After reading this article you will learn about Edmund Burke:- 1. Life and Works of Edmund Burke 2. Political Ideas of Edmund Burke 3. Importance.
Life and Works of Edmund Burke:
Edmund Burke was basically a politician and he is still remembered because of certain political ideas but these do not form a political philosophy. We also study Machiavelli because he took a stand on political matters that still evokes our thought. He clearly stated that politics had nothing to do with religion.
Burke’s views of French Revolution and role of people’s representative are still remembered by students of Western political thought.
In this connection we remember Maxey’s considered opinion:
“Edmund Burke is one of the best known figures in English history and one of the few politicians of the eighteenth century England whose renown has not faded”.
Edmund Burke was born in Dublin in 1729. His father was an attorney and a Protestant by faith. His mother was a Roman Catholic. These two streams of religious faith met together in the family of Burke.
Burke’s two brothers followed father’s religion, while their sister followed the faith of mother. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and received his degree from this college.
In 1750 he went to London to study law, but as it was against his liking he gave up the study of law, and devoted himself to literary work. Two Essays—a Vindication of Natural Society and Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin on our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful— were published and he came to be known in the academic circles of England.
In 1759 Burke came in direct contact with Gerard Hamilton who became the Secretary of Ireland and he appointed Burke as a member of his staff. This post helped him to acquire a lot of experience about the practical affairs of government.
In 1765 he was made private secretary to Lord Rockingham, the newly appointed Prime Minister of England. The association with the Prime Minister enables him to win a seat in the House of Commons and he entered Parliament in 1765. He delivered his first speech in 1766.
The first speech appeared to be very promising and contained the seeds of a good parliamentarian. The death of his son and other family troubles disturbed his mind. He was also faced with financial problems.
However, during his long career as a Member of Parliament he was able to establish himself as an orator and, in fact, he was a legendary figure in the field of oration. He was the leader of the Whig Party until his retirement in 1794. Three years after, he died.
The important writings of Burke are—Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents (1770), American Taxation (1774), Conciliation with the Colonies (1775), Affairs of America (1777), and Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
After he became the Member of Parliament his first objective was to preserve the constitution. Burke was a number one conservative. He was against any sort of compromise with despotism and for this reason he supported the Irish, American and Indian standpoints regarding freedom movement and fight against imperialism.
But he could not support the French Revolution. His Reflection on Revolution of France created a sensation. Eleven editions of the book were sold within a year. Within a short span of time more than 30,000 copies were sold. He carefully analysed the different aspects of the Revolution and also his point of view.
Edmund Burke retired from British parliament but he did not retire from studying, analysing and expressing different hot and current political views and burning issues. That was the characteristic feature of Burke.
Towards the end of the century a peace treaty between France and England was about to be signed and when his attention was drawn to it he immediately expressed his view in Letter on Regicide Peace. But before the publication of the letter he breathed his last.
About Burke’s thought Plamenatz’s comment runs as follows—it he is among the least systematic, he is also among the more consistent of political philosophers.
Political Ideas of Edmund Burke:
1. Social Contract:
Edmund Burke was primarily a conservative thinker and because of his conservativeness he never recognized any abrupt or radical change for the upliftment of society. Because of his conservatism he could not lend his support to the French Revolution.
Throughout the world there prevails a unique discipline and continuity. With the help of the well-articulated laws created by God the society achieves and maintains its mobility.
These divine laws are also moral laws. In every civil society there are moral laws and the consciousness and wisdom of individuals facilitate the application of these laws. Membership of the civil society entitles man to enjoy certain rights and privileges. Society changes and develops, reforms are introduced.
People continue to enjoy these rights and privileges and when attempts are made to impinge them they resist.
It is the thought, action, accumulated knowledge and wisdom that help the human society to march forward. In other words, the past helps the present generation and simultaneously helps it to go ahead. Abruptness has no place in Burke’s thought.
Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure—but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties.
It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership not only between those who are living…those who are dead, those who are to be born…
It is a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by an inviolable oath which holds all physical and moral natures each in their appointed peace.”
Here Burke seems to be playing a rhetorical game with the familiar contractarian phraseology; or rather to be reading into it such new depths of meaning as to transform it out of all recognition.
