Conor Cruise O’Brien, The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke (Sinclair Stevenson 1992), 692pp.

Wth Apps., index. and thematic index. Epigraph to preface: ‘American colonies, Ireland, France and India/Harried and Burke’s great melody against it.’ (Yeats, ‘The Seven Sages’)

Maria Cross: imaginative patterns in a group of Catholic Writers (1952); Parnell and His Party (1957); To Katanga and Back (1962); States of Ireland (1972); The Siege: the story of Israel and Zionism (1986); Passion and Cunning: Essays on Nationalism, Terrorism, and Revolution (1988) [e.g. ‘Virtue and Terror: Rousseau and Robespierre’]; God’s Land: Reflections on religion and nationalism (1988); edited Reflections on the Revolution in France (Penguin Classics 1968).

Besides the frontis. ill., Lord Rockingham and Edmund Burke, unfinished portrait by Reynolds (Fitzwilliam us., Cambridge); Ills. incl. Mrs Sheridan (Mansell Collection); Richard Burke (Earl Spencer/Nat. Portrait Gallery); Burke as Jesuit (cartoon, BML); Charles Fox and Edmund Burke, ‘The Wrangling Friends’, Cruikshank, BML).


Bibl. THD Mahoney, Edmund Burke and Ireland (Harvard 1960) [useful for Irish activities of the mature Burke but no more satisfactory than biogs. with regard to the nature of Burke’s family involvement with the Ireland of the Penal Laws]

CC O’Brien, paper, ‘Edmund Burke and the American Revolution’, in America and Ireland 1776-1976: The American Identity and the Irish Connection, Proceedings of the United States Bicentennial Conference of Cumann Merriman, Ennis, August 1976, ed David Noel Doyle and Owen Dudley Edwards (Greenwood P.); also in Scotland, Europe and the American Revolution, in New Edinburgh Review collection, ed O. D. Edwards and George Shepperson (Edin. 1976).

CC O’Brien, ‘Warren Hastings in Burke’s Great Melody’, in Geoffrey Carnall and Colin Nicholson, eds., The Impeachment of Warren Hastings, Papers from a Bicentenary Commemoration (Edin. UP 1988).

CC O’Brien, Nationalism and the French Revolution’, in The Permanent Revolution: The French Revolution and its Legacy, ed. Geoffrey Best (Fontana 1988).

William O’Brien, Edmund Burke and Ireland (Dublin 1924); THD Mahony, op. cit. [neither give adequate attention to the nature of Burke’s predicament]


O’Brien cites Isiaih Berlin’s praise of Vico’s concept of fantasia the ‘gift of imaginative insight that characterises gifted novelists’ and ‘without which, in his view, the past cannot be resurrected’. [xxxi]

The authority of the Whig interpretation undermined … oblique disparagement of Sir Lewis Namier [xxxiii]

CC O’Brien, Introd. to Matthew Arnold, Irish Affairs: Edmund Burke (Cresset P. 1988)

The ten-page entry on Burke in the Encyclopaedia Brit. (Chicago 1911), is by John Morley, Gladstone’s biographer.

John Morley, Edmund Burke: a historical study (1879).

In Namier, the Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (London 1929), that author disparages Burke’s notion of the dual cabinet. In England in the Age of the American Revolution (1930) he continues to treat him as the social inferior of his political colleagues, and therefore their sycophant. [xlv]

NC Phillips, ‘Edmund Burke and the County Movement 1779-1780, in Rosalind Mitchelson, ed., Essay in Eighteenth Century, from The English Historical Review: Burke ‘has suffered at the hands of the general historians, whose aspersions lose nothing in effect for being casual’ (p.301)

Harvey C Mansfield Jr., Statesmanship and Party Government: a study of Burke and Bolingbroke (Chicago UP 1965), refuses to treat the ‘double Cabinet’ literally but takes its rhetoric seriously. [li.]

Finlay Peter Dunne, Mr Dooley: ‘On Heroes and History’: ‘The further ye get fr’m any period the better ye can write about it. Ye are not subject to intrruptions by people that were there.’ [no source quoted, CC O’Brien, op. cit., p.lii]

Correspondence of Edmund Burke, gen. ed., Thomas Copeland: Vol. 1 ed. Copeland (1958); Vol. 2, ed Lucy Sutherland (1960); Vol. 3, ed. George G. Gutteridge (1961); Vol. 4, ed. John A. Woods (1963), Vol. 5, ed. Holden Furber assited by PJ Marshall (1965), Vol. 6, ed. Alfred Cobban and Robert A Smith (1967), Vol. 7, ed. PJ Marshall and John A Woods (1968), Vol. 8, ed. RB McDowell (1969), Vol. 9, ed. RB McDowell and John A woods (1970), Vol. X, INDEX (1978). [liv]

The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, gen ed., Paul Langford: vol 2, Party, Parliament, and the American Crisis, 1766-1774, ed. Paul Langford (1981); vol 5: India; 1: The Launching of the Hastings Impeachment, ed. P. J. Marshall; 2: India: Madras and Bengal 1774-1785, ed. Thomas Copeland (1981); vol 6: the launching of the Hastings Impeachment 1786-1788, ed. JP Marshall; vol 8: the French Revolution 1790-94, ed. L. G. Mitchell [‘a regrettable aberration which O’Brien especially castigates as a Namierite in The Great Melody]; vol 9: 1: The Revolutionary War; 2: Ireland, both ed. RB McDowell.

There are repetitions, viz, the insistence that the Writings and Speeches are dedicated to thomas copeland, and lix.

Gerald W Chapman, Edmund Burke: The Practical Imagination (Harvard UP) 1967). [Came to my attention after I had finished the basic draft, lxiii]

Harvey Mansfield, Jr., Selected Letters of Edmund Burke (Chicago UP 1984) [‘organised … around the great themes’] [p.lxv]

James K Chandler, Wordsworth’s Second Nature: A Study of the Poetry and Politics (Chicago 1984)

Wordsworth, ‘Genius of Burke! forgive the pen seduced/By spurious wonder and too slow to tell ..’ [p.lxvi]

The name ‘Richard Burke’ appears on the Convert Rolls for 1722, two years before the marriage of Edmund’s parents. None of his biographers considers the possibility that his father Richard Burke may have conformed to the established church … seven years before Edmund was born [3]

AT Power [untitled], in Endurance and Emergence, Catholics in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, ed. TP Power and Kevin Whelan (Dublin 1990), pp.100-127.

AT Power, [another title], in Brehons, Sergeants, and Attorneys: Studies in the Irish Legal Profession, ed. Daire Hogan and WN Osborough (Dublin 1991), pp.153-174.

Oddly, O’Brien refers to his Pelican Classics ed. of Reflections (London 1968), proofs of which he claims to have sent to Thomas Copeland, eliciting an assenting answer, 25 Apr 1968.

James Prior, Life and Character of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (Lon 1836), states that ‘an ancestor of Mr Burk’s family is said to have been Mayor of the city of Limerick in 1646.’ (n.p.) [5]

Louis Cullen, The Hidden Ireland: Reassessment of a Concept (Mullingar 1988): ‘in a period whn so many of the surviving Catholic Landlords conformed, conversion to Protestantism was free from the abhorrence it often arroused in the nineteenth [century]’ (n.p.), [5]

O’Brien tentatively identifies the Limerick Mayor as James Cotter; see Brian Ó Cuiv, ‘James Cotter, a Seventeenth Century Agent of the Crown’, in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. lxxxix (1959), pp.135-39.

Basil O’Connell, ‘Edmund Burke, Gaps in the Family Record’, Studies in Burk, vol. ix, no. 3 (1968), pp.946-49. [This item is labouriously repeated in full at the foot of pp.7, 8, and 9.]

‘The Letters of James Cotter, 1689-1720’, ed. William Hogan and Seán Ó Buachalla, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society xviii (1963). Cotter as arrested and sentenced on charge of raping a Quaker woman. Richard Burke was his lawyer in 1718. This is the first time his existence is heard of. [7]

Colum Kenny, The Exclusion of Catholics from the legal profession in Ireland’, Irish Hist. Studies, vol. xxv (Nov 1987), pp.337-57.

Archbishop Hugh Boulter: ‘We have had several who were papists, and on the road from London hither have taken the sacrament and obtained a certificate, and at their arrival here have been admitted to the bar. They likewise pretend that the children born after their conversion are not included in the clause [of the 1697 Act] about educating their children as Protestants, because they were not under fourteen at the time of their conversion: so that many of these converts have a papist wife who has mass said in the family and the children are brought up as Papists … Now this grievance is the greater here, because the business of the law from top to bottom is almost in the hands of these converts; when eight or ten Protestants are set aside, the rest of the bar are all converts; much of the greatest part of the attorneys, solicitors, deputy officers, sub-sheriff’s clerks are new converts; and the new Protestant are every day more and more working out the business of the law, which must end in our ruin.’ (Boulter’s Letters, Dublin and London, 1729) Boulter was primate but also Chief Justice and Deputy to the Lord Lieutenant. [11]

O’Brien quotes Yeats: ‘people that were/Bound neither to Cause nor to State/Neither to slaves that were spat on,/Nor to tyrants that spat,/The people of Burke and Grattan/That gave, though free to refuse -’, and he comments: I regret that for about ten years I allowed myself to be distracted, by such nonsense as is contained in the above lines, from the precise and piercing sense of the two lines which now supply the governing concept of this book’. And typically of the format of this book, he adds the awkward parenthesis, ‘see preface’. In reality the people of Burke and the people of Grattan were two distinct peoples, then in adversarial relation to one another ... (p.12)

Richard Musgrave describes Burke simply as ‘the son of a popish solicitor in Dublin’, Memoirs of the different rebellions in Ireland, from the arrival of the English; also a particular detail of that which broke out the 23rd of May 1798 … with a concise history of the reformation in Ireland; and considerations for the means of extending its advantages therein (Dublin 1801) (p.35) [12]

Louis M Cullen, ‘Catholics under the Penal Laws’, in Eighteenth Century Ireland (Dublin 1986), vol. I, pp.23-6; Catholic social classes under the Penal Laws’, in K Whelan and T Power, eds., Endurance and Emergence (Dublin 1990), pp.59-85. His view: ‘Overall, the impact of the Penal Laws has been exaggerated.’ [12]

O’Brien introduces the story of Philoctetes as ‘relevant here’: ‘The wound came early. I believe that it came with the humiliating discovery of his father’s having conformed, out of fear [and] the realisation that his own achievement would be based on the consequences of that act of conforming.’ And the resulting wound ‘took the form of a tremendous concentration of mental and spiritual energies in a lifelong struggle, not merely against the particular form of oppression which had wounded him in Ireland, but also against abuse of power in America, in India, and at the end, above all, in France. … the Yeats’s “it” and the object of the Great Melody. [13-14]

Arthur Samuels, Early Life, Correspondence and Diaries of Edmund Burke (Cambridge 1923). Later, O’Brien remarks in a note: ‘Samuels shows that Burke’s academic career could hardly have been more distinguished than it was, in the conditions of the day, and refutes the contrary view of earlier biographers … inspired in Samuel’s pleasant phrase ‘by a stimulating ignorance of conditions of academic distinction in Trinity College (Early Life, p.15).

