Imágenes de páginas

A complete edition of Burke's works has been published in sixteen volumes. His political, and not his philosophical writings, are now chiefly read. His 'Disquisition on the Sublime and Beautiful' is incorrect in theory and in many of its illustrations, though containing some just remarks and elegant criticism. His mighty understanding, as Sir James Mackintosh observed, was best employed in the middle region,

[ocr errors]

there the orator spent exclusively his few remaining orator, a philosopher, and practical statesman; and years. In 1795 he was rewarded with a handsome his knowledge, his industry, and perseverance, were pension from the civil list. It was in contemplation as remarkable as his genius. The protracted and to elevate him to the peerage, but the death of his brilliant career of this great man was terminated on only son (who was his colleague in the representa- the 9th of July 1797, and he was interred in the tion of Malton) rendered him indifferent, if not church at Beaconsfield.* averse, to such a distinction. The force and energy of his mind, and the creative richness of his imagination, continued with him to the last. His Letter to a Noble Lord on his Pension (1796), his Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796 and 1797), and his Observations on the Conduct of the Minority (1797), bear no trace of decaying vigour, though written after the age of sixty-seven. The keen interest with which he regarded passing events, particularly the great political drama then in action in France, is still manifest in these works, with general observations and reflections that strike from their profundity and their universal application. He possessed,' says Coleridge, and had sedulously sharpened that eye which sees all things, actions, and events, in relation to the laws which determine their existence and circumscribe their possibility. He referred habitually to principles-he was a scientific statesman.' This reference to principles in the writings and speeches of Burke (and his speeches were all carefully prepared for the press), renders them still popular and valuable, when the circumstances and events to which they relate have long passed away, and been succeeded by others not less important; while their grander passages, their imagery and profusion of illustration, make them interesting to the orator and literary student. His imagination, it is admitted, was not always guided by correct taste; some of his images are low, and even border on disgust. His language and his conceptions are often hyperbolical; or it may be said, his mind, like the soil of the East, which he loved to paint, threw up a rank and luxuriant vegetation, in which unsightly weeds were mingled with the choicest flowers and the most precious fruit. He was at once a poet, an


* One of the happiest of his homely similes is contained in his reply to Pitt, on the subject of the commercial treaty with France in 1787. Pitt, he contended, had contemplated the subject with a narrowness peculiar to limited minds as an affair of two little counting-houses, and not of two great the sign of the fleur-de-lis and the sign of the old red lion, for which should obtain the best custom. In replying to the argument, that the Americans were our children, and should not have revolted against their parent, he said, They are our children, it is true, but when children ask for bread, we are not to give them a stone. When those children of ours wish to assimilate with their parent, and to respect the beauteous countenance of British liberty, are we to turn to them the shameful parts of our constitution? Are we to give them our weakness for their strength, our opprobrium for their glory, and the slough of slavery, which we are not able to work off, to serve them for their freedom? His account of the ill-assorted administration of Lord Chatham is so chequered and speckled; he put together a piece of joinery

nations. He seems to consider it as a contention between

no less ludicrous than correct. He made an administration

so crossly indented, and whimsically dove-tailed; a cabinet so variously inlaid; such a piece of diversified mosaic; such a tesselated pavement without cement, here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white; patriots and courtiers; king's friends and republicans; Whigs and Tories; treacherous friends and open enemies; that it was indeed a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch, and unsure to stand on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards stared at each other, and were obliged to ask, "Sir, your name?" "Sir, you have the advantage of me;" "Mr Such-a-one, I beg a thousand pardons." I venture to say it did so happen, that persons had a single office divided between them, who had never spoke to each other in their lives, until they found themselves, they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle bed.'


[ocr errors]

between the details of business and the generalities of speculation.' In this department, his knowledge of men as well as of books, of passions as well as principles, was called into action, and his imagination found room for its lights and shadows among the varied realities and shifting scenes of life. A generous political opponent, and not less eloquent (though less original and less powerful) writer, has thus sketched the character of Burke:

[ocr errors]

'It is pretended,' says Robert Hall, that the moment we quit a state of nature, as we have given up the control of our actions in return for the superior advantages of law and government, we can never appeal again to any original principles, but must rest content with the advantages that are secured by the terms of the society. These are the views which distinguish the political writings of Mr Burke, an author whose splendid and unequal powers have given a vogue and fashion to certain tenets which, from any other pen, would have appeared abject and contemptible. In the field of reason the encounter would not be difficult, but who can withstand the fascination and magic of his eloquence? The excursions of his genius are immense. His imperial fancy has laid all nature under tribute, and has collected riches from every scene of the creation

