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Letter from Lord Auckland to the Right Honourable
Eden FARM, KENT, Oct. 28th, 1795.
MY DEAR siR,
Though in the stormy ocean of the last twenty-three years we have seldom sailed on the same tack, there has been nothing hostile in our signals or manoeuvres; and on my part at least, there has been a cordial disposition towards friendly and respectful sentiments. Under that influence, I now send to you a small work, which exhibits my fair and full opinions on the arduous eircumstances of the moment, “as far as the cautions “necessary to be observed will permit me to go beyond gene“ ral ideas.”
Three or four of those friends with whom I am most conmected in public and private life, are pleased to think, that the statement in question (which at first made part of a confidential paper) may do good: and accordingly a very large impression will be published to-day. I neither seek to avow the publication, nor do I wish to disavow it. I have no anxiety in that respect, but to contribute my mite to do service, at a moment when service is much wanted.
I am, my dear Sir,
AUCKLAND. Right Hon. Edmund Burke.
Letter from the Right Honourable Edmund Burke to Lord Auckland.
MY DEAR Lord, I AM perfectly sensible of the very flattering honour you have done me, in turning any part of your attention towards a de.jected old man, buried in the anticipated grave of a feeble old age, forgetting and forgotten, in an obscure and melancholy retreat. In this retreat, I have nothing relative to this world to do, but to study all the tranquillity that, in the state of my mind, I am capable of. To that end, I find it but too necessary to call to my aid an oblivion of most of the circumstances, pleasant and unpleasant, of my life; to think as little, and indeed -to know as little as I can, of every thing that is doing about
me; and above all, to divert my mind from all presagings and prognostications of what I must (if I let my speculations ...} consider as of absolute necessity to happen after my death, an possibly even before it. Your address to the public, which you have been so good as to send to me, obliges me to break in upon that plan, and to look a little on what is behind, and very much on what is before me. It creates in my mind a variety of thoughts, and all of them unpleasant. It is true, my lord, what you say, that, through our public life, we have generally sailed on somewhat different tacks. We have so undoubtedly, and we should do so still, if I had continued longer to keep the sea. In that difference, you rightly observe, that I have always done justice to your skill and ability as a navigator, and to your good intentions towards the safety of the cargo and of the ship's company. I cannot say now that we are on different tacks. There would be no propriety in the metaphor. I can sail no longer. My vessel cannot be said to be even in port. She is wholly condemned and broken up. To have an indea of that vessel, you must call to mind what you have often seen on the Kentish road. Those planks of tough and hardy oak, that used for years to brave the buffets of the Bay of Biscay, are now turned, with their warped grain, and empty trunnion-holes, into very wretched pales for the enclosure of a wretched farm yard. The style of your pamphlet, and the eloquence and power of composition you display in it, are such as do great honour to your talents; and in conveying any other sentiments would give me very great pleasure. Perhaps I do not very perfectly comprehend your purpose, and the drift of your arguments. If I do not, pray do not attribute my mistake to want of candour, but to want of sagacity. I confess your address to the public, together with other accompanying circumstances, has filled me with a degree of grief and dismay, which I cannot find words to express. . If the plan of politics there recommended, (pray excuse my freedom) should be adopted by the king's councils, and by the good people of this i. (as so recommended undoubtedly it will) nothing can be the consequence but utter and irretrievable ruin to the ministry, to the crown, to the succession, to the importance, to the independence, to the very existence of this country. This is my feeble, perhaps, but clear, positive, decided, long and maturely reflected, and frequently declared opinion, from which, all the events which have lately come to pass, so far from turning me, have tended to confirm beyond the power of alteration, even by your eloquence and authority. I find, my dear lord, that you think some persons, Wol. W. [ 2 )
who are not satisfied with the securities of a jacobin peace, to be persons of intemperate minds. I may be, and I fear I am with you in that description: but pray, my lord, recollect, that very few of the causes, which make men intemperate, can operate upon me. Sanguine hopes, vehement desires, inordinate ambition, implacable animosity, party attachments, or party interests ; all these with me have no existence. For myself, or for a family, (alas! I have none,) I have nothing to hope or to fear in this world. I am attached by principle, inclination, and gratitude, to the king, and to the present ministry.