Louis Cullen, The Emergence of Modern Ireland 1600-1900 (London 1981).

Kevin Whelan, ‘The regional impact of Irish Catholicism 1700-1900, in W Smyth and K Whelan, eds., Common Ground: Essays on the Historical Geogrphy of Ireland presented to T Jones Hughes (Cork 1988). Also K Whelan, ‘Catholic Mobilisation 1750-1855, in P. Bergeron and L. Cullen, eds., Cultute et Pratiques Politiquesen France et en Irlande XVIe-XVIIIe Siecle: Actes Du colloque de Marseille 28 Sept-2 Oct 1988. [15] On a later page O’Brien quotes this paper as describing the Nagles as part of ‘tha fusion of long-estabishd rural Catholic families, with close ties to the towns, and links with the continent and the new world, which backboned Irish Catholicism in the late eighteenth century. Prosperous, self-confident, well-educated, well-connected, aware of external ideas and motivations but firmly rooted in a stable—indeed, in some respects, archaic-rural society and culture.’ [18]

Basil O’Connell, ‘Burke’s reconciliation with his father’, in Burke Newsletter, II, vol. VIII, no. 2 (1966-67), pp.714-15. [Discusses Burke’s marriage to Miss Nugent]

Richard Nagle of Carrigacunna (fl. 1689) was James II Attorney-General and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons; Archbishop William King, in his The State of the Protestants … &c (Dublin 1699), says that Nagle ‘was at first dsigned for a Clergy-man, and educated among the Jesuits; but afterwards betook himself to the Study of Law, at which he arrived to a good Perfection, and was employed by many Protestants, so that he knew the weak Part of most of their titles’, giving instnces of his ‘malic and jesuitical principles’ which deprived many Protestants of their estates and ‘even put it out of the King’s power to pardon them’. The 2nd Earl of Clarendon wrote of Nagle as ‘a man of the best repute for learning, as wwe as honesty among that people’, but later thought him ambitious, covetous, and unreliable. See JS Clarke, The Life of James II, vol. II, published from the original Stuart manuscript in Carlton House London, 1816’. (p.411).

O’Brien establishes a further link with Nano Nagle, and cites Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (Dublin 1959).

Information on Burke’s probably instructor, Father Inglis, in Risteard Ó Foghludha, Cois na Bríde (Dublin 1937). [22]

Burke all his life retained an interest in the Irish language and its literature. He played an important part in the preservation of its monuments, and in rendering them accessible to scholars. In 1765 he discovered in the library of his friend Sir John Sebright at Beechwood, in Hertfordshire, some important early manuscripts in Irish. Realising their value, he borrowed them and sent them for evaluation to the Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin. Sebright later presented them to the college library. They are recognised as being the main foundation of the Library’s collection of Irish manuscripts. Catalogue of Irish MSS in the British Museum, intro. to Vol III. See WD Love, ‘Edmund Burke and the Irish Historiographical controversy, in History and Theory, II, pp.180-198; and Love, ‘Edmund Burke, Charles Vallancey, and the Sebright MSS’, in Hermathena XCV (1961), pp.33-35.

O’Brien finds ‘clear traces’ of a ‘deposit’ of Catholic instruction in Burke’s early letters, especially way of reproaching his Quaker friend Shackleton for his appeal to the intuitions of ‘inner light’. [25] He finds Burke more moved by the fate of those such as branches of the Nagles in Ireland who, through inadvisable decisions, had lost not their lives but their family fortunes. [28]

O’Brien has compared the different strategies in dealing with their backgrounds in Burke and Marx, see ‘Burke and Marx’, in New American review, vol. I, no. I (1966).

Burke founded the debating club and a miscellany, The Reformer, which he largely wrote, before taking his degree in 1748. Later: 13 numbers of the Reformer (28 Jan-21 April 1784)

There is a misplaced footnote—with no corresponding number in the body-text—at [31] [err.] It refers to the account, or absence of it, of Burke’ education and views on reform in Lecky’s History of Ireland.

At no time was Burke a stranger to what he was to describe in Reflections &c as ‘the politick well-wrought veil’ [33]

Musgrave’s Memoirs note that an apprentice of Richard Burke noticed that a year after Edmund had gone to the Temple he ‘seemed much agitated in his mind and that they they were alone, he frequently introduced religion as a topic of conversation’; he, the apprentice, believed that Burke was ‘become a convert to P- ‘; Burke’s father was ‘much concerned’ and had his brother in law Mr Bowen make ‘strict enquiry about the conversion of his son’, to the effect that Bowen reported he had been converted; ‘Mr Burke became furious, lamenting that the rising hope of his family was blasted, and that the expense he had been at in his education was now thrown away.’ Musgrave continued that ‘it was possible that Mr Burke, in the spring of his life … might have conformed to the exterior ceremonies of Popery, to obtain Miss Nugent, of whom he was very much enamoured; but it is not to be supposed, that a person of so vigorous and highly cultivated an understanding, would have continued under the shackles of that absurd superstitition.’ Musgrave describes the father in law, Christopher Nugent, as ‘a most bigoted Romanist bred at Douay in Flanders.’ (ibid.) [38]

Barrington on Musgrave, in The Ireland of Sir John Barrington, ed. H. Staples, (Lon 1968), p.245: ‘Sir Richard Musgrave who (except on the abstract topics of politics, religion, martial law, his wife, the Pope, the Pretender, the Jesuits, Napper Tandy and the whipping post) was generally in his sense[s], formed during those intervals a very entertaining addition to the company.’ [39]

NOTE that later [59], Musgrave is cited as asserting that Burke’s younger brother Richard was in Ireland in 1765-66 on his Edmund’ behalf distributing money to Whiteboys (Memoirs, p.8.) Basil O’Connell, in op. cit. (Irish Genealogist vol. 3, no. I, 1956, p.21), calls Musgravbe ‘biased, vindictive, and inaccurate’ but inclines to believe the assertion, alhough Copeland tells him that it was physically impossible to be there; yet he considers Musgrave had a reason to believe so, ‘and this becomes therefore an essential part of the investigation.’ He further thinks that the evidence persuasive to Copeland was planted by Edmund to protect his brother.’ O’Brien considers the allegations of the Burke’s fanning the flames of Whiteboyism extremely improbably on the basis of their class interests in common with the Nagles. [60]

Thomas Bartlett, ‘The townshend Viceroyalty of 1767-72, in Penal Era and Golden Age: Essays in Irish History 1690-1800, ed. Bartlett and DW Haton, Ulster Hist. Foundation (Belfast 1979), p.111: By the end of the viceroyalty, the Protestant oligarchy ‘had been broken’.

Burke’s school and college friend Shackleton was gulled into providing an account of his family life, which deeply incensed Burke by exposing him to further accusations of secret papacy [62-65]

Of the 1641 rebellion, Burke said, under suspicion of sympathy with the Jacobite cause: ‘That the Irish Rebellion of 1641 was not only (as our silly things called Historys call it) not utterly unprovoked but that no History, that I have ever read furnishes an Instance of any that was so provoke’, and that ‘in almost all parts of it, it has been extremely and most absurdly misrepresented.’ (Corr. II, pp.282, 284-5.)

Corresponding with a prominent Bristol citizen, Span, in regard to the preferability of one measure or another in ireland—a complete union or a little regulation in regard to removing tarriffs—Burke stated a principle: ‘However, it is a settled rule with me, to make the most of my actual situation; and not to refuse to do a proper thing, because there is something else more proper, which I am not able to do.’ (Corr. IIIp.434) [73]

If he was to alter his opinions for the convenience of remaining MP for Bristol, he should ‘only disgrace myself, without supporting, with the smallest degree of credit or effect, the cause you wished me to undertake. I should have lost the only thing which can make such abilities as mine of any use to the world now or hereaster; I mean that authority which is derived from an opinion, that a member speaks the language of truth and sincerity; and that he is not ready to take up or lay down a great political system for the convenience of the hour; that he is in parliament to support his opinion of the public good, and does not form his opinion in order to get into parliament, or to continue in it. (Corr., III, 435-36.)

O’Brien quotes a letter explaining the strategy behind the Catholic Relief Act of 1788 to one Unknown (Corr III, p.455), whom O’Brien conjectures may have been Sir Lucius O’Brien, who helped carry a similar measure through the Irish parliament. [76 and n.]

Burke’s management of the first repeal of the Penal Laws attracted the notice of the Catholic Committee, who voted to present him with 500, which he refused in a letter to John Curry, with the urging that the moneny be used ‘to give some aid to places of education for your own youth at home, which is indeed much wanted’. (14 Aug 1779, Corr. IV, 118-20.) O’Brien remarks that Burke was writing in the persona of a benevolent Protestant as Curry was writing on behalf of the Committee. [77]

O’Brien notes that Morley, in the Encyclopaedia article, understates Burke’s contribution to Catholic Emancipation in calling it ‘courageous advocacy’ when in fact it was a leading part in organising their repeal. [79n]

O’Brien quotes Burke’s justification of his views against the Penals Laws, put before the Bristol men, ending: ‘I vow to God I would sooner bring myself to put a man to immediate deeath for opinions at once, than to fret him with a feverish being, tainted with the jail-distemper of a contagious servitude, to keep him above ground an animated mass of putrefaction, corrupted himself, and corrupting all about him. (Guildhall speech, Sept. 1780; Works, II, pp.395-6.) Mahoney does not advert to this passage, which O’Brien identifies with the wound of Philoctetes. [p.82].

