"The Coquetry Of Public Opinion"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: During the mid-eighteenth century Ireland was granted considerable economic concession by England as well as extensive legislative independence. The result was a surge of economic prosperity unprecedented in Irish history. The executive branch of the Irish government remained an English appointment, however, and the millions of Irish Catholics remained subordinated to an Anglican Establishment. Both of these latter conditions displeased Burke, and he worked and hoped consistently for a peaceful reconciliation on all points. Burgh had written to Burke to inform him of the misrepresentation of his Parliamentary position in Ireland, and this letter, which constitutes Burke's reply, was one of his numerous public comments on this issue:

. . . If I had sought popularity in Ireland, when, in the cause of that country, I was ready to sacrifice, and did sacrifice, a much nearer, a much more immediate, and a much more advantageous popularity here, I should find myself perfectly unhappy, because I should be totally disappointed in my expectations, . . . But I acted then, as I act now, and as I hope I shall act always, from a strong impulse of right, and from motives in which popularity, either here or there, has but a very little part.
With the support of that consciousness I can bear a good deal of the coquetry of public opinion, which has her caprices, and must have her way. . . . I, too, have had my holiday of popularity in Ireland. . . .