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Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke   By: (1729-1797)

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"Id dico, eum qui sit orator, virum bonum esse oportere. In omnibus quae dicit tanta auctoritas inest, ut dissentire pudeat; nec advocati studium, sed testis aut judicis afferat fidem." Quintilianus.

"Democracy is the most monstrous of all governments, because it is impossible at once to act and control; and, consequently, the Sovereign Power is then left without any restraint whatever. That form of government is the best which places the efficient direction in the hands of the aristocracy, subjecting them in its exercise to the control of the people at large." Sir James Mackintosh.


The intellectual homage of more than half a century has assigned to Edmund Burke a lofty pre eminence in the aristocracy of mind, and we may justly assume succeeding ages will confirm the judgment which the Past has thus pronounced. His biographical history is so popularly known, that it is almost superfluous to record it in this brief introduction. It may, however, be summed up in a few sentences. He was born at Dublin in 1730. His father was an attorney in extensive practice, and his mother's maiden name was Nogle, whose family was respectable, and resided near Castletown, Roche, where Burke himself received five years of boyish education under the guidance of a rustic schoolmaster. He was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1746, but only remained there until 1749. In 1753 he became a member of the Middle Temple, and maintained himself chiefly by literary toil. Bristol did itself the honour to elect him for her representative in 1774, and after years of splendid usefulness and mental triumph, as an orator, statesman, and patriot, he retired to his favourite retreat, Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire, where he died on July 9th, 1797. He was buried here; and the pilgrim who visits the grave of this illustrious man, when he gazes on the simple tomb which marks the earthly resting?place of himself, brother, son, and widow, may feelingly recall his own pathetic wish uttered some forty years before, in London: "I would rather sleep in the southern corner of a little country churchyard, than in the tomb of the Capulets. I should like, however, that my dust should mingle with kindred dust. The good old expression, 'family burying?ground,' has something pleasing in it, at least to me." Alluding to his approaching dissolution, he thus speaks, in a letter addressed to a relative of his earliest schoolmaster: "I have been at Bath these four months for no purpose, and am therefore to be removed to my own house at Beaconsfield to morrow, to be nearer a habitation more permanent, humbly and fearfully hoping that my better part may find a better mansion." It is a source of deep thankfulness for those who reverence the genius and eloquence of this great man, to state, that Burke's religion was that of the Cross, and to find him speaking of the "Intercession" of our Redeeming Lord, as "what he had long sought with unfeigned anxiety, and to which he looked with trembling hope." The commencing paragraph in his Will also authenticates the genuine character of his personal Christianity. "According to the ancient, good, and laudable custom, of which my heart and understanding recognise the propriety, I BEQUEATH MY SOUL TO GOD, HOPING FOR HIS MERCY ONLY THROUGH THE MERITS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. My body I desire to be buried in the church of Beaconsfield, near to the bodies of my dearest brother, and my dearest son, in all humility praying, that as we have lived in perfect unity together, we may together have part in the resurrection of the just." (In the "Epistolary Correspondence of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke and Dr. French Laurence" (Rivingtons, London, 1827), are several touching allusions to that master?grief which threw a mournful shadow over the closing period of Burke's life. In one letter the anxious father says, "The fever continues much as it was... Continue reading book >>

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