Cites verbatim the Oath of Conformity, 2. Anne, c, 3, ‘An act to prevent the further growth of Popery’. [84-85]

Francis Finegan SJ, ‘The Irish Convert Rolls’, in Studies vol. XXXVIII (1949), pp.72-82. The writer describes such a person as ‘a pervert’. [85]

Carl B Cone, Burke and the Nature of Politics: The Age of the American Revolution (Kentucky UP 1957).

Tract relative to the laws against Popery, prob. written 1761, [see Cone, supra, p.43]; not completed nor any part published in his lifetime, though fragments occupy some 70pp. in the Collected Works, dated 1764 (viz. Fragments of a Tract Relative to the Laws against Popery in Ireland, Works, 1899 ed., VI, 311. [40]

‘The happiness or misery of multitudes can never be a thing indifferent. A law against the majority of the people is in substance a law against the people itself; its extent determines its invalidity; it even changes its character as it enlarges its operations: it is not particular injustice, but general oppression; and can no longer be considered s a private hardship which might be borne, but spreads and grows up into the unfortunate importance of a national calamity. Now as a law directed against the mass of the nation has not the nature of a reasonable institution, so neither has it the authority: for in all forms of government the people is the true legislator; and whether the immediate and instrumental cause of the law be a single person or amny, the remote and efficient cause is the consent of the people, either actual or implied; and such consent absolutely essential to its validity. (Works, VI, 320). [41]

.. it suppses, what is false in fact, that it is in a man’s moral power to change his religion whenever his convenience requires it. If he be beforehand satisfied that our opinion is better than his, he will voluntarily come over to you, and without compulsion; and then your Law would be unnecessary; but if he is not so convinced, he must know tht it is his duty in this point to sacrifice his interest here to his opinion of his eternal happiness, else he could have in reality no religion at all. In the former case, therefore, as your Law would be unnecessary; in the latter it would be persecuting; that is, it would put your penalty and his ideas of duty in the opposite scales; which is, or I know not what it is, the precise idea of persecution.’ (Works, VI, 331) [42]

We found the people hereticks and idolators; we have, by way of improving their condition, rendered them slaves and beggars: they remain in all the misfortune of their old errors, and all the superadded misery of their recent punishment.’ (Works VI, p.341)

The great prop of this whole system is not pretended to be its justive or its utility, but the supposed danger to the State which gave rise to it originally, and which they apprehend would return if this system were overturned … (Works, VI, 355)

O’Brien treats of Burke’s resistance to the idea promulgated by the hyper-Protestants in Ireland that the Whiteboys were the creation of the Catholic gentry. [45]

He cites in a footnote the fact that the Annual Register was founded in 1758 to by Burke and the writer, publisher, and bookseller Robert Dodsley; and that it had an entry on ‘Rioters … called Levellers … likewise called Whiteboys, form their wearing shirts over their other cloaths, the better to distinguish each other by night’. Dodsley is also credited with suggesting to Dr Johnson that he should compile a dictionary. [45]

In illness, Johnson said: ‘That fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now, it would kill me.’ Retaled by Copeland, in ‘Johnson and Burke’, in Edmund Burke (1950), p.303. [47]

Remarks on William Hamilton, for whom Burke worked as secretary while the former was Secretary for Ireland, and who later appears to have purveyed a rumour that Burke was Jesuit educated in an attempt to embarrass him with Rockingham. [48-49]

William O’Brien, Edmund Burke as an Irishman (Dublin 1924, believes that ‘it cannot be doubted’ that the rumours were set in motion by Hamilton. (p.102) [49]

James S. Donnelly, ‘The Whitebo Movement 1761-65, Irish Historical Studis XXI, No. 81 (Mar 1981), p.25-54. [Donnelly shows that the Whiteboys were mostly a movement of labourers and craftsmen, with some priests and farmers, and finds that the insistent claim that rich Catholics were involved was a fabrication of the Protestant side.] [52]

Withdrawal by Clemnt XIII of papal recognition of the contemporary Jacobite Pretender—the leader of Forty five—Charles Edward (Bonnie Prince Charlie) in 1766 [53]

Rationale of Protestant campaign against Catholics: Catholic loyalty was becoming increasingly credible and was far worse and more insidious a danger to them that Catholic disloyalty had been .[53]

James Anthony Froude: he wrote that Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, judicially murdered at Clonmel in 1766, ‘was raised on the spot to an honoured place in the Irish martyrology. His tomb became a place of pilgrimage—the scene at which the Catholic Celt could renew annually his vow of vengeance against the assassins of Ireland’s saints. the stone which lay above his body was chipped in pieces by enthusiastic relic hunters.’ (the English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, 1888, vol II, p.310). O’Brien comments of Froude in a footnote: a fine writer but his views were distorted by his highly idiosyncratic judgement, as evidenced by … the source for this quotation. WEH Lecky, of Scottish descent, born near Dublin, ed. TCD, was one of the most generous-minded of Irish historians. He is perhaps best remembered for his five-volume History of england in the Eighteenth Century (London 1878-92), one purpose of which was to refute what he described as the anti-Irish calumnies of Froude; portions of this work were later published as History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (1892). [54n.]

See also Philip O’Connell, ‘The Plot against Father Nicholas Sheehy’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record CVII, fifth ser., 1967, pp.372-84; Maurice Bric, ‘Th whiteboy Movement 1760-1780, Tipperary Hist. and Society, ed. W. Nolan (Dublin 1985), pp.148-85. O’Brien refers to an article by Basil O’Connell already cited as stating that Fr. Sheehy’s sister married a Richard Burke, who we believe was the first cousin of Edmund.

On Burke’s correspondent Charles O’Hara in the Irish House of commons, see thomas Bartlett, ‘The O’hara’s of Annaghmore, c.1600-1.1800: Survival and Revival, in Irish Economic and Social History, vol. IX (Dublin 1982), pp.34-52. [57]

Yeats’s ‘it’ can be defined most simply as the abuse of power. [96]

Hoffman, ‘Edmund Burke, New York Agent: with his letters to the New York Assembly and intimate correspondence with Charles O’Hara 1761-1776 (Philadelphia 1956).

O’Brien notes that the American colonists were more intolerant of Catholicism than the English tories, viz, the Quebec Act of tolerance which the former called the Intolerable Act. [151n

In quoting a passage of impromptu oratory ending with the ‘stinging epigram: ‘at least to avoid a dull uniformity in mischiefl, and the unpitied calamity of being repeatedly caught in the same snare’ (Writings and Speeches, II, 410f), O’Brien remarks: To be able to reply to an objection on the floor of the House, in such a way that the reply blends into the texture and pattern of the prepared part of the speech and becomes indistinguishable from it, is a sure mark of a deep personal conviction. No party hack, however clever, could pull off a trick like that, in any age. [139]

‘It was English arms, but the English Constitution, that conquered Ireland. From that time, Ireland has ever had a general Parliament, as she had before a partial Parliament. You changed the people, you altered the religion, but you never touched form or the vital substance of free government in that kingdom. You deposed the kings; you restored them; you altered the sucession to theirs, as well as to your own crown; but you never altered their Constitution the principle of which was respected by usurpation, restored with the restoration of monarchy, and established, I trust, forever by the glorious Revolution. This has made Ireland the great and flourishing kingdom that it is, and, from a disgrace and burden intolerable to this nation, has rendered her a principal part of our strength and ornament.’ (Works, II, p.147.) O’Brien comments on this quotation from ‘On Conciliation’: Burke enter[] into the frame of mind of an English Whig, … and even offers us an idyllic view of Ireland, as it might appear to a Whig constitutional lawyer, who had never visited the place, and who accepted the penal laws as perfectly in order. … Burke here temporarily talk himself out of existence. The metaphor of the Great Melody is not applicable to this passage [152] NOTE: O’Brien later writes: this is a persona he assumes at times of stress, as in the ‘Ireland’ passage of ‘Conciliation … &c’. [201]

O’Brien quotes these aphorism, among others, as instances of gravitas in the speech On Conciliation: ‘If youdo not succeed, you are without resource; for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left.’ ‘I do not know a method of drawing up an indictment against an whole people’. ‘Man acts from adequate motives relative to his intrest and not on metaphysical speculations.’ [153]

On the Burke-Fox relationship, O’Brien says: Burke plays second fiddle to a first violin he himself had trained; the relationship , so far as I know, is unique in political history. It is Fox who aplies to each new situation the Burkean principles, and it is Burke who backs him up with the necessary historical facts or figure … [PARA] There is no sign that Burke resented this relationship [160]

Incensed when the king ordered the church services and public fast in support of the American war, Burke said in Parliament: ‘Till our churchs are purifid from this abominable service, I shall consider them, not as the temples of the Almighty, but the synagogues Satan.’ (Parl. Hist. xviii, 1442-44.) [62]

Of Burgoyne, who capitulated at Saratoga, 17 Oct. 1777: Burgoyne’s proclamation explicitly threatening the use of his Indian allies against the settlers, many of whom hitherto had been nutral, caused them to embody as militia and rally to the aid of the revolutionary army, in overwhelming the British forces. There is a copy of this proclamation in the museum at Bennington, Vermont, and even today its unctuous ferocity can still chill the blood. Burgoyne threatened to use the Indians, not just against the rebels, but against any settler families who should fail to assist his army. That was the treat that doomed his army. [169] Burke raised a motion ‘relative to the Military Emploment of Indians in the Civil War with America’, and said: ‘the fault of employing [Indians] did not consist in their being of one colour or another; but in their way of making war: which was so horrible, that it not only shockd the manners of all civilised nation but far exceeded the ferocity of any other Barbarians that have been recorded either by ancient or modern history’. On the claim that great care had been taken to prevent indiscriminate murder, he comment, that if so ‘their employment could have answered no purpose; their only effeective use consisted in that cruelty which was to be restrained.’ (Commons, 6 Feb 1778). Horace Walpole mentioned the speech of the 6th Feb. as the chef d’ouevre of Burke’s orations, in which he called Burgoyne’s talk with the Indians the ‘sublimity of bombast absurdity’, Burgoyne calling on the seventeen Indian nations not the scalp men, women, children alive, but promising to pay for the scalps of the dead; Burke comparing this to setting the gentle lions and tenderhearted hyaena’s of Tower Hill loose with instructions not to hurt men, women, or children.’[170] NOTE: O’Brien later adds a quotation from the correspondence of George III with the note that the king had long urged the greater ferocity in crushing the Americans … recommend[ing] ‘the mode of war best calculated to end this combat as most distressing to the Americans’ [i.e., use the Indians]. [209]

Burke to Chas. O’Hara: ‘One thing is fortunate for ou, though without any merits of your own, that the Liberties (or what shadows of Liberty there are) of Ireland have been saved in America.’ (31 Dec 1765, at successful resistance to Stamp Act. NOTE: O’Hara died in 1776, depriving us of a listening post for Burke on Ireland thereafter.