* A plain mural tablet has been erected in the church to the memory of Burke. The orator's residence was about a mile from the town of Beaconsfield. The house was afterwards partly destroyed by fire, and is now, we believe, wholly re


and every walk of art. His eulogium on the queen of France is a master-piece of pathetic composition; so select are its images, so fraught with tenderness, and so rich with colours "dipt in heaven," that he who can read it without rapture may have merit as a reasoner, but must resign all pretensions to taste and sensibility. His imagination is, in truth, only too prolific: a world of itself, where he dwells in the midst of chimerical alarms-is the dupe of his own enchantments, and starts, like Prospero, at the spectres of his own creation. His intellectual views in general, however, are wide and variegated, rather than distinct; and the light he has let in on the British constitution, in particular, resembles the coloured effulgence of a painted medium, a kind of mimic twilight, solemn and soothing to the senses, but better fitted for ornament than use."*

Sir James Mackintosh considered that Burke's best style was before the Indian business and the French Revolution had inflamed him. It was more chaste and simple; but his writings and speeches at this period can hardly be said to equal his later productions in vigour, fancy, or originality. The excitement of the times seemed to give a new development to his mental energies. The early speeches have most constitutional and practical value -the late ones most genius. The former are a solid and durable structure, and the latter its Corinthian columns.'

[ocr errors]

[From the Speech on Conciliation with America, 1775.] Mr Speaker, I cannot prevail on myself to hurry over the great consideration. It is good for us to be here. We stand where we have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds, indeed, and darkness, rest upon the future. Let us, however, before we descend from this noble eminence, reflect that this growth of our national prosperity has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For instance, my Lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was in 1704 of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old enough acta parentum jam legere, et qua sit poterit cognoscere virtus. Suppose, sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate men of his age, had opened to him in vision, that, when in the fourth generation, the third prince of the house of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation, which (by the happy issue of moderate and healing councils) was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, lord-chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one. If amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honour and prosperity that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country, and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the Genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell him-Young man, there is America which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by

* Hall's Works, 2d edition, vol. iv. p. 89.

succession of civilising conquests and civilising settlements in a series of seventeen hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life! If this state of his country had been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man, he has lived to see it! Fortunate, indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect and cloud the setting of his day!


You cannot station garrisons in every part of these deserts. If you drive the people from one place, they will carry on their annual tillage, and remove with their flocks and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already little attached to particular situations. Already they have topped the Appalachian mountains. From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level meadow; a square of five hundred miles. Over this they would wander without a possibility of restraint; they would change their manners with the habits of their life; would soon forget a government by which they were disowned; would become hordes of English Tartars, and, pouring down upon your unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry, become masters of your governors and your counsellors, your collectors and comptrollers, and all the slaves that adhere to them. Such would, and in no long time must be, the effect of attempting to forbid as a crime, and to suppress as an evil, the command and blessing be the happy result of an endeavour to keep as a lair of Providence-increase and multiply.' Such would of wild beasts that earth which God, by an express charter, has given to the children of men. Far different, and surely much wiser, has been our policy hitherto. Hitherto we have invited our people, by every kind of bounty, to fixed establishments. We have invited the husbandman to look to authority for his title. We have taught him piously to believe in the mysterious virtue of wax and parchment. We have thrown each tract of land, as it was peopled, into districts, that the ruling power should never be wholly out of sight. We have settled all we could, and we have carefully attended every settlement with government.

Adhering, sir, as I do to this policy, as well as for the reasons I have just given, I think this new project of hedging in population to be neither prudent nor practicable.

To impoverish the colonies in general, and in particular to arrest the noble course of their marine enterprises, would be a more easy task, I freely confess it. We have shown a disposition to a system of this kind; a disposition even to continue the restraint after the offence; looking on ourselves as rivals to our colonies, and persuaded that of course we must gain all that they shall lose. Much mischief we may certainly do. The power inadequate to all other things is often more than sufficient for this. I do not look on the direct and immediate power of the colonies to resist our violence as very formidable. In this, however, I may be mistaken. But when I consider that we have colonies for no purpose but to be serviceable to us, it seems to my poor understanding a little preposterous to make them unserviceable, in order to keep them obedient. It is, in truth, nothing more than the old, and, as I thought, exploded problem of tyranny, which proposes to beggar its subjects into submission. But remember, when you have completed your system of impoverishment, that nature still proceeds in her ordinary course; and that discontent will increase with misery; and that there are critical moments in the fortunes of all states, when they who are too weak to contribute to your prosperity, may be strong enough to complete your ruin. Spoliatis arma supersunt.

