Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke

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Author: Edmund Burke

Magnanimity of English People.

I do not accuse the people of England. As to the great majority of the nation, they have done whatever in their several ranks, and conditions, and descriptions, was required of them by their relative situations in society; and from those the great mass of mankind cannot depart, without the subversion of all public order. They look up to that government which they obey that they may be protected. They ask to be led and directed by those rulers whom Providence and the laws of their country have set over them, and under their guidance to walk in the ways of safety and honour. They have again delegated the greatest trust which they have to bestow to those faithful representatives who made their true voice heard against the disturbers and destroyers of Europe. They suffered, with unapproving acquiescence, solicitations which they had in no shape desired, to an unjust and usurping power whom they had never provoked, and whose hostile menaces they did not dread. When the exigencies of the public service could only be met by their voluntary zeal, they started forth with an ardour which out-stripped the wishes of those who had injured them by doubting whether it might not be necessary to have recourse to compulsion. They have, in all things, reposed an enduring, but not an unreflecting, confidence. That confidence demands a full return, and fixes a responsibility on the ministers entire and undivided. The people stands acquitted, if the war is not carried on in a manner suited to its objects. If the public honour is tarnished, if the public safety suffers any detriment, the ministers, not the people, are to answer it, and they alone. Its armies, its navies, are given to them without stint or restriction. Its treasures are poured out at their feet. Its constancy is ready to second all their efforts. They are not to fear a responsibility for acts of manly adventure. The responsibility which they are to dread is, lest they should show themselves unequal to the expectation of a brave people. The more doubtful may be the constitutional and economical questions upon which they have received so marked a support, the more loudly they are called upon to support this great war, for the success of which their country is willing to supersede considerations of no slight importance. Where I speak of responsibility, I do not mean to exclude that species of it which the legal powers of the country have a right finally to exact from those who abuse a public trust; but high as this is, there is a responsibility which attaches on them, from which the whole legitimate power of this kingdom cannot absolve them: there is a responsibility to conscience and to glory; a responsibility to the existing world, and to that posterity which men of their eminence cannot avoid for glory or for shame; a responsibility to a tribunal at which not only ministers, but kings and parliaments, but even nations themselves, must one day answer.

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Chicago: Edmund Burke, "Magnanimity of English People.," Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke in Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke Original Sources, accessed January 17, 2020, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=48XNRZI6SY2K9R9.

MLA: Burke, Edmund. "Magnanimity of English People." Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke, in Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke, Original Sources. 17 Jan. 2020. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=48XNRZI6SY2K9R9.

Harvard: Burke, E, 'Magnanimity of English People.' in Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke. cited in , Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke. Original Sources, retrieved 17 January 2020, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=48XNRZI6SY2K9R9.