Perhaps you may think, that my animosity to opposition is the cause of my dissent, ou seeing the politics of Mr. Fox, (which, while I was in the world, I combated by every instrument, which God had put into my hands, and in every situation, on which I had taken part) so completely, if I at all understand you, adopted in your lordship's book: but it was with pain I broke with that great man for ever in that cause ; and I assure you, it is not without pain, that I differ with your lordship on the same principles. But it is of no concern. I am far below the region of those great and tempestuous passions. I feel nothing of the intemperance of mind. It is rather sorrow and dejection, than anger.
Once more my best thanks for your very polite attention, and do me the favour to believe me, with the most perfect sentiments of respect and regard,
My dear lord, your lordship's most obedient and humble servant, EDM. BURKE. Beaconsfield, Oct. 30th, 1795. Friday evening.
To THE EARL FITzwilliam.
MY DEAR Lord, I AM not sure, that the best way of discussing any subject, except those that concern the abstracted sciences, is not somewhat in the way of dialogue. To this mode, however, there are two objections; the first, that it happens, as in the puppet-show, one man speaks for all the personages. An unnatural uniformity of tone is in a manner unavoidable. The other, and more serious objection is, that as the author (if not an absolute sceptic) must have some opinion of his own to inforce, he will be continually tempted to enervate the arguments he puts into the mouth of his adversary, or to place them in a point of view most commodious for their refutation. There is, however, a sort of dialogue not quite so liable to these objections, because it approaches more nearly to truth and nature: it is called controversy. Here the parties speak for themselves. If the writer, who attacks another's notions, does not deal fairly with his adversary, the diligent reader has it always in his power, by resorting to the work examined, to do justice to the original author and to himself. For this reason you will not blame me, if, in my discussion of the merits of a regicide peace, I do not choose to trust to my own statements, but to bring forward along with them the arguments of the advocates for that measure. If I choose puny adversaries, writers of no estimation or authority, then you will justly blame me. I might as well bring in at once a fictitious speaker, and thus fall into all the inconveniences of an imaginary dialogue. This I shall avoid; and I shall take no notice of any author, who my friends in town do not tell me, is in estimation with those whose opinions he supports. A piece has been sent to me, called “Remarks on the appa“rent Circumstances of the War in the fourth week of Octo“ber, 1795,” with a French motto, que faire encore une fois dans une telle nuit 2 Attendre le jour. The very title seemed to me striking and peculiar, and to announce something uncommon. In the time I have lived to, I always seem to walk on enchanted ground. Every thing is new, and, according to the fashionable phrase, revolutionary. In former days authors valued themselves upon the maturity and fulness of their deli
berations. Accordingly they predicted (perhaps with more.
arrogance than reason) an eternal duration to their works. The quite contrary is our present fashion. Writers value themselves now on the instability of their opinions, and the transitory life of their productions. On this kind of credit the modern institutors open their schools. They write for youth, and it is sufficient if the instruction “lasts as long as a present love; or as “the painted silks and cottons of the season.” The doctrines in this work are applied, for their standard, with great exactness, to the shortest possible o both of conception and duration. The title is, “Some Remarks on the “apparent circumstances of the War in the fourth meek of “October, 1795.” The time is critically chosen. A month or so earlier would have made it the anniversary of a bloody Parisian September, when the French massacre one another. . A day or two later would have carried it into a London November, the gloomy month, in which it is said by a pleasant author, that Englishmen hang and drown themselves. In truth, this work has a tendency to alarm us with symptoms of public suicide. However, there is one comfort to be taken even from the gloomy time of year. It is a rotting season. If what is brought to market is not good, it is not likely to keep long. Even build
ings run up in haste with untempered mortar in that humid.
weather, if they are ill-contrived tenements, do not threaten long to encumber the earth. The author tells us (and I believe he is the very first author that ever told such a thing to his readers) “that the entire fabric of his speculations might be “overset by unforeseen vicissitudes;” and what is far more extraordinary, “that even the whole consideration might be varied “whilst he was nriting those pages.” Truly, in my poor judgment, this circumstance formed a very substantial motive for his not publishing those ill-considered considerations at all. He ought to have followed the good advice of his motto; Que faire encore dans une telle nuit! Attendre le jour. He ought to have waited till he had got a little more day-light on this subject. Night itself is hardly darker than the fogs of that time. Finding the last week in October so particularly referred to, and not perceiving any particular event relative to the war, which happened on any of the days in that week, I thought it o that they were marked by some astrological superstiion, to which the greatest politicians have been subject. I therefore had recourse tomy Rider's Almanack. There I found indeed something that characterised the work, and that gave directions concering the sudden political and natural variations,