Essay edmund burke - what is a thesis statement in a rhetorical analysis









essay edmund burke

essay edmund burkeEssay edmund burke -Admirers of Burke tend to pass over the degree of sneering and second-class snobbery that fills the “Reflections.” Burke hates the Revolution in France because it will sacrifice man to plan, but also because it raised up people you wouldn’t want to dine with—hairdressers and Jews and speculators. Bertrand Russell once observed that a lot of the gloom of the early Church is due to the personal gloom of St.In 1790, he grasped the truth that those poor Iranian moderates Bani-sadr and Ghotbzadeh learned after the 1979 revolution in Tehran: try and play footsie with the absolutists at a revolution and you will end up playing headsies with their executioners.In the midst of an extended metaphor in which the English in India are seen as frigate birds, he writes that, as they fly away from the land they have scavenged, their next “prey is lodged in England; and the cries of India are given to seas and winds, to be blown about, in every breaking up of the monsoon, over a remote and unhearing ocean.” Of the Royal Court of George III, he declares, “It is shrunk into the polished littleness of modern elegance and personal accommodation; it has evaporated from the gross concrete, into an essence and rectified spirit of expense, where you have tuns of ancient pomp in a vial of modern luxury.” Elsewhere in the same speech, he makes the point that lots of old British institutions no longer serve much purpose: Our palaces are vast inhospitable halls.“As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you,” he argued.There is an American Burke, an Indian Burke, and a French Burke, and one of the hot topics in thinking about Burke is how different each of these is from the others.Conor Cruise O’Brien, a fellow Irish politician and man of letters, came closest to making up a coherent Burke, a few decades back, with his fine intellectual biography, “The Great Melody.” (The phrase is from Yeats’s praise of Burke’s oratory.) O’Brien’s Burke is unapologetically various, a diva with a set of arias, but, above all, he’s a closeted Irish patriot, who hated reactionary abuses of power as well as revolutionary ones.His work in Parliament, over the next thirty years, was devoted to three great subjects: the problem of America, the sufferings of India, and the meaning of the French Revolution.Namier and his followers dismissed the idea that Burke had a mind and a philosophy or a set of influential arguments as a sentimental fantasy indulged by amateurs.There the bleak winds, there “Boreas, and Eurus, and Caurus, and Argestes loud,” howling through the vacant lobbies, and clattering the doors of deserted guard-rooms, appal the imagination, and conjure up the grim spectres of departed tyrants—the Saxon, the Norman, and the Dane; the stern Edwards and fierce Henries,—who stalk from desolation to desolation, through the dreary vacuity and melancholy succession of chill and comfortless chambers.The impeachment process, which stretched out over several years, involved some baroque political maneuvering, and ended with Hastings’s acquittal.The most famous passage in the “Reflections” is his chivalrous but overwrought hymn to the glory of poor, dim-witted Marie Antoinette: “Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men. Augustine; and certain apocalyptic tendencies of modern conservatism may be due to the later Burke.Burke was the prophet who saw Pol Pot coming when others saw Paradise, but he also saw Pol Pot coming when only more politics was on the way.It isn’t enough for him to say that something revolutionary is bad or cruel; the bad thing must be also ruthless, irredeemable, and very nearly irresistible.Johnson said) and partly because of the Continental Congress’s hostility toward the Roman Church.One reason that Burke is so appealing to American conservatives is that, unlike other anti-Enlightenment thinkers, he supported the American Revolution.The cause that took up more of his political life than any other was a campaign to impeach Warren Hastings, the governor general of Bengal for the British East India Company, for cruelty to the native Hindus—rather as if a contemporary Republican had spent his time in Congress crusading to have a Blackwater contractor in Iraq tried for war crimes.Burke is more a badge to be worn than a book to be read.The conventional answer to the question about why we want to see cruelty and pain in art is that, in some complicated way, it makes us more wholesome.“Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce.”In those days, it took about eight weeks for a letter or a newspaper to travel between Old World and New, as mail was carried on leaky and wind-tossed boats.He thought that the management of the country should be left to a class of rich farmers and professional Parliamentarians, in conjunction with a weak and biddable king, and that this was all the “democracy” anyone needed—provided that the people, in broad form, had a kind of general and respected veto on big questions, expressed, variously, through petitions, prayers, and riots.essay edmund burkeActually, he was at first rather cool to the American position—partly because of its hypocrisy over slavery (“We hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes,” as Dr.