Edmund Burke, 1729 - 1797

“It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France … little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.”

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France


Born in 1729 in Dublin, Edmund Burke was the son of an Irish government lawyer who grew up among a variety of Christian traditions. Though raised in his father’s Protestant faith, his mother was Catholic, and in his youth Burke was sent to a Quaker boarding school. This upbringing prefigured Burke’s later advocacy for greater religious tolerance.
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Burke follows Aristotle and precedes Tocqueville in identifying associations as fundamental to human flourishing. For Burke, the best life begins in the “little platoons”—family, church, and local community—that orient men toward virtues such as temperance and fortitude. It is in the local and particular that we are able to live justly. In seeing political life as best conducted within an order of particular habits and presumptions—specifically, the order of the British Constitution—Burke resisted the attempts of some of his contemporaries to study man as if he could be viewed in isolation, apart from all the trappings of society. [Read More]

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