The temper and character which prevail in our colonies are, I am afraid, unalterable by any human art. We cannot, I fear, falsify the pedigree of this fierce people, and persuade them that they are not sprung froin a nation in whose veins the blood of freedom circulates. The language in which they would hear you tell them this tale would detect the imposition; your speech would betray you. An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery. *


[Mr Burke's Account of his Son.]

directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth everything, and all in all. Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our situation, and glow with zeal to fill our places as becomes our station and ourselves, we ought to My hold of the colonies is in the close affection auspicate all our public proceedings on America, with which grows from common names, from kindred blood, the old warning of the church, sursum corda! We from similar privileges, and equal protection. These ought to elevate our minds to the greatness of that are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as trust to which the order of Providence has called us. links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the idea By adverting to the dignity of this high calling, our of their civil rights associated with your government; ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glothey will cling and grapple to you; and no force rious empire; and have made the most extensive, and under heaven will be of power to tear them from their the only honourable conquests; not by destroying, allegiance. But let it be once understood that your but by promoting the wealth, the number, the happigovernment may be one thing and their privileges ness of the human race. Let us get an American another; that these two things may exist without any revenue, as we have got an American empire. English mutual relation, the cement is gone-the cohesion is privileges have made it all that it is; English priviloosened and everything hastens to decay and dis- leges alone will make it all it can be. In full confisolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep dence of this unalterable truth, I now (quod felix the sovereign authority of this country as the sanc-faustumquesit) lay the first stone of the temple of tuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our peace.* common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Had it pleased God to continue to me the hopes Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that of succession, I should have been, according to my grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, mediocrity, and the mediocrity of the age I live in, they may have it from Prussia; but until you become a sort of founder of a family; I should have left a lost to all feeling of your true interest and your can be viewed, in science, in erudition, in genius, son, who, in all the points in which personal merit natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which in taste, in honour, in generosity, in humanity, in you have the monopoly. This is the true act of navi- every liberal sentiment, and every liberal accomgation, which binds you to the commerce of the colo- plishment, would not have shown himself inferior nies, and through them secures to you the commerce to the Duke of Bedford, or to any of those whom he of the world. Deny them this participation of free-wanted all plausibility in his attack upon that protraces in his line. His Grace very soon would have dom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination, as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your coquets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivities every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.


vision which belonged more to mine than to me. He metrised every disproportion. It would not have been would soon have supplied every deficiency, and symfor that successor to resort to any stagnant wasting in himself a salient living spring of generous and reservoir of merit in me, or in any ancestry. He had manly action. Every day he lived, he would have repurchased the bounty of the crown, and ten times more, if ten times more he had received. He was made a public creature, and had no enjoyment whatever but in the performance of some duty. At this exigent moment the loss of a finished man is not easily supplied.

resist, and whose wisdom it behoves us not at all to But a Disposer, whose power we are little able to dispute, has ordained it in another manner, and (whatever my querulous weakness might suggest) a like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane far better. The storm has gone over me, and I lie has scattered about me. I am stripped of all my honours; I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth! There, and prostrate there, I most unfeignedly recognise the divine justice, and in some degree submit to it. But whilst I humble myself before God, I do not know that it is forbidden to repel the attacks of unjust and inconsiderate men. The patience of Job is proverbial. After some of the convulsive struggles of our irritable nature, he submitted

Is it not the same virtue which does everything for us here in England? Do you imagine, then, that it is the land-tax act which raises your revenue? that it is the annual vote in the committee of supply which gives you your army or that it is the mutiny bill which inspires it with bravery and discipline? No! Surely no! It is the love of the people; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber. All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians who have no place among us; a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material; and who, therefore, far from being qualified to being strong in numbers.