(In a nice symmetry, Burke’s estate was near Beaconsfield, the market town where that other great Conservative outsider Disraeli also found his estate and title.)Burke’s role as spokesman for the Rockingham Whigs has dogged his reputation in England.Though Burke is dense in argument, he always writes and speaks from raw emotion.Burke’s thought reminds us that the two ideas joined in the phrase “liberal democracy” are less like Siamese twins than like a shotgun marriage.But he came to doubt the wisdom of trying to rule a big country from a great distance, and of taxing people who didn’t get to vote for the people who taxed them.By “Burkean conservative,” we should really mean someone who has great respect for traditional order as a guarantor of social peace but not, on the whole, as a guarantor of liberty, except in a very limited sense.Indian Burke, French Burke—is there a Basic Burke beneath them?One dead, uniform silence reigned over the whole region. The American Burke is a model of rational prudence; the Indian Burke one of imperial responsibility and sympathy.” Burke inveighs: When the British armies traversed, as they did, the Carnatic for hundreds of miles in all directions, through the whole line of their march they did not see one man, not one woman, not one child, not one four-footed beast of any description whatever. (“We never said [Hastings] was a tiger and a lion: no, we have said he was a weasel and a rat.”) But, in the long history of colonial cruelties, his speeches against Hastings and the East India Company were perhaps the first modern instance where the sufferings inflicted upon an occupied people were held up in the capital of the empire and regarded as worthy of compassion, and punishment.That may sound like a terribly limited conception, but is it so far from the way politics is conducted in democratic countries?When Lord Castlereagh, running British foreign policy during the end of the Napoleonic period, and refusing the Burkean demand that he wage preventive war in Europe on behalf of toppled monarchs, remarked, “This Country cannot, and will not, act upon the abstract and speculative principles of Precaution,” he was being more Burkean than Burke.After all, in France a small class of highly educated _énarques—_graduates of the École Nationale d’Administration—conduct the business of the state, while in Britain, two hundred years later, Downing Street has become again an annex to the playing fields of Eton.Some argue that to compromise with the insurgents would be to lose all credibility with other insurgents; others that just one more surge of troops will do it.Yet to declaw Burke’s conservatism is to miss the blazing fury of “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” a book more prophetic than political.The real imperial glue had to be a commonality of interests and values.(And so begins that strange note, found to this day in American conservative magazines, whereby the most privileged caste in the most powerful country in the most prosperous epoch in the whole history of humankind is always sure that everything is going straight to hell and has mostly already got there.)The Revolution in France worked its way around from the Terror to the more cautious Directory, and yet Burke never adjusted his tone.A “Burkean conservative” is the kind liberals pretend to want, just as conservatives like to say, in seeming praise of an opponent, “He’s a true Jeffersonian liberal.” Both mean, really, that the other guy is so pessimistic about government action that, in power, he won’t actually anything. Let’s see, something about “the little platoons” of civil society, and then hating the French Revolution (though, wait, he liked the American one), and wasn’t there something about how mountains and storms are fun, in a scary kind of way?The political world that Burke lived in was, Namier’s account suggests, really more like “The Sopranos” with snuffboxes than like any recognizable modern grouping of parties: various gangs of aristocrats, connected by blood ties and common interests, opposed other gangs of aristocratic oligarchs.When this tumult subsides, a dead, and still more frightful silence would reign in this desert, if every now and then the tacking of hammers did not announce, that those constant attendants upon all courts in all ages, Jobs, were still alive—for whose sake alone it is, that any trace of ancient grandeur is suffered to remain.The Parliamentary sinecure that Burke got from the Rockingham faction gave him what amounted to tenure, and the outline of his adult life more nearly resembles that of a modern professor than it does our idea of a politician. essay edmund burke This was at the very start of the whole bloody business, well before the Terror gained power or the King lost his head.Lewis Namier, a dominant modern