The Member Of Parliament
The Maxims And Reflections Of Burke selected and edited by F.W. Rafferty

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.— Bristol, 1774 (II. 164).

Several gentlemen are very desirous of altering the constitution of the House of Commons; but they must alter the frame and constitution of human nature itself before they can so fashion it by any mode of election, that its conduct will not be influenced by reward and punishment; by fame, and by disgrace. If these examples take root in the minds of men, what members hereafter will be bold enough not to be corrupt? Especially as the king's highway of obsequiousness is so very broad and easy. To make a passive member of parliament, no dignity of mind, no principles of honour, no resolution, no ability, no industry, no learning, no experience, are in the least degree necessary. To defend a post of importance against a powerful enemy requires an Elliot; a drunken invalid is qualified to hoist a white flag, or to deliver up the keys of the fortress on his knees.— Representation to H.M. (III. 144).

To be a good member of parliament, is, let me tell you, no easy task; especially at this time, when there is so strong a disposition to run into the perilous extremes of servile compliance or wild popularity. To unite circumspection with vigour is absolutely necessary; but it is extremely difficult. —Bristol, 1774 (II. 166).

Let me say, with plainness, I who am no longer in a public character, that if by a fair, by an indulgent, by a gentlemanly behaviour to our representatives, we do not give confidence to their minds, and a liberal scope to their understandings; if we do not permit our members to act upon a very enlarged view of things, we shall at length infallibly degrade our national representation into a confused and scuffling bustle of local agency. When the popular member is narrowed in his ideas, and rendered timid in his proceedings, the service of the crown will be the sole nursery of statesmen.— Bristol, 1780 (III. 4).

A representative worthy of you ought to be a person of stability. I am to look, indeed, to your opinions; but to such opinions as you and I must have five years hence. I was not to look to the flash of the day. I knew that you chose me, in my place, along with others, to be a pillar of the state, and not a weather-cock on the top of the edifice, exalted for my levity and versatility, and of no use but to indicate the shiftings of every fashionable gale.— Bristol, 1780 (III. 13).

We must not be peevish with those who serve the people; for none will serve us, whilst there is a court to serve, but those who are of a nice and jealous honour. They who think everything, in comparison of that honour, to be dust and ashes, will not bear to have it soiled and impaired by those for whose sake they make a thousand sacrifices to preserve it immaculate and whole. We shall either drive such men from the public stage, or we shall send them to the court for protection where, if they must sacrifice their reputation, they will at least secure their interest. Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will be free. None will violate their conscience to please us, in order afterwards to discharge that conscience, which they have violated, by doing us faithful and affectionate service. If we degrade and deprave their minds of servility, it will be absurd to expect that they who are creeping and abject towards us, will ever be bold and incorruptible assertors of our freedom against the most seducing and the most formidable of all powers. No! human nature is not so formed; nor shall we improve the faculties or better the morals of public men by our possession of the most infallible receipt in the world for making cheats and hypocrites.— Bristol, 1780. (III. 4).

Would the little, silly, canvass prattle of obeying instructions, and having no opinions but yours, and such idle senseless tales which amuse the vacant ears of unthinking men, have saved you from "the pelting of that pitiless storm," to which the loose improvidence, the cowardly rashness, of those who dare not look danger in the face, so as to provide against it in time, and therefore throw themselves headlong into the midst of it, have exposed this degraded nation, beaten down and prostrate on the earth, unsheltered, unarmed, unresisting?— Bristol, 1780. (III. II).

We are under infinite obligations to our constituents, who have raised us to so distinguished a trust, and have imparted such a degree of sanctity to common characters. We ought to walk before them with purity, plainness, and integrity of heart; with filial love, and not with slavish fear, which is always a low and tricking thing.— Economical Reform (II. 317).

To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions, mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience-these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution—Bristol, 1774. (II. 165)