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boping for divine mercy through the intercession of the Redeemer, which, in his own words, he “had long sought with unfeigned humiliation, and to which he looked with trembling hope." He died on the 9th of July, 1797, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, and was interred, according to his own directions, in the same grave with his son. It was the wish of his friends, and even proposed by Mr. Fox in the Houso of Commons, that he should be buried in Westminster Abbey, but the plan was aban. doned when the provisions of his will were made known.
Pains have been taken in this memoir to bring out the most striking qualities of Mr. Burke's mind in connection with the principal events of his life, and thus to avoid the necessity of an extended summation at the close. He was what the Germans would call a “many-sided man,” so that any general analysis of his character must of necessity be imperfect. We can form a correct estimate of most orators from three or four of their best speeches, but fully to know Mr. Burke one must take into view all that he ever spoke, all that he ever wrote.
As an orator he derived little or no advantage from his personal qualifications. He was tall, but not robust; his gait and gesture were awkward ; his countenance, though intellectual, was destitute of softness, and rarely relaxed into a smile; and as he always wore spectacles, his eye gave him no command over an audience. “His enunciation,” says Wraxall, "was vehement and rapid ; and his Irish accent, which was as strong as if he had never quitted the banks of the Shannon, diminished to the ear the effect of his eloquence on the mind."
The variety and extent of his powers in debate was greater than that of any other orator in ancient or modern times. No one ever poured forth such a flood of thought
-50 many original combinations of inventive genius; so much knowledge of man and the working of political systems; so many just remarks on the relation of government to the manners, the spirit, and even the prejudices of a people; so many wise maxims as to a change in constitutions and laws; so many beautiful effusions of lofty and generous sentiment; such exuberant stores of illustration, ornament, and apt allusion; all intermingled with the liveliest sallies of wit or the boldest flights of a sublime imagination. In actual debate, as a contemporary informs us, he passed more rapidly from one exercise of his powers to another, than in his printed productions. During the same evening, sometimes in the space of a few moments, he would be pathetic and humorous, acrimonious and conciliating, now giving vent to his indignant feelings in lofty declamation, and again, almost in the same breath, convulsing his audience by the most laughable exhibitions of ridicule or burlesque. In respect to the versatility of Mr. Burke as an orator, Dr. Parr says, “Who among men of eloquence and learning was ever more profoundly versed in every branch of science ? Who is there that can transfer so happily the results of laborious research to the most familiar and popular topics? Who is there that possesses so extensive yet so accurate an acquaintance with every transaction recent or remote? Who is there that can deviate from his subject for the purposes of delight with such engaging ease, and insensibly conduct his hearers or readers from the severity of reasoning to the festivity of wit? Who is there that can melt them, if the occasion requires, with such resistless power to grief or pity? Who is there that combines the charm of in. imitable grace and urbanity with such magnificent and boundless expansion ?"
A prominent feature in the character of Mr. Burke, which prepared him for this wide exercise of his powers, was intellectual independence. He leaned on no other Dan's understanding, however great. In the true sense of the term, he never bor. rowed an idea or an image. Like food in a healthy system, every thing from with. out was perfectly assimilated; it entered by a new combination into the very structure of his thoughts, as when the blood, freshly formed, goes out to the extremities under the strong pulsations of the heart. On most subjects, at the preser.t day, this is all we can cxpect of originality; the thoughts and feelings which a man expresses must be truly his own.
In the structure of his mind he had a strong resemblance to Bacon, nor was ho greatly his inferior in the leading attributes of his intellect. In imagination he went far beyond him. He united more perfectly than any other man the discordant qual. ities of the philosopher and the poet, and this union was equally the source of some of his greatest excellencies and faults as an orator.
The first thing that strikes us in a survey of his understanding is its remarkable comprehensiveness. He had an amplitude of mind, a power and compass of intel. lectual vision, beyond that of most men that ever lived. He looked on a subject like a man standing upon an eminence, taking a large and rounded view of it on every side, contemplating each of its parts under a vast variety of relations, and those relations often extremely complex or remote. To this wide grasp of original thought he added every variety of information gathered from abroad. There was no subject on which he had not read, ne system relating to the interests of man as a social being which he had not thoroughly explored. All these treasures of acquired knowl. edge he brought home to amplify and adorn the products of his own genius, as the ancient Romans collected every thing that was beautiful in the spoils of conquered nations, to give new splendor to the seat of empire.
