"Between Craft And Credulity, The Voice Of Reason Is Stifled"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Burke's letter was written to John Farr and John Harris, the sheriffs of Bristol, about the state of affairs between Great Britain and the American Colonies. Burke was elected to the House of Commons in 1774, as the representative of Bristol, whose citizens had broad commercial interests which made them sympathetic to Burke's liberal views on the war between Great Britain and the colonists. Burke was not a man to adhere blindly to abstract principles in the way of many of his fellow countrymen; he cared nothing for his country's right to coerce the Colonies or its so-called dignity. He asked always what was the humane action and what was in Great Britain's best interests in the long run. In his letter to the sheriff he writes to them about the most recent acts of Parliament with respect to the Colonies and what he calls the civil war then going on. He recounts how one of the acts brands men aboard American privateers and warships as buccaneers, to be tried and hanged as pirates when they are captured. Such action, along with the insistence upon trying Americans for treason only in Great Britain, Burke feels to be wholly unjustified. He also comments on the fact that New York, Long Island, and Staten Island should have been restored, but have not, to trade when they submitted voluntarily to British rule. Burke then comments:

. . . But we see well enough to what the whole leads. The trade of America is to be dealt out in private indulgences and graces; that is, in jobs to recompense the incendiaries of war. They will be informed of the proper time in which to send out their merchandise. From a national, the American trade is to be turned into a personal monopoly; and one set of merchants are to be rewarded for the pretended zeal of which another set are the dupes; and thus, between craft and credulity, the voice of reason is stifled, and all the misconduct, all the calamities of the war are covered and continued.