Letters, Speeches and Tracts on Irish Affairs, ed. Matthew Arnold (London: Macmillan 1881).

[ Bibliographical note: ]

Private Letters

Letter to the Duke of Portland, September 14, 1794. [390]
Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hussey, February 4, 1795 [394]
Letter to Rev. Dr. Hussey, May 18, 1795. [401]
Letter to Thomas Keogh, Esq., November 17, 1796 [410]
Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hussey, Dec. 1796 [416]
Letter to the Right Hon. Wm. Windham, March 30, 1796 [436]
Letter to Dr. Laurence June 5, 1797. [438]


Letter to the Duke of Portland

My dear Lord,

Your great goodness and condescension have always encouraged me to take great liberties with you. I have done so with the less scruple, as your own excellent understanding will always enable you to improve the imperfect hints that others may throw out to you, or to control them where they are extravagant and ill-conceived.

In my present state of mind, and what is likely to be long my state of mind, nothing could induce me to intrude any opinion of mine, except I thought the matter was of great importance to your and Lord Fitzwilliam's reputation.

I wish everything you do to be not only right, but so splendidly right, that faction and malice may not be able to carp at it. It will not do for you to be vulgar, commonplace ministers.

I have already ventured, through Mr. Windham, to {391} submit to your better judgment, and with my reasons in writing, my poor thoughts upon an event then likely to take place - the death of Hely Hutchinson. That event, I find, has happened. He held two important offices, upon the proper or improper disposal of which a great deal will depend; - the provostship, and the Secretaryship of State. The former of these it was a shameful job to give him; but it will be even more so, after all the consequences which attended it, again to break through the statutes without a reason as strong as that which gave ground to the statute itself which most assuredly does not exist. On the contrary, no choice can exist, out of the University, so good as that which is furnished within its own walls. Three or four of the senior Fellows are men of the first order; - the others may be so also, for anything I hear to the contrary. I have not the honour of what may be called an acquaintance with any of them. Dr. Murray, [n1] the vice-provost, who has filled that place with the highest honour, and stands therefore next in designation for the provostship, I do not recollect ever to have seen. I should be sorry, when I was recommending to ministers not to give way to their own partialities, to insinuate into them any partiality of mine.

This office ought not to be considered as a thing in the mass of promiscuous patronage, and which may as well be given to one man as to another. {392} I hear that the Bishop of Cloyne [n2] is to be recom-mended to it. The Irish bishoprics are all valuable things; this of Cloyne is amongst the best of those valuable things, and the road to the highest by translation, is open to him; and nothing but an odious, and, at this time, a portentous avarice and rapacity could induce any of the Episcopal bench to seize upon this corporate office, the undoubted right of others, and which is fitted to be exercised by one who is practised in its particular corporate duties. If a check is not put upon them, they will be ruined by this mean, secular spirit.

Your Grace holds a most honourable office - that of chancellor of one of our Universities. Your Grace's showing a manly and inflexible firmness in defence of the legal and equitable rights of another, against the unwarrantable use of a dispensing power, will do you infinite honour. It will be, I know, highly pleasing to the University of Dublin, which, about a twelvemonth ago, sent over a deputation to remonstrate against an unstatutable arrangement proposed for the succession to the provostship. They justly considered it as a gross and unmerited affront (as it was) to their body.

Your Grace, by being where you are, is abundantly concerned that Government, at all times, but eminently at this time, ought to be kept in awe and reverence from opinion; and by the manner in which public {393} trusts are bestowed; and not to leave obedience to be enforced by the pillory, the gallows, and the transport- vessel. No one thing is just now more necessary than the education of youth; the least suspicion of any part of it being converted into a job will ruin all.

As to Mr. Hutchinson's other office, your Grace will pardon me a suggestion on the subject. As the first ought to be kept put of the line of patronage, this of the office of secretaiyship ought (always supposing common qualification) to be kept strictly within it. Whilst it was a sinecure pension, it might be given on the principle of any other pension, during life, or as Government thought fit; though, in my opinion, infinite caution ought to be used in giving anything in Ireland for life. But now, I hear the office is in a considerable degree effective, and may be made the means of great embarrassment to Government. I hope your Grace will stand in the gap, and not suffer the present Lord-Lieutenant to job it out of the hands of his successor. If great care is not used. Lord Fitzwilliam will find himself invested oneveiyside. English Government, ifthey axe suffered to go on there as they have gone on, will not be left even the miserable shadow of authority which it now seems to possess. God bless you and guide you; everything appears to me, in this season, to be serious and alarming in the highest degree. Office, to which men like you can only be called by an imperious duty, cannot afford to be conducted, as formerly it might, with impunity, by fancy, liking, or momentary expediency. {394}

Again excuse the liberty of zeal and affection. I am as a man dead; and dead men, in their written opinions, are heard with patience. I have now no one earthly interest of my own. I have no other way than this of showing my gratitude for your long-continued kindness to me and to my poor brother. Alas ! he and my son are gone, and can no longer call for the protection of any mortal.

I am ever, with the most affectionate and cordial attachment to your person, your honour, and your best interests - My dear Lord, your Grace's most sincere, but most unhappy friend,

Edm. Burke.

September 14, 1794.


Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hussey

My Dear Sir,

I HAVE received your two letters - the first in answer to mine about Hylan; [n3] the second, chiefly employed in the account of the deserved confidence which the Catholics of Ireland, and most of the other descriptions in our country, repose in Earl Fitzwilliam. I thank you for both of them, as I do for all the other marks I have received of your good opinion and friendship.

I must always be proud of the partiality you have {395} shown to me, and to him who was dearer to me than I am to myself. I am no flatterer, though to commend with justice is, I hope, more agreeable to my nature than with the same justice to censure. However, that must be done sometimes. I have always loved your public spirit, your regard to your country, your attachment to its Government, your singular disinterestedness, and that very rare union you have made of the enlightened statesman with the ecclesiastic. I once spoke my sentiments very freely upon that subject to Mr. Pitt. From what had come to his own knowledge he did not seem at all to dissent from my notions, though his arrangements did not permit him at that time to make that use of your services which I proposed. Wherever you are you will be useful. I am sure you are so in Ireland. I am charmed with what you tell me of the alienation of the Catholics from the grand evil of our time, and their resolution to resist with all their might the attempts of Jacobinism from without and from within. I am more rejoiced at this, as few things have been left undone by their enemies to irritate them into the frenzy of that malignant fever. I am confident that the wisdom, the temper, and the firm magnanimity of Lord Fitzwilliam, will prevent their ever bdng provoked or seduced to their own or the general ruin.

You tell me that some of the old gentry murmur at your having been at all at the Castle, though you have never been at levee or drawing-room of the Lord lieutenant {396} or the Secretary, and never went to the Castle but when you were sent for. I trust that neither the Government nor you will be in the smallest degree affected by the creaking which some of the old worm-eaten furniture makes at its removal. But if (which I am far from thinking) any of the new household stuff should make the same noise in warping by its unseasoned greenness, which the other does in falling to pieces by its corruption, they may be assured that this fermentable sap portends the dry rot at no very remote distance. The being of Government depends upon keeping the Catholics from a mischievous presumption, and from a mean depression. No man is more convinced than you are that they and public order have a common cause. A licentious popular arrogance would, along with their credit and happiness, subvert the foundations of that order. On the other hand, if you lose dignity and courage, you lose the means of preserving that order and everything else. The advances you have hitherto made have been wholly owing to your having preserved that medium, which is only to be found in a calm and temperate fimmess - the remotest thing in the world from that false and adulterate moderation, which is nothing else but a mode of delivering dehided men, without a struggle, to the violence and intemperance of their enemies.