To this largeness of view he added a surprising subtlety of intellect. So quick and delicate were his perceptions that he saw his way clearly through the most complicated relations, following out the finest thread of thought without once letting go his hold, or becoming lost or perplexed in the intricacies of the subject. This subtlety, however, did not usually take the form of mere logical acuteness in the detection of fallacies. He was not remarkable for his dexterity as a disputant. He loved rather to build up than to pull down; he dwelt not so much on the differences of things, as on some hidden agreement between them when apparently most dissimilar. The association of resemblance was one of the most active principles of his nature. While it filled his mind with all the imagery of the poet, it gave an impulse and direction to his researches as a philosopher. It led him, as his favorite employment, to trace out analogies, correspondencies, or contrasts (which last, as Brown remarks, are the necessary result of a quick sense of resemblance); thus filling up his originally comprehensive mind with a beautiful series of associated thoughts, showing often the identity of things which appeared the most unlike, and binding together in one system what might seem the most unconnected or contradictory phenomena. To this he added another principle of association, still more characteristic of the philosopher, that of cause and effect. “Why?” “Whence ?" " By what means ?" "For what end?” “With what results ?" these questions fron. childhood were continually pressing upon his mind. To answer them in respect to man in all his multiplied relations as the creature of society, to trace out the work ing of political institutions, to establish the principles of wise legislation, to lay open the sources of national security and advancement, was the great object of his life; and he here found the widest scope for that extraordinary subtlety of intellect of which we are now speaking. In these two principles of association, we see the ori. gin of Mr. Burke's inexhaustible richness of thought. We see, also, how it was that in his mode of viewing a subject there was never any thing ordinary or commonplace. If the topic was a trite one, the manner of presenting it was peculiarly his own. As in the kaleidoscope, the same object takes a thousand new shapes and sol ors under a change of light, so in his mind the most hackneyed theme was trans formed and illuminated by the radiance of his genius, or placed in new relations which gave it all the freshness of original thought.
This amplitude and subtlety of intellect, in connection with his peculiar habits of association, prepared the way for another characteristic of Mr. Burkc, his remarkable power of generalization. Without this he might have been one of the greatest of pocts, but not a philosopher or a scientific statesman. “To generalize," says Sir James Mackintosh, “is to philosophize ; and comprehension of mind, joined to the habit of careful and patient observation, forms the true genius of philosophy.” But it was not in his case a mere “habit," it was a kind of instinct of his nature, which led h.c7 to gather all the results of his thinking, as by an elective affinity, around their appropriate centers; and, knowing that truths are valuable just in proportion as they have a wider reach, to rise from particulars to generals, and so to shape his statements as to give them the weight and authority of universal propositions. His philosophy, however, was not that of abstract truth; it was confined to things in the concrete, and chiefly to man, society, and government. He was no metaphysician; he had, in fact, a dislike, amounting to weakness, of all abstract reasonings in poiitics, affirming, on one occasion, as to certain statements touching the rights of man, that just “in proportion as they were metaphysically true, they were morally and politically false!” He was, as he himself said, “a philosopher in action;" his generalizations embraced the great facts of human society and political institutions as affected by all the interests and passions, the prejudices and frailties of a being like man. The impression he made was owing, in a great degree, to the remoteness of the ideas which he brought together, the startling novelty and yet justness of his combinations, the heightening power of contrast, and the striking manner in which he connected truths nf imperishable value with the individual case before him. It is here that we find the true character and office of Mr. Burke. He was the man of prin. ciples; one of the greatest teachers of “civil prudence" that the world has ever seen. A collection of maxims might be made from his writings infinitely superior to those of Rochefoucauld ; equally true to nature, and adapted, at the same time, not to produce selfishness and distrust, but to call into action all that is generous, and noble, and elevated in the heart of man. His high moral sentiment and strong sense of religion added greatly to the force of these maxims; and, as a result of these fine generalizations, Mr. Burke has this peculiarity, which distinguishes him from every other writer, that he is almost equally instructive whether he is right or wrong as to the particular point in debate. He may fail to make out his case ; opposing considerations may induce us to decide against him ; and yet every argument he uses is full of instruction : it contains great truths, which, if they do not turn the scale here, may do it elsewhere ; so that he whose mind is filled with the maxims of Burke has within him not only one of the finest incentives of genius, but a fountain of the richest thought, which may flow forth through a thousand channels in all the efforts of his own intellect, to whatever subject those efforts may be directed.
