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struments they employ in the debauchery of the State and Parliaments. A splendid appeal is made to the Member
to proceed to bruise the head of faction, and form with his friends a strong Coalition to hunt down the foes to the Constitution for the good of the Nation only: if they keep the spoil in view they will quarrel with each other or faint in the pursuit, so true is it that virtue is the only lasting cement among men. Some will undoubtedly fall off, but fidelity to the cause you undertake will induce others to supply their places, if you lose one you will gain many: Time, which takes the glare from falsehood, will give new lustre to truth and good principles will at last attach every good man to your party.
In the Second Letter the same motives as urged him to write the first letter still urge the author (as he says) and
will continue to do so while the Foes of the Constitution afford matter of complaint. He deserves not to reap the benefit of a good Government who unconcerned can behold a man vending new political doctrines stuffed with absurdities open contradictions and pernicious tendencies. (He had) before endeavoured to show how inconsistent our modern Court Patriot is in a single address and even in a single page. I shall strive now (he writes) to diversify it by edging in a Portrait of a Statesman of 1731. The late writings of this State-Surgeon have indeed but one tendency, which is to justify an absolute dependence, nay to prove that our greatest happiness is the result of this dependence....I shall now set him in a new light and compare the furious Patriot of the year 1731, who gives the alarm for independence, with the supple Courtier of the year 1749.
He then gives extracts from the letter written to the Duke of Dorset in 1731 by Sir Richard Cox, which told the Lord-Lieutenant "It is impossible for you to comprehend at the distance you are at the miseries of this people." The letter was a bold and patriotic protest against the oppression of the English laws against the Irish wool trade. Its claim of independence is contrasted with the Cork Surgeon's abject attitude in his recent letters; and in caustic parody of Cox's attacks on Lucas, he shows up "this Incendiary," threatening in 1731 His Grace of Dorset "with dreadful consequences."
Desertion is proposed as the mildest method, and to shake off Dependancy the only recourse of this afflicted and enslaved Nation. Was this language becoming a Subject to his Viceroy? Was it not indirectly an attack on the Throne? The English are accused of restraining and of oppressing Ireland; to call them tyrants and usurpers would have been harsh, he gives them the gentler terms of Oppressors and Enslavers. But this Incendiary is not satisfied with raising and increasing the People's Discontent, he blows it up into sedition, he appeals to History to justify insurrections and then gives the signal for Rebellion.
This is a perfect parody of Sir Richard Cox's attacks on Lucas in the Cork Surgeon's pamphlets.
Who would not smile if this furious Brawler of 1731 should be the winding pliant State-Surgeon of our days, if notwithstanding his various shapes, and tho' he has pulled off the mask, he should yet be unplaced, unpensioned, a beggar and despised? If now he should be desirous to know the person who hath dealt so freely with him let him know he is A Briton1, who despises his friendship and laughs at his resentment; who wisheth well to his country, yet dares avow himself a friend to the man whom this Cork Surgeon persecuted.
The author then turns from the "singular character of the Court Patriot," attempts a more pleasing task and endeavours to draw "The Sketch of a Truly Patriot British House of Commons, which will be more easily effected after a short review of our Constitution and the Power and Office of that Noble House."
Then Burke (for the essay is most assuredly Burke's) gives a sketch of the British Constitution. The King and his Executive Power, the House of Lords-the great Council of the King and Nation; and the House of Commons, the great Inquest of the Nation. He sums up their prerogatives and privileges, and from this view makes appear
what advantages a Patriot Commonalty must be to the Nation, when the King and the two Houses unite upon the same principles of public good; when faction is banished from the Court; and party from the Country; when Elections are virtuous and free; and the elected unassailable by corruption, flattery or pomp; no power on Earth will shake our Constitution.... By a Patriot Parliament I mean the Body of men freely elected to represent the people; completely acquainted with their rights and resolute to defend them; neither ambitious to weaken the Royal Prerogative; nor servilely complaisant to resign the National Privileges; whose councils are animated by the Spirit of Liberty, not heated by the Spirit of Faction. If such a Parliament cannot always give us Halcyon Days, it will at the least secure us from storms and shipwrecks, if it cannot singly provide useful, it can always defend us from pernicious laws.
It was an ideal, but it was the ideal Burke contended for in all his after years.
"The distempers of Monarchy were the great subjects of apprehension and redress in the last Century, in this the Distempers of Parliament." So writes Burke in Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents.
1 Apart from the similarity of style, this allusion to the Briton indicates that the author is the same person as the writer of the Free Briton tracts.
Read these two Letters to the Citizens of Dublin, and judge do they not anticipate this and many another maxim of statesmanship found in that great essay, and in The Observations on The Present State of the Nation: and do not they bear the impress in tone and thought, in language and conception and outlook of the greatness of Edmund Burke?
A name is not annexed to any of these letters or pamphlets; but if Edmund Burke did not write them, then there must have been in the years 1748-9 some unknown prophet carried to Dublin in the spirit, and set down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, the bones that were very dry of this dreary controversy, a prophet that caused breath to enter into the dry bones, and a shaking of them as they came together, and bid the sinews and the flesh to come upon them, and the breath to come into them so that they became alive, and the inspiration of the prophet was as if the spirit of Edmund Burke was upon him, and caused him to pass by them, round about.
Immediately after the Second Letter to the Citizens of Dublin appeared there was republished A Patriot's Letter to The Duke of Dorset, Written in the Year 1731, With a Dedication to The Cork Surgeon of the Year 17491. The Letter of 1731 was, as above stated, written by Sir Richard Cox, and was a tragic appeal to the Duke of Dorset to use his influence with the English Government "in tender compassion for the miseries of our fellow creatures to relieve the People of Ireland in the extreme distress and miserable uneasiness under which they laboured owing to the lamentable decay of trade” caused by the English restrictions on the woollen trade.
