Company, and in 1783 drew up thc ‘Ninth Report,’ ‘one of the most luminous and exhaustive of English state papers’ (Morley), on the trade of Bengal and the system pursued by Hastings, an the ‘Eleventh Report,' dealing with the question of presents. He also prepared the draft of the famous East India Bill introduced by Fox in December (Works, i. 515), and supported it by a speech which Wraxall, who was no friend of his, declared to be the finest composition pronounced in the House of Commons while he was a member of it. On 18 Dec. the ministers were dismissed. Burke had been out of spirits during the continuance of the coalition ministry. Such reminders, indeed, as the ‘Beauties of Fox, Burke, and North,’ a collection of the hitter things he and Fox had said of their-then colleague in past days, were scarcely needed to make him cel that he was out of place by the side ofthe minister whom he had so unmercifully assailed, and the lofty tone of the invectives he had uttered made the union seem especially unnatural. He found his influence weakened. On one occasion when he rose to speak, a number of members noisily left the house, and he resumed his seat in anger. His depression did not escape Miss Burney, who remarks upon it. Burke, who had lately made her acquaintance, greatly admired her.