With these qualities and habits of mind, the oratory of Mr. Burke was of necessity didactic. His speeches were lectures, and, though often impassioned, enlivened at one time with wit, and rising at another into sublimity or pathos, they usually became wearisome to the House from their minuteness and subtlety, as
“He went on refining, And thought of convincing while they thought of dining." We see, then, in the philosophical habits of his mind (admirable as the results were in most respects), why he spoke so often to empty benches, while Fox, by seizing on the strong points of the case, by throwing away intermediate thoughts, and striking at the heart of the subject, never failed to carry the House with him in breathless attention.
His method was admirable, in respect at least to his published speeches. No man ever bestowed more care on the arrangement of his thoughts. The exceptions to this remark are apparent, not real. There is now ard then a slight irregularity in his mode of transition, which seems purposely thrown ia to avoid an air of sanie ness; and the subordinate heads sometimes spread out so widely, that their connection with the main topic is not always obvious. But there is reigning throughout the whole a massive unity of design like that of a great cathedral, whatever may be the intricacy of its details.
In his reasonings (for he was one of the greatest masters of reason in our language. though some have strangely thought him deficient in this respect) Mr. Bui ke did not usually adopt the outward forms of logic. He has left us, indeed, some beautiful spec. imens of dialectical ability, but his arguments, in most instances, consisted of the am. plest enumeration and the clearest display of all the facts and principles, the analogies, relations, or tendencies which were applicable to the case, and were adapted to settle it on the immutable basis of the nature and constitution of things. Here again he appeared, of necessity, more as a teacher than a logician, and hence many were led to underrate his argumentative powers. The exuberance of his fancy was likewise prejudicial to him in this respect. Men are apt to doubt the solidity of a structure which is covered all over with flowers. As to this peculiarity of his eloquence, Mr. Fox truly said, “It injures his reputation ; it casts a vail over his wisdom. Reduce his language, withdraw his images, and you will find that he is more wise than eloquent; you will have your full weight of metal though you melt down the chasing."
In respect to Mr. Burke's imagery, however, it may be proper to remark, that a large part of it is not liable to any censure of this kind ; many of his figures are so finely wrought into the texture of his style, that we hardly think of them as figures at all. His great fault in other cases is that of giving them too bold a relief, or dwelling on them too long, so that the primary idea is lost sight of in the image. Sometimes the prurience of his fancy makes him low and even filthy. He is like a man depicting the scenes of nature, who is not content to give us those features. of the landscape that delight the eye, but fills out his canvas with objects which are coarse, disgusting, or noisome. Hence no writer in any language has such extremes of imagery as Mr. Burke, from his picture of the Queen of France, “glittering like the morning star, full of life, and splendor, and joy," or of friendship, as “the soft greer. of the soul, on which the eye loves to repose,” to Lord Chatham's administration " pigging together in the same truckle-bed,” and Mr. Dundas, with his East India bills, “ exposed like the imperial sow of augury, lying in the mud with the prodigies of her fertility about her, as evidences of her delicate amours."
His language, though copious, was not verbose. Every word had its peculiar force ard application. His chief fault was that of overloading his sentences with sccondary thoughts, which weakened the blow by dividing it. His style is, at times, more careless and inaccurate than might be expected in so great a writer. But his mind was on higher things. His idea of a truly fine sentence, as once stated to a friend, is worthy of being remembered. It consists, said he, in a union of thought, feeling, and imagery — of a striking truth and a corresponding sentiment, rendered doubly striking by the force and beauty of figurative language. There are more sentences of this kind in the pages of Mr. Burke than of any other writer.
In conclusion, we may say, without paradox, since oratory is only one branch of the quality we are now considering, that while Mr. Burke was inferior as an orator to Lord Chatham and Mr. Fox, he has been surpassed by no one in the richness and splendor of his eloquence; and that he has left us something greater and better thar all eloquence in his countless lessons of moral and civil wisdom.
