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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE LORD VISCOUNT MILTON,
One of the Representatives in the Commons House of Parliament
for the County of York.
MY DEAR LORD, I Am persuaded, that your lordship will not be displeased to see your name inscribed, at the beginning of an introduction to the fourth volume of Mr. Burke's posthumous works. The hereditary interest, which you possess, in whatever regards the publick labours of that great man and distinguished statesman, will form, I trust, but a small part of your claim to such a distinction. Your father, and your greatuncle the late Marquess of Rockingham, in addition to the happiness, which they enjoyed, of his personal intimacy and friendship, had also the gratification of being in a bigh degree instrumental in the direction of those labours to the service of their country. I well remember, that Mr. Burke manifested no ordinary sensation of joy at your birth; an event, which he considered to be intimately connected with the essential interests of the nation. The heir to a title conveying the right to a seat in the legislative councils of the nation, and to a landed property, among the first in value and amplitude ; the future head of a family, whose alliances and connexions spread its influence through a wide range of social and political intercourse, and gave it a sensible and permanent weight in all matters of state, could not be regarded by him with indifference. Nor will this appear extraordinary, when it is considered, that the principles of the party,
of which he knew, you would almost necessarily become a distinguished member, and probably an eminent support; principles founded upon the basis of political liberty, and calculated, in their practical application, to promote its sécurity in this nation—had been more philosophically developed, and more accurately defined, more systematically arranged, and applied with more profound wisdom to their practical object, by him, than by any other person ; principles too, not less warmly cherished in his heart, than firmly embraced by his understanding. Disinterested patriotism, he knew, you would imbibe from the lessons of your virtuous parents, and a whig patriot alone was to be expected from the house of Wentworth. When he was taken from us, you had not attained an age, that enabled you to profit, as your immediate predecessors had done, by his friendship in private, and cooperation in publick life. But hereditary veneration for his character, and the studious perusal of his writings, have, in a great degree, supplied that loss. Had he lived to know how firmly and zealously you are attached to the principles which he had invariably maintained, and how steadily and manfully you come forward, upon all occasions, to their support, he would have derived from that knowledge, in the present inauspicious state of publick affairs, some consolation at least, perhaps some hope of better times; notwithstanding the triumphant career, which lies open to the enemies of whiggism, in consequence of divisions within itself, and the apathy of the people from without.
In the mind of Mr. Burke political principles were not objects of barren speculation. Wisdom in him was always practical. Whatever his understanding adopted as truth, made its way to his heart, and sunk deep into it; and his ardent and generous feelings seized with promptitude and eagerness every occasion of applying it to the use of mankind. How large a portion of an active and laborious life was thus employed, will be seen in our future history of it. Where shall we find recorded exertions of active benevolence, at once so numerous, so varied, and so important, made by one man ? Amongst these, the redress of wrongs and the
protection of weakness from the oppression of power, were most conspicuous : And of this kind the Impeachment of Mr. Hastings was considered by Mr. Burke, as beyond all comparison the most interesting and momentous.
The volume, which is now inscribed to your lordship, relates to that proceeding; a proceeding, which that virtuous and enlightened representative held to be the most important of his parliamentary labours.
The assumption of arbitrary power, in whatever shape it appeared, whether under the veil of legitimacy, or skulking in the disguise of state necessity, or presenting the shameless front of usurpation ; whether the prescriptive claim of ascendency, or the brief career of official authority, or the newlyacquired dominion of a mob,* was the sure object of his detestation and hostility. His endeavours to stifle it in its birth, or to obstruct its march, and impede its progress, or to redress its oppressions, will be found to have occupied, in various instances, as I have already said, no small portion of his life. The scale, upon which oppressions of this kind had been exercised in our East-Indian possessions, was of such a magnitude, that it required a mind like his to grapple with them. His ardent zeal, and unwearied perseverance, were not more than equal to the task. He well knew, that the impunity of Indian delinquency was demanded by interest too weighty and extensive, and was secured by influence and protection too powerful to be resisted.
The event accordingly, did not correspond with his wishes : but the eclat of a triumph was neither necessary to his fame, nor the triumph itself to the satisfaction of his own mind. The real cause, which he advocated, did not depend upon the decision of the court of judicature, before which the impeachment was tried. From the moment it was voted by the
* This is not a fanciful enumeration of possible cases. The reader will find in these volumes, examples of Mr. Burke's exertions, referable to each particular case.-Edit.
House of Commons, the attainment of its main object, was placed out of the power of his opponents to wrest from him.
-The existence of the enormities, with the commission of which the governour-general was charged, how much soever the managers might fail in the technical proof of his guilt, required only to be known ; and Mr. Burke was firmly persuaded, that by the investigation of the affairs of that government, resulting from the trial, and by the publick exposure of the crimes which had been perpetrated, he had not only discharged a sacred and imperative duty, but at the same time had interposed a powerful check to the commission in future of such enormities.
It was from this view of the subject, that he had, a short time before his last sickness, begun to prepare materials for a complete history of the impeachment. His subsequent inability to proceed in it, was, I know, most sensibly felt by him : and it was among the last requests, he made me, that I would collect and arrange those materials, and publish so much of them, as I might judge fit for publication.
With this desire of my most dear and honoured friend, I am endeavouring to comply. The cultivators of literature will for ever lament the want of his finishing hand. however, that the substance of the whole of the proceedings will be found in these volumes ; and that the philosopher and the statesman will not be insensible of their value. This volume contains the speeches, which he made at the close of the impeachment, and which were continued for nine days,
In a subsequent volume, an essay will be made towards a history of his life ; comprizing such part of his correspondence, and other fugitive compositions, as may be judged fit for publick perusal. This volume, the termination of my labours, and of our joint trust in editing the posthumous works of Mr. Burke, I purpose dedicating to the earl, your venerable father. But as it may not be the divine will,