If such are the real truths of politics could they not be better expressed by frankly abandoning the contract altogether and openly adopting an organic theory of the state? But he was addressing an audience accustomed to think in terms of the original contract.
He deliberately intended to direct their thoughts away from of the errors usually advocated by its adherents. Party sympathy and dislike of revolutionary radicalism led him to defend the Whig settlement of 1689 and with it the idea of original contract. He made it a matter of practical politics rather than of theoretical solution.
2. Rights and Liberties:
About natural rights and liberties Burke held different view. Hobbes and Locke believed that natural rights and liberties meant people of the state of nature possessed and enjoyed these. But Burke is of opinion that natural rights mean rights indispensable for the general development of all faculties of man and the government has responsibility to protect and implement these rights and it cannot deny its responsibility.
In Burke’s own words – “If civil society be made for the advantage of man all the advantages for which it is made become his right. Such rights are the right to justice to the fruits of one’s industry, to the acquisition of one’s parents to instruction in life and to consolation in death. In the partnership of society all men have equal rights but not have equal things.”
On the subject of natural rights what he wants to say is:
Government is not made in virtue of natural rights which may and do exist in total independence of it and exist in much greater clearness… By having a right to everything, they want everything.
Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants to be reckoned they want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that passion of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted.
The restraints on men as well as their liberties are to be reckoned among their nights. But as the liberties and restraints vary with times and circumstances, and admit of infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule.
Burke’s views on rights and liberties are really excellent. According to Burke people formed civil society primarily for the purpose of enjoying fights and liberties. Because only in such a society there is a legitimate authority and his responsibility lies in safeguarding these rights. In a society where there is no authority to implement rights men are absolutely helpless and rights face greater jeopardy.
That is why he felt the necessity of the formation of a civil society. Here it is also to be noted that Burke did not tract the term civil society in ordinary sense. He was an eighteenth century intellectual and towards the end of his life he observed that the concept of civil society was gathering momentum and Burke could not keep him away from this popular and powerful trend.
In Burke’s thought system there is no place of abstract philosophy of liberty. He has judged liberty from the practical point of view. Liberty is also a product of history and inheritance. Both liberty and authority in Burke’s idea are subject to limitation. Unlimited liberty is equivalent to license and unlimited authority is inimical to liberty.
So both require to be restrained. Burke has conceived of liberty in the perspective of the whole society. The well-being of the society is to be placed at the highest point and all are to be adjusted with this ideal.
One end ought not to be pursued at the detriment of the interests or other persons. Enjoyment or rights and liberties must stem at the common well being of society. Liberty is valuable no doubt, but also valuable are justice, order and peace of the society. They are even indispensable to the reality of liberty itself. Liberty is also the product of evolution.
“You will observe, that from Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity as an estate belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right.”
Liberty thus is not a claim of people at a particular moment of time. It has a lone background. So, to what extent people will enjoy liberty and exercise rights depends upon the history and civilization of the state. Rights and liberties are parts of the whole civilization. The above observation of Burke reveals that he did not treat rights liberty and privileges as the product of contemporary situation.
They are derived from the past conditions as well as they are the products of civilization. In his view it is abundantly clear that Burke explained the ideas of rights and liberties from the standpoint of his favourite conservative philosophy or conservatism Rights are not the products of any particular moment of time. They must have a history and tradition.
3. Democracy and Aristocracy:
Like Plato and Aristotle, Edmund Burke had no faith in the administrative ability and quality of masses of men. Administration requires special ability and all men do not possess it. In other words, only few people have the capability to shoulder the burden of managing the affairs of state. This approach of Burke does not corroborate the general attitude of people towards democracy.
Of course this does not mean that Burke was an anti-democrat. Commenting on Burke’s concept of democracy Ebenstein says “Burke denies the validity of the central doctrine of democracy; that only the governed have the right to determine who is governing them and that all votes count equally. He opposes this democratic method as arithmetic devoid of meaning and thinks of representation in terms of historic interests, such as the Lords, the Commons, the monarchy, the established church rather than in terms of individual citizens. Burke adheres to the medieval idea that the man is significant, not as an individual citizen, but solely as a member of a group to which he belongs socially or economically.” Burke thus speaks of the corporate identity of the individual.