Above all things, take care that, without being obtrusive (which is meanness in another mode) nothing should carry the appearance of skulking, or of being {397} ashamed of your cause. If any one is ashamed of you, or afraid of your contact. it is dear that you can derive no essential service from such a person. The leading Catholics will be polite, attentive, forbearing, humble, and to a degree even submissive, to the ascendency, particularly to every man in office and in Parliament. But I have one favour to ask of them, which I hope they will grant to my tried attachment, which is, that they will he true to themselves , and that they will not pass by in silence any one act of outrage, oppression, and violence that they may suffer, without a complaint and a proceeding suitable to the nature of the wrong.

If Lord Fitzwilliam was to live for half a century, and to continue in station as long as he lived, I should not pray to God for a greater security to you for everything that you hold dear; for in that time his virtues (the greatest and unmixed that I have known in man) would bring the leading men of the nation into habits of moderation, lenity, equity, and justice, which the practice of some hundreds of years, and the narrow hard-heartedness of a monopoly, have in a manner banished from the minds of too many of them. For it is plain that the late change in the laws has not made any alteration in their tempers, except that of aggravating their habitual pride by resentment and vexation. They have resolved to make one among the many unhappy discoveries of our times. It is this - that neither the laws nor the dispositions of the chief executive magistrate are able to give security to the people whenever {398} certain leading men in the country and in office are against them. They have actually made the discovery; and a dreadful one it is for things, laws, and subjects. This is what makes all ideas of ascendency in particular factions, whether distinguished by party-names taken from theology or from politics, so mischievous as they have been. Wherever such factions predominate in such a manner that they come to link (which, without loss of time, they are sure to do) a pecuniary and personal interest with the licentiousness of a party domination, nothing can secure those that are under it. If this was not clear enough upon a consideration of the nature of things and the nature of men, the late proceedings in Ireland subsequent to the repeal of the penal laws would leave no doubt of it. For (besides not suffering individual Catholics to derive the smallest benefit from the capacities which the laws had granted to them) a more fierce, insolent, and contumelious persecution had not (except in the time between ‘61 and ‘66) been carried on against them during the long period of my memory. This religious persecution, like most others, has been carried on under the pretext of their being bad subjects and disaffected to the Government. I think it very possible that to a degree the ascendants were sincere. The understanding is soon debauched over to the passions; and our opinions very easily follow our wishes. When we are once ill-inclined to any men, or set of men, we readily believe any evil of him or them that is inconvenient to {399} our hostile designs. Besides, in that they have another excuse. Knowing and feeling that they are themselves attached to the cause of Government only on account of the profit they derive from their connection with it, it cannot enter into their conceptions how any man can be other than a rebel who is not brought into an obedience to law and authority. They are excusable, and may do the worst of things without being the worst of men. But it is not the less, but the more necessary that you should guard against such implacable and unprincipled enemies by an unremitting vigilance and a severe distrust. In the same manner that you never give the smallest credit to your enemies, in that proportion you are to cherish and support your real friends who were such at the time of trial; and indeed to wish well to all such as, without malice, went with the fashion and the crowd, but have since shown gentle and placable dispositions. Well, to know your friends and your enemies is almost the whole history of political prudence. This brings me to the business of Hylan, on occasion of which I took the liberty of opening my correspondence with you, I refer you to the letter I wrote to you on that occasion. I wrote it in the first emotions which that cruel and infamous affair produced in my mind, and I have not altered my opinions in reflecting on the subject In my poor opinion, the Catholic committee is bound in honour, in duty, and in common sense (if that affair is such as I imagine it to be), not to suffer a veil to be thrown over {400} it, or to compromise it in the smallest degree. Yon mention tliat more noise would have been made about it if it had not been from respect to Lord F. If this business had been done by his Excellency's orders, or under his countenance, to be sure, to hush it up, however improper, would be to show respect to him. But as this was not the case, I do not feel how it can be to honour any Government to suppose it concerned in the impunity of oppression. Were I in that place, I should feel myself turned out of my situation the moment I was deprived of the power of being just and of protecting the people under my care from the tumult of the multitude and the insolence of the rich and powerful; for, in the name of God, for what else are governors and governments appointed? I am (you will believe, whatever others may) beyond all men, perhaps, a friend to a lenient course; but my lenities are not for pride, cruelty, and oppression, but for those who are likely to suffer from these vices in action under royal or aristo- cratic or democratic power. I would not put my melilot plaister on the back of the hangman, but on the skin of the person who has been torn by his whips. Your departed friend [n4.] was a wise person, of a penetrating and sagacious mind, and one who, by reading and observation, had made himself perfect master of the state of Ireland from the beginning of the sixteenth century to this hour. I wish you to look at the letter of his which he wrote when he was last in Cork, in {401} answer to an insidious paper circulated, and for some small time with effect, to delude the Irish Catholics. It is printed by Byrne, in Dublin. The spirit of that letter I wish to guide and direct the body of our country in all things. He was your true friend. He was not your friend because he was your law-counsel and active agent; but he was your counsel and agent because he was your friend. Think it is he that speaks to you from the church of Beaconsfield, in which you, and the Duke of Portland, and Windham, and the Comte de Coigny, and O'Connor, and the Earl of Inchiquin, and Adey, laid the purest body that ever was informed by a rational soul. He would say to you, “Do not stifle the affair of Hylan! Pursue it with Government, with the courts of justice, with Parliament, with the public!” My dear sir, I am tired and sadly sunk. I will write to you more fully on the other subject of your letter to-morrow. Adieu! -

Ever affectionately yours, Edmund Burke.

Beaconsfield, February 4, 1795.