SPEECH CP NI BURKE ON AMERICAN TAXATION, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONE, APRIL 19,1774
INTRODUCTION. The measures of the different British ministers respecting American taxation, from the passing of the Stamp Act in 1765 to the repeal of all taxes except that on tea in 1770, have been detailed already, in con. nection with the speeches of Lord Chatham. Lord North's policy in respect to America was arbitrary and flactaating. It was well described by a contemporary writer as "a heterogeneous mixture of concession and coercion ; of concession not tending to conciliate, and of coercion that could not be carried into exe. cation—at once exciting hatred for the intention and contempt for the weakness.” After the destruction of the tea in the harbor of Boston, violent measures prevailed. In March, 1774, laws were passed depriv. ing Massachusetts of her charter, and closing the port of Boston against all commerce. Some, however, who had supported Lord North in these measures, thought they should be accompanied by an act indicative of a desire to conciliate. Accordingly, Mr. Rose Fuller, of Rye, who usually voted with the ministry, moved on the 19th of April, 1774, " that the House resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the duty of threepence per pound on tea, payable in all his Majesty's dominions in America," with a view to repealing the same. Mr. Burke seconded the proposal, and sustained it in the following speech. The unfavorable circumstances under which he commenced, and the complete mastery which he soon gained over his audience, have been already described. The applause so lavishly bestowed apon this speech was richly merited. No one had ever been delivered in the Parliament of Great Britain so fall at once of deep research, cogent reasoning, cutting sarcasm, grapbic description, profound political wisdom, and fervid declamation. Lord Chatham alone had surpassed it in glowing and impas. sumed eloquence.
In discussing the subject, Mr. Burke confined bimself to the single question, “Ought the tax on tea to bo abandoned, and with it the entire scheme of raising a parliamentary revenue out of the colonies ?" The measure bad been popular throughout all England, except in a few commerciai cities; and, whether wisely adopted or not, there were strong objections to an abandonment of the system while America remained in the attitude of open resistance. Instead of reserving these objections to be answered in form at the close of the main argument, Mr. Burke disposes of them at once in a preliminary head, under what he calls "the narrow" view of the subject; i. e, the mere question of repeal. Here he obviates the difficulties referred to; not speaking to the several points, however, under the name of objections, but rather turning the tables on Lord North with admirable dexterity, and showing that by his previous concessions he had him. self opened the way for an immediate and entire repeal. Mr. Burke next enters on his main argument by giving a historical sketch of the colonial system of England from the passing of the Navigation Act in 1651. He shows that this system did not originally contemplate any direct taxation of the colonies. He traces the steps by which the scheme of obtaining a revenue from America was introduced and modified, sketches the character of the men concerned; and urges a return to the original principles of the Naviga tion Act, as the only means of restoring peace to the empire.
It would be difficult to find any oration, ancient or modern, in which the matter is more admirably ar. ranged. The several parts support each other, and the whole forms a complete system of thought. The sketches of Mr. Grenville, Mr. Townsend, Lord Chatham, and his administration, are not strictly excrescences, though it would be unsafe for any man less gifted than Mr. Burke to arrest the progress of the discussion, and conduct the audience through such a picture-gallery of statesmen. They do, in one sense, form a part of the argument; for it was the character of the men that decided the character of the mensdres, and showed how England had been led to adopt a system which ought forever to be abandoned. Even the glowing picture of General Conway's reception by "the trading interest," as they "jamped apon bim like children on a long-absent father,” and “clung upon him as captives about their redeemer," #hen be carried through the repeal of the Stamp Act, adds force to the argument, for it shows how Amer 'can taxation was regarded by those who were best informed on the subject.
The language of this speech is racy and pungent. It is nowhere so polished or rounded off as to lose ite abarf.aess. The folly of American taxation is exposed in the keepest terms, from the opening paragraph, where the House is spoken of as having, "for nine long years," been “lashed round and round this mis. erable circle of occasional arguments and temporary expedients,' to the closing sentence, in which Mr Burke tells the ministry, “Until you come back to that system (th : system of the Navigation Act), then will be no peace for England."