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By Stephen Howard Browne

Shut readings of Burke's public discourse and political writings

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The effect, in part, is to contrast again his own manner of proceeding against the rhetorical ac- < previous page page_32 next page > < previous page page_33 next page > Page 33 tion of his enemies. Whereas Burke has conspicuously developed a substantial and direct assault on the Ministry, North and his followers have shown themselves in just the opposite light. " The preliminary work now set in place, Burke moves to consider the repeal's greater historical implications. His review will take shape in four phases, from the early Navigation Act of 1660 to Grenville's policy, from there to Rockingham's first ministry, to the Revenue Act of 1767.

The contrast is drawn as much by distinctions of character as by specific policy, and it sets in motion Burke's return to historical narrative. As the argument takes this turn, we note a dramatic change in the story itself; as if infused by the vigor of the subject, the account of Rockingham's repeal of the Stamp Act is charged with rhetorical energy. Here we see the first of many moments in the speech when the portraits are displayed as objects of moral deliberation and as a means to reinvigorate the narrative.

Portrait 2: Rockingham In one of Burke's few autobiographical references, he initiates the portrait by dwelling on his own role in recent affairs. It was, he assures the audience, a very minor one indeed. But such anonymity, Burke argues, is precisely why his account should be trusted. The passage functions to introduce Rockingham dramatically, casting Burke's obscurity against the nobleman's great generosity of spirit. "In the year 1765," Burke begins, "being in a very private station, far enough from any line of business, than having the honor of a seat in this House, it was my fortune, unknowing and unknown to the then ministry .

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