Letter to Rev. Dr. Hussey

My dear Sir,

I don't know exactly why I am so unwilling to write by the post I have little to say that might not be known to the world; at the same time, there is something unpleasant in talking the confidential language of {402} friendship in the public theatre. It is still worse to put it into the power of any one to make faithful representations of it, or to make it the subject of malicious comments. I thank you for your letter; it is full of that good sense and good temper, as well as of that fortitude, which are natural to you. Since persons of so much greater authority than I am, and of so much better judgment, are of opinion you ought to stay, it was clearly right for you to remain at all risks. Indeed, if it could be done with tolerable safety, I wished you to watch over the cradle of those seminaries on which the future weal or woe of Ireland essentially depends. For you, I dread the revolutionary tribunal of Drogheda. For the country, if some proper mode of education is not adopted, I tremble for the spread of Atheism amongst the Catholics. I do not like the style of the meeting in Francis Street. The tone was wholly Jacobinical. In Parliament, the language of your friends (one only excepted) was what it ought to be. But that one speech, though full of fire and animation, was not warmed with the fire of heaven. I am sorry for it. I have seen that gentleman but once. He is certainly a man of parts; but one who has dealt too much in the philosophy of France. Justice, prudence, tenderness, moderation, and Christian charity, ought to become the measures of tolerance; and not a cold apathy, or indeed, rather a savage hatred, to all religion, {403} and an avowed contempt of all those points on which we differ and on those about which we agree. If what was said in Francis Street was in the first heat it might be excused. They were given to understand that a change of administration, short only of a revolution in violence, was made, only on account of a disposition in a Lord-Lieutenant to favour Catholics. Many provoking circumstances attended the business; not the least of them was, that they saw themselves delivered over to their enemies, on no other apparent ground of merit than that they were such. All this is very true; but under every provocation they ought not to be irritated by their enemies out of their principles and out of their senses. The language of the day went plainly to a separation of the two kingdoms. God forbid that anything like it should ever happen! They would both be ruined by it; but Ireland would suffer most and first. The thing, however, is impossible. Those who should attempt that improbability would be undone. If ever the arms, which, indirectly, these orators seem to menace, were to be taken up, surely the threat of such a measure is not wise, as it could add nothing to their strength, but would give every possible advantage to their enemies. It is a foolish language, adopted from the United Irishmen, that their grievances originate from England. The direct contrary. It is an ascendency which some of their own factions have obtained here that has hurt the Catholics with this Government. It is not as an English Government that Ministers act {404} in that manner, but as assisting a party in Ireland. When they talk of dissolving themselves as a Catholic body, and mixing their grievances with those of their country, all I have to say is, that they lose their own importance as a body by this amalgamation; and they sink real matters of complaint in those which are factious and imaginary. For, in the name of God, what grievance has Ireland, as Ireland, to complain of with regard to Great Britain; unless the protection of the most powerful country upon earth - giving all her privileges, without exception, in common to Ireland, and reserving to herself only the painful preeminence of tenfold burdens, be a matter of complaint. The subject, as a subject, is as free in Ireland as he is in England. As a member of the empire, an Irishman has every privilege of a natural-born Englishman, in every part of it, in every occupation, and in every branch of commerce. No monopoly is established against him anywhere; and the great staple manufacture of Ireland is not only not prohibited, not only not discouraged, but it is privileged in a manner that has no example. The provision trade is the same; nor does Ireland, on her part, take a single article from England but what she has with more advantage than she could have it from any nation upon earth. I say nothing of the immense advantage she derives from the use of the English capital. In what country upon earth is it that a quantity of linens, the moment they are lodged in the warehouse, and before the sale, would entitle the Irish {405} merchant or manufacturer to draw bills on the terms, and at the time, in which this is done by the warehouseman on London? Ireland, therefore, as Ireland, whether it be taken civilly, constitutionally, or commercially, suffers no grievance. The Catholics, as Catholics, do; and what can be got by joining their real complaint to a complaint which is fictitious, but to make the whole pass for fiction and groundless pretence? I am not a man for construing with too much rigour the expressions of men under a sense of ill-usage. I know that much is to be given to passion; and I hope I am more disposed to accuse the person who provokes another to anger, than the person who gives way to natural feelings in hot language. If this be all, it is no great matter; but, if anger only brings out a plan that was before meditated, and laid up in the mind, the thing is more serious. The tenor of the speeches in Francis Street, attacking the idea of an incorporating union between the two kingdoms, expressed principles that went the full length of a separation, and of a dissolution of that union which arises from their being under the same crown. That Ireland would, in that case, come to make a figure amongst the nations, is an idea which has more of the ambition of individuals in it than of a sober regard to the happiness of a whole people. But if a people were to sacrifice solid quiet to empty glory, as on some occasions they have done - under the circumstances of Ireland, she, most assuredly, never would obtain that independent glory, but would certainly lose all her {406} tranquillity, all her prosperity, and even that degree of lustre which she has, by the very free and very honourable connection she enjoys with a nation the most splendid and the most powerful upon earth. Ireland, constitutionally , is independent; politically , she never can be so. It is a struggle against nature. She must be protected, and there is no protection to be found for her, but either from France or England. France, even if (under any form she may assume) she were disposed to give the same hberal and honourable protection to Ireland, has not the means of either serving or hurting her that are in the hands of Great Britain. She might make Ireland (supposing that kind of independence could be maintained, which for a year I am certain it could not) a dreadful thorn in the side of this kingdom; but Ireland would dearly buy that malignant and infernal satisfaction, by a dependence upon a power, either despotic, as formerly, or anarchical, as at present. We see well enough the kind of liberty which she either enjoys herself or is willing to bestow on others. This I say with regard to the scheme of those who call themselves United Irishmen; that is to say, of those who, without any regard to religion, club all kinds of discontents together, in order to produce all kinds of disorders. But to speak to Catholics, as such, it is plain that whatever security they enjoy for their religion, as well as for the many solid advantages which, even under the present restrictions, they are entitled to, depends wholly upon their connection with this kingdom {407}. France is an enemy to all religion; but eminently, and with a peculiar malignity, an enemy to the Catholic religion, which they mean, if they can, to extirpate throughout the globe. It is something perverse, and even unnatural, for Catholics to hear even the sound of a connection with France; unless, under the colour and pretext of a religious description, they should, as some have done in this country, form themselves into a mischievous political faction. Catholics, as things now stand, have all the splendid abilities and much of the independent property in Parliament in their favour, and every Protestant (I believe with very few exceptions) who is really a Christian. Should they alienate these men from their cause, their choice is amongst those who, indeed, may have ability, but not wisdom or temper in proportion; and whose very ability is not equal, either in strength or exercise, to that which they lose. They will have to choose men of desperate property, or of no property, and men of no religious and no mortal principle. Without a Protestant connection of some kind or other they cannot go on; and here are the two sorts of descriptions of Protestants between whom they have an option to make. In this state of things their situation, I allow, is difficult and delicate. If the better part lies by in a sullen silence, they still cannot hinder the more factious part both from speaking and from writing; and the sentiments of those who are silent will be judged by the eflftisions of the people, who do not wish to conceal thoughts that the {408} sober part of mankind will not approve. On the other hand, if the better and more temperate part come forward to disclaim the others, they instantly make a breach in their own party, of which a malignant enemy will take advantage to crush them all. They will praise the sober part, but they will grant them nothing they shall desire; nay, they will make use of their submission as a proof that sober men are perfectly satisfied in remain- ing prostrate under their oppressive hands. These are dreadful dilemmas; and they are such as ever will arise when men in power are possessed with a crafty malig- nant disposition, without any real wisdom or enlarged policy.