A man outside the group is insignificant. His views and opinions, if expressed individually, are all perverted. Hegel has expressed the same view Man always acts in corporate capacity. Individual identification or importance is both unnecessary and harmful view individual is precursor to totalitarian state of Hitler.
Edmund Burke treated aristocracy as a necessary feature of constitutional monarchy. To him it was not a pure form of government. He laid faith on aristocracy on two grounds. Its members were wealthy and exerted influence on society. The aristocracy formed a political culture. In his opinion this would facilitate the administration of state.
4. View on Constitution:
Every or almost all the political views of Burke are intrinsically parts of his conservatism and his idea about constitution is no exception. The accumulated knowledge and culture of a nation is reflected in the constitution. On this ground he vehemently opposed the attempt of French revolutionaries attempt to introduce a new constitution.
By a constitutional policy, working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges, in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, and the gifts of providence are handed down to us, and from us, in the same course and order.
The constitution is a repository of the past experience and it guides the future course of action. It is continuity. The whole scheme of our mixed constitution is to prevent any one of its principles from being carried as far as, taken by itself and theoretically, “it would go” (Burke). Checks and balances are the essence of the system. Each part limits and controls the other parts. Hence in the “British constitution there is a perpetual treaty and compromise going on, sometimes openly, sometimes with less observation.”
Edmund Burke thus attempts to establish a philosophical justification of constitution. Traditions, morality, experience etc. all are carried over and all these together enrich the civilization. In this way the fund of knowledge and experience expands. This is ultimately embodied in the constitutions, institutions and political processes.
Edmund Burke then speaks of the prescriptive type of constitution. Let us quote him; “our constitution is a prescriptive constitution, it is a constitution whose sole authority is that it has existed time out of mind… your king, your lords, your judges, your juries, grand and little all are, all are prescriptive… Prescription is the solid of all titles, not only to property, but to government. It is a presumption in favour of any settled scheme of government against any untried project that a nation has long existed and flourished under it… A nation is not an idea of only of local extent and individual momentary aggregation, but it is an idea of continuity which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space. This is a choice not of one day or one set of people, not a tumultuary and giddy choice, it is a deliberate election of the ages and of generations, it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice; it is made by peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, and moral, civil and social habitudes of the people which disclose themselves only in a long space of time”.
“As to the theory of constitution, Burke has nothing positive to offer beyond the exposition and eulogy of the constitution of England. In this he sees social and political forces operating with the regularity, ease and effectiveness of nature itself. The organs of the government—king, parliament and courts—have their authority from the law and custom of the land.”
We do not agree with Dunning’s view. Burke has emphasized that the constitution of a country must contain in itself the characteristic features of social, political and economic conditions of the country concerned.
It is true that while he was talking about constitution the picture of the British constitution was quite alive in his mind. Till now no country of the world has framed her constitution completely ignoring the past history and tradition as well as the peculiar social, economic and political situation.
Hence there is nothing objectionable in the view of Burke. Again, it is not surprising that a large number of countries have adopted the British constitution as their model, of course with some modification and variation.
Sabine says that Burke’s theory of constitution is based upon the actual settlement of 1688 by which the effective political control passed into the hands of the Whig nobility.
Edmund Burke was against all sorts of reforms of parliamentary system and this was due to his loyalty to the British system of government. He lent his unqualified support to the then British parliament on the ground that it would be able to fulfill the needs of the people and augment the welfare of society.
It is to be noted here that though Burke was dead against the incorporation of new elements in the British constitution the British Government could not resist people’s persistent demand for introduction of new thoughts and elements into the main body of the constitution. But since the British constitution is unwritten it is not always easy to make distinction between old elements and added new elements. However, the entry of new elements into the body of the constitution is undeniable.
5. Representation and Political Party:
For pretty long time Edmund Burke was a member of the House of Commons and he established himself as a successful and able parliamentarian. In this regard he favoured certain ideas.
Particularly, he had definite conception about territorial constituency and responsibility of the representative towards the voters of his constituency. He held that the constituency was not a numerical or territorial unit.
It is not simply a territorial area consisting of certain numbers of voters or citizens. Virtual representation, that is, representation in which there is a communion of interests and a sympathy in feelings and desires, he thought, had most of the advantages of representation by actual election and was free from any disadvantages.
