Lecture 9: 11/10/10
Edmund Burke 1729-1797
Write about the French Revolution: he was vehemently against the revolution. It was
- On the other hand, he was for the American Revolution
The Story of Three Revolutions:
-The American Revolution 1776
-The French Revolution 1789
-The Glorious Revolution 1688 (moved from an absolute monarchy to a representative
Burke was born in Ireland (Irish Catholic) – moved to England to make his face and
He did this in politics, joining the British parliament
He was involved in the impeachment of a guy named Hastings – who had gone to
India just to make money while the treatment of the local population was terrible. The
colonial ruling of India was spurred on by economic factors not political factors. Burke
tried to discredit this rule in India and Hastings. He lost much of his reputation from
this; The Rage of Edmund Burke – a book written about it. Late in life, he writes
Reflections on the Revolution in France. This is what he is known for – not for his
earlier political life but the books he publishes later in life.
-Reflections on the Revolution in France is a letter – a man in France writes to Burke
in 1790 asking him his thoughts on what’s going on.
In 1789, the people of France are called; there is a struggle; the estates general win
against the King and kicks out the 1st estate: the Aristocracy and the 2nd estate: the
clergy. The king and Marie Antoinette are brought back to France by a mob – Burke
writes his book from this point (before the terror). He writes as the ancient regime is
on its way out [a terrible regime]. Many think (at this point) that the regime is a good
thing – the process of France becoming a constitutional monarchy (a revolution like
the Glorious Revolution); for instance, Doctor Price.
The Glorious Revolution: Locke; a series of Stuart Kings: James I, Charles I, James II
and Charles II. All proclaim absolute monarchy. England has the Magda Carta: a group
of people that make up a quasi-parliament who consult with the king. The Stuarts try
to rule without the parliament – they set up taxes without consulting parliament and
the Stuarts were quasi-Catholics (while the king of England is also the head of the
national church – the protestant church of England). Charles I is killed, etc. There is a
restoration and the Stuarts are brought back in. It happens again, and the Stuarts are
kicked out again. The Crown passes the throne to William of Orange - parliament
decides the succession of the throne. This is a limitation on the monarch – it places
the monarch under a constitution. What right did the parliament have to do this? The
Lockean Right: government is based on contract. This is a right that exists in nature.
The natural structure of all politics: if you protect our rights we will uphold your rule, if
you do not protect our rights we will not uphold your rule. The second interpretation:
Kings used to be elected by parliament in England – electing William of Orange is just
a return to this older system. Burke agreed with this second interpretation.
-What is a right?