The Catholics especially the Hierarchy took advantage of Protestant, dissenter, support for America by declarations of loyalty to the crown. [176] However, Gaelic poems have survived celebrating Washington’s early victories [n.]

Burke never alluded to the Irish Volunteers directly. [178] With what O’Brien calls ‘the lucidity of fascinated malice’, Walpole put his finger on the nub of the matter: ‘The Irish have 28,000 men in arms … I dare say that Mr Edmund Burke does not approve of these proceedings, for [179] the 28,000 are all Protestants.’ (Oct 1779; Corr., vol. 28, p.469)

Volunteers celebrated 4 Nov and 12 July—William’s birthday and the Boyne. [179] O’Brien argues that Burke will have seen in the Volunteers signs of Protestant anti-Catholic and anti-Jacobite vigilante-ism.

On the limits of Catholic loyalty: Maurice R. O’Connell, Irish Political and Social Conflict in the Age of the American revolution (Phil. 1965) [quotes extensively from the papers of Richard O’Connell, an officer in France, and his cousin Maurice, at Derrynane, and called by O’Brien the most illuminating book that exists on the politics of the Ireland of this period. O’Brien cites other writings on the Volunteers, especially in The Irish Sword, viz, Padraig Ó Snódaigh, ‘Some Police and Military aspects of the Irish Volunteers, I. Sword XIII, 1978, pp.217-229; Peter Smyth, ‘Our Cloud-Capt Volunteers: the Volunteers as a Military Force’ (I. Sword, 1978, p.185-207); but also Thomas Bartlett & DW Hayton, eds., Penal Era and Golden Age: Essays in Irish History, 1690-1800 (Belfast 1979), pp.113-136. And earlier work is Rev. Patrick Rogers, The Irish Volunteers and Catholic Emancipation (London 1934).

Rockingham armed and equipped his tenants at Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow, renamed the Rockingham volunteers. [189]

Burke … had schooled himself over many years to tell as little as possible about this painful and dangerous subject [penal laws in Ireland] … the mask he had was accustomed to wearing in these matters had become also a gag. [191]

With 50,000 men in arms under Charlemont, Grattan led the agitation; he said that an MP ‘was the servant of his constituents, whose commands he was bound to obey … &c’, the very opposite of Burke’s doctrine.[192] The Irish Houses capitulated the the mob backed demand for a Free Trade amendment.

O’Brien focuses on a phrase of Burke, regarding the ‘spirit, the resentment and resolution of the Irish nation … whether already in actual existence, or in embryo’, which he takes as a sign of his gagging at the notion of using nation excusively for the Protestants, as that party in Ireland were then accustomed to doing. [193-94]

Burke wrote to Edmund Sexton Pery, Speaker of Irish House of Commons, Aug. 1778, encouraging him to ‘complete the design’ now that they were ‘beginning to have a country’. He gave assurances of resisting any parliamentary attempt in Britain to derogate the best interests of Ireland, but in O’Brien’s view gives notice that he will resist independence for exclusively Protestant Ireland. [195] On the day when Lord North caved in to the Free trade demands (15 Dec. 1779), The Dublin Evening Post reported the ‘almost unaccountable conduct of the Opposition … our Countryman Edmund Burke endeavoured to rais every obstacle to prevent their being carried through the House—but finding every means ineffectual, stole awa mute, and was followed by the whole squad’. (23 Dec 1779; quoted in M. R. O’Connell, op. cit., p.198) [196]

On 19 apr. 1780 Grattan introduced the Resolution for Legislative Independence: ‘.. that his most excellent Majest by and with the consent of the Lords and Commons of Ireland are [sic] the only power competent to enact laws to bind Ireland.’ In the Memoirs, by his son, where this is reported, Grattan is quoted as saying ‘I brought on the question [of leg. ind.] the 19th April 1780—that was a great da for Ireland—that day gave her liberty!’ (Memoirs of the Life and Times, &c., by his son, London 1849, vol. II, p.39.) That resolution was defeated through a negative amendment by 136 to 97.

The Irish Mutiny Bill implied that the British Mutiny Bill was not sufficient to deal with Ireland [199]

O’Brien is, throughout this discussion, relying exclusively on MR O’Connell as his source of the narrative. He stops off in a note to tell is that class conflicts are brilliantly analysed my him in op. cit., chp. on ‘The failure of radicalism in 1780’, and garnishes his own argument with such fairly immaterial quotations as the assertion ‘th Dublin mob “showed no signs of being over excited by the debate”.’ [198]

Grattan: ‘war was the only time for obtaining concessions from England; it was while she was weak that she would grant Ireland her freedom’ (MR O’connell, Irish Politics, p.225); anticipating Wolfe Ton’s ‘England’ difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.’ [198]

In Parl. Hist., xxl, 1293-1305, Burke is quoted as showing a determined opposition to Irish legislative independance [distrusting the Protestant nation] saying, in the debate on the omission of the word ‘Ireland’ from the Mutiny Act: ‘thus one star, and that the brightest ornament of our orrery [America], having ben suffered to be lost, those who were accustomed to inspect and watch our political heavens, ought not to wonder that it should be followed by the loss of another: ‘So star would follow star, and light light/Till all was darkeness and eternal night.’ [200]

~This is very nearly the heart of O’Brien’s argument in so far as it shows Burke in a good light, defending the interests of the Irish Catholics under the English crown. O’Brien comments: ‘Burke was now committed to defending American independence in America while opposing [it] in his own country. This puzzled contemporaries, including Fox … [But] Grattan’s demand for ‘independence’ for ‘Ireland’ is bogus; it means freedom, not for a people, but for a dominant caste … perpetuat[ing] its domination over the disenfranchised and oppressed Catholic majority … Burke never explicitly articulated this distinction in a parliamentary debate. [201]

Between Saratoga and Yorktown … a battle of wills between George III and Edmund Burke. [202]

While dealing with Burke’s tussles with G III, th ensuing pages also cover his entry into parliament as representative for Rockingham’s borough of Malton. [200-220]

George III’s draft abdication, following Lord North’s warning that ‘the Prince on the Throne cannot, with Prudence, oppose the deliberate resolution of the House of Commons’. [226]

William Petty (1612-87), founder of the Shelb[o]urne family fortunes, acuqird enormous wealth and vast estates in Co. Kerr through services to Cromwell. Lord Shelbourne, the premier in 1782, recorded his own self-esteem in his Memoirs, cited in Fitzmaurice, Shelburne, vol. I: ‘Good-breeding within my own family, which made part of the feudal system, but out of it nothing but those uncultivated undisciplined manners which make all Irish society so justly odious all over England.’ [235]

Resolutions of the Irish Volunters, Dungannon Convention, Feb. 1782: ‘Resolved that we hold the right of private judgement in matters of religion to be equally sacred in others as in ourselves’; Resolved, there, that as men and as Irishmen, as Christians and as Protestants, wwe rejoice in the relaxation of the Penals Laws against our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects and that we conceive the measure to be fraught with the happiest consequences to the union and prosperity of the inhabitants of Ireland.’ (Quoted in Rogers, op. cit., p.70) [243]

Grattan’s son quotes Burke’s supposed response to the movement for legislative independence in Ireland: ‘Will no one speak to this madman? Will no one stop this madman Grattan? (Memoirs, vol. II, p.36.) [244]

In the second half of 1782, Grattan’s chief rival Henry Flood gained the ascendancy in the Independence movement by demanding that the British Parliament ‘renounce for ever any right to legislat for Ireland’ (O’Connell, op. cit. 333) [246], and Grattan had earlier driven on the point that ‘no body of men competent to bind this nation except the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland’ (Irish Commons, 19 Apr 1780; admitted as law by Rockingham admin., Brit. Parl Hist. xxiii, pp.35-48, 17 May 1782). [243]

Hervey, Lord Bristol, sought to have the Catholics of property enfranchised; Rogers (op. cit., p.120) shows that this measure was of limited importance as only 300 to 500 Catholics would thus be enfranchised. [247]

Burke is clearly concerned about the nature of the new Irish state. Fox wrote to Burgoyne: ‘The question is not whether this or that measure shall take place, but whether the Constitution of Ireland, which Irish patriots are so proud of having established, shall exist or whether the government shall be purely military, as ever it was under the Praetorian bands.’ (quoted in Rogers, op. cit., p.120). [248]

Wolfe Tone on the failure of the Irish Volunteer: ‘The Government seeing the Convention by their own act separate themselves from the great mass of the people who could alone give them effective force, held them at defiance; and that formidable assembly, which, under better principles, might have held the fate of Ireland in their hands, was broken up with disgrace and ignominy, a memorable warning that those who know not to render their just rights to others, will be found incapable of firmly adhering to their own.’ [250]

O’Brien remarks how subsequent generations of nationalists idealised the Volunteers as if their disarming had been the doing of a British government intrigue, and making them the model of physical force movements, from Davis onwards: ‘And vain were words till flashed the swords/Of the Irish Volunteers!’ (Davis) [251] In parenthesis he concludes, ‘The reason why nationalists idealise Grattan’s parliament is that the British got rid of it in 1800. A little later, O’Brien refers to Davis’s ‘vain were words’ dig at Daniel O’Connell. [253]

Burke, on Sir Philip Francis: ‘I decline Controversy with you; because I feel myself overmatched in a competition with such talent as yours.’

