Edmund Burke: His Political Philosophy

Edmund Burke: His Political Philosophy

Edmund Burke: His Political Philosophy

Edmund Burke: His Political Philosophy

Synopsis

First published in 1981 this unique study discusses the evolution of Plato's thought through the actual developments in Athenian democracy, the book also demonstrates Plato's continuing responses to changes in political theory and argues for a new understanding of Plato's goals for the state and his ultimate concern for the moral well-being of the citizens.

Excerpt

Edmund Burke enjoyed a remarkable historical reputation in nineteenth-century Britain. Although his contemporaries had recognized him as a philosopher, politician and statesman the Victorians saw Burke as a towering hero who had rallied his countrymen to the cause of counter-revolution, saved the constitution of Britain and the empire and moulded the Victorian system of government. They believed that his campaign against the corrupting effects of royal influence inaugurated the constitutional monarchy of the mid-nineteenth century. They admired his endeavours to establish government by party as an anticipation of the two party system of that period. In these, and in many other ways, too, Burke appeared to possess a certain prophetic quality of mind, an almost superhuman instinct for perceiving the direction in which history was about to move.

Some reaction against the fulsome praise of the Victorians, was inevitable. In the first half of this century it came and with it, the waning of Burke's reputation. Detailed examination of his career and minute analysis of the political system of the second half of the eighteenth century revealed that Burke was very much a man of his time in his ready acceptance of the political assumptions and institutions of his contemporaries. Far from being a prophet of the liberal constitution of the next century Burke sought to restore the old Whig constitution established at the Glorious Revolution, and which he accused George III and some of his advisors of violating. It was never Burke's intention to fashion novel political forms which anticipated the future development of the constitution. He wished to defend and protect the aristocratic world of eighteenth-century politics, an objective towards which his reforms were uniformly directed. He was too much involved in the political struggles of his own day to concern himself with the future development of the British constitution. Indeed, Edmund Burke was not a philosopher at all. He was essentially a practical politician and a propagandist rather than a thinker with a systematic philosophy to expound. His political objectives had their origin less in his own thought than in his membership of the Rockingham Whig party and his close personal relationship with the Marquis of Rockingham himself. Partisanship and prejudice were evidently

Charles, 2nd Marquis of Rockingham (1739-82) was one of the greatest Whig politicians of the age. He was Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury in the two short ministries of 1765-66 and 1782. He was a great Yorkshire landowner and one of the foremost electoral patrons of the day.

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