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protection of weakness from the oppression of power, were most conspicuous : And of this kind the Impeachment of Mr. Hastings was considered by Mr. Burke, as beyond all comparison the most interesting and momentous.
The volume, which is now inscribed to your lordship, relates to that proceeding; a proceeding, which that virtuous and enlightened representative held to be the most important of his parliamentary labours.
The assumption of arbitrary power, in whatever shape it appeared, whether under the veil of legitimacy, or skulking in the disguise of state necessity, or presenting the shameless front of usurpation ; whether the prescriptive claim of ascendency, or the brief career of official authority, or the newlyacquired dominion of a mob,* was the sure object of his detestation and hostility. His endeavours to stifle it in its birth, or to obstruct its march, and impede its progress, or to redress its oppressions, will be found to have occupied, in various instances, as I have already said, no small portion of his life. The scale, upon which oppressions of this kind had been exercised in our East-Indian possessions, was of such a magnitude, that it required a mind like his to grapple with them. His ardent zeal, and unwearied perseverance, were not more than equal to the task. He well knew, that the impunity of Indian delinquency was demanded by interest too weighty and extensive, and was secured by influence and protection too powerful to be resisted. The event accordingly, did not correspond with his wishes: but the eclat of a triumph was neither necessary to his fame, nor the triumph itself to the satisfaction of his own mind. The real cause, which he advocated, did not depend upon the decision of the court of judicature, before which the impeachment was tried. From the moment it was voted by the
* This is not a fanciful enumeration of possible cases. The reader will find in these volumes, examples of Mr. Burke's exertions, referable to each particular case.-Edit,
House of Commons, the attainment of its main object, was placed out of the power of his opponents to wrest from him. -The existence of the enormities, with the commission of which the governour-general was charged, how much soever the managers might fail in the technical proof of his guilt, required only to be known; and Mr. Burke was firmly persuaded, that by the investigation of the affairs of that government, resulting from the trial, and by the publick exposure of the crimes which had been perpetrated, he had not only discharged a sacred and imperative duty, but at the same time had interposed a powerful check to the commission in future of such enormities.
It was from this view of the subject, that he had, a short time before his last sickness, begun to prepare materials for a complete history of the impeachment. His subsequent inability to proceed in it, was, I know, most sensibly felt by him : and it was among the last requests, he made me, that I would collect and arrange those materials, and publish so much of them, as I might judge fit for publication.
With this desire of my most dear and honoured friend, I am endeavouring to comply. The cultivators of literature will for ever lament the want of his finishing hand. I trust, however, that the substance of the whole of the proceedings will be found in these volumes ; and that the philosopher and the statesman will not be insensible of their value. This volume contains the speeches, which he made at the close of the impeachment, and which were continued for nine days.
In a subsequent volume, an essay will be made towards a history of his life ; comprizing such part of his correspondence, and other fugitive compositions, as may be judged fit for publick perusal. This volume, the termination of my labours, and of our joint trust in editing the posthumous works of Mr. Burke, I purpose dedicating to the earl, your venerable father. But as it may not be the divine will,
that I should live to accomplish my intention, you will not, I hope, my dear lord, refuse permission to my ava ling myself of this present opportunity of telling the world, how greatly I love him, and how highly 1 honour him.
Soon after my first acquaintance with him, he succeeded to the splendid possessions of his uncle, the Marquess of Rockingham, my revered master and patron ; and, together with them, perhaps I may be permitted to say, to the guardianship of the whig cause in England and Ireland. From that time his political conduct is well known to his country ; for covertly or in concealment, I may confidently assert, he has done nothing. To his country, then, I may safely leave the judgment of that conduct. His political knowledge, and his ability for the administration of publick affairs, are known to those, who have either sat in council, or have held correspondence with him upon political subjects. His official services, indeed, during the late long reign, will not appear frequent in the historick page, nor his name prominently conspicuous in the annals of party ; but in the silent operation of those causes, which have hitherto transmitted to us the constitution, if not unimpaired, perhaps without essential deterioration, through the vicissitudes of that eventful period, and which have rescued it from frequent and imminent dangers, the politician, who looks below the surface of things, will discover abundant proofs of his influence. Ever keeping steadily in his view the essential equipoises of our constitution, he conceived it to be his paramount duty, however painful the performance of it might be, to endeavour to maintain that balance between its constituent parts, which is necessary to the very existence of the constitution itself.
If, at one time, he abdicated, as it were, the high rank, which he held as a leader of the old whig party, by concurring* in such a formation of a new party, as to the jealous eye of the publick, appeared tinged with a factious pursuit of
* The coalition with Lord North in 1783.
power, and which excited suspicions of a dereliction of principles ; it was, because he well knew that no such dereliction had taken place, and that there were no other means of combating with effect, that favourite system, which from the beginning of the late reign was directed in all its operations to the very extinction of whiggism.
If in an alarming exigency, when all constituted authority was threatened with subversion, he submitted* to the painful necessity of acting in separation from men, for whom he entertained the highest esteem, and with whom he had lived in habits of the most intimate friendship, and in concert with those, of whose political conduct he had before generally disapproved, it was for the purpose of discouraging the projects of innovation, which had been avowedly espoused by those who were then called the new whigs : it was for the purpose of preventing, by strengthening the legitimate operations of government, those inroads upon the constitution, to which the executive administration, when weakly formed, is often driven, in popular disturbances, to have recourse : and particularly it was with a well grounded expectation of procuring thereby the accomplishment of a great act of national justice, by the restoration of our Roman Catholick fellow subjects to their political rights. This support of the executive government required no compromise of publick principles ; on the contrary, the additional strength acquired by the administration might both have disposed and enabled it to effectuate measures of salutary reform, of prudent retrenchments of expense, and of necessary economy. On the part of Lord Fitzwilliam, this separation was marked with a moderation, which disarmed the animosity of the friends he had quitted, and left open the avenues to re-union with them, whilst at the same time it indicated the terms and extent of the new alliance, and was a pledge to the people, that the security of their rights,
* The coalition with Mr. Pitt in 1794, and the formation of Lord Grenville's administration in 1806.
and of the constitution, was with him the sole object of that alliance.
Asterwards, when the independence of Europe was endangered by an overwhelming force, which nothing but the resources of this country appeared able to resist, he united his endeavours with those of statesmen of the highest character and reputation, to call forth those resources in the support of a war, which, whatever might have been his opinion of its policy at its commencement, he then conceived to be a measure of unavoidable necessity.
Lastly, when, in the discharge of these duties to his country, he was exposed to the effects of political intrigues, he bore the consequences* with that dignity, which naturally belongs to conscious merit, when deprived of any means of being useful.
Whilst I appeal with confidence to the people, for their judgment upon his publick conduct, to those, who are most intimately acquainted with his private life, I may with equal confidence appeal, and ask, By what private virtue is it not eminently distinguished ? Is this adulation ? His advanced age, and mine, as they remove from me almost all temptation to be a flatterer, may well exempt me from such an imputation. May you, my dear lord, ever escape its poisonous arts. May your labours in the service of your country procure for you, together with its praise, its confidence ; and may that confidence, whilst it is your reward, become in your hands, one of the means of promoting and securing its most valuable interests and general prosperity.
* The dismission of the coalition ministry in 1784, and the subsequent discomfiture of the whig candidates at the general election in the same year; his resignation of the lord lieutenancy of Ireland in 1795; the dismission of the Grenville administration in 1807; and Lord Fitzwilliam's removal from the lord lieutenancy of Yorkshire in 1819.