However, as in every case of difficulty, there is a better way of proceeding and a worse; and that some medium may be found between an abject, and, for that reason, an imprudent submission, and a contumacious, absurd resistance - what I would humbly suggest is, that on occasion of the declamations in the newspaper, they should make, not an apology (for that is dishonourable and dangerous), but a strong charge on their enemies for defamation; disclaiming the tenets, practices, and designs, impudently attributed to them, and asserting, in cool, modest, and determined language, their resolution to assert the privileges to which, as good citizens and good subjects, they hold themselves entitled, without being intimidated or wearied out by the opposition of the monopolists of the kingdom. In this there will be nothing mean or servile, or which can {409} carry any appearance of the effect of fear, but the con trary. At the same time it will remove the prejudices which, on this side of the water as well as on yours, are propagated against you with so much systematic pains. I think the committee would do well to do something of this kind in their own name. I trust those men of great ability in that committee, who incline to think that the Catholics ought to melt down their cause into the general mass of uncertain discontents and un- ascertained principles, will, I hope, for the sake of agreeing with those whom, I. am sure, they love and respect among their own brethren, as well as for the sake of the kingdom at large, waive that idea (which I do not deny to be greatly provoked) of dissolving the Catholic body before the objects of its union are ob- tained, and turning the objects of their relief into a national quarrel. This, I am satisfied on recollection, they will think not irrational. The course taken by the enemy often becomes a fair rule of action. You see, by the whole turn of the debate against them, that their adversaries endeavoured to give this colour to the contest, and to make it hinge on this principle. The same policy cannot be good for you and your enemies. Sir George Shee, who is so good to take this, waits, or I should say more on this point. I should say something, too, of the colleges. I long much to hear how you go on. I have, however, said too much. If Grattan, by whom I wish the Catholics to be wholly advised, thinks differently from me, I wish the whole unsaid.

{410} You see Lord Fitzwilliam sticks nobly to his text, and neither abandons his cause nor his friends, though he has few indeed to support him. When you can, pray let me hear from you. Mrs. Burke and myself, in this lonely and disconsolate house, never cease to think of you as we ought to do. I send some prints to Dublin; but^ as your house is not there, I reserve a memorial of my dear Eichard for your return. I am ever, my dear sir, faithfully and affectionately, your miserable friend,

Edm. Burke

Beaconsfield, May 18, 1795.


Letter to Thomas Keogh, Esq.


I AM so much out of the world that I am not surprised every one should be ignorant of, as he is uninterested in, the state of my health, my habits of life, or anything else that belongs to me.

Your obliging letter of the 20th of July was delivered to me at Bath, to which place I was driven by urgent necessity, as my only chance of preserving a life which did not then promise a month's duration. I was directed to suspend all application to business, even to the writing of a common letter, as it was thought that I had suffered by some such application, and by the attendant anxiety, before and about that time. I returned from Bath not well, but much recovered from the state in which I had been; and I continued in the {411} same condition of convalescence for a month or six weeks longer. Soon after I began gradually to decline, and at this moment I do not find myself very materially better or stronger than when I was sent to Bath.

I am obliged to you for the offer which you made in that letter of conveying anything from me to Ire land; but I really thought you had known that I have no kind of correspondence or communication with that country, and that for a good while I had not taken any part whatsoever in its affairs. I believe you must have observed, when last I had the honour of seeing you in London, how little any opinions of mine are likely to prevail with persons in power here - even with those with whom I had formerly a long and intimate connection. I never see any of his Majesty's ministers, except one gentleman who, from mere compassion, has paid me some visits in this my retreat, and has endeav- oured, by his generous sympathy, to soothe my pains and my sorrows; but that gentleman has no concern in Irish affairs, nor is, I believe, consulted about them. I cannot conceive how you or anybody can think that any sentiments of mine are called for, or even admitted, when it is notorious that there is nothiog at home or abroad, in war or in peace, that I have the good fortune to be at all pleased with. I ought to presume that they who have a great public trust, wha are of dis- tinguished abilities, and who are in the vigour of their life, behold things in a juster point of view than I am able to see them, however my self-partiality may make {412} me too tenacious of my own opinion. I am in no degree of confidence with the great leader either of Ministry or Opposition.

In a general way, I am but too well acquainted with the distracted state of Ireland, and with the designs of the public enemy pointed at that kingdom. I have my own thoughts upon the causes of those evils. You do me justice in saying in your letter of July that I am a true Irishman. Considering, as I do, England as my country, of long habit, of obligation, and of establishment, and that my primary duties are hers, I can not conceive how a man can be a genuine Englishman, without being at the same time a true Irishman, though fortune should have made his birth on this side the water. I think the same sentiments ought to be reciprocal on the part of Ireland, and, if possible, with much stronger reason. Ireland cannot be separated one moment from England without losing every source of her present prosperity, and even hope of her future. I am very much affected, deeply and bitterly affected, to see that a very small faction in Ireland should arrogate it to itself to be the whole of that great kingdom. I am more afficted in seeing that a very minute part of that small faction should be able to persuade any person here, that on the support of their power the connection of the two kingdoms essentially depends. This strange error, if persevered in (as I am afraid it will), must accomplish the ruin of both countries. At the same time I must as bitterly regret that any persons who suffer {413} by the predominance of that corrupt fragment of a faction should totally mistake the cause of their evils as well as their remedy - if a remedy can be at all looked for; which, I confess, I am not sanguine enough to expect in any event, or from the exertions of any person; and least of all from exertions of mine, even if I had either health or prospect of life commensurate to so difficult an undertaking. I say, I do regret that the conduct of those who suffer should give any advantage to those who are resolved to tyrannise. I do believe that this conduct has served only as a pretext for aggravating the calamities of that party, which, though superior in number, is from many circumstances much inferior in force.

I believe there are very few cases which will justify a revolt against the established government of a country, let its constitution be what it will, and even though its abuses should be great and provoking; but I am sure there is no case in which it is justifiable, either to conscience or to prudence, to menace resistance when there is no means of effecting it, nor perhaps in the major part any disposition. You know the state of that country better than I can pretend to do, but I could wish, if there was any use in retrospect, that those menaces had been forborne, because they have caused a real alarm in some weak though well-intentioned minds; and because they furnish the bold and crafty with pretences for exciting a persecution of a much more fierce and terrible nature than I ever {414} remember, even when the country was under a system of laws apparently less favourable to its tranquillity and good government, at the same time that sober exertion has lessened in the exact proportion in which flashy menaces increased. Pusillanimity (as it often does) has succeeded to rage and fury. Against all reason, experience, and observation, many persons in Ireland have taken it into their heads that the influence of the Government here has been the cause of the misdemeanour of persons in power in that country, and that they are suffering under the yoke of a British dominion. I must speak the truth - I must say that all the evils of Ireland originate within itself; that it is the boundless credit which is given to an Irish cabal that produces whatever mischiefs both countries may feel in their relation. England has hardly anything to do with Irish government. I heartily wish it were otherwise; but the body of the people of England, even the most active politicians, take little or no concern in the affairs of Ireland. They are, therefore, by the minister of this country, who fears upon that account no responsibility here, and who shuns all responsibility in Ireland, abandoned to the direction of those who are actually in possession of its internal government; this has been the case more eminently for these five or six last years; and it is a system, if it deserves that name, not likely to be altered.

I conceive that the last disturbances, and those the most important, and which have the deepest root, do {415} not originate, nor have they their greatest strength, among the Catholics; but there is, and ever has been, a strong republican Protestant faction in Ireland, which has persecuted the Catholics as long as persecution would answer their purpose; and now the same faction would dupe them to become accomplices in effectuating the same purposes; and thus, either by tyranny or seduction, would accomplish their ruin. It was with grief I saw last year, with the Catholic delegates, a gentleman who was not of their religion, or united to them in any avowable bond of a public interest, acting as their secretary, in their most confidential concerns. I afterwards found that this gentleman's name was im plicated in a correspondence with certain Protestant conspirators and traitors, who were acting in direct connection with the enemies of all government and religion. He might be innocent; and I am very sure that those who employed and trusted him were perfectly ignorant of his treasonable correspondences and designs, if such he had; but as he has thought proper to quit the king's dominions about the time of the investigation of that conspiracy, unpleasant inferences may have been drawn from it. I never saw him but once, which was in your company, and at that time knew nothing of his connections, character, or dispositions.

