Imágenes de página

the two Romans in the general circumstance of being the first historians of their nation. Men of such genius as Cicero and Burke rarely descend to imitation. Johnson being asked if Edmund Burke resembled Tullius Cicero— No, Sir, he resembles Edmund Burke.

A considerable party of merchants and tradesmen of Bristol, chiefly Dissenters, admiring the eloquence of Burke, and looking upon him, from his political conduct, as strenuously attached to civil and religious liberty, named him a candidate for their city. He was gone to Malton, a Yorkshire borough, under the influence of the Marquis of Rockingham; and was actually chosen, when a deputation arrived to request him to stand for Bristol. With the consent of his new constituents, he complied. There were already three candidates; Lord Clare and Mr. Brickdale, the late members; and Mr. Cruger, an American merchant. Burke, when he first appeared on the hustings, made . a very eloquent and impressive speech, ad

mirably adapted to the hearers. He enlarged upon the immense advantages of commerce, and shewed himself thoroughly acquainted with its branches, objects, and principles, and accurately informed respecting the trade of Bristol. At the conclusion of the poll he displayed still more captivating eloquence. He and Mr. Cruger were elected.

· Mr. M‘Cormick says, “ that notwithstanding his panegerics on trade, Burke really did not respect the character of a merchant ; and quotes a passage from one of his speeches to shew Burke's opinion : · Do not talk to ne, said he, of the liberality and patriotism of a merchant; his god is his gold; his country his invoice; his desk his altar; his ledger his bible ; his church his exchange; and he has faith in none but his banker.' Mr. M‘Cormick thinks that such an opinion of the mercantile profession is incompatible with sincerity in the praises of trade. But, it by no means follows, that a conviction of the utility of an employment must be accompanied with a conviction of the great abilities or great virtue necessary to exercise that employment. Burke, though he did not, and indeed could not, think either extraordinary talents or extraordinary goodness necessary to form a merchant, thought well of the mercantile character, modified by the circumstances, manners, and sentiments of this country. The tendency of great conversancy with money has so much relation to the abilities and knowledge of the person so conversant, that it would be difficult to make it the subject of a general rule. It certainly increases the natural contraction of narrow understandings; but often expands great minds: it leads them to form projects of extensive utility, by having the means in their view and power. Commerce, probably, like other objects of thought, has a tendency to expand or contract, according to its mode. In its petty details, it, no doubt, must contract the understanding ; but enlarges it in its general schemes, the result of extensive information, calculation of probabilities, and accurate and acute investigation. We find also that it often liberalizes conduct. In no nation do men apply themselves so readily and powerfully to the assistance and relief of their fellow men, as in the country in which commerce is most prevalent, By no set of men is service better recompensed than by British merchants.

The idea that Burke thought meanly of merchants probably originated from the opinion he entertained of stock-jabbers, and other gamblers, contractors, Indian depredators, and all those who suddenly amassed. great fortunes by fraud and peculation, in. stead of gradually saving money by industry, ceconomy, and skill,

· Burke's colleague, Cruger, was, it would appear, a man of no very copious eloquence, It is even reported, that after Burke hvad delivered one of his best speeches at Bristol, Cruger rose up, and exclaimed, " I say ditta to Mr. Burke—I say ditto to Mr. Burke.'

The new parliament now met, and, pros bably, no age or country ever shewed a greater assemblage of talents.

On the side of Government, among many men of parts and knowledge, were ranged Germaine, distinguished for closeness, correctness, and neatness ; Jenkinson, for industry, commercial and political information; Dundas, for strong understanding, sticking to the point, and expeditious dispatch of difficult business; Wedderburne, eminent for acuteness, versatility, and ingenuity; Lord North, equally remarkable for pleasing variegated wit, humour, classical taste, and knowledge, as for dexterity of argument and readiness of reply; Thurlow, surpassing all his coadjutors in decision and masculine strength.

On the side of Opposition there was the patriotism and solidity of Dempster and Saville; the industry and colonial information of Pownall; the colloquial pleasantry, the vivacity, and classical erudition of Wilkes; the animated declamation of Barre, the

« AnteriorContinuar »