Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/364

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Burke
Burke
358

contrary to the principles he held in 1773. He disliked and distrusted the unitarians then, and he did so now, but that was no reason why his party should lose their support for law; of a piece of ordinary civility such as he recommended. As early as 1780 Burke had drawn up regulations to mitigate the evils of the slave trade, and of thc employment of slaves, in the form of a letter to Dundas (published in 1792). He therefore hailed with delight the attack made on the trade by Wilberforce. On 9 May 1788, in the debate on Pitt’s motion for inquiry, he declared that he wished for its total abolition, and on 12 May 1789 warmly praised the speech with which Wilberforce introduced his resolutions (Parl. Hist. xxvii. 502, xxviii. 69, 96; Life of Wilberforce, i. 171).

Having been requested by a friend, M. Dupont, to send him his opinion of the revolutionary movements in France, Burke wrote to him in October, though the letter was not sent until some weeks after. In the meantime the open expression of sympathy with these movements, and especially the proceedings of the Revolutionary Society on 4 Nov., stirred him to write his ‘Reflections on the Revolution’ as a warning to its English admirers. Loving ‘liberty only in the guise of order,’ he saw in the events of 6 Oct. an impending attack on the order which through all his life he had so deeply reverenced. In a debate on the army estimates, 9 Feb. 1790, he spoke strongly against the French democracy. Fox, who saw in the taking of the Bastille the greatest and the best event that ever happened in the world, made him a soothing answer. Sheridan sharply opposed his views, and Burke at once declared himself separated from him in politics. The neglect of Burke by the Carlton House faction must, to some extent at least, have been due to Sheridan's jealousy, and his speech on this occasion was evidiently intended to provoke Burke’s wrath (Parl. Hist. xxviii. 370). On 2 March Burke opposed Fox's bill for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. His fear of the spread of revolutionary opinions in England made him untrue to the policy of toleration he had so long upheld. ‘It was not a time,' he said, ‘to weaken the safeguards of the established church.’ Fox declared that Burke’s speech filled him with grief and shame. The bill was lost (ib. 387). In the course of this year Burke was gratified by the appointment of his son, now a barrister, as legal adviser of the Irish Catholic Committee. Meanwhile the ‘Reflections’ was slowly written and rewritten. Some proofs were sent to Francis in February. He returned them with some strong expressions of disapproval, mocking at the celebrated passage about the queen as ‘pure foppery.’ Burke, in answer, declared that when he wrote it the tears ‘wetted his paper’ (Works, i. 574). At last, after a year’s labour, the ‘Reflections' was issued on 1 Nov. 1790. Before a year had passed eleven editions of it were called for. The king was delighted; it was, he said, ‘a good book, a very good book ; every gentleman ought to read it.” The Oxford graduates presented their congratulations through Windham; it was proposed to grant him the degree of D.C.L., but the motion was defeated. This annoyed him greatly, and when, in 1793, an honorary degree was offered him, he refused it on the ground that his name had been rejected previously. From Dublin he received the LL.D. degree. The effect of the ‘Reflections’ was extraordinary. It created a reaction against the revolution; it divided Englishmen into two parties and did much to ruin the whigs, and to produce a new political combination. Chief among the many answers it called forth in England is the ‘Vindicæ' Gallicæ’ of James Mackintosh. In a different strain, but with not less effect, it had already been met by Paine's ‘Rights of Man.' One sentence in the ‘Reflections,' representing learning as ‘trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude’ (ib. iv. 215), drew forth a crowd of bitter retorts; it was explained as intended to refer to Bailly. Abroad the ‘Reflections' created no less stir than at home, and Burke received the compliments of different foreign sovereigns. His political foresight is exhibited by his prophecy of the time when, all restraints that mitigate despotism being removed, France would fella prey to arbitrary ppwer. Nevertheless, in site of these and other philosophical remarks, the book contains the pleadings of an advocate rather than the reflections of a philosopher. It exhibits ignorance of the character of the French oonstitution before the revolution; it fails to recognise the social causes of the movement, and, dwelling on the sufferings of the few, it ignores the deliverance of the many.

In the parliament which met in November 1790 Burke was again returned for Malton. As the friends of Hastings hoped that the dissolution would be hcl to are put an end to the impeachment, Burke moved for a committee to consider the state of the trial. Pitt and Fox alike joined with him in advocating the constitutional principle, which was affirmed after three days' debate, that an impeachment is not abated by a dissolution of parliament. Although Burke and Fox still met on friendly terms, it was evident that the strong views each held on