the right of parliamentary representation should be extended * At the conclusion of this speech, Mr Burke moved that

to the American colonies, but his motion was negatived by 270 to 78. Indeed his most brilliant orations made little impression on the House of Commons, the ministerial party be

himself, and repented in dust and ashes. But even the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that so, I do not find him blamed for reprehending, and bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to with a considerable degree of verbal asperity, those see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of galill-natured neighbours of his who visited his dung- lant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavahill to read moral, political, and economical lectures liers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped on his misery. I am alone. I have none to meet my from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatenemies in the gate. Indeed, my lord, I greatly de-ened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. ceive myself, if in this hard season I would give a That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has peck of refuse wheat for all that is called fame and succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished honour in the world. This is the appetite but of a for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that few. It is a luxury; it is a privilege; it is an indul-generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submisgence for those who are at their ease. But we are all sion, that dignified obedience, that subordination of of us made to shun disgrace, as we are made to shrink the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, from pain, and poverty, and disease. It is an instinct; the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace and under the direction of reason, instinct is always of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly in the right. I live in an inverted order. They who sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone, ought to have succeeded me are gone before me; they that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, who should have been to me as posterity, are in the which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courplace of ancestors. I owe to the dearest relation age whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled what(which ever must subsist in memory) that act of piety, ever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half which he would have performed to me; I owe it to its evil by losing all its grossness. him to show, that he was not descended, as the Duke of Bedford would have it, from an unworthy parent.

[The British Monarchy.]

The learned professors of the rights of man regard prescription, not as a title to bar all claim, set up against old possession, but they look on prescription itself as a bar against the possessor and proprietor. They hold an immemorial possession to be no more than a long continued, and therefore an aggravated injustice. Such are their ideas, such their religion, and such their law. But as to our country and our race, as long as the well-compacted structure of our church and state, the sanctuary, the holy of holies of that ancient law, defended by reverence, defended by power, a fortress at once and a temple, shall stand inviolate on the brow of the British Sion-as long as the British monarchy, not more limited than fenced by the orders of the state, shall, like the proud keep of Windsor, rising in the majesty of proportion, and girt with the double belt of its kindred and coeval towers as long as this awful structure shall oversee and guard the subjected land, so long the mounds and dikes of the low fat Bedford Level will have nothing to fear from all the pickaxes of all the levellers of France. As long as our sovereign lord the king, and his faithful subjects, the lords and commons of this realm the triple cord which no man can break; the solemn, sworn, constitutional frankpledge of this nation; the firm guarantee of each other's being and each other's rights; the joint and several securities, each in its place and order for every kind and every quality of property and of dignity-as long as these endure, so long the Duke of Bedford is safe; and we are all safe together the high from the blights of envy and the spoliations of rapacity; the low from the iron hand of oppression and the insolent spurn of contempt.

[Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.] [From 'Reflections on the Revolution in France."] It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in-glittering like the morning star full of life, and splendour, and joy. Oh what a revolution! and what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to that enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry |

[The Order of Nobility.]

[From the same.]

To be honoured and even privileged by the laws, opinions, and inveterate usages of our country, growing out of the prejudice of ages, has nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any man. Even to be too tenacious of those privileges is not absolutely a crime. The strong struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what he has found to belong to him, and to distinguish him, is one of the securities against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. It operates as an instinct to secure property, and to preserve communities in a settled state. What is there to shock in this? Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital of polished society. Omnes boni nobilitati semper favemus, was the saying of a wise and good man. It is, indeed, one sign of a liberal and benevolent mind to incline to it with some sort of partial propensity. He feels no ennobling principle in his own heart who wishes to level all the artificial institutions which have been adopted for giving a body to opinion and permanence to fugitive esteem. It is a sour, malignant, and envious disposition, without taste for the reality, or for any image or representation of virtue, that sees with joy the unmerited fall of what had long flourished in splendour and in honour. I do not like to see anything destroyed, any void produced in society, any ruin on the face of the land.

[Dependence of English on American Freedom.]

[From Address to the King.' 1777.]

To leave any real freedom to parliament, freedom must be left to the colonies. A military government is the only substitute for civil liberty. That the establishment of such a power in America will utterly ruin our finances (though its certain effect), is the smallest part of our concern. It will become an apt, powerful, and certain engine for the destruction of our freedom here. Great bodies of armed men, trained to a contempt of popular assemblies representative of an English people, kept up for the purpose of exacting impositions without their consent, and maintained by that exaction; instruments in subverting, without any process of law, great ancient establishments and respected forms of governments, set free from, and therefore above the ordinary English tribunals of the country where they serve; these men cannot so transform themselves, merely by crossing the sea, as to behold with love and reverence, and submit with profound obedience to the very same things in Great Britain which in America they had been taught to

despise, and had been accustomed to awe and humble. All your majesty's troops, in the rotation of service, will pass through this discipline, and contract these habits. If we could flatter ourselves that this would not happen, we must be the weakest of men: we must be the worst, if we were indifferent whether it happened or not. What, gracious sovereign, is the empire of America to us, or the empire of the world, if we lose our own liberties? We deprecate this last of evils. We deprecate the effect of the doctrines which must support and countenance the government over conquered Englishmen.

