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Coalition ministry had no hold on the people, and gave way at the end of 1783 to that of William Pitt, who continued prime minister until 1804. In 1785, in a speech on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts, Burke began the attack on the administration of the East India Company which culminated in the charges of impeachment against Warren Hastings. The trial opened in 1788, and after dragging along for seven years, resulted in a verdict of acquittal by the House of Lords. In the meantime he had published, in 1790, his Reflections on the French Revolution, in which he attacked the revolution, its principles and leaders, with the utmost vehemence, and pointed out the evils which he was convinced must flow from the spread or adoption of the democratic ideas which underlay it. The book had, for the time, an enormous sale, and was eagerly read even by the many who wholly dissented from its views. The Reflections is, in many respects, Burke's greatest intellectual achievement; its criticisms of the revolutionary programme as that programme was formulated in 1790 were not only sound, but abundantly borne out by the event; but Burke's view of the revolution as a political rather than a social movement, together with his insufficient knowledge of the subject, distorted his estimate of the more general and fundamental issues involved. The work divided public opinion in England, seriously injured the Whigs, and created a strong reaction against revolutionary ideas.
Burke continued to write on French affairs, but although he was still a great figure and a great name, his political
influence had much declined. In 1791, in a dramatic scene, he broke finally with Fox and his party, and stood alone. High ideals, broad views, and generous impulses had given way to invective, personal denunciation, and extravagant declamation. An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs sought to bring back the party to its old position ; but the Letters on a Regicide Peace, written to urge England to push with energy the war with France begun in 1793, while showing examples of Burke's finest manner, have been justly characterized as “deplorable.” 1 But the end was near. The death of his only son, in 1794, was a blow from which Burke never recovered. He survived the loss a little less than three years, dying on the ninth of July, 1797, in his sixty-eighth year.
EDITIONS of Burke's writings were published in Boston, in 1839, in 9 volumes; in London, in 1852 and 1898, in 8 and 12 volumes, respectively; and in Bohn's British Classics, 1855-64, in 8 volumes. An edition of his Select Works, in 3 volumes, edited by E. J. Payne, is published in the Clarendon Press Series ; this edition has an elaborate introduction and valuable notes. The Speech on Conciliation has been several times published separately during the past ten years in annotated school editions.
The best compact biography of Burke is that by John Morley in the English Men of Letters series. The same author's Edmund Burke : An Historical Study is of great value. The article “Burke" in the Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. VII, by William Hunt, is of the first importance for the details of Burke's life. The earlier biographies by Prior (1854, 2 vols.) and Macknight (1858-60, 3 vols.) are larger and less critical, but have not been superseded.
EDMUND BURKE, ESQ.
Moving his Resolutions
Conciliation with the Colonies
March 22, 1775
THE SECOND EDITION
LONDON PRINTED FOR J. DODSLEY, IN PALL-MALL