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which, though light as air, are strong as links of iron. But let it once be understood that your Government may be one thing and their privileges another, the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened ! Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affic vits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. These things do not make your Government. Dead instruments, passive tools, as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English Constitution, which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivifies, every part of the Empire, even down to the minutest member.
Do you imagine that it is the land tax which raises your revenue ? that it is the annual vote in the committee of supply which gives you your army? or that it is the mutiny bill which inspires it with bravery and discipline ? No! Surely no! It is the love of the People ; it is their attachment to their Government from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience, without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber.
All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians, who have no place among us; a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is
gross and material, and who, therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of Empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But, to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are, in truth, everything, and all in all. Magnanimity in politics is not sel. dom the truest wisdom ; and a great Empire and little minds go ill together. Let us get an American revenue, as we have got an American Empire. English privileges have made it all that it is ; English privileges alone will make it all it can be !
67. ENTERPRISE OF AMERICAN COLONISTS, 1775. – Edmund Burke. Burke, the greatest of Irish statesmen, and unsurpassed as a writer of English prose, impaired his immediate success as a speaker by a badly-regulated voice, and an infelicitous delirery. Grattan, his countryman and contemporary, wrote of him: “Burke is unquestionably the first orator of the Commons of England, notwithstanding the want of energy, the want of fruce, and the want of elegance, in his manner.” “ He was a prodigy of nature and of acquisition. He read everything -- he saw everything. His knowledge of history amounted to a power of foretelling ; and, when he perceived the wild work that was doing in France, that great political physician, cognizant of symptoms, distinguished between the access of fever and the force of health, and what others conceived to be the vigor of her constitution he knew to be the paroxysm of her madness ; and then, prophet-like, he pronounced the destinies of Frunce, and in his prophetic fury admonished nations."
For some time past, Mr. Speaker, has the Old World been fed from the New. The scarcity which you have felt would have been a desolating famine, if this child of your old age, - if America, with a true filial piety, with a Roman charity, had not put the full
breast of its youthful exuberance to the mouth of its exhausted parent. Turning from the agricultural resources of the Colonies, consider the wealth which they have drawn from the sea by their fisheries. The spirit in which that enterprising employment has been exercised ought to raise your esteem and admiration. Pray, Sir, what in the world is equal to it? Pass by the other parts, and look at the manner in which the People of New England have of late carried on the whale fishery. Whilst we follow them among the tumbling mountains of ice, and behold them penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson's Bay, and Davis' Straits, whilst we are looking for them beneath the Arctic Circle, we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of Polar cold, that they are at the antipoués, and engaged under the frozen serpent of the South. Falkland Island, which seemed too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of national ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in the progress of their victorious industry. Nor is the equinoctial heat more discouraging to them than the accumulated winter of both the Poles. We know that whilst some of them draw the line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude, and pursue their gigantic game, along the coast of Brazil. No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries. No climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprise, ever carried this most perilous mode of hardy industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent People; a People who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone, of manhood.
When I contemplate these things, — when I know that the Colonies in general owe little or nothing to any care of ours, and that they are not squeezed into this happy form by the constraints of a watchful and suspicious Government, but that, through a wise and salutary neg. lect, a generous nature has been suffered to take her own way to perfection, - when I reflect upon these effects, when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of power sink, and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt, and die away within me. My rigor relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
58. ON AMERICAN TAXATION, Arril 19, 1774. -Id. Could anything be a subject of more just alarm to America, than to see you go out of the plain high road of finance, and give up your most certain revenues and your clearest interests, merely
for the sake of insulting your Colonies ? No man ever doubted that the commodity of tea could bear an imposition of three-pence. But no commodity will bear three-pence, or will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irritated, and two millions of men are resolved not to pay. The feelings of the Colonies were formerly the feelings of Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feelings of Mr. Hampden, when called upon for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune? No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it was demanded, would have made him a slave! It is the weight of that preamble, of which you are so fond, and not the weight of the duty, that the Americans are unable and unwilling to bear. You are, therefore, at this moment, in the awkward situation of fighting for a phantom; a quiddity; a thing that wants, not only a substance, but even a name; for a thing which is neither abstract right, nor profitable enjoyment.
They tell you, Sir, that your dignity is tied to it. I know not how it happens, but this dignity of yours is a terrible incumbrance to you; for it has of late been ever at war with your interest, your equity, and every idea of your policy. Show the thing you contend for to be reason, show it to be common sense, show it to be the means of obtaining some useful end, and then I am content to allow it what dignity you please. But what dignity is derived from the perseverance in absurdity, is more than I ever could discern! Let us, Sir, embrace some system or other before we end this session. Do you mean to tax America, and to draw a productive revenue from thence ? If you do, speak out: name, fix, ascertain this revenue; settle its quantity ; define its objects ; provide for its collection; and then fight, when you have something to fight for. If you murder, rob; if you kill, take possession : and do not appear in the character of madmen, as well as assassins, -violent, vindictive, bloody and tyrannical, without an object. But may better counsels guide you !