Reports in 1773 speak of Burke talking in parliament with ‘a vehemence uncommon amongst our modern Orators’, and of ‘the verbum ardens, or glowing expression of the Ancients’ in his speech. [264]

ON SIR PHILIP FRANCIS: Francis was appointed a member (or councillor) on the East India Regulating Act of 1773. Burke early spots is qualities: ‘I find that this Mr Francis is entirely [in the] interests of Lord Clive. Everything contributes to the Greatness of this Man, [273] who whether Government or the Company prevails will go near to govern India’ (Corr. , II, 472). … For all Burke’s tribute he had yet done little but hold minor government posts. O’Brien continues: ‘However, his pseudonymous writings, the Letters of Junius, ere the talk of British political world. The Ltters, a brilliant series of political polemics, appeared in the Public Advertiser between 21 Jan 1769 and 21 Jan 1772. they were mainly directed against the Duke of Grafton’s Administration from the point of view of a supporter of George Greville, and the political argument is on a high intellectual level. But Junius’s readers were less interested in political argument than in damaging personal allegations, couched in a tone of silky menace, which intersperse the argument and lend spice to it. Politicians read Junius with bated breath, in fear of what might be coming next. [PARA] The Letters are superbly written—some of the finest writers of the time, including Burke, are among those credited with the authorship. But the identity remained in dispute until, in 1962, Alvar Ellegaard, on the basis of statistico-linguistic tests, established conclusly that Junius was Francis. One of the targets was the distinguished soldier Draper (1721-87), conquer of Manila and a personal friend of Francis’s father, Dr. Philip Francis, an eminent classicist. Two others were John Calcraft (1726-1772) and Welbore Ellis (1713-1802), both benefactors of Francis. Francis’s outwardly good relations with these two mn tended to invalidate the hypothesis that he was the author. The politician and writer John Wilson Croker dismissed the ‘Franciscan’ hypothesis on the grounds that if Francis was Junius, he must have been a ‘monster of treachery’, which Croker thought improbable. One wonders what Croker would have thought had he known that a few days after ceasing to write his Letters, Francis had writtenn to his printer, “Having nothing better to do, I propose to entertain myself and the public by torturing that bloody wretch Barrington.”‘ O’Brien goes on to relate that Francis was in receipt of letters from his father reporting sadly the effect of the Letters on Draper, never suspecting that his son was their author. (Memoirs, I, 220). Francis’s Memoirs, 3 vols, ed. by Joseph Parkes and Henry Merivale (London 1867), are full of feints such as his stated suspicion, in a letter to Macrabie, 17 June 1790, that Burke is Junius; even more cunning insistence the Burke behaves like someone who would wish to be believed to be the author of the Letters (Memoirs, I, 243, 219). Dr Johnson is reported in Boswell’s Life as having received an unsolicited denial from Burke that he was the author (in 1779). Chief Justice Lord Mansfield also gave an account in which he imputed a blackmail motive. O’Brien quotes Letter LXIX, the last, and calls it a piece of moralising a la Joseph Surface. He considers that in getting the political plum of Council office, he was being rewarded for the cessation, in view of a decision made by George III, who is shown to have learned the identity of Junius from David Garrick who had it from the printer, HS Woodfall. O’Brien refines the blackmail theory with the observation that, at the death of Grencille in 1770, the Junius author had to turn to something else to exercise his acknowledged power. One of the characteristics which made Junius so talked about was the extreme audacity of his attacks on George III, viz., Letter XXXV (19 Dec. 1769): ‘Sir, it is th misfortune of your life, and originally the cause of every reproach and distress, which has attended your government, that you should never have been acquainted with th language of truth, until you heard it in the complaints of your people.’ The letter ends: ‘.. be warned by their [the Stuarts] example; and, while he plumes himself upon the security of his title to the crown, should remember that, as it was acquired by one revolution, it may be lost by another.’ Prosecution against the printer failed. O’Brien: it seems that Francis decided in lat 1771 to go out of business as Junius, and cash in on the enormous nuisance-value he had accumulated. … He arranged for a collected Letters and leaked to Garrick an intention to write no more, which, when tally-taled to George III, was followed by a more venomous letter than ever. If he was to go out of business, it would be at his own price. His grandson H. R. Francis (Junius Revealed, 1894), believed on the strength of family tradition that this was the reason for the plum India Council job. O’Brien rounds off: the Philip Francis who landed at Calcutta on 19 Oct. 1774 was a dangerous and unscrupulous man. But he was to find a man awaiting him there who was even more dangerous and unscrupulouos than he was. [273-280] BIBL: Editions quoted by O’Brien are, Letters of Junius, ed. Everett; and Letters of Junius, ed. Cannon.

FRANCIS & HASTINGS: The ensuing narrative introduces Francis as the prime mover in the impeachment of Hastings, especially in connection with the torturing of the eunichs—businessmen—of the Begums (or dowagers) of Oudhe, a sort of pocket kingdom under his control and certainly bereft of its rajah. Ouhe was, for Francis ‘the principal theatre of his [Hastings] iniquities.’ [289] At the centre of the affair was Nuncomar—or Nundakumar—who turned informer against Hastings. Under pressure of himself being imprisoned, Francis abandoned Nuncomor to the fate pursuant on his being successfully prosecuted for much earlier forging a bond, and Nuncomor was executed. In the process, Francis sent his petition for mercy to the common hangman to be burned, thus disassociating himself publically. As Owen Dudley Edwards puts it, ‘Junius had no interest in posterity.’ (See Carnell and Nicholson, eds., Impeachment of Warren Hastings (Edinburgh 1989). For the next six years Francis offered a show of subordination. Hastings decided to provoke a duel, ostensibly occasioned by an adverse vote in Council. Hastings was sent home with a ball in his side. [He survives.] Hastings conducts the Mahratta war, ending military opposition to the British in India. Francis reaches Dover 18 Oct 1781.

Macauley’s account of Hastings was printed in Edinburgh Review, Oct. 1841.

NOTE: Roger Casement, who was to do or the Congo in the early twentieth century very much what Burke did for India in the eighteenth was also a driven man. [304]

O’Brien makes the point that, whereas the Mahratta war was the ‘saving of India’ to an Englishman, Burke was thinking of the ordinary Indian, since a fusion had taken place in his mind between India and Ireland.

BURKE & FRANCIS: O’Brien speaks of the ‘affected jocularity’ which infuses Burke’s letters to the man with whom he was yoked for nine years during the pursuit of Hastings. ‘I believe he was distastefully aware that Francis was Junius, but that he tried to suppress that awareness … the awareness shows, in the forced cordiality of those letters. [304] After Francis had returned … he became the Select Committee’s chief witness. [311] It is often suggested that Burke’s mind was poisoned by the rancorous Francis [313]

Having contextualised the impeaachment of Warren Hastings in relation to Burke’s hidden concerns for Ireland, O’Brien offers a superb interpretation of the speech 1 Dec 1783 on Fox’s India Bill, aiming to end the autonomy of the East India company. [316-329] O’Brien’s concept of the Great Melody permits him the regard the celebrated eulogy of Fox—considered by contemporaries the finest part of the speech—as less than the true note. [328]. ‘[H]e has put to hazard his ease, his security, his interest, his power, even his darling popularity, for the benefit of a people whom he has never seen. This is the road that all heroes have trod before him. … He will remember, that obloquy is a necessary ingredient in the composition of all true glory: he will remember that it was not only in the Roman customs, but it is in the nature and constitution of things, that calumny and abuse are essential parts of triumph.’ To this and more, O’Brien says: ‘The falsities are obvious.’ It is a question of having an ear, and I believe him to be right. [329]

The fall of the Fox-North coalition, following the successful passage of Fox’s India Bill in the Commons, was occasioned by the King’s outright opposition to it as communicated in the form of threats of state enmity to the Lords, who did not pass it. The episode serves to demonstrate the workings of the Double Cabinet. [331]

O’Brien quotes one WT Laprade (1916) on the subversions of constitutionality involved in the overthrow of the coalition: ‘The overthrow &c and the accession of Pitt were the results of a carefully prearranged plan which was exceptional in character, even at that time of irregular political methods.’ (Eng. Hist Review. xxxi). [333] Though repeatedly outvoted, Pitt advised the King against a dissolution. [334]

O’Brien calls 1784 the nadir of Burke’s political fortunes, following a loss of 89 seats to the coalition, and ‘deeply depressing’. [336]

O’Brien has a footnote on Cornwallis in which he cites with something like approbation the Chambers Biogr. Dict. notice which says he distinguished himself in India in his efforts to promote the welfare of the natives, and that in Ireland he put down the rebellion of 1798 with ‘a rare union of vigour and humanity.’ [350]

Burke at Francis’s house in Sheen, with Fox, disagreeing about method of impeachment. O’Brien argues against the view that Francis can be seen ‘egging Burke on’ in the prosecution of Hastings. [352f] He portrays the psychology of a schemer and a traitor: ‘the Junius side was reconciled with the Numcomar side.’ [353]

Burke appears to have persuaded Pitt to proceed with the impeachment of Hastings [355]


~ Presiding was the Chancellor, Edward first Baron Thurlow, a friend of Hastings. Thurlow early gave notice that he did not intend to advise extending the concept of justice as he later affirmed that the matter must proceed on the strict law of evidence. This was tantamount to letting Hastings off the hook, since it was persuasion not proof that Burke must rely on. For this reason, Burke decided to use the torture details which caused such a sensation. The only point of connection with Hastings was that the tax farmer Devi Singh who perpetrated them, and who was on Dastings on account capable of any such a thing, was directly appointed by Hastings in his fiefdom.

Burke was to argue that the results of bribery of the Lords by Hastings party may take the form of the argument that the ordinary laws of evidence are to apply to an impeachment. [367]

Present at the speech was Fanny Burney. Her Fanny Burney’s diary for 13 Feb 1788 contains an account of Burke’s entrance at the scene of the impeachment which he managed for the House of Commons. Her affectionate awe for the man and her sympathy for Hastings in the case—she was lady in waiting to the queen, who was highly partial to Hasting’s side in the matter—struggle with each other. The bibl. note gives ‘Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, 1842-1846, 7 vols.; Vol IV, p.56. [362]

BURKE’S OPENING ADDRESS: ‘My Lords, the business of this day is not the business of this amn, it is not solely whether the prisoner at the bar be found innocent or guilt, but whether millions of mankind shall be made miserable or happy … .. the credit and honour of the British nation itself will be decided by this decision … whether the crimes of individuals are to be turned into public guilt and national ignominy, or whether this nation will convert the very offences which have thrown a transient shade upon its government into something that will reflect a permanent lustre upon the honor, justice, and humanity of this kingdom.. (Works, IX, 331)

Burke accuses Hastings of defending a ‘geographical morality’ such that they ‘unbaptise themselves of all their learned in Europe’ in crossing the Equator.

