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vail on ourselves to strengthen, an union of such men, whatever accidentally becomes indisposed to ill-exercised power, even by the ordinary operation of human passions, must join with that society, and cannot long be joined without in some degree assimilating to it. Virtue will catch as well as vice 5 by contact; and the public stock of honest, manly principle will daily accumulate. We are not too nicely to scrutinize motives as long as action is irreproachable. It is enough (and for a worthy man perhaps too much) to deal out its infamy to convicted guilt and declared apostasy.
10 This, gentlemen, has been from the beginning the rule of my conduct; and I mean to continue it, as long as such a body as I have described can by any possibility be kept together; for I should think it the most dreadful of all offences, not only towards the present generation, but to all 15 the future, if I were to do anything which could make the minutest breach in this great conservatory of free principles. Those who perhaps have the same intentions, but are separated by some little political animosities, will I hope discern at last, how little conducive it is to any rational purpose, to 20 lower its reputation. For my part, gentlemen, from much experience, from no little thinking, and from comparing a great variety of things, I am thoroughly persuaded, that the last hopes of preserving the spirit of the English constitution, or of reuniting the dissipated members of the English race 25 upon a common plan of tranquillity and liberty, does entirely depend on their firm and lasting union; and above all, on their keeping themselves from that despair, which is so very apt to fall on those, whom a violence of character and a
painful, and unsuccessful struggle,
There never, gentlemen, was a period in which the stedfastness of some men has been put to so sore a trial. It is not very difficult for well-formed minds to abandon their
interest; but the separation of fame and virtue is a harsh 5 divorce. Liberty is in danger of being made unpopular to
Englishmen. Contending for an imaginary power, we begin to acquire the spirit of domination, and to lose the relish of honest equality. The principles of our forefathers become
suspected to us, because we see them animating the present 10 opposition of our children. The faults which grow out of
the luxuriance of freedom appear much more shocking to us than the base vices which are generated from the rankness of servitude. Accordingly the least resistance to power
appears more inexcusable in our eyes than the greatest 15 abuses of authority. All dread of a standing military force
is looked upon as a superstitious panic. All shame of calling in foreigners and savages in a civil contest is worn off. We grow indifferent to the consequences inevitable to our
selves from the plan of ruling half the empire by a mercenary 20 sword. We are taught to believe, that a desire of domineer
ing over our countrymen is love to our country; that those who hate civil war abate rebellion, and that the amiable and conciliatory virtues of lenity, moderation, and tenderness to
the privileges of those who depend on this kingdom, are a 25 sort of treason to the state.
It is impossible that we should remain long in a situation, which breeds such notions and dispositions, without some great alteration in the national character. Those ingenuous
and feeling minds who are so fortified against all other 30 things, and so unarmed to whatever approaches in the shape
of disgrace, finding these principles, which they considered
as sure means of honour, to be grown into disrepute, will retire disheartened and disgusted. Those of a more robust make, the bold, able, ambitious men, who pay some of their court to power through the people, and substitute the voice of transient opinion in the place of true glory, will give in to 5 the general mode; and those superior understandings which ought to correct vulgar prejudice, will confirm and aggravate its errors. Many things have been long operating towards a gradual change in our principles. But this American war has done more in a very few years, than all the other causes 10 could have effected in a century. It is therefore not on its own separate account, but because of its attendant circumstances, that I consider its continuance, or its ending in any way but that of an honourable and liberal accommodation, as the greatest evils which can befall us. For that reason 15 I have troubled you with this long letter. For that reason I entreat you again and again, neither to be persuaded, shamed, or frighted out of the principles that have hitherto led so many of you to abhor the war, its cause, and its consequences. Let us not be among the first who renounce the maxims of 20 our forefathers.
I have the honour to be, gentlemen, your most obedient and faithful humble servant,
EDMUND BURKE. BEACONSFIELD, April 3, 1777.
Born in Dublin, January, 1729.
MINISTRIES DURING BURKE'S POLITICAL LIFE.
Rockingham Ministry ........ 1765
A GROUP OF BURKE'S LITERARY FRIENDS.