The Rage of Edmund Burke: Portrait of an Ambivalent Conservative

The Rage of Edmund Burke: Portrait of an Ambivalent Conservative

The Rage of Edmund Burke: Portrait of an Ambivalent Conservative

The Rage of Edmund Burke: Portrait of an Ambivalent Conservative

Excerpt

Edmund Burke was an angry man. His was the first and most articulate voice to repudiate the French Revolution and in so doing he gave birth to the intellectual tradition of conservatism. At the heart of conservatism is rage—fury at those who would tamper with the stability and peace of the order that already is. In his most well-known book, The Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his parliamentary speeches, and in a long series of essays and letters, Burke angrily lashed out at the middle-class radicals of France and England who were destroying the aristocratic world, which, according to Burke, was the glory of Europe. His rage knew no limits as he denounced the upstart bourgeoisie who undermined the beautiful harmony of the ancien régime. He condemned the Jacobins (English and French) who sought to govern in the place of those great oaks, the aristocracy, that God had set over men as their natural rulers. He was contemptuous of the revolutionaries' lack of reverence for the past, for tradition, for old institutions, ancient ideas and prejudices. He was consumed with anger at their rationalism, and their science which cut through the miasma of mystery which he saw hovering over the social and political world. "The age of chivalry was gone," Burke wrote, and "that of sophisters, economists, and calculators had succeeded."

This is the conventional image of Burke, the heroic figure burning with anger, lashing out at the planners, the ideologues, the revolutionaries who dared reconstruct the social order in their prideful zeal. This image is very much alive and with us today as in the I790s. There has, in fact, been a major revival of interest in Burke during the last twenty-five years. This important and unexpected Burkean renaissance was fueled in part by the use made of him by cold-war anti-communists who saw his defense of Christian Europe against French revolutionary fanaticism as a stirring example to the western democracies engaged in ideological warfare against atheistic commu-

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.