Burke criticized the existing system of representation and mentality and outlook of the representative. He was of opinion that English representative form of government was not functioning satisfactorily due to the defective system.
In his address to the voters of his Bristol constituency Burke defended the independence of the representative. In this famous address Burke rejected the time-old conception of territorialism.
Once a man is elected from a particular constituency, he is to be regarded as a Member of Parliament, and not as a representative of that particular constituency. He receives by virtue of his membership, the right to represent the whole country. He is also to be allowed to exercise his own judgment and freedom.
A Member of Parliament is not a spokesman of his constituency, although he is bound to look after the interests of his constituency, he is not bound to do it at the cost of national interests. He is not the ambassador of the constituency. He has his own view, outlook and attitude.
He must adhere to his own principles. No representative can sacrifice all these things and it is quite unjustified to ask him to do that. The constituency is not a school where the members will go to take lessons from the voters and advices his future course of action.
He will have full freedom to express his views in the Parliament and it may so happen that this may contradict the interest of his voters.
He cannot take lessons about the law and government from the voters. What Edmund Burke asserts here is that a Member of Parliament must have freedom of thought and expression and though he represents a territorial area he must see the national interests.
The view of Burke regarding the duty and responsibility of a representative has been a subject of a good deal of controversy. But this view is still a subject of serious discussion. Burke refused to accept that a representative was the spokesperson of the constituency.
He cannot neglect the interests of the constituency he represents and simultaneously he cannot go against the national interests. He argued that it is the primary duty for the representative to give priority to the national interests. Today the situation has undergone changes.
A prudent representative must make a balance between local and national interest. If he completely ignores the legitimate interests of the constituency he represents, the next election will not produce results that will go to his favour.
Particularly in weak and developing democratic systems the representatives have been found to be serious about the issues and problems of their own constituencies. So far as the holistic approach to the representative system is concerned Edmund Burke is hundred percent correct. But his approach has certain practical limitations.
According to Burke—Party is a body of men united, for promoting by their joint endeavours, the national interests, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed. Burke strongly advocated in favour of a party system.
In his time the party system of the House of Commons had acquired a clear picture and this created a favourable impression about party functioning in his mind. He realized that British representative system could not work successfully without the proper development of party system.
He also supported the loyalty of every statesman to the principles and ideology of the party. Private consideration, in his opinion, would not be allowed to break the loyalty to the party.
It is interesting to note that though Burke supported the independence of thought and judgment of members of Parliament he did not allow the same thing to the members of political parties.
Edmund Burke emphasized the observance of party principles and ideology and he did not support any aberration. It is due to the fact that Burke had a great respect for the constitutional government of England and his clear opinion was that without a well-organized party this would collapse. So government was more important to him than individual freedom.
It is generally observed that Burke’s criticisms of the intense political movements on behalf of democracy in Europe during his time constitute the basis of modern political tradition usually called conservatism.
A reflection on the Revolution of France (1790) contains the conservative political philosophy of Burke. No attempt should be made to destroy the old tradition and civilization of any society. The government and constitution both are the products of old tradition.
Burke’s attitude to towards ideology is helpful to an understanding of conservatism, Burke was against ideology as such because ideologies oversimplify and exaggerate actual social conditions.
Worst of all the slogans such as freedom, liberty and natural rights are dangerous to society and weapons of the revolutionaries and reformers who have scant respect for the tradition and civilization of the country.
They do not also care for the consequences of their revolutions. In his Reflections on the Revolutions of France Burke has raised the following questions whose answer is ‘No’.
Am I to felicitate a mad man who has escaped from the protecting and wholesome darkness of his, on his restoration to the enjoyment of right and liberty?
Am I to congratulate a highwayman and murderer, who have broken prisons upon the recovery of his natural rights?
These two questions reveal Burke’s attitude towards abstract rights and liberties as well as to ideology. Was by comments that Burke’s conservatism represents an anti-ideology.
At the least it is strongly critical of most political ideas, especially those which urge social reform and social change. But even an anti-ideology cannot be expressed without ideas. The primary notion of Burke’s conservatism is that to conserve the past.
To destroy the past and introduce a novelty is harmful. Burke felt that there were certain “truths” about which there could be little doubt. One of such truths is that men are naturally unequal and society requires orders and classes for the good of all men.