I am never likely to be called upon for my advice in this, or in any business; and after having once almost forcibly obtruded myself into it, and having found no sort of good effect from my uncalled-for interference, {416} I shall certainly, though I should have better health than I can flatter myself with, never again thrust myself into those intricate affairs. Persons of much greater abilities, rank, and consequence than I am, and who had been called by their situation to those affairs, have been totally overwhelmed by the domineering party in Ireland, and have been disgraced and ruined, as far as independence, honour, and virtue can be ruined and disgraced. However, if your leisure permits you to pay a visit to this melancholy infirmary, I shall certainly receive any information with which you are pleased to furnish me; but merely as news, and what may serve to feed the little interest I take in this world. You will excuse my having used the hand of a confidential friend in this letter, for indeed I suffer much by stooping to write. - I have the honour to be, etc

Edmund Burke.

Beaconsfield, November 17, 1796.


Letter to Rev. Dr. Hussey

My dear Sir,

This morning I received your letter of the 30th of November from Maynooth. I dictate my answer from my couch, on which I am obliged to lie for a good part of the day. I cannot conceal from you, much less can I conceal from myself, that in all probability I am not {417} long for this world. Indeed, things are in such a situa tion, independently of the domestic wound, that I never could have less reason for regret in quitting the world than at this moment; and my end will be, by several, as little regretted.

I have no difficulty at all in communicating to you, or, if it were any use, to mankind at large, my sentiments and feelings. on the dismal state of things in Ireland; but I find it difficult indeed to give you the advice you are pleased to ask, as to your own conduct in your very critical situation.

You state, what has long been but too obvious, that it seems the unfortunate policy of the hour to put to the far largest portion of the king's subjects in Ireland the desperate alternative between a thankless acquiescence under grievous oppression, or a refuge in Jacobinism, with all its horrors and all its crimes. You prefer the former dismal part of the choice. There is no doubt but that you would have reason, if the election of one of these evils was at all a security against the other. But they are things very aUiable, and as closely con- nected as cause and eflfect. That Jacobinism which is speculative in its origin, and which arises from wanton- ness and fulness of bread, may possibly be kept under by firmness and prudence. The very levity of character which produces it may extinguish it. But Jacobinism, which arises from penury and irritation, from* scorned loyalty and rejected allegiance, has much deeper roots. They take their nourishment from the bottom of human {418} nature, and the unalterable constitution of things, and not from humour and caprice, or the opinions of the day about privileges and liberties. These roots will be shot into the depths of hell, and will at last raise up their proud tops to heaven itself. This radical evil may baffle the attempts of heads much wiser than those are, who, in the petulance and riot of their drunken power, are neither ashamed nor afraid to insult and provoke those whom it is their duty, and ought to be their glory, to cherish and protect.

So then, the little wise men of the west, with every hazard of this evil, are resolved to persevere in the manly and well-timed resolution of a war against Popery. In the principle, and in all the proceedings, it is perfectly suited to their character. They begin this last series of their offensive operations by laying traps for the con- sciences of poor foot-soldiers. They call these wretches to their church (empty of a volunteer congregation), not by the bell, but by the whip. This ecclesiastic military discipline is happily taken up, in order to form an army of well-scourged Papists into a firm phalanx for the support of the Protestant religion. I wish them joy of this their valuable discovery in theology, politics, and the art military. Fashion governs the world, and it is the fashion in the great French empire of pure and perfect Protestantism, as well as in the little busy meddling province of servile imitators, that apes at a humble dis- tance the tone of its capital, to make a crusade against you poor Catholics. But whatever may be thought in {419} Ireland of its share of a war against the Pope in that out-lying part of Europe, the zealous Protestant, Bonaparte, has given his late Holiness far more deadly blows, in the centre of his own power, and in the nearest seats of his influence, than the Irish Directory [n6] can arrogate to itself within its own jurisdiction, from the utmost efforts of its political and military skill. I have my doubts (they may perhaps arise from my ignorance) whether the glories of the night expeditions, in surprising the cabin fortresses in Louth and Meath, or whether the slaughter and expulsion of the Catholic weavers by another set of zealots in Armagh, or even the proud trophies of the late potato field [n7] in that county, are quite to be compared with the Protestant victories on the plains of Lombardy, or to the possession of the flat of Bologna, or to the approaching sack of Bome, where, even now, the Protestant commissaries give the law. In all this business Great Britain, to us merely secular politicians, makes no great figure; but let the glory of Great Britain shift for itself as it may. All is well, provided Popery is crushed.

This war against Popery furnishes me with a clue that leads me out of a maze of perplexed politics, which, {420} without it, I could not in the least understand. I now can account for the whole. Lord Malmesbury is sent to prostrate the dignity of the English monarchy at Paris, that an Irish, Popish common soldier may be whipt in, to give an appearance of habitation, to a deserted Protestant Church in Ireland. Thus we balance the account - defeat and dishonour abroad; oppression at home. We sneak to the regicides, but we boldly trample on our poor fellow-citizens. But all is for the Protestant cause.

The same ruling principle explains the rest. We have abdicated the crown of Corsica, which had been newly soldered to the crown of Great Britain and to the crown of Ireland, lest the British diadem should look too like the Pope's triple crown. We have run away from the people of Corsica, and abandoned them without capitulation of any kind in favour of those of them who might be our friends; but then it was for their having capitulated with us for Popery, as a part of their constitution. We made amends for our sins by our repentance, and for our apostasy from Protestantism by a breach of faith with Popery. We have fled, overspread with dirt and ashes, but with hardly enough of sackcloth to cover our nakedness. We recollected that this island (together with its yews [n8] and its other salubrious productions) had given birth to the illustrious champion of the Protestant world, Bonaparte. It was therefore not fit (to use the favourite French expression) that the cradle of this religious {421} hero should be polluted by the feet of the British renegade slaves who had stipulated to support Popery in that island, whilst his friends and fellow-missionaries are so gloriously employed in extirpating it in another. Our policy is growing every day into more and more consistency. We have showed our broad back to the Mediterranean; we have abandoned, too, the very hope of an alliance in Italy; we have relinquished the Levant to the Jacobins; we have considered our trade as nothing; our policy and our honour went along with it. But all these objects were well sacrificed to remove the very suspicion of giving any assistance to that abomination the Pope, in his insolent attempts to resist a truly Protestant power resolved to humble the Papal tiara, and to prevent his pardons and dispensations from being any longer the standing terror of the wise and virtuous Directory of Ireland; who cannot sit down with any tolerable comfort to an innocent little job, whilst his bulls are thundering through the world. I ought to suppose that the arrival of General Hoche is eagerly expected in Ireland; for he, too, is a most zealous Protestant, and he has given proof of it, by the studied cruelties and insults by which he put to death the old Bishop of Dol [n9] whom (but from the mortal fear I am in lest the suspicion of Popery should attach upon me) I should call a glorious martyr, and should class him amongst the most venerable prelates that have appeared in this century. It is to be feared, however, that the zealots will be disappointed {422} in their pious hopes by the season of the year and the bad condition of the Jacobin navy, which may keep him this winter from giving his brother Protestants his kind assistance in accomplishing with you what the other friend of the cause, Bonaparte, is doing in Italy; and what the masters of these two pious men, the Protestant Directory of France, have so thoroughly accomplished in that, the most Popish, but unluckily, whilst Popish, the most cultivated, the most populous, and the most flourishing of all countries - the Austrian Nether- lands.

