« AnteriorContinuar »
tion. Such are the effects of demagogues, under whatever pretence, inflaming the populace by false representations of grievances. Burke's house and his
also were threatened, as being a strong supporter of Sir George Saville's bill, and suspected to be a Roman Catholic. He was represented in some of the papers as a Jesuit in disguise ; and in the print-shops he was exhibited in the dress of a Friar, trimming and fomenting the fires of Smithfield. All this vulgar calumny he treated with conteinpt. The nicknane, Neddy St. Oiners, he was constantly called, and the public actually believed that he had been brought up at that seminary, a caluinny which he never thought worth confuting.
He always treated common abuse with indifference, and, perhaps, no man experienced more of it. It is worthy of observation, that through his political life he was more vehemently blamed and abused by his censurers, and more rapturously praised and even adored by his admirers, than perhaps any man that ever lived,
The effects which the riots produced on the public mind deserve notice. Previously to this period an English mob was generally considered as a test of the public opinion, the overflowing of popular energy; and military interference was deemed highly dangerous, if not altogether unconstitutional. This seemed to be the opinion of the Duke of Newcastle when he kept a mob in pay, ready trained and disciplined, to support the then recent accession of the house of Hanover, and to suppress Tory mobs ; a mode of conduct which had a more successful, or at least a more popular effect than having recourse to military force. The Newcastle mob, as it was called, was long remembered with respect.
The conduct of the mob of 1780 destroyed for ever the credit and consequence of such a body. This has been, upon the whole, deemed very fortunate for the internal
peace of the country, as it has taught Government to oppose the smallest beginnings of riot or popular commotion ; a lesson which seems peculiarly important at the present time. .
Burke seemed to have adopted the sentiments of Horace, at least, with respect to a mob
Odi profunum vulgus et arceo.
He even attended popular elections with ap
As soon as the peace of the metropolis was restored, and the Parliament assembled as usual, Burke was indefatigable in his inquiries respecting the cause and progress of the riots, and in procuring a full recompence for all who had given in an estimate of their loss. There was no deduction made from any account of this kind, so much did the public resent the outrages which had been committed,
Notwithstanding the disgrace which was incurred by the Protestant association, and their President sent to the Tower, their
committee still attended the lobby of the House of Commons, disclaiming all connection with the rioters, and praying, or rather demanding attention to their petition. Burke could not behold those gentlemen without visible marks of indignation, and was heard to say within their hearing, I am astonished those men can have the audacity still to lose Parliament! The general panic, however, had not yet completely subsided ; the Parliament wishing to satisfy the association, brought in a bill by way of compromise, to prevent Roman Catholics from teaching Protestants; a measure which was supposed both conciliatory and innoxious, as very few of that religion were teachers. Burke was decidedly against any law which satisfied the mob, or was likely to oppress any
innocent individual: he discovered that a few persons would be affected by the proposed measure, and these he got to sign a petition, which he himself drew up, and in which he painted the proceedings of the Protestant association in very unfavourable colours, The petition was, however, supported only by eight members; and the bill · having passed the Commons, was carried to the House of Lords. Burke still opposed it with all possible private opposition; he applied separately to many of the Lords, and, with his usual eloquence, represented the measure as impolitic, cruel, and absurd. Lord Thurlow, who had been lately made Chancellor, encouraged him to have the Lords petitioned, as the Commons were. This being done on the third reading, his Lordship left the woolsack, and, in a speech of great energy and eloquence, reprobated the bill so successfully as to have it rejected without a division.
This was a great triumph for Burke. He told some of his friends, who praised the composition of the petition, that it should be published in all the newspapers in England: it never was, however, published; but a part of it, with some variations, was afterwards introduced into his famous speech to the citizens of Bristol,
The employment of the military, without being called by the civil magistrate, was