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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/355

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Burke
Burke
349

advantage he would gain by holding a high office even for a little while, Burke was ambitious and self-confident enough to imagine that he might be chosen to fill the duke’s place for the short time of office that yet remained to his party. A seat at the board of trade was suggested, perhaps actually offered to him. That, however, was not his object, and he declined it (Works, i. 154; Chatham Correspondence, iii. 111). On 7 June 1766 Rockingham was summarily displaced; Grafton came into office, and Burke’s hopes perished. Indignant at the treatment is leader had received, he set forth the services of the outgoing ministers in a little pamphlet called ‘A Short History of a Short Administration,' and heightened its effect by a letter in the ‘Public Advertiser' ironically purporting to answer it (Ann. Reg. 1765, 213).

In the summer of 1766 Burke visited Ireland, and spent a short time with his mother at the house of his sister Juliana, the wife of Mr. French of Loughrea. While there he received the freedom of the town of Galway. He also visited a small estate called Clohir on the Blackwater, which he had received the year before on the death of his brother Garrett, an attorney. It has not been satisfactorily ascertained, how this estate came into the hands of Garrett Burke. It is stated that it was conveyed to him by a catholic family in order to evade the rigour of the penal laws, and that he claimed it for himself (Dilke). Burke in 1777 was threatened with a lawsuit to recover this property. His legal position was evidently safe. He declared in a letter addressed probably to the solicitor of the claimant, Robert Nagle, that he had no reason to think that there had been any original wrong in the matter, and that he could not, in justice to his brother’s memory, admit the claim, but that he was willing to do what he could ‘voluntarily and cheerfully’ for the Nagle family (New Monthly Mag. 1826, xvi. 153). In 1790 he sold Clohir to Edmund Nagle for 3,000l.

On Burke's return from Ireland Lord Chatham wished to attach him to his administration. He insisted, however, on following Rockingham, though Grafton declared that ‘he would not have been obdurate if his demands had not been too extravagant' (Walpole, George III, ii. 378). In the course of the next session Burke forwarded the interests of his native land by opposing a motion to forbid the importation of Irish wool, and his speech on this occasion was rewarded by the grant of the freedom of Dublin. An attack on the East India Company on 9 Dec. 1766 called forth what Walpole declared to be ‘one of his finest speeches,' in which he ridiculed Chatham as ‘a great Invisible Power’ that left no minister in the House of Commons. It is scarcely too much to say that to the active opposition of Burke during this session is to be attributed the distinct position assumed by the Rockingham whigs. Yet while he was firmly attached to his party, and unsparingly mocked at the disorganisation which prevailed in Grafton's ministry, Goldsmith was mistaken, as far as this period of his career at least is concerned, in saying in 1773 that Burke by leaving literature for politics gave ‘to party what was meant for mankind’ (Retaliation). For though he held loyalty to his party to be the duty of every man ‘who believes in his own politics’ (‘Present Discontents,' Works, iii. 170), he showed his independence by alone refusing to vote for Dowdeswell’s roposition for reducing the land-tax (Walpole, George III, ii. 421). In May 1767, when the house lightly adopted Townshend's plan for laying duties on the American trade, Burke declared that the ministry would find out their mistake. ‘You will never,' he said, 'see a shilling from America’ (Cavendish, Rep. i. 39). By the acknowledgment of his opponents he was ‘the readiest man on all points, perhaps, in the house,’ and his pre-eminence shocked and disgusted them. It was grievous to them to find themselves helpless before the attacks of this ‘Irish adventurer,' a man whom the would jealously exclude from the high offices of state. To the magnates of his own party Burke now made himself indispensable. He wrote ‘protests’ for them, and during the vacation discussed affairs at their country houses with an energy they could scarcely understand, but of which Rockingham and the dukes of Newcastle and Richmond were glad to avail themselves (Works, i. 73, 75). On the meeting of parliament on 24 Nov. he spoke on the address with great applause, pointed out the futility of the king's speech, and taunting the ministers with having no policy for the relief of the poor during the prevailing scarcity, though the distress was so severe that riot would follow the despair of the people, and ‘the law, if enforced upon them, must be by the bloody assistance of a military hand’ (Parl. Hist. xvi. 386).

On 1 May 1768 Burke wrote to Shackleton: ‘I have made a push with all I could collect of my own, and the aid of my friends, to cast a little root in this country. I have purchased a house, with an estate of about six hundred acres of land, in Buckinghamshire, twenty-four miles from London, where I now am’ (Works, i. 77). This estate was