Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/356

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Burke
Burke
350

Gregories, situated about a mile from Beaconsfield, and after 1770 generally called by its owner after that town. As Burke at the time of his marriage was certainly a poor man, this purchase is strange, and has given rise to much controversy. The purchase-money was about 20,600l., of which 14,000l. was raised by two mortgages, which remained on the property until the reversion was sold by Burke's widow Sir J. Napier, Burke, a Lecture, p. 61). How the remainder was raised, how Burke could have ventured tn so large a purchase, and how he expected to meet the expenses of living in such a place, have neverbeen satisfactorily explained. The explanation must he sought in the share he had in the profits derived from the speculations of certain members of his family. It has been satisfactorily proved that his brother Richard and his kinsman William, with whom he lived on terms of the closest intimacy, gambled desperately in stocks, and that Lord Verney was engaged with them (Dilke). All three were ruined by the fall of East India stock in June and July 1769. In the June of that year Burke was one of the proprietors of the East India Company, though in a letter written in 1772 he denied that he ever had 'any concern in the funds of the company (Works, i. 199). It is also certain that the same month to Garrick asking for the loan of 1,000l., and that from that time onwards he was always in the greatest need of money, on one occassion joining with W. Burke in a bond for so small a sum as 250l. For some time, however, the speculations of the Burkes prospered. In 1765 Burke was in a position to bear a large share in the expense of sending Barry to Italy. Writing to Barry in October 1766, W. Burke says; 'Whether Ned is employed or not is no matter of anxiety to us; 'and again in December, when expecting the downfall of the Rockingbam ministry: 'It suits my honour to be out of place, and so will our friend Mr. E. B. ; but our affairs are so weil arranged that, thank God, we have not a temptation to swerve from the straightest path of perfect honour' (Barry, Works, i. 24, 61, 77). Among the three Burkes there was the strictest alliance. Burke's house in London, and afterwards in the country, was the home of his brother and cousin, and at this time at least they all had one purse. In 1768 then, Burke, believing that the success that had hitherto attended the speculations of his brother and cousin would continue, was emboldened to buy Gregories, and to involve himself in the expenses which such a purchase naturally entailed. When in 1769 the crash came, it was too late to go back. As regards tho 6,000l. which complete the purchase, it has been assumed that this sum was lent by Lord Buckingham (Morley, Life, 35). On the other hand we find that in 1783 a suit in chancery was brought against Burke by Lord Verney to recover a sum of 6,000l., stated to have been lent to him in the spring of 1769 on the solicitation of his cousin William. In his answer Burke admitted borrowing 6,000l. in that year, but denied that he had it of Lord Verney, declaring also that the only relationship between him and William, as far as his knowledge went, consisted in the fact that their fathers called each other cousins. The pleadings in this suit make it probable that this 6,000l. was some sum that had accrued to Burke from the stockjobbing transactions of his brother and cousin ; that, not being personally liable for their dafalcations, he saved this sum out of the fire ; and that Lord Verney afterwards tried prove that he bad a right to it. The share Burke almost certainly had in the profit arising from the speculations of his kinsmen is perhaps the foundation of the amazing assertion that 'he received about 20,000l, from 'his family' (Prior). There is no direct evidence that he took part in these transactions, and there is no reason for supposing that they exercised any influence on his political conduct (on this matter see Dilke, Papers of a Critic, ii. 331-84). He certainly shared the good fortune of his kinsmen, and, though not ruined to the same extent that they were, shared also the consequences of their failure. From 1769 onwards he was never free from difficulties. He received help from some generous friends, such as Lord Rockingham, Garrick, and others. He was not a man to retrieve his losses by carefulness. He lived at Beaconfield not extravagantly, but not frugally, driving four black horses, and spending 2,500l. a year, exclusive of his expenses in London during the sessions of parliament (Stanhope, Life of Pitt, ii. 250). His letters to the great agriculturist, Arthur Young, show that when he was in the country be was an eager tanner, intent on cultivating his land in the most scientific and profitable fashion (Works, i. 123-32).

On the opening of the session of 1768-6, Burke exposed the dangers into which the carelessness of Grafton's ministry was leading the country as regards both its American policy and its acquiescence in the annexation of Corsica by France, a power which he always regarded with suspicion. In reply to Grenville's manifesto against the Rochingham party, he published early in 1769 his 'Observations on a late Publication on the