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perplexity. But I have now better reason than ever to be pleased with my silence. If I had spoken, one of the most honest and able men * in the Irish Parliament would probably have thought my observation an endeavor to sow dissension, which he was resolved to prevent, - and one of the most ingenious and one of the most amiable ment that ever graced yours or any House of Parliament might have looked on it as a chimera. In the silence I observed, I was strongly countenanced (to say no more of it) by every gentleman of Ireland that I had the honor of conversing with in London. The only word, for that reason, which I spoke, was to restrain a worthy county member, I who had received some communication from a great trading place in the county he represents, which, if it had been opened to the House, would have led to a perplexing discussion of one of the most troublesome matters that could arise in this business. I got up to put a stop to it; and I believe, if you knew what the topic was, you would commend my discretion.
That it should be a matter of public discretion in me to be silent on the affairs of Ireland is what on all accounts I bitterly lament. I stated to the House what I felt; and I felt, as strongly as human sensibility can feel, the extinction of my Parliamentary capacity, where I wished to use it most. When I came into this Parliament, just fourteen years ago, — into this Parliament, then, in vulgar opinion at least, the presiding council of the greatest empire existing, (and perhaps, all things considered, that ever did exist,) obscure and a stranger as I was, I considered myself as raised to the highest dignity to which a creature of our species could aspire. In that opinion, one of the chief pleasures in my situation, what was first and uppermost in my thoughts, was the hope, without injury to this country, to be somewhat useful to the place of my birth and education, which in many respects, internal and external, I thought ill and impolitically governed. But when I found that the House, surrendering itself to the guidance of an authority, not grown out of an experienced wisdom and integrity, but out of the accidents of court favor, had become the sport of the passions of men at once rash and pusillanimous, – that it had even got into the habit of refusing everything to reason and surrendering everything to force, all my power of obliging either my country or individuals was gone, all the lustre of my imaginary rank was tarnished, and I felt degraded even by my elevation. I said this, or something to this effect. If it gives offence to Ireland, I am sorry for it: it was the reason I gave for my silence; and it was, as far as it went, the true one.
* Mr. Grattan.
† Mr. Hussey Burgh Mr. Stanley, member for Lancashire.
With you, this silence of mine and of others was represented as factious, and as a discountenance to the measure of your relief. Do you think us chil dren? If it had been our wish to embroil matters, and, for the sake of distressing ministry, to commit the two kingdoms in a dispute, we had nothing to do but (without at all condemning the propositions) to have gone into the commercial detail of the objects of them. It could not have been refused to us : and you, who know the nature of business so well, must know that this would have caused such delays, and given rise during that delay to such discussions, as
all the wisdom of your favorite minister could never have settled. But, indeed, you mistake your men. We tremble at the idea of a disunion of these two nations. The only thing in which we differ with you is this, - that we do not think your attaching yourselves to the court and quarrelling with the independent part of this people is the way to promote the union of two free countries, or of holding them together by the most natural and salutary ties.
You will be frightened, when you see this long letter. I smile, when I consider the length of it myself. I never, that I remember, wrote any of the same extent. But it shows me that the reproaches of the country that I once belonged to, and in which I still have a dearness of instinct more than I can justify to reason, make a greater impression on me than I had imagined. But parting words are admitted to be a little tedious, because they are not likely to be renewed. If it will not be making yourself as troublesome to others as I am to you, I shall be obliged to you, if you will show this, at their greatest leisure, to the Speaker, to your excellent kinsman, to Mr. Grattan, Mr. Yelverton, and Mr. Daly: all these I have the honor of being personal ly known to, except Mr. Yelverton, to whom I am only known by my obligations to him. live in any habits with my old friend, the Provost, I shall be glad that he, too, sees this my humble apology.
Adieu ! once more accept my best thanks for the interest you take in me. Believe that it is received by an heart not yet so old as to have lost its susceptibility. All here give you the best old-fashioned
wishes of the season; and believe me, with the greatest truth and regard,
My dear Sir, Your most faithful and obliged humble servant,
EDMUND BURKE. BEACONSFIELD, New Year's Day, 1780.
I am frightened at the trouble I give you and our friends; but I recollect that you are mostly lawyers, and habituated to read long, tiresome papers — and, where your friendship is concerned, without a fee; I am sure, too, that you will not act the lawyer in scrutinizing too minutely every expression which my haste may make me use. I forgot to mention my friend O'Hara, and others; but you will communicate it as you please.
TO JOHN MERLOTT, ESQ.*
EAR SIR, - I am very unhappy to find that
my conduct in the business of Ireland, on a former occasion, had made many to be cold and indifferent who would otherwise have been warm in my favor. I really thought that events would have produced a quite contrary effect, and would have proved to all the inhabitants of Bristol that it was no desire of opposing myself to their wishes, but a certain knowledge of the necessity of their affairs, and a tender regard to their honor and interest, which induced me to take the part which I then took. They placed me in a situation which might enable me to discern what was fit to be done, on a consideration of the relative circumstances of this country and all its neighbors. This was what you could not so well do yourselves; but you had a right to expect that I should avail myself of the advantage which I derived from your favor. Under the impression of this duty and this trust, I had endeavored to render, by preventive graces and concessions, every act of power at the same time an act of lenity, the result of English bounty, and not of English timidity and distress. I really flattered myself that the events
* An eminent merchant in the city of Bristol, of which Mr. Burke was one of the representatives in Parliament. — It relates to the same subject as the preceding Letter.