Squalls and Stagnation, 1770–1773
In the summer of 1770, the political world sank into torpor. The ferment raised by Wilkes and the Middlesex election, which had animated the petitioning movement and the hopes of the opposition, subsided. The prospects appeared so bleak that before each of the next three sessions, the leaders of the Rockingham party needed to convince themselves that even to attend Parliament was worthwhile. For Burke, enduring three years of political stagnation was painful. Fortunately, the calm was punctuated with ‘equinoctial Squalls’, and in greater debates, he joined eagerly. He could not take a mild interest in a question, or give a cause lukewarm support. Investing his side with a monopoly of virtue and integrity, he acted as though everything was at stake. Constant struggle and constant failure, the themes of these years, exacted their psychological penalty upon Burke.
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