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Study of Edmund Burke's Financial Integrity

Nature volume 143, page 631 (15 April 1939) | Download Citation

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DIXON WBOTOB has recently investigated with the help of new material the vexed question of Edmund Burke's financial integrity, and the extent to which he was involved in the discreditable ventures of his brother Richard and his kinsman William Burke (“Edmund Burke and His Kinsmen”, by Dixon Wector. University of Colorado Studies, No. 1, 1, Feb. 1939). Since he vehemently defended their actions at all times and denounced their adversaries and critics in unbridled terms, it is not surprising that Edmund Burke himself came under suspicion of conniving with them. Nevertheless, the author concludes from all the evidence now available that Burke honestly believed them to be upright in their financial transactions, however unfortunate their outcome, and there is no doubt that in his office as paymaster Burke reduced the nation's finances to order at considerable cost to himself. In any event he was always vague as to his own income and expenditure, and it is difficult to imagine him following the tortuous ways of his kinsmen with any care. Burke's passionate championship of these shady characters, while not historically important, shows how completely his judgment was blinded by sentiment. Of more material consequence is the parallel traced by the author between the changing course of William Burke's fortunes in India and Edmund Burke's change of attitude towards the East India Company, leading to the impeachment of Warren Hastings. It is not suggested that this connexion was perceived by Burke himself, whose advocacy the author believes to have been at all times passionately sincere. Of all men a great orator is perhaps the least likely to be aware of the less reputable sources of his interest. He was temperamentally unfitted to judge objectively either friends or adversaries, and this study admirably illustrates the importance of temperamental make-up in life.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/143631c0

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