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Burke
Burke
348

cliques of nobles and place-men, who were soon to have cause to hate and fear him, and sometimes supported by idle tales and often in its simple falsity it was brought against him over and over a in all through his life. Before the end of the year William Burke, then under-secretary to Conway, arranged with Lord Verney, with whom he was connected in business tmnsactions, that Burke should be returned to parliament for Wendover, one of the earl’s boroughs, while he himself was elected for another. Burke was returned on 28 Dec. (Members of Parliament, ii. l23), and took his seat 14 Jan. 1766. Johnson presaged his friend’s successful career: ‘Now we who know Mr. Burke,’ he said, ‘know that he will be one of the Hrst men in the country’ (Boswell, Life, vi. 80). His first speech was made on 27 Jan., on a motion that the petition sent from the American Congress should be received by parliament. Contrary to the opinion of the majority of the ministerial party to which he belonged, he argued that the petition should be received on the ground that it was in itself an acknowledgment of the right of the House (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III, ii. 272; Bancroft, Hist. of U. States, iii. 551). A week later he acted with his party by speaking in favour of the Declaratory Resolutions. While allowing the right of taxation, he recommended a temponsing policy. Now, as ever, he refused to treat politics as an abstract science, and held duties rather than barren rights to be the true basis of political action. ‘Principles,' he said, ‘should be subordinate to government.' He had now established his position amor? the leading men of the house. ‘He made,’ Johnson wrote, ‘two speeches on the repeal of the Stamp Act, which were publicly commended by Mr. Pitt, and have filled the town with wonder’ (Boswell, Life, ii. 321). In the course of a debate held during the same session on the restriction on American trade Burke exhibited his attachment to the principle of commercial freedom, and bitterly jeered Grenville ou his reverence for the Navigation Act (Walpole, George III, ii. 316).

Burke seems by this time to have overcome his former weakness of constitution, though he suffered from a sharp attack of illness during his first session. Tall and vigorous, of dagniiied deportment, with massive brow an stern expression, he had an air of command. His voice was of great compass; his words came fast, but his thoughts seemed almost to overcome even his powers of utterance. Invective, sarcasm, metaphor, and argument followed hard after one another; his powers of description were gorgeous, his scorn was sublime, and in the midst of a discussion of some matter of ephemeral importance came enunciations of political wisdom which are for all time, and which illustrate the opinion that he was, ‘Bacon alone excepted, the greatest political thinker who has ever devoted himself to the practice of English politics’ (Buckle, Civilization in England, c. vii.) Although he spoke with an Irish accent, with awkard action, and in a harsh tone, his ‘imperial fancy’ and commanding eloquence excited universal admiration. No parliamentary orator has ever moved his audience as he now and again did. His speech on the employment of the Indians in war, for example, is said at one time to have almost choked Lord North, against whom it was delivered, with laughter, and at another to have drawn ‘iron tears down Barré's cheek' (Walpole to Mason, 12 Feb. 1778; Letters, vii. 29). Unfortunately, his power over the house did not last ; his thoughts were too deep for the greater part of the members, and were rather exhaustive discussions than direct contributions to debate (Morley, Life, 209), while the sustained loftiness of his style and a certain luck of sympathy with his audience marred the effect of his oratory. His temper was naturally hasty, and he was deficient in political tact (Correspondence of C. J. Fox, i. 86). Jealously excluded from office, with narrow means and disappointed hopes, he became soured and violent, and as die encountered neglect and rudeness, lost his dignity while he retained his vehemence. He wrote as he spoke, not in any set literary fashion, but with ease and vigour, taking Dryden's prose for his model, while at the same time he was under the influence of Bolingbroke’s rapid style (Memoirs of F. Horner, i. 348). Neither in speaking nor writing did he avoid using' wor of foreign origin, and he constantly heightened the effect of his appeals by a quick transition from the sonorous expression of lofty sentiments to a terse saying clothed in homely English. In some of these sayings, indeed, he overpassed the bounds of good taste, while his loftier heights were not always free from bombast. His utterances, however, were not all declamatory. When occasion demanded, he spoke with quiet dignity, and some of his writings, such as the Historical Surveys in the ‘Annual Register,' his protests written for the lords, and even certain of his pamphlets, are models of statesmanlike expression.

On the resignation of the Duke of Grafton, one of the secretaries of state, it was evident that the Rockingham administration would shortly come to an end. Conscious of the