When I consider the narrowness of the views, and the total want of human wisdom displayed in our western crusade against Popery, it is impossible to speak of it but with every mark of contempt and scorn. Yet one cannot help shuddering with horror when one contemplates the terrible consequences that are frequently the results of craft united with folly placed in an unnatural elevation. Such ever will be the issue of things when the mean vices attempt to mimic the grand passions. Great men will never do great mischief but for some great end. For this, they must be in a state of inflammation, and, in a manner, out of themselves. Among the nobler animals, whose blood is hot, the bite is never poisonous, except when the creature is mad; but in the cold-blooded reptile race, whose poison is exalted by the chemistry of their icy complexion, their venom is the result of their health, and of the perfection of their nature. Woe to {423} the country in which such snakes, whose primum mobile is their belly, obtain wings, and from serpents become dragons. It is not that these people want natural talents, and even a good cultivation; on the contrary, they are the sharpest and most sagacious of mankind in the things to which they apply. But, having wasted their faculties upon base and unworthy objects, in anything of a higher order they are far below the common rate of two-legged animals.

I have nothing more to say just now upon the Directory in Ireland, which, indeed, is alone worth any mention at all. As to the half-dozen (or half-score as it may be) of gentlemen, who, under various names of authority, are sent from hence to be the subordinate agents of that low order of beings, I consider them as wholly out of the question. Their virtues or their vices, their ability or their weakness, are matters of no sort of consideration. You feel the thing very rightly. All the evils of Ireland originate within itself. That unwise body, the United Irishmen, have had the folly to represent those evils as owing to this country, when, in truth, its chief guilt is in its total neglect, its utter oblivion, its shameful indifference, and its entire ignorance of Ireland, and of everything that relates to it, and not in any oppressive disposition towards that unknown region. No such disposition exists. English Government has farmed out Ireland, without the reservation of a pepper-corn rent in power or influence, public or individual, to the little narrow {424} faction that domineers there. Through that alone they see, feel, hear, or understand, anything relative to that kingdom. Nor do they any way interfere, that I know of, except in giving their countenance, and the sanction of their names, to whatever is done by that junto.

Ireland has derived some advantage from its inde- pendence on the Parliament of this kingdom, or rather, it did derive advantage from the arrangements that were made at the time of the establishment of that independence. But human blessings are mixed, and I cannot but think that even, these great blessings were bought dearly enough when, along with the weight of the authority, they have totally lost all benefit from the superintendence of the British Parliament Our piide of England is succeeded by fear. It is little less than a breach of order even to mention Ireland in the House of Commons of Great Britain. K the people of Ireland were to be flayed alive by the predominant faction, it would be the most critical of all attempts, so much as to discuss the subject in any public assembly upon this side of the water. If such a faction should hereafter happen, by its folly or its iniquity, or both, to. promote disturbances in Ireland, the force paid by this kingdom (supposing our own insufficient) would infallibly be employed to redress them. This would be right enough, and indeed our duty, if our public councils at the same time possessed and employed the means of inquiring into the merits of that cause, in which their blood and treasure were to be laid out. By a strange inversion of

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 426

the order of things, not only the largest part of the natives of Ireland are thus annihilated, but the Parlia- ment of Great Britain itself is rendered no better than an instrument in the hands of an Irish fctction. This is ascendency with a witness ! In what all this will end it is not impossible to conjecture, though the exact time of the accomplishment cannot be fixed with the same certainty as you may calculate an eclipse.

As to your particular conduct, it has undoubtedly been that of a good and faithful subject, and of a man of integrity and honour. You went to Ireland this last time, as you did the first time, at the express desire of the English minister of that department, and at the request of the Lord-lieutenant himself You were fully aware of the difficulties that would attend your mission; and I was equally sensible of them. Yet you consented, and I advised, that you should obey the voice of what we considered an indispensable duty. We regarded, as the great evil of the time, the growth of Jacobinism, and We were very well assured that, from a variety of causes, no part of these countries was more fiivourable to the growth and progress of that evil than our unfortunate country. I considered it as a toler- ably good omen that Government would do nothing further to foment and promote the Jacobin malady that they called upon you, a strenuous and steady Koyalist, an enlightened and exemplary clergyman, a man of birth and respectable connexions in the country, a man well- informed and conversant in State affairs, and in the

426 A LETTER TO THE 1796.

general politics of the several courts of Europe, and in- timately and personally habituated in some of those courts. I regretted indeed that the ministry had de- clined to make any sort of use of the reiterated infor- mations you had given them of the designs of their enemies, and had taken no notice of the .noble and dis- interested offers which, through me, were made for employing you to save Italy and Spain to the British alliance. But this being past, and Spain and Italy lost, I was in hopes that they were resolved to put them- selves in the right at home, by calling upon you; that they would leave, on their part, no cause *or pretext for Jacobinism, except in the seditious disposition of in- dividuals; but I now see that, instead of profiting by your advice and services, they will not so much as take the least notice of your written representations, or permit you to have access to them, on the part of those whom it was your business to reconcile to Government^ as well as to conciliate Government towards them. Having rejected your services as a friend of Govern- ment, and in some sort in its employment, they will not even permit to you the natural expression of those sentiments which every man of sense and honesty must feel, and which every plain and sincere man must speak, upon this vile plan of abusing military discipline, and perverting it into an instrument of religious perse- cution. You remember with what indignation I heard of the scourging of the soldier at Carrick for adhering to his religious opinions. It was at the time when

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 427

Lord Fitzwilliam went to take possession of a short- lived Government in Ireland.

He could not live long in power, because he was a true patriot, a true friend of both countries, a steady resister of Jacobinism in every part of the world. On this occasion he was not of my opinion. He thought, indeed, that the sufferer ought to be relieved and dis- charged, and I think he was so; but, as to pimishment to be inflicted on the offenders, he thought more lenient measures, comprehended in a general plan to prevent such evils in future, would be the better course. My judgment, such as it was, had been that punishment ought to attach, so far as the laws permitted, upon every evil action of subordinate power, as it arose. That such acts ought at least to be marked with the displeasure of Government, because general remedies are uncertain in their operation when obtained; but that it is a matter of general uncertainty whether they can be obtained at all. For a time his appeared to be the better opinion. Even after he was cruelly torn from the embraces of the people of Ireland, when the militia and other troops were encamped (if I recollect right) at Loughlinstown, you yourself, with the knowledge and acquiescence of Government, publicly performed your function to the Catholics then in service. I believe, too, that all the Irish, who had composed the foreign corps taken into British pay, had their regular chaplains. But we see that things are returning fast to their old corrupted channels. There they will continue to flow.

