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REFLECTIONS ON THE EXECUTIONS OF
THE RIOTERS IN. 1780.*
TO THE LORD CHANCELLOR.
My Lord, I
HOPE I am not too late with the inclosed slight
observations. If the execution already ordered cannot be postponed, might I venture to recommend, that it should extend to one only; and then the plan suggested in the inclosed paper may, if your Lordship thinks well of it, take place, with such improvements as your better judgment may dictate. As to fewness of the executions, and the good effects of that policy, I cannot, for my own part, entertain the slightest doubt.
* It appears by the following Extract from a Letter written by the Earl of Mansfield to Mr. Burke, dated the 17th July 1780, that these REFLECTIONS had also been communicated to him—“ I have received the honour of your Letter, and very “ judicious thoughts. Having been so greatly injured myself, “ I have thought it more decent not to attend the reports, and “ consequently have not been present at any deliberation upon " the subject."
If you have no objection, and think it may not occupy more of His Majesty's time, than such a thing is worth, I should not be sorry that the inclosed was put into the King's hands.
I have the honour to be,
EDMUND BURKE, July 10, 1780.
TO THE EARL BATHURST,
LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL,
did not learn more early the probable extent of the executions, in consequence of the late disturb-.
I take the liberty of laying before you, with the sincerest deference to your judgment, what appeared to me, very early, as reasonable in this business. Further thoughts have since occurred to
I confess my mind is under no small degree of solicitude and anxiety on the subject; I am fully persuaded, that a proper use of mercy would not only recommend the wisdom and steadiness of Government, but, if properly used, might be made a means of drawing out the principal movers in this wicked business, who have hitherto eluded your scrutiny. I beg pardon for this intrusion, and have the honour to be, with great regard and esteem,
EDMUND BURKE. July 18, 1780,
TO SIR GREY COOPER, BART.*
ACCORDING to your desire, I send you
a copy of the few reflections on the subject of the present executions, which occurred to me in the earliest period of the late disturbances, and which all my experience and observation since have most strongly confirmed. The executions, taking those, which have been made, which are now ordered, and which
be the natural consequence of the convictions in Surrey, will be undoubtedly too many to answer any good purpose. Great slaughter attended the suppression of the tumults; and this · ought to be taken in discount from the execution of the law. For God's sake entreat of Lord North, to take a view of the sum total of the deaths before any are ordered for execution; for by not doing something of this kind, people are decoyed in detail into severities they never would have dreamed of, if they hod the whole in their view at once., The scene in Surrey would have affected the hardest heart, that ever was in an human breast. Justice and Mercy have not such opposite interests as people are apt to imagine. I saw Lord Loughborough last night. He seemed strongly impressed with the sense
• One of the Secretaries of the Treasury.
of what necessity obliged him to go through, and
Your most obedient
Humble Servant, 18th July 1780.
I really feel uneasy on this business, and should consider it as a sort of personal favour, if you
do something to limit the extent and severity of the law on this point.- Present my best compliments to Lord North, and if he thinks, that I have had wishes to be serviceable to Government on the late occasion, I shall on my part think myself abundantly rewarded, if a few lives less than first intended should be saved; I should sincerely set it down as a personal obligation, though the thing stands upon general and strong reason of its own.