Burke:’We have brought before you the chief of the tribe, the head of the whole body of Eastern offenders, a captin-general of iniquity, under whom all the fraud, all the peculation, all the tyranny in India are embodied, disciplined, arrayed, and paid. … If you strike at him with a firm and decided arm of justice, you will not have need of a great many more examples. You strike at the whole corps, if you strike the head.’ [369]

Another auditor at three of the four days of Burke’s address was Edmund Malone, who wrote an account of it to Lord Charlemont: ‘I suppoe you have heard much of Burke’s astonishing performance on the business of Hastings. I had the good fortune to hear him on the first, second and fourth day; but could not get a ticket on the third, when he gave so pathetick a description of the torutures that had been practised in India. All the papers have made sad stuff of his most delicate touches, on a point of so nice a nature that nothing but the most consummate art could hav guarded him against ridicule.’ (Corr., V. 379.) Burke’s material is taken from Patterson’s report on the behaviour of the tax-collectors in Devi Singh’s fief to Hasting’s empire. [373]

Pitt’s negative attitude to Burke and the impeachment [378] Burke’s collegaues growing resentful of their involvement with it. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s diary records: ‘Sheridan who is heartily tired of Hastings trial, and fearful of Burke’s imptuosity says tht he wishes Hastings would run away and Burke after him.’ (Corr V, 7457, n.4) [379]

Burke defends the word ‘murder’, 4 May 1789. [381]

By the second half of 1789 the French Revolution already to replace India as Burke’s chief preoccupation. [383]


4 Nov. 1789, B. receives letter from young Parisian acquaintance Charles-Jean-Francois Dupont asking for assurance that ‘the French are worthy to be free, and that they will know how to distinguish liberty from licence ..’. [389] B. gently repudiates the notion that he inspired that kind of theory of freedom, and wrote [390]: ‘Permit me to continue our conversation and to tell You what the freedom is that I love and which I think all men intitld. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish Liberty. As if every man was to regulate the whole of his Conduct by his on will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is the state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of Restraint; a Constitution of things in which the liberty of no one Man and no body of Men and no Number of men can find Means to trespass on the liberty of any Person or any description of Persons in the Society. ... You are now to live in a new order of things; under a plan of Govt. of which no Man can speak from experience. &c’ [390] (Corr VI, 39-50)

O’Brien sharpens his criticism of L.G. Mitchel who makes the mechanical assumption that the wider the range of information availale to a person, the better informed that person is. … For Burke the question was not whether the information was or was not ‘readily available’ but whether it was true or false. [393]

The immediate occasion of the Reflections: Rev Richard Price, sermon at proceedings of The Revolution Society, a loyalist grouping in regard to 1688, expresses the ultra-Protestant view regarding the succession, but also moves a Congratulatory Address to the National Assembly in Paris on the assumption that the Revolution there was anti-Catholic in sentiment. [~395]

Through the chapter FRANCE 1789-91, O’Brien deals with Burke’s expression of his views on the revolution, chiefly in his Reflections, and with his gradual severence of friendship with Charles Fox, culminating in the exchange of speeches in the House of Commons during the debating on the Quebec Bill on the 21 Apr 1790.

NOTE: When Sheridan, then number three in the Whig party, said he flt it ‘a duty to declare that he differed decidedly from his right hon. friend in almost every word that he uttered respecting the French Revolution’, Burke curtly replied that ‘henceforth his hon. friend [Sheridan] and himself were separated in politics.’ (9 Feb. 1790; Parl. Hist., xxviii, 323-740 [398]

O’Brien remarks that the ‘most spectacular passage’ being that about the Queen as Burke saw her in 1773 has tended to given the impression that the whole consists in gorgeous rhetoric: There is in reality very little rhetoric, quantitatively speaking. Most of the book is mad up of plain and cogent argument. [402]

On the title page, both the Price and Dupont connections are alluded to, under the respective forms of ‘proceedings in certain societies in London’ and ‘a letter intended to have been sent to a Gentleman in Paris.’ [Burke prints the title page in its printed format, 401]

His apprehension of the role of armies in the late stages of the revolution, stated in Reflections, p.342, Penguin ed.): ‘.. There is no way of securing military obedience in this state of things. But the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master, the master (that is little) of your king, the master of your assembly, the master of your whole republic.’ [403]

In praise of ‘Circumstance’: ‘I think I envy librty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concers, on a simple view of the object, as it stands, stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to ever political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating efect. The circumstances are what every every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. &c’ (Penguin, 89-91) [405]

Burke recalls despoilation and murder at Versaille on the journées revolutionaires of 6 & 7th Oct. 1789. [406]

The Marie Antoinette passage written at early stage in composition.’It is now sixteen years … &c. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.—But the age of chivalry is gone.—That of sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyality to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of exalted freedom. the unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise are gone! it is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness. (Penguin ed. pp.169-170). [407]

Burke sent the manuscript drafts and part proofs to Philip Francis, who warned astringently against printing. He was especially caustic about the image of the Queen: ‘In my opinion all that you say about the Queen is pure fobbery’ (Corr. VI, 85-87). [408] Burke was especially stung by the reference to ‘this Foppery of mine’ and protested that it was sincerely felt emotion. He repudiated the notion that he was entering demeaning controversy with Price and Shelburne (his political master). In a further letter of 3 to 4 Nov., Francis sent a tactless letter to Burke with comments on the published Reflections. In it, he assigned the ‘plunder and pillage’ of history to the tyranny of the Catholic papacy, and to the usufructions of the celibate clergy and their monastic fiefdoms: ‘laid waste a province, and then founded a Monastary’; ‘provided as far as it could for the utter extinction of future populaion by instituting numberless retreats for Celibacy’; &c. [~410] Burke’s reply is sharp: ‘I am very much obliged to you for your kind resolution to defend by late Publication against your better judgement.’ (Corr., VI, 152-5. [410] It is in this context that he says, ‘I decline Controversy with you, &c’, a statement which O’Brien takes as a hint that he knows the identity of Junius. [411] Nevertheless, Burke so handled Francis that they remained allies in the impeachment proceedings. O’Brien notes a meekness in Francis’s relation to Burke, and concludes that his taming of Junius-Nuncomar-Francis is not the least remarkable of his achievements. Francis later wrote modestly of his contribution to the Ninth Report of the Section Committee [see 306 supra]: ‘.. indeed a masterpiece of human wisdom, the fact is I wrote a very small part of it, and, as to the composition, corrected the whole’. Yet ‘there is not one material principle or deduction in it which may not be fairly and honestly traced back to some antecedent opinions of my own, dilated on and expanded by a superior power. In some respect I am the acorn. But, if you want to see the oak in all its beauty, dignity, and strength, read the ninth report, the sole undbouted property of the commanding mastermind of Edmund Burke. &c.’ (Quoted in HR Francis, Junius Revealed, Lon 1894, p.29) [413]

QUARREL WITH FOX [414ff] Debate on Quebec Bill, re. Constitution of Canada, 21 April 1790. William Pitt stood to Burke’s defence on the charge of being out of Order, introducing such a topic. Fox ridicules Burke’s apparent inconstancy, and seems to encourage the house to interrupt him. As a consequence of stating the end of their friendship on the floor, Burke commences his uneasy alliance with Pitt. O’Brien quotes the Parliamentary History at great length in order to convey the drama and the niceties of personal communication involved in the episode. [c.427]


1791 tracts: Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (Paris, 27 Apr; London 21 May); Appeal from the New Whigs to the Old Whigs (London 3 August); 1792: Heads for Consideration on the Present State of Affairs (Dec 1792). The Appeal is strangely omitted from the French Rev. 1790-94 vol VIII of the Writings and Speeches. [431] In a footnote to [440], O’brien speaks of the delinquency of the editor, who may or may not bring the Appeal into another volume. After Vol VIII, anything may happen. O’Brien resorts to Works, IV, pp.6-215 in the Nimmo ed. of 1899.

The Letter to a Member, a sort of afterthought to Reflections, includes Burke’s great onslaught on Rousseau, whom the Assembly members are bent on imitating. ‘We have had the great professor and founder of the philosophy of vanity in England. As I had good opportunities of knowing his proceedings almost day to day, he left no doubt in my mind, that he entertained no principle either to influence his heart, or to guide his understanding, but vanity.’ (Writings, VIII, pp.312-316.) [435]

Burke predicts the execution of Louis: ‘[T]hey will assassinatethe king when his name will no longer be necessary to their designs; but not moment sooner. They will probably first assassinate the queen, whenever the renewed menace of such assassination loses its effect upon the anxious mind of an affectionate husband.’ (Writings, VIII, p.309) [437]

The Appeal specifically and directly defends Burke’s own consistency, speaking of him in the third person (that is ‘Mr Burke ..’); it was published anonymously. Appraising the defence, which he reproduces fully (Works, IV, 1899, pp.92-103) [440-46], O’Brien comments: ‘having read everything tht Burke is known to have writtn, and everything that he is recordd as having said, … I find this defence … fully justified.’ [446]

Burke’s most eloquent and profound passage in the Appeal is a defence of ‘natural aristocracy’ against levellers. ‘To be bred in a place of estimation; to see nothing low and sordid from one’s infancy; to be taught to respect oneself; to be baituated to the censorial inspection of the public eye; to look early to public opinion; to stand upon such elevated ground as to be enabled to take a large view of the wide-spread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society; to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; to be enabled to draw the court and attention of the wise and learned, wherever they are to be found; to be habituated in armies to command and to obey; to be taught to despise danger in the pursuit of honor and duty; to b form to the greatest degree of vigilance, foresight, and circumspection, in a state of things in which no fault is committed with impunity and the slightest mistaks draw the most ruinous consequences; to be led to a guarded and regultated conduct, from a sense that you are considered as an instructor to your fellow-citizns in their highest concerns, and that you act as a reconciler between God and man, and to be employed as an administrator of law and justice, and to be thereby amongst the first benefactors to mankind; to be a professor of high science, or of liberal and ingenious art; to be among rich traders, who from the success are presumed to have sharp and vigorous understandings, and to possess the virtues of diligence, order, constancy, and regularity, and to have cutivated an habitual regard to commutativ justice: these are the circumstances of men that form what I should call a natural aristocracy.’ (Works, IV, pp.174-176). [447-48]

The preface to the 2nd ed. of the Vindication of Natural Society (1st ed. 1756) drops the veil of irony and speaks of how the book was designed ‘to show that, without exertion of any considerable forces, the same engines which were employed for the destruction of religion might be employed with equal success for the subversion of government.’ O’Brien comments: Burk understood the long-term effects of the activity of the anti-Christian philosophes at a time when they themselves had no idea that they were subverting the State … [449] Burke’s real enemy—and an enemy worthy of his steel was Voltaire … his ostensible target Bolingbroke. [450]

