Edmund Burke, like Pitt, was genuinely alarmed by events in the colonies; unlike Pitt, however, this "Tory Whig" saw the American revolt primarily in terms of the domestic politics of his time. For Burke the ultra-conservatism of ensconced parliamentary leadership also became the single most important cause for colonial discontent, and he strongly felt that colonial leadership bravely stood its ground, as did all true Whigs, in justified defiance against threatened rights and liberties guaranteed all by the "glorious" revolution of 1688. As Gerald Chapman underscores the point in this perceptive study, those who read Burke seriously can only stand in awe at his grasp of the growth of colonial society in all its manifestations. Not only did he find America "singular," but he asked the most singular question of his age. As Burke phrased it, "the question is not whether their spirit deserves praise or blame, but -- what in the name of God shall we do with it?"
And American leadership could only applaude Burke as an ally in reading his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, especially his summary of the acts of Parliament: "the scheme of the junto under consideration . . . strikes a palsy into every nerve of our constitution." Burke, of course, fixed the blame for the irresponsible governing of empire squarely on the growing problem of misgovernment. Like Franklin, Burke sought some sort of balance, and felt that British supremacy and American liberty were not incompatible. But his essential pessimism was expressed in the now classic sentence: "Great empire and little minds go ill together." Unlike his famous contemporary, the historian Edward Gibbon, who felt that after France was again at war with England that I thought there was no disgrace in becoming the advocate of my country against a foreign enemy," Burke was convinced that the renewed conflict with France would strengthen the Crown at the expense of Parliament and thus further endanger English liberties. After 1778 Burke dropped his efforts for American autonomy and declared himself unreservedly for American independence.