428 A LETTER TO THE 1796.

If any material evil had been stated to have aiisen from this Uberty, that is, if sedition, mutiny, disobedi- ence of any kind to command, had been taught in their chapels, there might have been a reason for not only forcing the soldiers into churches where better doctrines were taught, but for punishing the teachers of disobedi- ence and sedition. But I haye never heard of any such complaint. It is a part, therefore, of the systematic ill- treatment of Catholics. This system never will be abandoned, as long as it brings advantage to those who adopt it. If the country enjoys a momentary quiet, it is pleaded as an argument in favour of the good effect of wholesome rigours. If| on the contrary, the country grows more discontented, and if riots and disorders multiply, new arguments are furnished for giving a vigorous support to the authority of the Directory, on account of the rebellious disposition of the peopla So long, therefore, as disorders in the country become pre- texts for adding to the power and emolument of a junto, means will be found to keep one part of it, or other, in a perpetual state of confusion and disorder. This is the old traditionary policy of that sort of men. The discon- tents which, under them, break out amongst the people, become the tenure by which they hold their situation.

I do not deny that in these contests the people, how- ever oppressed, are frequently much to blame; whether provoked to their excesses or not, undoubtedly the law ought to look to nothing but the offence, and punish it. The redress of grievances is not less necessary than the

1796. REV, DR, HUSSEY. 429

punishmeiit of disorders, but it is of another resort, ^n punishing, however, the law ought to be the only rule. If it is not of sufficient force; a force consistent with its general principles ought to be added to it. The first duty of a State is to provide for its own conservation. Until that point is secured it can preserve and protect nothing else. But, if possible, it has greater interest in acting according to strict law than even the subject himself. For, if the people see that the law is violated to crush them, they will certainly despise the law. They, or their party, will be easily led to violate it, whenever they can, by all the means in their power. Except in cases of direct war, whenever Government abandons law it proclaims anarchy. I am well aware (if I cared one farthing, for the few days I have to live, whether the vain breath of men blow hot or cold about me) that they who censure any oppressive proceeding of Government are exciting the people to sedition and revolt. If there be any oppression, it is very true, or if there be nothing more than the lapses which will happen to human infirmity at all times, and in the exercise of all power, such complaints would be wicked indeed. These lapses are exceptions implied, an allow- ance for which is a part of the understood covenant by which power is delegated by fallible men to other men that are not infallible; but, whenever a hostile spirit on the part of Government is shown, the question assumes another form. This is no casual error, no lapse, no sudden surprise; nor is it a question of civil or political

430 A LETTER TO THE 1796.

liberty. What contemptible stuff it is to say that a man who is lashed to church against his conscience would not discover that the whip is painful, or that he had a conscience to be violated, unless I told him so I ^ Would not a penitent offender, confessing his offence and expiating it by his blood, when denied the consolation of religion at his last moments, feel it cus no injuty to himself; or that the rest of the world would feel so honible and impious an oppression with no indignation, unless I happened to say it ought to be reckoned amongst the most barbarous acts of our barbarous times? Would the people consider the being taken out of their beds, and transported from their fEunily and friends, to be an equitable, and legal, and ch^table pro- ceeding, unless I should say that it was a violation of justice and a dissolution, pro tanto, of the very compact of human society? If a House of Parliament, whose essence it is to be the guardian of the laws, and a spDr pathetic protector of the rights of the people, and eminently so of the most defenceless, should not only countenance but applaud this very violation of all law, and refuse even to examine into the grounds of the necessity upon the allegation of which the law was so violated, would this be taken for a tender solicitude for the welfare of the poor, and a true proof of the representative capacity of the House of Commons, unless I should happen to say (what I do say) that the House had not done its duty, either in preserving the sacred rules of law, or in justifying the woefid and humiliating

1796. REV, DR. HUSSEY, 431

privilege of necessity? They may indemnify and reward others. They might contrive, if I was within their grasp, to punish me, or, if they thought it worth their while, to stigmatise me by their censures; but who will indemnify them for the disgrace of such an act? Who will save them from the censures of posterity? What act of oblivion viU cover them from the wakeful memory, from the notices and issues of the grand remembrancer - the God within? Would it pass with the people who suffer from the abuse of lawful power, when at the same time they suffer from the use of law- less violence of factions amongst themselves, that Govern- ment had done its duty, and acted leniently in not animadverting on one of those acts of violence, if I did not tell them that the lenity with which Government passes by the crimes and oppressions of a favourite faction was itself an act of the most atrocious cruelty? If a Parliament should hear a declamation attributing the sufferings of those who are destroyed by these riotous proceedings to their misconduct, and then to make them self-felonious, and should in effect refuse an inquiry into the fact, is no inference to be drawn from thence, unless I tell men in high places that these proceedings, taken together, form not only an encouragement to the abuse of power, but to riot, sedition, and a rebellious spirit, which, sooner or later, ‘^ill turn upon those, that encourage it?

I say little of the business of the potato field, because I am not acquainted with the particulars. If

432 A LETTER TO THE 1796.

any persons were found in arms against the king, whether in a field of potatoes, or of flax, or of turnips, they ought to be attacked by a military power, and brought to condign punishment by course of law. If the county in which the rebellion was raised was not in a temper fit for the execution of justice, a law ought to be made, such as was made witli regard to Scotland, in the suppression of the Eebellion of ‘45, to try the de- linquents. There would be no difficulty in convicting men who were found ^^JlagraTUo ddicte" But I hear nothing of all this. No law, no trial, no punishment commensurate to rebellion, nor of a known proportion to any lesser delinquency, nor any discrimination of the more or the less guilty. Shall you and l. find fault with the proceedings of France, and be totally in- different to the proceedings of Directories at home? You and I hate Jacobinism as we hate the gates of hell. Why? Because it is a system of oppression. What can make us in love with oppression because the syllables " Jacobin" are not put before the " ism" when the very same things are done under the *'ism" pre- ceded by any other name in the Directory of Ireland?

I have told you, at a great length for a letter - very shortly for the subject and for my feelings on it - my sentiments of the scene in which you have been called to act. On being consulted, you advised the sufierers to quiet and submission; and, giving Government full credit for an attention to its duties, you held out, as an inducement to that submission, some sort of hope of

1796. REV..DR, HUSSEY. 433

redress. You tried what your reasons and your credit would do to effect it. In consequence of this piece of service to Government you have been excluded from all communication with the Castle; and perhaps you may thank yourself that you are not in Newgate. You have done a little more than, in your circumstances, I should have done. You are, indeed, very excusable from your motives; but it is very dangerous to hold out to an irritated people any hopes that we are not pretty sure of being able to realise. The doctrine of passive obedi- ence, as a doctrine, it is unquestionably right to teach, but to go beyond that is a sort of deceit; and the people who are provoked by their oppressors do not readily forgive their friends, if, whilst the first persecute, the other appear to deceive them. These friends lose all power of being serviceable to that Government in whose favour they have taken an ill-considered step; therefore, my opinion is that, until the Castle shall show a greater disposition to listen to its true friends than hitherto it has done, it would not be right in you any further to obtrude your services. In the meantime, upon any new application from the Catholics, you ought to let them know, simply and candidly, how you stand.

