Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/366

This page has been validated.

on his advocacy. He deprecated the partition of Poland, and counselled Stanislaus to reserve a liberal policy. The catholics of Ireland looked upon him as their champion. Without office himself, he was engaged in persuading a large section of the whigs under the nominal headship of the Duke of Portland to join Pitt’s supporters, and in spite of violence to private affection to separate themselves from Fox (Corresp. of C. J. Fox, iii. 20). As each succeeding act of the revolution became more bloody, his foresight was praised more widely. He eagerly urged the necessity of war, and Pitt listened to his advice with respect. In September 1792 he was at Bath for his wife’s health. He went up to London during his visit in order to be present at the meetings of the committee for the relief of the French refugees, a matter in which he took the deepest interest (Works, ii. 145, 149). On the opening of the session he found Fox, whose following had now shrunk to fifty, as much opposed to his views as ever. Burke now definitely took his place on the ministerial side. In the debate on the Alien Bill, 28 Dec., having mentioned that an order had been given at Birmingham for 3,000 daggers, he suddenly produced a specimen which had been given him on his way to the house [see Burges, Sir James Bland], and threw it with some vehemence on the floor. ‘This,’ he said, pointing to it, ‘is what you are to gain by an alliance with France’ (Parl. Hist. xxx. 189). This melodramatic scene was caricatured by Gillray, and much mocked at by Fox’s party. Sherdan taunted Burke with it on 28 Feb. following. On the same evening Fox declared that many of Burke's statements were untrue, and an unseemly wrangle ensued (ib. 537, 554). The declaration of war with France increased Burke’s popularity. He maintained his influence with the leading politicians in spite of certain social drawbacks. At a time when political power was closely connected with social re ations, Burke's house was badly managed. The meals were irregular (Windam, 297; Prior, 180) and the company doubtful. Young Richard had come back from Ireland, having mismanaged his business there, ‘quite nauseated by all mankind;’ William Burke had come back from India as penniless as he went away, to be a charge on his kinsman; Richard, Burke’s brother, was noisy, and his niece, Miss French, ‘the most perfect she-Paddy that ever was caught’ (Elliot, ii. 136). A vote of confidence in Fox having been passed by the Whig Club in 1793, Burke and several others seceded from it. With reference to his dispute Burke drew up his ‘Observations for the Conduct of the Minority’ during the session, for the private consideration of the Duke of Portland (Works, v. 65). This memorial was surreptitiously printed in 1797 by a dishonest secretary with the second title of ‘Fifty-four Articles of Impeachment against the Right Hon. C. J. Fox.' Although Burke rejoiced at the declaration of the war with France, he strongly disapproved of the character it assumed. What he wished for was a war against Jacobinism on behalf of Louis XVII and of religion, while Pitt and our allies each sought some separate and selfish object. He would have made the war a crusade, a war against atheism and rebellion. It was monstrous in his eyes that while the Jacobins never pardoned, the allies treated the most bloody and merciless offenders as prisoners of war instead of calling them to strict account. These views he embodied in a new pamphlet, begun while he was at Beaconsfield in the autumn of 1793 (ib. 19, ii. 236; Corresp. of C. J. Fox, iii. 31). He deeply felt his alienation from Fox, and expressed his sorrow in a letter to Portland, who wished him to come to a meeting to be held in January 1794 in order to ascertain the possibility of a coalition. He was not, however, prepared for a reconciliation, nor did he see any desire for it on Fox’s side (Works, ii. 243, 248). Early in the year he lost his brother Richard. He remained some time at Beaconsfield, and when he returned to London took little part in business for some time. During April he had more than one passage of arms with Sheridan. In a debate on the Volunteer Corps Bill Burke quoted some doggerel lines of an American writer:

Solid men of Boston make no long potations,
Solid men of Boston make no long orations.
Bow! wow! wow!

Sheridan in reply taunted him with his alleged inconsistency by quoting two other lines from the same source:

He went to Daddy Jerky, by Trimmer Hall attended:
In such company, good lack! how his morals must be mended!
Bow! wow! wow!

Burke bitterly resented the sneer (Parl. Hist. xxxi. 210).

The trial of Hastings was now drawing to a close, and on 30 April Burke presented to the House of Commons the report he drew up for the committee appointed to inspect the Lords’ Journals with reference to its duration (Works, viii. 39). A month later he began his nine days’ speech (28 May to 16 June) in reply to the defence, containing a justification of the impeach- impeach-