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JOHN MERLOTT, ESQ. *
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 favour. 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 honour 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 neighbours. 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 favour. Under the impression of this duty and this trust, I had endeavoured to
An eminent merchant in the City of Bristol, of which Mr. Burke was one of the Representatives in Parliament.--]t relates to the same subject as the preceding Letter.
render, 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, which have proved beyond dispute the prudence of such a maxim, would have obtained pardon for
me, if not approbation. But if I have not been so fortunate, I do most sincerely regret my great loss; with this comfort, however, that, if I have disobliged my Constituents, it was not in pursuit of any sinister interest, or any party passion of my own, but in endeavouring to save them from disgrace, along with the whole community, to which they and I belong. I shall be concerned for this, and very much so; but I should be more concerned, if, in gratifying a present humour of theirs, I had rendered myself unworthy of their former or their future choice. I confess, that I could not bear to face my Constituents at the next General Election, if I had been a rival to Lord North in the glory of having refused some small, insignificant concessions, in favour of Ireland, to the arguments and supplications of English Members of Parliament; and in the very next Session, on the demand of 40,000 Irish bayonets, of having made a speech of two hours long to prove that my former conduct was founded upon no one right principle either of policy, justice, or commerce. I never heard a more elaborate, more able, morè convincing, and more shameful speech The Debator obtained credit; but the Statesman was disgraced for ever. Amends were made for having refused small, but timely, concessions, by an unlimited and untimely surrender not only of every one of the objects of former restraints, but virtually of the whole legislative power itself, which had made them. For it is not necessary to inform you, that the unfortunate Parliament of this Kingdom did not dare to qualify the very liberty she gave of trading with her own plantations, by applying, of her own authority, any one of the commercial regulations to the new traffick of Ireland, which bind us here under the several Acts of Navigation. We were obliged to refer them to the Parliament of Ireland, as conditions ; just in the same manner, as if we were bestowing a privilege of the same sort on France and Spain, or any other independent power, and, indeed, with more studied caution, than we should have used, not to shock the principle of their independence. How the Minister reconciled the refusal to reason, and the surrender to arms, raised in defiance of the prerogatives of the Crown to his Master, I know not; it has probably been settled, in some way or other, between themselves. But, however the King and his Ministers may settle the question of his dignity and his rights, I thought it became me, by vigilance and foresight, to take care of yours; I thought I
ought rather to lighten the ship in time, than expose it to a total wreck. The conduct pursued seemed to me without weight or judgment, and more fit for a Member for Banbury than a Member for Bristol. I stood therefore silent with grief and vexation on that day of the signal shame and humiliation of this degraded King and Country. But it seems, the pride of Ireland in the day of her power was equal to ours, when we dreamt we were powerful too. I have been abused there even for my
silence, which was construed into a desire of exciting discontent in England. But, thank God, my Letter to Bristol was in print;-my sentiments on the policy of the measure were known and determined, and such as no man could think me absurd enough to contradict. When I am no longer a free agent, I am obliged in the crowd to yield to necessity; it is surely enough, that I silently submit to power; it is enough, that I do not foolishly affront the
conqueror; it is too hard to force me to sing his praises, whilst I am led in triumph before him; or to make the panegyrick of our own Minister, who would put me neither in a condition to surrender with honour, or to fight with the smallest hope of victory. I was, I confess, sullen and silent
on that day; and shall continue so, until I see some : disposition to enquire into this and other causes of
the national disgrace. If I suffer in my reputation for it in Ireland, I am sorry; but it neither does
nor can affect me so nearly as my suffering in Bris· tol, for having wished to unite the interests of the two nations in a manner, that would secure the supremacy of this. Will you
have the goodness to excuse the length of this Letter. My earnest desire of explaining myself in every point, which may affect the mind of any worthy gentleman in Bristol, is the cause of it. To yourself and to your liberal and manly notions, I know it is not so necessary. Believe me,
My dear Sir,
Your most faithful and obedient humble Servant,
EDMUND BURKE. Beaconsfield, April 4th, 1780. To John Merlott, Esq. Bristol.