The Duke of Portland sent you to Ireland, from a situation in this country of advantage and comfort to yourself, and no small utility to others. You explained to him, in the lelearest manner, the conduct you were resolved to hold. I do not know that your writing to

2 F

434 A LETTER TO THE 1796.

him will be of the smallest advantage. I rather think not; yet I am far from sure that you do not owe to him and yourself to represent to his Grace the matters which in substance you have stated to me.

If anything else should occur to me, I shall, as you ask it, communicate my thoughts to you. In the meaii- time, I shall be happy to hear from you as often as you find it convenient. You never can neglect the great object of which you are so justly fond; and let me b^ of you not to let slip out of your mind the idea of the auxiliary studies and acquirements which I recom- mended to you, to add to the merely professional pur- suits of your young clergy; and, above all, I hope that you will use the whole of your influence among the Catholics to persuade them to a greater indifiTerence about the political objects which at present they have in view. It is not but that I am aware of their im- portance, or that I wish them to be abandoned; but that they would follow opportunities, and not attempt to force anything. I doubt whether the privileges they now seek, or have lately sought, are compassable. The struggle would, I am afraid, only lead to those very disorders which are made pretexts for further oppression of the oppressed. I wish the leading people amongst them would give the most systematic attention to pre- vent frequent conmmnication with their adversaries. There are a part of them proud, insulting, capricious, and tyrannical These, of course, will keep -at a distance. There are others of a seditious temper, who

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 435

would make them at first the instruments, and in the end the victims, of their factious temper and purposes. Those that steer a middle course are truly respectable, but they are very few. Your friends ought to avoid all imitation of the vices of their proud lords. To many of these they are themselves sufficiently disposed. I should therefore recommend to the middle ranks of that description - in which I include not only all merchants, but all farmers and tradesmen - that they would change as much as possible those expensive modes of living, and that dissipation, to which our countrymen in general are so much addicted. It does not at all become men in a state of persecution. They ought to conform themselves to the circumstances of a people whom Government is resolved not to consider as upon a par with their fellow-subjects. Favour, they will have none. They must aim at other resources; and to make themselves independent in/oo^, before they aim at a nominal independence. Depend upon it, that, with half the privileges of the others, joined to -a diflferent system of manners, they would grow to a degree of importance, to which, without it, no privileges could raise them, much less any intrigues or factious practices. I know very well that such a discipline, among so numerous a people, is not easily introduced, but I am sure it is not impossible. If I had youth and strength, I would go myself over to Ireland to work on that plan; so certain I am that the well-being of all descriptions in the kingdom, as well as of themselves,

436 ¦ A LETTER TO THE 1796.

depends upon a reformation amongst the Catholics. The work will be new, and slow in its operation, but it is certain in its efiect. There is nothing which will not yield to perseverance and method. Adieu! my dear sir. You have fiill liberty to show this letter to all those (and they are but very few) who may be disposed to think well of my opinions. I did not care, so far as regards myself, whether it were read on the ‘Change; but with regard to you, more reserve may be proper; but of that you will be the best judge.

December 1796.


Letter to the Right Hon. Wm. Windham

My dear Friend,

. . . Ireland is in a truly unpleasant situation. The Government is losing the hearts of the people, if it has not quite lost them, by the falsehood of its maxims, and their total ignorance in the art of governing. The Opposition in that country, as well as in this, is running the whole course of Jacobinism, and losing credit amongst the sober people, as the other loses credit with the people at large. It is a general bankruptcy of reputation in both parties. They must be singularly unfortunate who think to govern by dinners and bows, and who mistake the oil which facilitates the motion for the machine itself. It is a terrible thing for Govern- ment to put its confidence in a handful of people of


fortune, separate from all holdings and dependencies. A full lev^e is not a complete army. I know very well that when they disarm a whole province they think that all is well; but to take away arms is not to destroy disaffection. It has cast deep roots in the* principles and habits of the majority amongst the lower and middle classes of the whole Protestant part of Ireland. The Catholics who are intermingled with them are more or less tainted. In the other parts of Ireland (some in Dublin only excepted) the Catholics, who are in a manner the whole people, are as yet sound; but they may be provoked, as all men easily may be, out of their principles. I do not allude to the granting or withholding the matters of privilege, etc., which are in discussion between them and the Castle. In themselvesi I consider them of very little moment, the one way or the other. But the principle is what sticks with me; which principle is the avowal of a direct, determined hostility to those who compose the in- finitely larger part of the people, and that part upon whose fidelity, let what will be thought of it, the whole strength of Government ultimately rests. But I have done with this topic, and perhaps for ever, though I receive letters from the fast friends of the Catholics to solicit Government here to consider their true interests. Neglect, contumely, and insult, were never the ways of keeping friends; and they add nothing to force against

an enemy. ... -r. t>

•^ Edm. Burke.

Bath, March. 30, 1796.

438 A LETTER TO 1797.


Letter to Dr. Laurence

My dear Laurence,

I AM satisfied that there is nothing like a fixed inten- tion of making a real change of system in Ireland; but that they vary from day to day as their hopes are more or less sangoine from the Lnttrellade. The system of military government is mad* in the extreme - merely as a system, but still worse in the mad hands in which it is placed. But my opinion is, that if Windham has not been brought into an absolute relish of this scheme, he has been brought off from any systematical dislike to it. When I object to the scheme of any military government, you do not imagine that I object to the use of the miltary arm in its proper place and order; but I am sure that so long as this is looked upon as prin- cipal, it will become the sole reliance of Government - and that from its apparent facility, everything whatso- ever belonging to real civil policy in the management of a people will be postponed,, if not totally set aside. The truth is, the government of Ireland grows every day more and more difficult; and, consequently, the incapacity of the jobbers there every day more and more evident; but as long as they can draw upon Eng- land for indefinite aids of men and sums of money, they

1797. DR, LAURENCE, 439

will go on with more resolution than ever in their jobbing system. Things must take their course.^ . . . Yours ever,

E. B.

Beaconsfibld, June 5, 1797.

^ Mr. Burke died on the 9th of July 1797, aged sixty-seven.



1. Dr. Murray was appointed Provost during Lord Fitzwilliam's Lieutenancy, in January 1795.

2. Dr. Bennet, promoted by the Earl of Westmorland to the see of Cork and Ross in 1790, and translated by him to that of Cloyne in 1794.

3. A Catholic soldier who had been ill-treated. See p.426.

4. Richard Burke junior.

5. The assembly of the Roman Catholics held April 9, 1795, in Francis Street chapel.

6. By the "Irish Directory," Mr. Burke means the Protestant ascendency party, then in power in Ireland.

7. Mr. Burke alludes to popular disturbances in Louth and Meath, and the very questionable means taken by the Irish Government to suppress them; to the attacks on the Catholics in Armagh by Orange- men; and probably to the ‘"Battle of the Diamond," in that county, in September 1795.

8. Sic tua Cyrnaeas fugiant examina taxos . Virg. Ecl. ix. 30.

9. In Bretagne.

[ close ]

[ top ]