Man is the creature of appetite and will and is governed more by emotion than by reason. Burke also believed that the constitutions, institutions and other political forms had history or long background and tradition. They are necessary for the society and must be preserved at any cost.
Edmund Burke, because of his conservativeness, did not approve the revolutionary attempts and he strongly criticized the French revolutionaries. We shall now turn to his view of French Revolution.
7. French Revolution:
“The French revolutionaries seemed to Burke to be using the doctrine of the rights of man for a quite different purpose – not to justify resistance in defence of traditional freedom, of acquired rights, not even to support new claims intended to make that freedom more secure, but to subvert society. They were making claims incompatible with the existing social order, the system of existing rights; they were challenging those rights in the name of the principles such as equality, liberty taken in the abstract. ”
The French revolutionaries, according to Burke, were fanatical. They could not attain their avowed purposes nor did they have that capacity. They had only ruined an ancient country having a long tradition, culture and civilization. Burke called them ignorant surgeons. They were making preparations for major operations of the human body without any knowledge of anatomy.
The French revolutionaries did not know that without any knowledge of the body any operation could not be done at all. All of them were incompetent persons. Their eagerness for change was the evidence of foolishness. The society is hard and complex. It is not soft clay which the potter can use to make any article or pot according to his own choice.
They adopted a wrong path and the whole nation had to pay for it. From this observation of Burke it appears to us that he castigated the French revolutionaries in the strongest language.
The chief reason behind this is the revolutionaries did not give any credence or recognition to the past history, tradition and culture of France as well as to its centuries old civilisation.
That greatly hurt Burke’s sentiment along with his conservatism. To him the past civilisation, culture and tradition are more important than mere political change. His belief was that the desirable change could be achieved keeping the past tradition and civilisation intact. But this could not be done.
Burke even did not spare the philosophers from whom the revolutionaries received inspiration and lessons. The philosopher were eager to destroy the old prejudices on the ground that they were irrational and were obstacles to progress Burke said; “We know that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made in morality, nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty which were understood long before we were born Instead of casting away our old prejudices, we cherish them because they are prejudices and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them.”
Edmund Burke realized that the French Revolution was more than an internal affair of France It was a revolution of doctrine and theoretic dogma, and he attacked the state that emerged from it as a college of armed fanatics, for the propagation of principles of assassination, robbery, fraud, faction, oppression and impiety Burke therefore, called for a European crusade to crush the revolutionary spirit by force of arms He was convinced that no monarchy would be saved as long as this strange, nameless wild, enthusiastic thing is established in the centre of Europe.
Importance of Burke:
Maxey makes the following observation on the importance of Burke. “As a creative and systematic political thinker Edmund Burke cannot be rated high. An unrelenting foe of all theories and dogmas, of all reforms and innovations and indeed of all principles not verified by actual experience, his mind declined airy flights of speculation and deprecated all attempts at the systematic rationalization of political institutions.” The observation of Maxey is quite correct. Burke was primarily a politician.
He was not a philosopher or an academician nor a scholar of high repute. His views about French Revolution and his thought or the role of a parliamentary representative still evoke interest in the mind of his readers. He has been painted as a reactionary conservative thinker and propagandist. This is the view of a good number of his numerous readers.
His attitudes towards French Revolution have been strongly criticized by historians and scholars. His view that the French revolutionaries were against tradition and their purpose was not progress of society and their efforts would ultimately lead to anarchy has been vehemently opposed by various critics. After the Revolution, anarchy did not swallow the French society.
It is said that the Revolution laid the foundation of a new society and the post-Revolutionary situation of France belied the prediction of Burke. The military power and the image in international field both increased after the Revolution. His call for the unity of European powers to crush the revolutionaries reveals his counter-revolutionary and reactionary mentality.
Edmund Burke saw only the destructive effects of French Revolution. We agree with Burke that revolutions do not always proceed smoothly and produce desired result^ But our question is if the present system cannot be reformed by constitutional methods what is the way out?
Unfortunately Burke does not enlighten us on this matter. Reforms and revolution are the two chief ways of change. When one fails the other remains. The French society reached an explosive situation and there was no other way than revolution. It is unfortunate that an experienced man of the stature of Burke failed to understand it.