historian of eighteenth-century Britain, regarded Burke as no more than an opportunist pamphleteer, a paid functionary of the Rockingham machine.What has expanded, one might argue, is the extent of the implicit veto.Burke’s case against the Revolution is precisely that there was nothing—not law or reverence or constitution—to stand between the revolutionary certitudes and the people who were subject to them.Burke’s campaign has not worn well with British historians.Burke made his way in life by attaching himself to these Rockingham Whigs—getting elected to Parliament mostly from “pocket boroughs,” small ridings wholly controlled by local landed magnates.Knowing the day-to-day movements of a foreign adventure confers no more advantage than knowing the minute-by-minute movements of a stock.Or, as he puts it elsewhere, with a detachment almost like Sade’s, “Little more can be said than that the idea of bodily pain, in all the modes and degrees of labour, pain, anguish, torment, is productive of the sublime; and nothing else in this sense can produce it.” The essay on the sublime is also very good on the power of the incomplete and obscure: “To make any thing very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary.Burke was well aware of the difficulty: “Seas roll, and months pass, between the order and the execution; and the want of a speedy explanation of a single point is enough to defeat an whole system.” And yet each side’s ability to grasp the other’s position (or fail to), and to adjust its policy (or fail to) in the light of changing events, seems exactly as agile, or as clumsy, as it is today.Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities; but escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine.Burke was a liberal, of a sort, but not a democrat.The miserable inhabitants, flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered; others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of function; fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers, and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an unknown and hostile land.He thought the idea that you could run an empire on a balance sheet was crazy.Still, the choice of politics paid off in a material way: the Irish adventurer died, in 1797, on his own grand estate.O’Brien suggests at indignant length that the dynamic, as with Disraeli, worked largely the other way around: Burke did not find arguments for his patrons’ interests; his patrons came to understand their interests only after listening to Burke’s arguments.The Republican principles Burke excoriated were exactly those which, after 1870, came to rule France (aside from the black hole of the Occupation) until this day, producing the wisest and wealthiest period in its history.Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” was originally a letter to a French friend, which he published as a pamphlet in 1790.The presiding idea of his essay on “the Sublime and Beautiful,” finished before he was twenty-nine, is more radical than is generally grasped.In particular, the positions taken in Parliament sound the same as those we might have now regarding an imperial issue of our own.The French Burke is not only the most influential but also the most tangled. essay edmund burke He was Irish to his contemporaries in the same way that Disraeli was Jewish to his: officially, not at all—Burke, who was born in 1729, probably in Dublin, spoke of himself unself-consciously as an Englishman—while, in the eyes of everyone around him, inescapably so. Still, one of his best biographers, the American scholar Isaac Kramnick, argued, in “The Rage of Edmund Burke” (1977), that Burke was secretly homosexual.But Burke used the occasion to make a series of broader and still resonant points about the evils of colonial oppression.Describing the destruction of the Carnatic region of India at the hands of Hastings’s local allies, he wrote: A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, and destroyed every temple.Certainly, he was always painfully aware of the brutality of a big power bullying a little one. When two men convicted of “Sodomitical Practices” were placed in the pillory and, in effect, tortured to death (one was struck on the head by a stone; the other, too short for the pillory, was slowly throttled by it), Burke bravely spoke up in Parliament against the horror.Edmund Burke was an Irishman with all the ambiguities that Irishmen in England felt in the eighteenth century. To describe her body describes her mind; one is the Transcript of the other”).Burke’s “rage,” an uneasy, near-hysterical thrum of unresolved ambivalences, vibrates in his prose.Seen as a human being, rather than as a time-transcendent oracle, Burke is less that familiar species the Disappointed Radical, who swings wildly from one ideology to another, fighting for Indian dignity at one moment and for French monarchy at another, than the Shocked Liberal—the man of reform who, when reform turns to revolution, is driven around the bend by its excesses.In “Edmund Burke in America” (Cornell), the historian Drew