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BURKE'S SPEECH FOR CONCILIATION
organization and practice differ much from our own. The English Constitution is not a document like ours, but an unwritten code, the established order of government, based upon (1) its structure-Parliament, ministry, etc.; (2) usage, precedent, and legislative acts that have not been superseded; and (3) an intangible something called the genius or the spirit of English government. From this it may be seen that the Constitution is flexible, subject to change. As a matter of fact, however, radical change in the English intangible basis of government is quite as impossible as in our own carefully written document.
The chief executive of the Government is the King, but the executive power is only nominally his, being really vested in the ministry, consisting of the Prime Minister and his associates. The Prime Minister is named by the King, but precedent makes it necessary that the person named be the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister selects his colleagues in his cabinet from his own party. Although the ministry wields almost absolute power, the rights of the people are perhaps better safeguarded than our own, since any change of party majority in the Commons throws the cabinet out of office.
Parliament consists of two bodies, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The former is largely hereditary, the latter elective by the people. The term of office in Parliament is seven years; but it really lasts only until the ministry finds itself opposed on any well-defined question by a majority of the House of Commons. If there is a question whether the Commons really represent the wishes of the people in the matter, the ministry resigns and an election is held to get the people's
views. Otherwise the ministry gives way for a new body, formed from the majority party.
The House of Lords, numbering more than five hundred, is, as respects legislation, chiefly a revisory body, but it also exercises judicial functions, sitting as a Supreme Court of Appeals for the kingdom, and as a court for trial of cases of impeachment, and of felony or treason in its own members.
The House of Commons is made up of more than six hundred members elected from counties, sub-divisions of counties, boroughs and wards, or universities. Members need not be residents of the places from which they are elected. Any fully qualified citizen not a clergyman in the Roman or the Episcopal church, a member of the House of Lords, or an officer of the Government may "stand," or, as we say, "run.” He pays all the expenses of his campaign, and must return a sworn statement covering every item of it. Members receive no pay.
Burke's speeches on America came almost at the culmination of a series of acts that gradually destroyed the loyalty of the colonies toward England and drove them to revolt. George the Third had introduced a new imperious policy immediately upon his accession to the throne in 1760. It soon showed its effect in new schemes of Colonial control. First came the more strict enforcement of the Navigation Acts, requiring that all the Colonial trade be carried on in ships owned in England or the Colonies-a requirement that brings to us certain Philippine questions of to-day,-and many commodities could be sent only to English ports. In 1763 the Sugar Act was renewed; the Stamp Act was passed in 1764, which asserted definitely that Parliament could tax the Colonies for imperial purposes. The act was repealed, but the right to tax was reaffirmed. A new Taxation Act was passed in 1767; then the Colonial governments were tampered with. The difficulties of collecting taxes were so great that all duties except that on tea were repealed in 1770, but British troops remained in New England, and
the coercive acts were still remembered. The Boston Massacre occurred in this year, and the troops were taken from Boston. In 1772 the Gaspee was burned, and in the next year occurred the Boston Tea-party. These acts resulted in five hasty bills in Parliament: the first, to punish Boston for its Tea-party, provided that no further commerce be permitted with that city until it made submission. To this Burke strongly objected. Another law declared void certain provisions of their charter. About the same time General Gage arrived as military governor of the province, and these hateful measures were speedily put in force. Burke delivered his Speech on American Taxation on April 19, 1774; on June 17 the General Court of Massachusetts passed a resolution proposing a Colonial Congress. The first Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia on September 5.
Parliament assembled in January, 1775, and Pitt defended the Colonies, but Massachusetts was declared in a state of rebellion. In February a second Provincial Congress was elected, which prepared to raise a military force. It was on March 22, 1775, that Burke delivered the great Speech for Conciliation with America, too late, in any event, to check the now entirely aroused Colonies. Before news of that speech had reached America the battle of Lexington had been fought and the war begun.
What is here said regarding the English governmental organization and the situation at the time the Speech was delivered is bare suggestion. For a good understanding of what Burke says, and of what lay behind his assertions and his references, the student must read a good deal of English history covering the period from 1760, at the latest, to 1775.
The Speech gains interest for us not only from our understanding the political situation at the time it was delivered, but by our noting how, in dealing with problems of the moment, Burke brought to bear a wisdom and a philosophic insight that applied no more exactly then than they apply now. We find in his calm consideration
of his problem expression of a deep insight into human nature, and an understanding of the desires, the likes and dislikes, of individuals and of great masses of men; we find, too, evidence of a mind able to see that good government must fit itself to the movements and opinions of those masses. The same problems, perhaps a little different, exist to-day, and always will exist. We can apply a hundred of Burke's sentences to our dealings with the Philippines; we see in the terrible disturbances of Russian revolution the blind working of principles that Burke understood. By a little thought Burke's sentences become live sentences to us; if we have any knowledge of what is going on in the world about us, his ideas are changed for us from dead eloquence of a past time to live political wisdom of the present.
The form of the Speech demands a two-fold treatment: as to its literary style, and as to its logical structure. As literature it stands as one of the calmest, most restrained, and dignified of Burke's productions. The manner is seldom that of the orator; here and there we see evidences or oratorical device, but for the most part calm reason, cool, clear handling of facts characterize the manner.
Burke's diction is nice and powerful. There is never the half-good word doing languid substitution; never the mere approximation. Into words like “squabbling" (p. 7, 1. 30), "adored” (p. 18, 1. 29), and many others, he has packed whole sentences of meaning. It is easy to see that he owes much to the Bible. His figures are always apt, nearly always brief, and usually familiar, drawn from every-day knowledge and experience. Similes and other comparisons, and figurative turns, he often uses. His facility in the use of connectives is especially noteworthy. For instance, examine paragraphs, pp. 17-20. Every paragraph begins with a word or an expression that binds it structurally and logically to the preceding, while the paragraph, p. 18, 11. 5ff., serves purely the purpose of connection and transition.
The sentences are in general long, sweeping, and impressive. Terseness and definiteness of thought are clothed in smooth, frequently rhythmical periods. There is much use of balance, of parallel structure in every form. Consider the long sentence in the paragraph, p. 37, 11. 30ff., as an example. The number of rhetorical questions and such rhetorical artifices is particularly small; he convinces more by close-knit reason, reënforced by coherent sentences organically joined together.
An examination of Burke's sentences leads naturally to a consideration of his paragraphing. Here his rhetorical art becomes still clearer. To say that every paragraph groups itself around a single thought has a familiar classroom sound, yet nothing else so simply states the condition of Burke's paragraphs. From the first word, which reminds us of what we have just left, to the last, which binds all together and frequently indicates what is to follow, all is a unit, fitting nicely into a series, that carries the reader on with a regular progression that is inevitably clear.
Then, when the first paragraph has been read, one becomes aware, if he has not done so before, of the plan of the whole-no haphazard throwing together of big ideas, but careful architecture of pieces, no two alike, fitting together amicably and helpfully to hold up the structure of his thought.
Two processes will help the student to work out the logical structure of the Speech. First condense the paragraphs, as far as is possible, into single sentences that show some relation to each other. If this is carefully done the result will be an epitome of the speech like a "Summary of Chapters in Preceding Numbers.”
The process also serves to put the material into a form easily handled in making the formal outline. In preparation for the outline, notice that paragraphs, pp. 3-9 are INTRODUCTORY, paragraphs pp. 9-65 are the EXPOSITION proper, paragraphs, p. 65 to the end, CONCLUSION.