As it will be impossible long to resist the powerful and equitable arguments in favour of the freedom of these unhappy people, that are to be drawn from the principle of our own liberty, attempts will be made, attempts have been made, to ridicule and to argue away this principle, and to inculcate into the minds of your people other maxims of government and other grounds of obedience than those which have prevailed at and since the glorious Revolution. By degrees these doctrines, by being convenient, may grow prevalent. The consequence is not certain; but a general change of principles rarely happens among a people without leading to a change of government.

Sir, your throne cannot stand secure upon the principles of unconditional submission and passive obedience; on powers exercised without the concurrence of the people to be governed; on acts made in defiance of their prejudices and habits; on acquiescence procured by foreign mercenary troops, and secured by standing armies. These may possibly be the foundation of other thrones; they must be the subversion of yours. It was not to passive principles in our ancestors that we owe the honour of appearing before a sovereign who cannot feel that he is a prince, without knowing that we ought to be free. The Revolution is a departure from the ancient course of the descent of this monarchy. The people at that time re-entered into their original rights; and it was not because a positive law authorised what was then done, but because the freedom and safety of the subject, the origin and cause of all laws, required a proceeding paramount and superior to them. At that ever-memorable and instructive period, the letter of the law was superseded in favour of the substance of liberty. To the free choice, therefore, of the people, without either king or parliament, we owe that happy establishment out of which both king and parliament were regenerated. From that great principle of liberty have originated the statutes confirming and ratifying the establishment from which your majesty derives your right to rule over us. Those statutes have not given us our liberties; our liberties have produced them. Every hour of your majesty's reign, your title stands upon the very same foundation on which it was at first laid, and we do not know a better on which it can possibly be laid.

Convinced, sir, that you cannot have different rights, and a different security in different parts of your dominions, we wish to lay an even platform for your throne, and to give it an unmovable stability, by laying it on the general freedom of your people, and by securing to your majesty that confidence and affection in all parts of your dominions, which makes your best security and dearest title in this the chief seat of your empire.

[Destruction of the Carnatic.]

[From speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts, 1785.] When at length Hyder Ali found that he had to do with men who either would sign no convention, or whom no treaty and no signature could bind, and who were the determined enemies of human intercourse itself, he decreed to make the country possessed

by these incorrigible and predestinated criminals a memorable example to mankind. He resolved, in the gloomy recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to leave the whole Carnatic an everlasting monument of vengeance, and to put perpetual desolation as a barrier between him and those against whom the faith which holds the moral elements of the world together was no protection. He became at length so confident of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no secret whatever of his dreadful resolution. Having terminated his disputes with every enemy and every rival, who buried their mutual animosities in their common detestation against the creditors of the Nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the arts of destruction; and compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation, into one black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivities of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on the menacing meteor which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly burst and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of wo, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants flying from the flaming villages, in part were slaughtered: others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of function; fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity, in an unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities; but, escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine.

The alms of the settlement, in this dreadful exigency, were certainly liberal; and all was done by charity that private charity could do: but it was a people in beggary; it was a nation that stretched out its hands for food. For months together these creatures of sufferance, whose very excess and luxury in their most plenteous days had fallen short of the allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, without sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished by a hundred a day in the streets of Madras; every day seventy at least laid their bodies in the streets, or on the glacis of Tanjore, and expired of famine in the granary of India. I was going to awake your justice towards this unhappy part of our fellow-citizens, by bringing before you some of the circumstances of this plague of hunger. Of all the calamities which beset and waylay the life of man, this comes the nearest to our heart, and is that wherein the proudest of us all feels himself to be nothing more than he is: but I find myself unable to manage it with decorum; these details are of a species of horror so nauseous and disgusting; they are so degrading to the sufferers and to the hearers; they are so humiliating to human nature itself, that, on better thoughts, I find it more advisable to throw a pall over this hideous object, and to leave it to your general conceptions.

For eighteen months, without intermission, this destruction raged from the gates of Madras to the gates of Tanjore; and so completely did these masters in their art, Hyder Ali and his more ferocious son, absolve themselves of their impious vow, that when the British armies traversed, as they did, the Carnatic for hundreds of miles in all directions, through the whole line of their march did they not see one man, not one woman, not one child, not one fourfooted beast of any description whatever. One dead uniform silence

« AnteriorContinuar »