Maciag inventories the many contradictory roles that Burke has played in our local imagination, where, as he notes, “homage to Burke was more a profession of faith than an explanation of policy.” There’s Russell Kirk’s mystical Burke, of the early nineteen-fifties, a theological conservative whose thought was rooted in faith in a “natural law” derived from the Almighty (although Burke’s own direct statements of this faith when it comes to politics were, as Maciag says, “vague to the point of meaninglessness”); William F.But Burke saw, with a frightening clarity, which way the thing was tending: the Jacobins were ready to kill anyone who would stop them from trying to remake the entire world in the image of their idealism.The range of responses is always the same: there are bulls and bears, loss-cutters and this-will-show-them-ers. By far the longest and most passionate of all Burke’s political engagements was his fight to impeach Warren Hastings—who, as an executive of the British East India Company, was effectively the pro-consul representing British interests in the Indian subcontinent—for atrocities against the native peoples.Though the rule of the East India Company was doubtless often cruel and usually arbitrary, Hastings seems to have been far from the worst of the offenders.(Bani-sadr, who went to Iran with Khomeini, sure that he could manage the mad old man, ended up fleeing for his life two years later, to find refuge—how Clio loves her little ironies—in a well-guarded villa just outside Versailles.)Burke’s “Reflections” is, for many, a sacred text, and sacred texts, including political ones, demand amnesia as much as they reward attention. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. That of sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.”Even for Burke, the tone is oddly overwrought.As Norman shows, after Rockingham’s death, in 1782, Burke’s influence dwindled, and then, after his turn toward the right during the French Revolution, he broke with the Whigs entirely.Warren Hastings said that, during Burke’s opening oration at his impeachment, he felt like the guiltiest man on earth—such was the strength of Burke’s power of crooning and convincing. After his arrival in England, in 1750, his literary fame got him a job as secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, who was the leader of the Whigs—the party of aristocratic Parliamentarians, who were mistrustful of the King and of concentrated court power.O’Brien convincingly argues that, without being a secret Roman Catholic, Burke was haunted by visions of eternal damnation. Yet the evidence is that Burke lived for a long time in great intimacy with another man—the confusingly named Will Burke (no relation)—and was unusually sensitive to cruelty against those accused of sodomy.The Jacobins are intelligent, inspired, filled with the logic of their sacred texts, impassioned, hungry for martyrdom, tough, ruthless, ready to be selfless in the cause.may be the nicest compliment ever paid by one great writer to another. Johnson, talking to Boswell in 1784, said of Edmund Burke, writer, Parliamentarian, and fellow club member, “If a man were to go by chance at the same time with Burke under a shed, to shun a shower, he would say—‘this is an extraordinary man.’ If Burke should go into a stable to see his horse drest, the ostler would say—‘We have had an extraordinary man here.’ ” Burke retains his reputation for extraordinariness, even though what, exactly, made his thought so extraordinary may be hard to define.Life took place in a theatre of values and traditions, and it was fatal to translate them into a merchant’s language of profit and loss.Burke overrates the revolutionaries so passionately that one slowly senses the odd message of this and similar paranoias: it is not that the other side has more faults; it is that the other side possesses virtues that we have surrendered.Burke answered, honestly, that we like to go to violent plays for the same reason that people went to hangings: not because violence improves us but because it interests us, as long as it’s happening to someone else. “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the ,” he writes in the essay. essay edmund burke In the midst of an extended metaphor in which the English in India are seen as frigate birds, he writes that, as they fly away from the land they have scavenged, their next “prey is lodged in England; and the cries of India are given to seas and winds, to be blown about, in every breaking up of the monsoon, over a remote and unhearing ocean.” Of the Royal Court of George III, he declares, “It is shrunk into the polished littleness of modern elegance and personal accommodation; it has evaporated from the gross concrete, into an essence and rectified spirit of expense, where you have tuns of ancient pomp in a vial of modern luxury.” Elsewhere in the same speech, he makes the point that lots of old British institutions no longer serve much purpose: Our palaces are vast inhospitable halls. essay edmund burke

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