O’Brien argues that Burke makes no reference to his own Vindication &c—which was obviously suited to show the consistency of his opposition to revolutionism—because it might be construed by Old and New Whigs as a pro-Catholic document. [451]

He ends: ‘The Whigs of this day have before them, in this Appeal, their constitutional ancestors; they have the doctors of the modern school. They will choose for themselves. the author of the Reflections has chosen for himself. If a new order is coming on, and all the political opinions must pass away as dreams, which our ancestors have worshipped as revelations, I ay for him, that he would rther be the last (as certainly he is the least) of that race of men than the first and greatest of those who have coined to themselves Whig principles from a Frenchdie, unknown to the impress of our fathers in the Constitution.’ [451]

Thoughts on French Affairs &c prepared as a diplomatic memoir for Grenville to use in his embassy to the French. In it he distinguishes the English Revolution from the French: of the latter, ‘It is revolution of doctrine and theoretick dogma’, and the effect is to ‘introduce other interests into all countries, than those which aroe from their locality and natural circumstances’ [italicised by Burke]. [452]

I think I can hardly overrate the malignity of the principles of Protestant ascendancy, as they affect Ireland; or of Indianism, as they affect these affeect Asia; or of Jacobinism as they affect all Europe, and the state of human society itself. The last is the greatest evil. But it readily combines with the others, and flows from them.’ (Burke, 26 May 1795; Corr., VIII, p.254.) [The same quotes 528]


On the death of Rockingham, 1 July 1782, Burke transferred his allegiance to his heir Fitzwilliam; ‘You are Lord Rockingham in everything’ (Corr., V, 6-7.) [462]

Burke wrote to Marie Antoinette, under circumstances [which] require that my Words should be be’ some words cautioning against falling in with the supposed constitution, and some more dire words of warning: ‘For Gods sake have nothing to do with Traitors. Those men can never be seriously disposed to restore the Nation, the King, yourself or your children, who have been authors of your common ruin. … Their whole power is to hurt you; To serve you they have none. [PARA] If the King accepts their pretended constitution you are both of you undone forever.’ (Corr. VI, pp.349-51) [465-66]

Burke sent his son Richard to Louis-Stanislaus-Xavier, later Louis XVIII, at Coblenz. [466] O’Brien: ‘even at the apparent nadir of his political fortunes, the radiation of his mind, and the resonance of his words, penetrate the entire civilised world.’ [467]

Sept 1790: Richard Burke (1758-1794) made agent of the Catholic Committee, led by Thomas Husssey (1741-1803), later president of Maynooth, and first Catholic Bishop of Waterford [468] Catholic committee inactive from 1783 to 1790 [468]

Hussey wrote to Richard a letter of overture, 13 Aug. 1790. He later wrote on another occasion: ‘Should these Kingdoms be involved in a war, a further toleration to the Catholics of necessity should compel, what true Policy ought to offer voluntarily, i.e., enfranchisement. Hitherto the Catholics of that Country have proceeded with proper deference, and submission to the laws, in their application for redress, notwithstanding the endeavors of neighbouring Countries, suggesting to them to wrest by force and violence, what, I hope, they will never mention, but with moderation, and temper. Sublimated, however, as mens minds are by the french disease (as it is not improperly called) one cannot foresee, what a continuation of oppressive laws may work upon the minds of the people: and those of the Irish Catholics are much altered within my Memory; and they will not in future bear the lash of Tirranny and oppression which I have seen inflicted upon them, without resisting or even complaining.’ (Corr., VI p.134) [470-71]

The world being divided between Burke and Paine, Tone thought that in England ‘Burke had the triumph of completely to decide the public; fascinated by the eloquent publication, which flattered so many of their prejudices, and animatd by their unconquerable hatred of France … the whole english nation, it may be said, retreated from their first decision in favour of the glorious and successful efforts of the French people … But matters were very different in Ireland, an oppressed, insulted, and plundered nation. In a little time the French Revolutin became the test of every man’s political creed.’ (Autobiog., Lon. 1893, vol. 1, p.38) [470]

Burke saw the stigmatisation of the Catholics—their not being treated as full and equal citizens—as the factor that laid them most open to the seductions of Jacobin ideology. [472] Richard Burke was writing to him of the accord with the republican dissenters that they were in an ugly predicament, ‘turn’d adrift together—Thus hand in hand; but whether with wandering steps and slow, God knows. the marriage however is not yet made to couple the two parties.’ (Corr VII, pp.68-74)

The Tract Relative to the Laws against Popery of the early 1769s was intended for circulation … not for publication. His major public statement was Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, 3 Jan 192 (Works, IV p..241-306.) Burke set out to convince Langrishe and others than further resistance to Catholic enfranchisement would drive the Catholics into the arms of the radical Dissenters and ultimately of the French. [477]

Burke argues that the wording of the Coronation Oath in no way favours all Protestant denominations above Catholic ones, but only the established church, and that it does not preclude assent to any arrangement for Catholic franchise established by law. He goes on to distinguish beteen the general principles of the Glorious Revolution and some of its practices in Ireland. [478-79]

‘I shall not think that the deprivation of some millions of people of all the rights of citizens, and all the interest in the Constitution, in and to which they were born, was a thing conformable to the declared principles of the Revolution … In England it was the struggle of the great body of the people for the establishment of their liberties, against the efforts of a very small faction, who would have oppressed them. In Ireland it was the estabishmn of the power of a small number, at the expense of the civil liberties and properties of the far greater part, and at the expense of the political liberties of the whole. … To insist on everything done in Ireland at the Revolution would be to insist on the severe and jealous polic of a conqueror, in the crude settlement of a new acquisition, as a permanent rule for its future government.’ [479-80]

Penal System: ‘It is a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the debasement, in them, of human nature itself, as very proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.’ [480]

‘.. You are to weigh, with the temper which is natural to you, whether it may be for the safety of our establishment that the Catholics should be ultimately persuaded that they have no hope to enter into the Constitution but through the Dissenters ..’ [483]

Uncensored feelings concerning the history of Ireland, in letter to Richard Burke; ‘fictitious tenures to dispossess whole unoffending tribes and their chieftains … ruins of castles and churches … estates of the old Irish nobility and gentry … confiscated … lands of their country … put up to a mean and scandalous auction in every goldsmith’s shop in London, or chopped in pieces and cut into rations, to pay the mercenary soldiery of a regicide usurper. &c.’ (Letter to Richard Burke on Protestant Ascendancy of Ireland, Works VI, p.408.) [484]

Burke at Beaconsfield [488]

On 21 December 1792, in debate, Sheridan, opening for the Whigs, appealed to the French authorities for ‘justice, mercy and magnanimity’. Burke would have none of this; ‘.. The truth was, the king was in the custody of assassins, who were both his accusers and his judges, and his destruction was inevitable.’ (Parl. Hist., XXX, III, 20 Dec. 1792) [494]

The famous ‘dagger speech’ of 21 Dec. 1792: he drew a dagger which he had kept concealed, and with much vehemence of action threw it on the floor. ‘This, said he, pointing to the dagger, is what you are to gain by an alliance with France: wherever their principles are introduced, their practise must follow.’ O’Brien remarks, the dagger that fell flat should not mislead us. [495]

Last published writings, Letter to a Noble Lord (1796), and Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796-97).

Fittzwilliam arrives in Dublin, 4 Jan. 1795, and takes on the Junto of senior officials who dominated the viceregalty of his predecessor Lord Westmoreland; he removes from office John Beresford, First Commissioner of the Revenue, and Arthur Wolfe, Attorney General.

James Cunniff, ‘Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Coming Revolution in Ireland’, Journal of the History of Ideas’, xlviii (Jan-Mar 1986): criticised by O’Brien for believing that Burke urged Fitzwilliam on towards Catholic Emancipation.

12 Feb 1795, Grattan formally asks permission to introduce his Catholic Relief Bill. George III enraged when he hears of the steps taken in Dublin. Fitzwilliam’s official recall arrived on 23 Feb. 1795. [515]

Under the British Act for the Better Education of Persons Professing the Popish or Roman Catholic Religion (35 Geo. III, c.25), were appointed as Trustees of the Royal College, Maynooth the most inveterate enemies of Catholicism in Ireland, John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare, then Chancellor. [523]

Burke’s share in the foundation of Maynooth was the last in the series of his contributions to the rehabilitation of the Irish Catholics. [525]

‘Armagh outrages’ when Protestants of Tyrone, Down, and Fermanagh began forcibly expelling Catholics where they could. [529]

Citing a passage in which Burke calls it folly for the Catholics to disarm without the Protestants disarming—they who started the trouble that resulted in Defenderism, which Dr. Troy accused and tamed—O’Brien says: by the end of the year Burke’s position over Ireland was so complex as to be almost untenable. [530]

In 1795-6 millenarian prophecies associated with Colmcille were dispensed by Catholic United Irishmen to Catholics in Co. Derry, while Protestant United Irishmen dispensed the same prophecies to Protestants in Co. Antrim. [531]

Arthur O’Connor, 1763-1852. Burke’s remarks on Arthur O’Connor (Corr. VIII, 215-16; 242-3; 245-6) cited [526-27]. The only member of the Irish House to make a speech along United Irish lines, deliverd 4 May 1795 at Fitzwilliams’s recall, attacking administrative abuses and threatening consequences of general revolt. His speech caused Burke to write to Fitzwilliam warning: ‘.. Ireland will Jacobinize all the Energies and the the active Talents of that Country. They are considerable … Jacobinism is the Vice of men Of Parts; and, in this age, it is the Channel in which all discontents will run.’ [527] In a letter to Thomas Hussey a few days later, he refers to O’Connor again: ‘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 dealth too much in the Philosophy of France. Hustice, 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, and an avowd contempt of all those points on which we [christians] differ, and those about which we agree. (Corr., VIII, pp.215-6; 242-3; 245-6.) According to Burke, there is a suggestion here of Milton contemplating Satan. [527]

On “Protestant Ascendancy”; a term popularised in the 1790s by members of the ascendancy itself, and replacing the older and less offensive term ‘the Protestant interest’. See WJ Mccormack, ‘Ascendancy and Tradition’ in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789-1939 OUP 1985); also James Kelly, ‘The Genesis of the Protestant Ascendancy: the Rightboy disturbances of the 1780’s and their Impact upon Protestant Opinion’ in Gerard O’Brien, ed, Parliament, Politics and People: Essays in Eighteenth Century Irish History (Dublin 1989), pp.93-124.