In comparing the French Revolution with the English Revolution, Burke always pointed out to the violent and radical character of the first contrasted with the peaceable and conservative character of the second. But this comparison is untenable.
In all the stages the English Revolution was not bloodless. Execution of Charles I cannot be termed a bloodless act. Ebenstein observes; “In cutting off the head of their monarch the French were no more than good disciples of the English and their Revolution was much more peaceful than the Puritan Revolution”.
Burke also failed to see that the revolution is not necessarily the result of metaphysical fanaticism, but may spring from the soil of experience, the experience of protracted suffering.
The breakdown of social and political institution and democratic values and norms forced a section and really a considerable section to resort to revolutionary method. Their judgment and their evaluation must be given due consideration.
Another pathetic side of Burke’s view of French Revolution is he had not the patience to analyse impartially the results of the Revolution As if he knew what would happen. His analysis of French Revolution reveals that he played the role of an astrologer. He drew conclusions according to his own frame of mind.
In spite of all this his contribution to political thought cannot be underestimated Maxey observes “he made a very substantial contribution to political thought. He takes a rank” continues the same critic “as one of the ever-luminous orbs in the galaxy of political thought.
When Burke appeared…political thought had almost succumbed to the maudlin romanticism of Rousseau. Montesquieu was in eclipse, likewise Hume, Spinoza, Hobbes and other great realists of the past History was bunk , reason despised, and facts mere obstacles to be swept aside ” Burke appeared on the political scene of England and Europe in general to sprinkle cold water upon the idealist thoughts and made serious efforts to abnegate the influence of past experience.
Edmund Burke makes it clear that both political and social life are extremely complex and their problems cannot be solved with the help of any easy formula or technique in the tradition of political organization, the attitude and temperament of people and many other things are to be brought under active consideration before suggesting any solution.
Reckless destruction of old and established institutions and values has, according to Burke, never produced salutary results. It is not irrelevant to say that Lenin, the great revolutionary of the twentieth century, was very much cautious about the selection of revolutionary tactics timing of launching revolution.
C. W. Parkin in his article Burke and the Conservative Tradition writes— “In the era of worldwide Marxism, Burke’s polemic against the revolutionary idea-the utopianism, the canonization of dualism and conflict, the search for some final political solution-has not lost its relevance or cogency. And for Britain’s needs cultural as much as political, the fruitfulness of his position has not been exhausted”
Edmund Burke is regarded as the best interpreter of the traditional principles of British political life. It is interesting to note that his justification of British tradition prevails today. He has not been proved wrong or unjustified.
A strong current of social change has flown over British society. But the continuity and tradition of which Burke spoke can still be identified. New changes have been grafted on to the old but the old has not been thrown into the dustbin.
The principles of the old were adapted to those of the new. This prevails almost everywhere. For example, in the working class movement or in the working of the ancient institutions, some critics belittle him as the spokesman or philosopher of British system of political party. But the actual position is not that. “Burke is not the philosopher of the British conservatism, but of British political life from Right to Left. His spirit informs the progressive movement as much as it informs the Conservative Party.
Edmund Burke is not an exception so far as the political thought is concerned. There is always conflict in history, the conflict between old and new, between haves and have-nots, between pro-changers and no-changers. This conflict will never come to an end we know Burke as the spokesman of the old tradition. This is not his fault.
There is no dearth in his argument, there is no vagueness in his thought Harmon writes.”In any event there is much in Burke’s theory to support the stand of those who wish to keep things as they are. And his is an impressive contribution that cannot be ignored. Much depends, in any appraisal of Burke upon the circumstances surrounding those who agree or disagree with his theory”.
Edmund Burke was absolutely fearless while expressing his views. He did not hesitate to denounce the misdeeds of Warren Hastings. His famous speech delivered in the British House of Commons still invokes our interest about him and kindles our respect to him.
He impeached Warren Hastings on the ground that as the Governor General of India his activities and administrative policies violated the “eternal laws of justice”.
Commenting upon Burke’s speech Amartya Sen in his .The Idea of Justice says; “he spoke eloquently not on one misdeed of Hastings but on a great many, and proceeded from there to present simultaneously a number of separate and quite distinct reasons for the need to indict Warren Hastings. Burke in one place of his speech said; I impeach him in the name and virtue of those eternal laws of justice which he has violated.”