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2 - Burke, Reflections On The Revolution In France

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2011

Pamela Clemit
Affiliation:
University of Durham
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Summary

A necessary step towards understanding the place of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France in the broader debate on the Revolution is to recognize that Burke was not an orthodox apologist for monarchy. He was, as Richard Pares called him, a high and dry anti-monarchist. Having written and spoken steadily in defence of aristocratic society, Burke had long opposed democracy in the sense of the word that implies popular sovereignty, or active participation by the people in government. He wished to keep the King in the British constitution, not, as his earlier writings make clear, for sentimental reasons but rather as an offset against the possibility of ministerial aggrandizement. France he considered as less prepared than England for modern liberty; it was a place, to him, unimaginable without a king and queen. These views are consistent in Burke's thought from 1770 through 1791. Yet there are tensions and contradictions in his thinking, too, which emerge under the pressure of events in 1788–90; and these have a place in an honest rendering of the subtlety, the richness and the peculiar understanding of political prudence that come together in the Reflections, his first full-length reaction to the Revolution in France.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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