Grievances which torture us more than any one out of the Kingdom can conceive. Poverty and despair may drive us to terrible lengths. They will take away our reason and we shall then have very little regard for our own preservation. As it is at present we very little care what comes of us, and wish ourselves as heartily at the bottom of the Sea as England ever did.
If the English are afraid we should rebel, which is I am sure a barbarous and unjust suspicion, they should use us so as to make us run some risk in doing so, they should allow us something that we should fear to lose. Instead of that they leave us in a state which we run no risk in changing, because there cannot be worse. We are destitute of the necessaries of life, and we have lost those liberties which are dearest to mankind. Examine Ancient History, observe whether the most frequent causes of revolution have been Opulence and Plenty or Poverty and Oppression.
1 Dublin, "Wm Johnston in The Crooked Staff," 1749, Trinity College, Dublin, Library. R.I.Ac., Halliday Pamphlets, 1749, vol. 213.
The dedication of the Cork Surgeon prefaced to this reprint is six pages of concentrated scorn. It is written by the same hand that penned the Letters to The Citizens of Dublin. The second of which letters is referred to in a foot-note on a page of the reprint containing a passage dealt with in that Letter. The Dedication is printed in the Appendix. No one could have written it but Edmund Burke1.
This chapter deals with but an episode. It has run to a length which may seem too great; but if the views it presents commend themselves as true, pardon may be given to the fulness of this effort to bring conviction, and vindicate the maligned memory of Edmund Burke in his college days from one hundred and twenty years of misrepresentation 2.
1 On the appearance of the Dedication an advertisement was published, signed Peter Wilson, who was the printer of Cox's pamphlets, stating that he ". was authorized to assure the public that the report that the writer of The Cork Surgeon's Antidote was also the author of the Letter to the Duke of Dorset in 1731 was false." A short and caustic rejoiner was issued immediately-A Letter to the Cork Surgeon Occasioned by Peter Wilson's Advertisement—in which the writer says he is ready to grant they are absolutely different men, and their "writings demonstrate it: one is a ramping swearing bully: and the other is a sly fawning cringing lickspittle. Characters so opposite could surely never be found in one person. Besides one made his appearance in 1731, blazed flashed and lightened till the year 1744 or thereabouts; then spluttered sank and died in a fog, out of which mist the Cork Surgeon arose like the Devil in Paradise." The Letter is printed in the Appendix, post p. 388. It was possibly written by Burke. There can be no doubt that Sir Rd. Cox and Anthony Litten, "The Cork Surgeon," were the same person.
2 "It may be tedious, but it is somewhat curious to pursue this subject a little farther. Mr La Touche proceeded to the poll alone, and after a dreadful contest with the Castle, in favour of Burton, was with Sir Samuel Cooke declared duly elected. The indignation of the Court knew no bounds. A petition was presented against his return, and on the sole accusation of being joined to and influenced by Lucas, which was notoriously false, and if true, could not have vacated his seat, he was voted out of it, and Mr Burton placed in his stead. A more infamous proceeding perhaps never disgraced any House of Commons. Lucas pursued his profession in London, and having written an Essay on Waters, was honoured with the support of Dr Johnson who in his review of that publication recommends him to the notice of the people of England in the following spirited and energetic manner, 'The Irish ministers drove him from his native country by a proclamation in which they charged him with crimes they never intended to be called to the proof, and oppressed him by methods equally irrestible by guilt or innocence, let the man thus driven into exile for having been the friend of his country, be received in every other place as the confessor of Liberty, and let the tools of power be taught in time, that they may rob but not impoverish."" Hardy's Life of Charlemont. It is not improbable that Burke may have informed Johnson of Lucas' career and enlisted his sympathy for him.
THE "CLUB" AND ITS PERSONNEL
HE Minute Book reproduced in this volume is now published for the first time in its entirety. It is the most treasured record of the College Historical Society of Trinity College, Dublin.
A Student's Debating Society, the first of which there is any record in the United Kingdom, met in George's Lane1 in the City of Dublin on 21st April, 1747, and "proceeded to the chusing a President by lot," and to the drawing up of Laws. It is evident that the idea of forming such an Association had been germinating from the time Edmund Burke became a member of the University, for on 24th November, 1744, in a letter to his old schoolfellow, Richard Shackleton, Burke-who had only entered Trinity College in the previous April-writes,
the Society, if you remember, we had thoughts of erecting, goes on slowly, for as Herbert informed me, and I know myself, Members for our purpose are very scarce, and though we had the number, we shall always think it imperfect while it wants you2.
Again, he writes to Shackleton on 25th February, 1744—5—
You don't forget the Society we proposed. I hope to see it once more flourish, heightened and adorned by the presence of my friend. We have slept too long; come and rouse us3.
However, on 21st April, 1747, four young men, Mathew Mohun, William Dennis, Edmund Burke and Andrew Buck met and formed themselves into the "Club" or "Academy of Belles Lettres," which was the parent of the famous College Historical Society of Trinity College, Dublin.
Mathew Mohun was chosen First President, the seniority of the members being determined by lot. From that date till 10th July of the same year we have a succinct manuscript account of the proceedings of the Club, written out with great care and scrupulous neatness. By far the greater portion of the Minute Book is in the
1 The name of George's Lane was changed to that of South Great George's Street in the middle of the eighteenth century. Cp. Gilbert, History of Dublin (Dublin, 1861), vol. III, chap. iii.
See ante p. 64.
3 Ante p. 65.