The Portable Edmund Burke

The Portable Edmund Burke

by Edmund Burke

As a member of the House of Commons during the late eighteenth century, Burke shook Parliament with his powerful defense of the American Revolution and the rights of persecuted Catholics in England and Ireland; his indictment of the English rape of the Indian subcontinent; and, most famously, his denouncement of English Jacobin sympathizers during the French Revolution.

This volume also includes excerpts from his letters and an informative Introduction surveying Burke's life, ideas, and his reception and influence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 3.83
  • Pages: 573
  • Publish Date: July 1999 by Penguin Classics
  • Isbn10: 0140267603
  • Isbn13: 9780140267600

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For my Modern Europe class, I read most of Part I: "Culture and History", (which includes selections from "A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful" and his speeches on religious toleration) most of Part III: "America and Revolution" and Part VI: The French Revolution. He argues that the fear a powerful God inspires is a necessary part of real religious experience: "Though in a just idea of the deity perhaps none of his attributes are predominant, yet, to our imagination, his power is by far the most striking. And though a consideration of his other attributes may relieve, in some measure, our apprehensions; yet no conviction of the justice with which it is exercised, nor the mercy with which it is tempered, can wholly remove the terror that naturally arises from a force which nothing can withstand." In his speeches on religious toleration, Burke spoke in support of the rights of Catholics and Dissenters (non-Anglican Protestants). In the "Speech on American Taxation" (1774) Burke appealed to the House of Commons to be more conciliatory toward the American colonies and recognize that their objections to British taxation were based on English tradition, but his argument is motivated more by pragmatic concerns than purely moral ones: "I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it." In the "Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies" Burke gave four objections to the use of force against the American colonists. Burke argues that in the colonies, where only a minority belong to the Church of England, the influence of Dissenting Protestant churches has led people to be very attached to their independence. With the French Revolution the threat from France has changed, but "the present distemper of France is far more likely to be contagious than the old one" because people are more naturally inclined to support the excesses of democracy than the excesses of monarchy. In England, a legal monarch had attempted to exercise arbitrary power; in France, Burke thought that even though the monarchy was originally "arbitrary" (with no Constitutional basis) it had the potential to be made legitimate. Burke also attacks the atheism of the French Revolution, asserting that "man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long" and that if England followed France's example, a "great source of civilization" would be lost.

"Burke shook Parliament with his powerful defense of the American Revolution and the rights of persecuted Catholics in England and Ireland, his indictment of the English rape of the Indian subcontinent, and, most famously, his denunciation of the French Revolution" I have fallen in love with this blurb. Ironically, I bought a copy of Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution", but thought I'd have to put it off til summertime...I'm so happy now? Yet, in contrast, in his "Philosophical Inquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful" Burke analyzes beauty with lots and lots of happy, fluffy images, like, "Aw, look at the pretty dove...so cute...and all the soft, sweet colors in the world..." I love how he can write about scary murderers and pretty doves. Burke loves Montesquieu too!!

I found this collection to be just as the title suggests: portable.

The latter made Burke one of the leading figures within the conservative faction of the Whig party (which he dubbed the "Old Whigs"), in opposition to the pro-French-Revolution "New Whigs", led by Charles James Fox. Burke also published a philosophical work where he attempted to define emotions and passions, and how they are triggered in a person.