« PreviousContinue »
The following account of Mr. Burke's inauguration is extracted from the periodical publications of the time. • April 10th, 1784, the Right Honourable Edmund Burke was installed in the office of Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow; he was attended by several persons of rank and eminance; the spectators were very numerous, and testified their satisfaction by the highest marks of approbation and applause. His Lordship, after taking the oaths of office, addressed the meeting in a very polite and elegant speech, suited to the occasion. Having attended public worship in the College chapel, he was afterwards entertained by the gentlemen of the University
July 14th a cause was tried before Mr. Justice Buller and a special jury for a libel against Mr Burke by the Public Advertiser. Two men had been pillored at Bristol, for an unnatural crime, and had been very severely beaten and abused by the multitude, to the danger of their lives. The humanity of Burke interested itself in the sufferings of wretches,
however worthless, when those sufferings arose not from the sentence of the law, but from the violence of individuals. An infamous paragraph appeared in the papers, insinuating that Burke's reprobation proceeded not from abhorrence of the cruelty, but from sympathy with the criminals. So very scandalous a libel was referred by Burke, without any animadversions from himself, to the Attorney-General. A prosecution was commenced, and a hundred and fifty pounds damages awarded to the plaintiff.
About the time that this atrocious calumny appeared against Burke's character, there was a very daring attack made upon his property, and not without success. September 28th, his house at Beaconsfield was broken open, and robbed of a variety of plate and other valuable articles. The robbers
proceeded with a degree of deliberation not very common in such adventures. They came down from London in a phaeton, which they had hired in Oxford-street. They broke open a field-gate at the side of the road, op
posite to the avenue which leads to the house, and left their phaeton in a corner of the field. Mr. Burke was in town, but Mrs. Burke and the rest of the family were at Beaconsfield. The
The rogues made their way into the house through the area. They proceeded to the place where the plate in daily use was kept, the rest being in an iron chest in a pantry, in which the butler slept: having got 150l. worth, they retreated with their booty. They left behind them a match and tinder-box, a sack, a wax taper, a fashionable cane, and an iron instrument for forcing window-shutters. They also left a tea canister, which they carried out of the house; but they broke it open, and took out of it all the tea. The robbery was discovered about six o'clock, and a pursuit instantly set on foot, but to no purpose. It was afterwards found that they had crossed the country to Harrow, and from Harrow returned to town, through Islington. The perpetrators were suspected to have been a discharged servant and accomplices, but it was not ascertained,
January 25th, 1785, Parliament met. The first occasion on which Burke made a speech, calling forth his powers, was on the payment of the Nabob of Arcot's debts. On the 28th of February, Fox made a motion for the production of papers relative to the directions by the Board of Controul for charging on the revenues of the Carnatic the Nabob of Arcot's private debts to Europeans. Dundas maintained that a principal part of the debt was just, as far as the documents in their possession could be credited, and that the remainder was to be the subject of discussion ; that the claimants might prefer their claims, subject to the examination of the other creditors, the debtor, (the Nabob himself) and of the Company, whose revenues the result would affect. Burke, who had been at great pains to render himself completely informed respecting the affairs of India, delivered an oration displaying most extensive knowledge of that country, and the wisest general principles. If the facts were as he represented them, the alledged debts arose from a collusion be
tween the Nabob and certain servants of the Company, who had been guilty of the most heinous frauds, oppression, and cruelties. The pictures of the sufferings of India, and of the wickedness of its plunderers and oppressors, in force, animation, and colouring, equal any that had ever been presented, exhibiting misery and guilt.
A motion being made for a parliamentary reform by Mr. Pitt, April 18, and supported with great ability by him, Mr. Fox, Mr. Dundas, and other gentlemen, Burke, conformably to that general plan which had ever regulated his political reasonings and conduct, declared himself inimical to any change in the representation. On that subject he took an opportunity of reprobating the dissemination of doctrines among the people, tending to persuade them that they were aggrieved in the inequality of franchises. • The people,' he said, ' were very quiet and contented until they were told that their constitutional rights were violated.'