I don't think anyone involved in my education ever required me to read this book, which I find one of the most interesting books of the last 500 years.
As an example of Burke's thinking, let's turn to the "natural rights" of man: "life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness." The traditional defense of these arguments has been that they derive from God, or from Providence, or from Nature (whatever "Nature" with-a-capital-N might turn out to be!)
But by now, there is an entirely different, Burkean argument for these rights. I can't put the argument with Burke's eloquence, but he would say that these are **American** rights, declared at the founding of our nation, and since then handed down from generation to generation as a priceless birthright, as the proper inheritance of every American citizen. They don't have to "derive" from anywhere except the American political tradition, the American political inheritance, which we should be on constant guard to protect,...
Burke championed the security of order over political freedom, particularly when brought about by revolution.
Edmund Burke wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790, at the very onset of the French Revolution. Burke saw in the events in France the dangers of Revolution and presciently foresaw some of the worst excesses likely as a result of the governmental breakdown. He was a politician as well as a philosopher and man of letters and had accumulated a lifetime of experience pertaining to the subtle interplay of how a government is organized. He had uppermost in his mind the benefits of living in safety and accumulating material goods which would be allowed by a well ordered society.
This emphasis on order is both the strength and the downfall of Burke. To give the man his due, he had well considered criticism of the many inadequacies of the constitutional monarchy formed after the Estates General had been replaced by the National Assembly...
Apart from aspects of style - a function of the times - Burke articulates the argument against revolution of any kind with brilliant clarity. Nothing worthwhile was ever built by tearing something else down. Except when the perversion is so repugnant it must be replaced. NB. Replaced - not simply torn down. Almost without exception revolution succeeds only in making matters worse. Lincoln and the Civil War is one magnificent exception. Slavery was replaced with emancipation - and still today Lincoln's genius reaches out from 1865, as does Burke's from even earlier.
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