Selected Writings and Speeches

Selected Writings and Speeches

Selected Writings and Speeches

Selected Writings and Speeches

Excerpt

Edmund Burke was born on January 12, 1729, in Dublin, and died on July 9, 1797, at his country home in Beaconsfield, England, where he lies buried. His father was a modestly successful Irish attorney, descended from the family of the poet Edmund Spenser, and a member of the Church of England. His mother was of the eminent Irish Nagle family, and a Roman Catholic. Undoubtedly, Burke's mixed religious background played a key role in determining his whole intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and social temperament and character. Also, beginning in 1741, his education at Ballitore in County Kildare, at the school of a humane and liberal Quaker, Abraham Shackleton, contributed much toward Burke's sense of the pieties of life, and helped to shape his lifelong intense dislike of religious intolerance. Throughout his life Burke revealed a humanity toward all forms of sincere religious belief. For example, in 1781, when he learned that some Hindu Brahmins in London could not find the proper means of practicing the rituals of their faith, and had become the objects of derision of some rationalist freethinkers and wits, Burke placed his home at the disposal of the Hindus. Burke and his brother Richard were brought up in the Church of England; his sister was brought up as a Catholic, in the religion of his mother and maternal uncles. Burke always remained a loyal adherent of the Church of England, and defended her privileged position whenever she was attacked by freethinkers or dissenters. Yet he was intensely aware of the penal laws against Roman Catholics, and the civil disabilities against Protestant dissenters, and throughout his twenty-nine years in Parliament did his best to establish equal constitutional rights for British subjects of all faiths. He always believed that "all the three religions prevalent . . . in various parts of these islands, ought all, in subordination to the legal establishments, as they . . .

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