59. DESPOTISM INCOMPATIBLE WITH RIGHT, 1788.- Id. My Lords, you have now heard the principles on which Mr. Hastings governs the part of Asia subjected to the British empire. Here he has declared his opinion, that he is a despotic prince; that he is to use arbitrary power; and, of course, all his acts are covered with that shield. “I know," says he, “the Constitution of Asia only from its practice.” Will your Lordships submit to hear the corrupt practices of mankind made the principles of Government ? He have arbitrary power! - My Lords, the East-India Company have not arbitrary power to give him ; the King has no arbitrary power to give him; your Lordships have not; nor the Commons; nor the whole Legislature. We have no arbitrary power to give, because arbitrary power is a thing which neither any man can hold nor any man can give. No man can lawfully govern himself according to his own will, — much less can one person be governed by the will of another. We are all born in subjection, — all born equally, high and low, governors and governed, in subjection to one great, immutable, preëxistent law, prior to all our devices, and prior to all our contrivances, paramount to all our ideas and to all our sensations, antecedent to our very existence, by which we are knit and connected in the eternal frame of the universe, out of which we cannot stir.
This great law does not arise from our conventions or compacts ; on the contrary, it gives to our conventions and compacts all the force and sanction they can have; —it does not arise from our vain institutions. Every good gift is of God; all power is of God; -- and He who has given the power, and from whom alone it originates, will never suffer the exercise of it to be practised upon any less solid foundation than the power itself. If, then, all dominion of man over man is the effect of the divine disposition, it is bound by the eternal laws of Him that gave it, with which no human authority can dispense; neither he that exercises it, nor even those who are subject to it; and, if they were mad enough to make an express compact, that should release their magistrate from his duty, and should declare their lives, liberties and properties, dependent upon, not rules and laws, but his mere capricious will, that covenant would be void.
This arbitrary power is not to be had by conquest. Nor can any sovereign have it by succession; for no man can succeed to fraud, rapine, and violence. Those who give and those who receive arbitrary power are alike criminal; and there is no man but is bound to resist it to the best of his power, wherever it shall show its face to the world.
Law and arbitrary power are in eternal enmity. Name me a magistrate, and I will name property; name me power, and I will name protection. It is a contradiction in terms, it is blasphemy in religion, it is wickedness in politics, to say that any man can have arbitrary power. In every patent of office the duty is included. For what else does a magistrate exist? To suppose for power, is an absurdity in idea. Judges are guided and governed by the eternal laws of justice, to which we are all subject. We may bite our chains, if we will ; but we shall be made to know ourselves, and be taught that man is born to be governed by law; and he that will substitute will in the place of it is an enemy to God.
60. IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, 1788. — Id.
The unremitting energy of Burke's appeals, in the prosecution of Hastings, was a subject of wonder at the time, and is a lasting memorial of his zeal in what he believed an honest cause, for the admiration of posterity. Hastings himself has said of Burke's eloquence against him, —" For the first half-hour, I looked up to the orator in a reverie of wonder; and, during that time, I felt myself the most culpable man on earth.” The trial of Warren Hastings commenced in Westminster Hall, Feb. 18, 1788. The whole process occupied ten years, from 1785 to 1795. On the 230 of April, 1796, Hastings was acquitted by a large majority of the Peers.
My Lord, I do not mean now to go further than just to remind your Lordships of this, – that Mr. Hastings' government was one whole system of oppression, of robbery of individuals, of spoliation of the public, and of supersession of the whole system of the English Government, in order to vest in the worst of the natives all the power that could possibly exist in any Government; in order to defeat the ends which all Governments ought, in common, to have in view. In the name of the Commons of England, I charge all this villany upon Warren Hastings, in this last moment of my application to you.
My Lords, what is it that we want here, to a great act of national justice? Do we want a cause, my Lords? You have the cause of oppressed princes, of undone women of the first rank, of desolated Provinces, and of wasted Kingdoms.
Do you want a criminal, my Lords ? When was there so much iniquity ever laid to the charge of any one ? — No, my Lords, you must not look to punish any other such delinquent from India. Warren Hastings has not left substance enough in India to nourish such another delinquent.
My Lords, is it a prosecutor you want? You have before you the Commons of Great Britain as prosecutors; and I believe, my Lords, that the sun, in his beneficent progress round the world, does not behold a more glorious sight than that of men, separated from a remote people by the material bounds and barriers of nature
, united by the bond of a social and moral community; - all the Commons of England resenting, as their own, the indignities and cruelties that are offered to all the people of India.
Do we want a tribunal ? My Lords, no example of antiquity, nothing in the modern world, nothing in the range of human imagination, can supply us with a tribunal like this. We commit safely the interests of India and humanity into your hands. Therefore, it is with confidence that, ordered by the Commons,
I impeach Warren Hastings, Esquire, of high crimes and misdemeanors.
I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, whose Parliamentary trust he has betrayed.
I impeach him in the name of all the Commons of Great Britain, whose national character he has dishonored.
I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose laws, rights and liberties, he has subverted; whose properties he has destroyed; whose country he has laid waste and desolate.
I impeach him in the name and by virtue of those eternal laws of justice which he has violated.
I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly outraged, injured and oppressed, in both sexes, in every age, rank, situation, and condition of life.
61. PERORATION AGAINST WARREN HASTINGS.- Edmund Burke.
My Lords, at this awful close, in the name of the Commons, and surrounded by them, I attest the retiring, I attest the advancing generations, between which, as a link in the great chain of eternal order, we stand. We call this Nation, we call the world to witness, that the Commons have shrunk from no labor; that we have been guilty of no prevarication; that we have made no compromise with crime; that we have