Page images

and how soon the members of this House, for our very agreement with them, may be considered as objects of his Majesty's displeasure. Until by his Majesty's goodness and wisdom the late example is completely done away, we are not free.

We are well aware, in providing for the affairs of the East, with what an adult strength of abuse, and of wealth and influence growing out of that abuse, his Majesty's Commons had, in the last parliament, and we still have, to struggle. We are sensible that the influence of that wealth, in a much larger degree and measure than at any former period, may have penetrated into the very quarter from whence alone any real reformation can be expected.

If, therefore, in the arduous affairs recommended to us, our proceedings should be ill adapted, feeble, and ineffectual; if no delinquency should be prevented, and no delinquent should be called to account; if every person should be caressed, promoted, and raised in power, in proportion to the enormity of his offences; if no relief should be given to any of the natives unjustly dispossessed of their rights, jurisdictions, and properties; if no cruel and unjust exactions shall be forborne; if the source of no peculation, or oppressive gain, should be cut off ; if, by the omission of the opportunities that were in our hands, our Indian empire should fall

| This will be evident to those who consider the number and description of directors and servants of the East-India Company, chosen into the present parliament. The light in which the present ministers hold the labours of the House of Commons, in searching into the disorders in the Indian administration, and all its endeavours for the reformation of the government there, without any distinction of times, or of the persons concerned, will appear from the following extract from a speech of the present lord chancellor. After making a high-flown panegyric on those whom the House of Commons had condemned by their resolutions, he said, “ Let us not be misled by reports from committees of another House, to which, I again repeat, I pay as much attention as I would do to the History of Robinson Crusoe. Let the conduct of the East-India Company be fairly and fully inquired into. Let it be acquitted or condemned by evidence brought to the bar of the House. Without entering very deeply into the subject, let me reply in a few words to an observation which feil from a noble and learned lord, that the Company's finances are distressed, and that they owe, at this moment, a million sterling to the nation. When such a charge is brought, will parliament in its justice forget that the Company is restricted from employing that credit which its great and flourishing situation gives to it ? "

into ruin irretrievable, and in its fall crush the credit, and overwhelm the revenues, of this country, we stand acquitted to our honour and to our conscience, who have reluctantly seen the weightiest interests of our country, at times the most critical to its dignity and safety, rendered the sport of the inconsiderate and unmeasured ambition of individuals, and by that means the wisdom of his Majesty's government degraded in the public estimation, and the policy and character of this renowned nation rendered contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.

It passed in the negative.










It may not be unnecessary to inform the reader, that the following Reflections had their origin in a correspondence between the Author and a very young gentleman at Paris, who did him the honour of desiring his opinion upon the important transactions, which then, and ever since, have so much occupied the attention of all men. An answer was written some time in the month of October, 1789; but it was kept back upon prudential considerations. That letter is alluded to in the beginning of the following sheets. It has been since forwarded to the person to whom it was addressed. The reasons for the delay in sending it were assigned in a short letter to the same gentleman. This produced on his part a new and pressing application for the Author's sentiments.

The Author began a second and more full discussion on the subject. This he had some thoughts of publishing early in the last spring; but, the matter gaining upon him, he found that what he had undertaken not only far exceeded the measure of a letter, but that its importance required rather a more detailed consideration than at that time he had any leisure to bestow upon it. However, having thrown down his first thoughts in the form of a letter, and, indeed, when he sat down to write, having intended it for a private letter, he found it difficult to change the form of address, when his sentiments had grown into a greater extent, and had received another direction. A different plan, he is sensible, might be more favourable to a commodious division and distribution of his matter.


You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reason to imagine that I think my sentiments of such value as to wish myself to be solicited about them. They are of too little consequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the time when you first desired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write to you, and which at length I send, I wrote neither for, nor from, any description of men; nor shall I in this. My errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them.

You see, Sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to you, that though I do most heartily wish that France may be animated by a spirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honest policy, to provide a permanent body in which that spirit may reside, and an effectual organ by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late transactions.

You imagined, when you wrote last, that I might possibly be reckoned among the approvers of certain proceedings in France, from the solemn public seal of sanction they have received from two clubs of gentlemen in London, called the Constitutional Society, and the Revolution Society.

I certainly have the honour to belong to more clubs than one, in which the constitution of this kingdom, and the principles of the glorious Revolution, are held in high reverence; and I reckon' myself among the most forward in

my zeal for maintaining that constitution and those principles in their utmost purity and vigour. It is because I do so that I think it necessary for me that there should be no mistake. Those who cultivate the memory of our Revolution, and those who are attached to the constitution of this kingdom, will take good care how they are involved with persons, who under the pretext of zeal towards the Revolution and constitution too frequently wander from their true principles; and are ready on every occasion to depart from the firm but cautious and deliberate spirit which produced the one, and which presides in the other. Before I proceed to answer the more material particulars in your letter, I shall beg leave to give you such information as I have been able to obtain of the two clubs which have thought proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns of France; first assuring you, that I am not, and that I have never been, a member of either of those societies.

The first, calling itself the Constitutional Society, or Society for Constitutional Information, or by some such title, is, I believe, of seven or eight years standing. The institution of this society appears to be of a charitable, and so far of a laudable nature: it was intended for the circulation, at the expense of the members, of many books, which few others would be at the expense of buying; and which might lie on the hands of the booksellers, to the great loss of an useful body of men. Whether the books, so charitably circulated, were ever as charitably read, is more than I know. Possibly several of them have been exported to France; and, like goods not in request here, may with you have found a market. I have heard much talk of the lights to be drawn from books that are sent from hence. What improvements they have had in their passage (as it is said some liquors are meliorated by crossing the sea I cannot tell : but I never heard a man of common judgment, or the least degree of information, speak a word in praise of the greater part of the publications circulated by that society; nor have their proceedings been accounted, except by some of themselves, as of any serious consequence.

Your National Assembly seems to entertain much the same opinion that I do of this poor charitable club. As a nation, you reserved the whole stock of your eloquent acknowledg

« PreviousContinue »