Letter to Hercules Langrishe, a moderate ascendancy member, 26 May 1795. ‘I think I can hardly overrate the malignity of the principles of Protestant ascendency [sic], as they affect Ireland; or of Indianism, as they affect these countries, and they affect Asia; or of Jacobinism as they affect all Europe, and the state of human society itself. The last is the greatest evil. But it readily combines with the others, and flows from them.’ [italicised by O’Brien, 528] (Second Letter Sir Hercules Langrishe’, Corr. VIII, pp.253-255.)

The Armagh outrages, associated with the foundation of the Orange Order in Sept. 1795.

Dr Troy preached pacifism in a pastoral letter and parties of Defenders surrendered their arms. Burke wrote to Husse: ‘The Catholicks have foolishly, in all senses disarmed themselves. If the disarmament had been common to all descriptions of disorderly persons the Measure would have been excellent. &c.’ (Corr. VIII, pp.351-2.) [529-30]

The Defenders seemed to believe that the French revolution was pro-Catholic.

Burke’s profession of loyalty to Fitzwilliam [533] At the recall of Fitzwilliam, Burke wrote to Hussey: ‘As to the Rest, everything has gon beyond my reach. I have only to lament.’ [532]

‘the hunt of obloquy, which ever has pursued me with a full cry through life’; ‘I was not made for a minion or a tool’ (Letter to A Noble Lord.) [535; 538]

Burke’s devastating argumentum ad hominem in Letter from the Right Hon. Edmund Burke to a Noble Lord on attacks made upon him and his pension, in the House of Lords by the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale in the present sessions of Parliament. (1795), 80pp. Note that O’Brien has received a manuscript copy from Deirdre Levinson, his most treasured possession [536].

John Fitzgibbon, Irish Chancellor, hostile to Burke, had done more than anyone except Pitt to destroy Fitzwilliam’s viceroyalty; sent ‘two popish letters’ of Burke’s, apparently acquired at Dublin Castle, to Auckland in order to damage his posthumous reputation in 1798.

‘This shifting of persons [regarding the use of France formerly for the King and now for the National Assembly] could not be done without the hocus-pocus of abstraction’ (Letters on a regicide Peace.)

Of four Letters on a regicide Peace, two were published on 26 Oct. 1796, the other two posthumously [545] The first deals with Auckland’s pamphlet promoting peace on the basis that the Directory has been instrumental in the fall of Robespierre. [548] In the second he more fully meditates the lessons of human history. He distinguishes the French Revolution from all others on the basis that ‘It is with an armed doctrine that we are at war.’ [554]

‘manners are more important than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarise or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. The give the whole form and color to our lives. &c.’ [556]

‘Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatever; but, as in the exercise of all virtues, there is an economy of truth. It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure, that he make speak it the longer.’ (3rd Letter on a Regicide Peace). [559]

By the time of writing the 4th Letter on a Regicide Peace, the English ambassador Lord Malmesbury had been contemptuously expelled from France (1 Dec 1796).

Letters 2, 3 & 4 figure respectively as Letters 1, 2, & 3 in Collected Works, Vol. VI, while Letter I appears as No. 4. [545; 552; 559; 562] Those two published in his lifetime went through 13 editions when issued on 20 Oct 1796.

John Keogh writes offering Burke ‘truly informed’ intelligence about the Irish situation, Nov. 1796. Burke warns Keogh against his Protestant friends in the United Irishmen: ‘a strong, Republican, Protestant faction in Ireland, which has persecuted the Catholicks 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 Tyranny or seduction would accomplish their ruin.’ [570]

Tone left Ireland for America Jun 1795 after it had been discovered that he had been in contact with the Rev William Jackson, a French agent. [570] Burke tells Keogh in correspondence how ‘with grief he say last year with the Catholic Delegates a Gentleman who was not of their Religion or united to them by any avowable Bond of public Interest’—Tone. ‘I afterwards found this Gentlemans Name was implicated in a Correspondence with certain Protestant Conspirators and Traitors who were acting in direct connexion with the Enemies of all Government and all Religion.’ (Burke-Keogh, Corr. IX, 112-16.) Burke describes Keogh as ‘a man that on the whole I think ought not to be slighted, tho’ he is but too much disposed to Jacobin principles and connexions in his own nature and is a Catholic only in Name, &c’ (Corr. IX, p.120; letter of 18 Nov. 1796 to Laurence). Writing to Fitzwilliam, Burke described him as a ‘franc Jacobin’ &c. (Corr IX., p.120) [571]

Hussey, at Maynooth, is increasingly alarmed by the growth of the Catholic-United Irish connection. ‘I am terrified at what I foresee regarding my own unfortunate native Country. To pass by Parliament, and break the connexion with Great Britain, is, I am informed, the plan of the United Irishmen.’ [572] Burke reply of post 9 Dec 1796 to Hussey’s of 30 Nov. 1796 was his most comprehensive later statement on Ireland. [572] In it he speaks of the ‘desperate alternative’ between a thankless acquiescence under grievous Oppression or a refuge in Jacobinism.’ [573] It also contains his distinction between the levity of intellectual Jacobinism, and the Jacobinism ‘which arises from penury and irritation, from scorned loyalty, and rejected Allegiance’ and therefore has ‘much deeper roots’. ‘These roots will be shot into the Depth of Hell, and will at last raise up their proud Tops to Haven itself.’ [573]

Hussey inappositely described by Richard Musgrave as ‘an infamous incendiary … now living in the greatest intimacy with Messr Fox, Grey, and Sheridan.’ See Daire Keogh, ‘Thomas Hussey’, in Waterford History and Society, ed. T. Power (Dublin 1992). [574]

Founds school at Penn, near Beaconsfield for sons of Royalist refugees from France. [576]

Letter on the Affairs of Ireland, 1797 (in Works, Vol. VI, pp.41529); also printed as ‘To Unknown’, Feb. 1797 (Vol. IX, Corr., pp.253-63). In effect, his political testament on the subject, though O’Brien prefers to call the Hussey letter, supra, that. In the ‘Unknown’ letter, Burke speaks of ‘mischiefs which must sooner or later arise from subjecting the Mass of the people to the capricious and interested domination of an exceeding small faction and its dependencies. [577]

Acquittal of Warren Hastings followed by his receipt of a pension larger than Burke’s, who wrote to Sir Henry Dundas, 6 Mar 1796; ‘That House has charged him with robbing that fund; and the people from whose labours the fund arises; and we reward that Robbery, by a new Robbery ... Gang of Thieves called the Court of Directors &c.’ To Fitzwilliam. Loughborough, and others, he wrote: ‘he blood of that people shall not be upon my head.’ (Corr VIII, pp.406-07) [580]

‘.. those who consider the dominion of the glorious empire given by n incomprehensible dispensation of the Divine providence into our hands as nothing more than an opportunity of gratifying for the lowest of their purposes, the lowest of their passions … [his own] endeavours to rescue this dull and thoughtless people from the punishments which their neglect and stupidity will bring upon them for their Sytematick iniquity and oppression &c’ (Corr, IX, pp.62-63; to Laurence, his executor.) [581-82]

Burke all his life, as he often said (cf. to Keogh), had felt loyalty both to England and Ireland: inherently an uneasy combination … O’Brien remarks, in a footnote, on his advice to Hussey not to exert himself in trying to avert a rebellion, that this piece of essential irrationality on his part confirms O’Brien’s theory of ‘the existence of strong guilt-feelings on Burke’s part in this area at this time.’ [585 n.] Adverting to India again, O’Brien reads Burke’s reaction as ‘the psychological equivalent of a phsiological ‘referred pain’. [584]

Kevin Whelan, ‘The Role of the Catholic Priest in the 1798 Rebellion in Wexford’, in Whelan and William Nolan, eds., Wexford History and Society (Dublin 1987) [out of 85 priests a max. of 11, of which 7 had drink probs., involved with United Irishmen] [85

Burke in distinguished company with Pitt and Fox in voting for Wilberforce’s proposals on abolition of slave trade, April 1791. [587, n.]

Burke advises toughness in daling with the Spithead and Nore mutinies. [587]

Burke refuses through Jane Burke the overtures of Fox in his last illness on the basis of his (Burke’s) conviction that ‘the principles which he has endeavoured to maintain are necessary for the welfare and dignity of his country, and that these principles can be enforced only by the general persuasion of his sincerity.’ (Corr. IX, p.373; ante 9 July 1797). [588]

Died shortly after midnight on 9th July 1797. [589] [NOTE: His fatal disease belived to have been tuberculous enteritis, 583, supra.]

George Canning wrote: ‘There is but one event, but it is an event for the world. Burke is dead.’ [590]

Burke probably saw Dr. Hussey at his deathbed, as alleged by Rev. John Healy, in Maynooth College, Its Centenary History (Dublin 1895), p.100, n.2. [590]

Patrick J. Corish, consulted by O’Brien, remarks that the Irish Magazine, 1808, contains a letter stated to be from ‘one of the Maynooth Professors’ and claiming that Hussey ‘attended Burke spiritually in his last illness’. Corish adds: there is a touch of Private Eye about the Magazine, but Private Eye has been known to get it right! He further says that J Fitzpatrick, Secret Service Under Pitt (1892), p.386, says the same. ‘Fitzpatrick never gives his sources, but his overall accuracy is remarkable. He would not say a thing without having good reason for saying it.’ O’Brien concludes the Burke did indeed send for Hussey but too late. [591]

Among those who attend the funeral was Sir Philip Francis, whom O’Brien characterises at the chapter-end as a proud and selfish man nevertheless paying homage at the expense of some humiliation to the mastery of Burke, ‘attended as always by the shade of Nuncomar.’ [592]

EPILOGUE: Copies O’Brien’s review of Isaiah Berlin’s The Crooked Timber of Humanity &c. (London 1990), in which Burke is listed with others as a reactionary, a judgement challenged by O’Brien. Berlin’s essay accepting the correction is also reproduced, with his permission. It is in Crooked Timber that the term fantasia, used by Giambattista Vico, is cited by Berlin.

Note: Marx referred to Burke slightingly in Capital: ‘The sycophant—who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolutin just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy—was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois.’ (Capital, I, Moscow 1959, p.760 n.1) [597]

See Cruise O’Brien, ‘Virtue and Terror: Rousseau and Robespierre’, in Passion and Cunning (1986 err. sic).

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