Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On a Second Reading of Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France"

Y''know he'd try to hit me with his walking stick, but I begin to suspect Mister Burke (the very founder of modern conservatism)of being a very typical deeply closeted English Machiavellian. I mean he has no problem with the republicanism of the American colonies, in part because they posed no military threat nor could they credibly affect the Balance of Power in Europe. When the Sans Culottes went marching in the streets howling for blood and dynamite, well that was a threat to British Policy now wasn't it? But being English and desperate for an appeal to History Burke sits down and composes a long detailed lugubrious justification for his own beliefs. Mostly the book seems to reek of keeping England's options wide open, all this indignant palaver about churchly expropriations was just so much eyewash really. WHERE was all this bleeding heart concern for the seized monasteries of France when England was expropriating the Catholic Church outirght all over Ireland from the Imperial High Noon of the Tudors down to the beer garden days of the House of Hanover and beyond? In some ways, England had itself already seized and redistributed hundreds of thousands of acres of prime arable real estate during the reformation...Burke's excuses for these expropriations are particularly feeble, self serving and well, Machiavellian. Burke was after all a rather stuffy reformer in England, his main complaint about the French Revolution is that reform at a certain point was no longer an elite exercise, it fell into the hands of the demagogues in the National Assembly and pfft, Edmund was overboard with nary a word. But I give him credit he was a conservative because he could conceptualize something really worthy conserving, the Protestant Monarchy, the Rotten Boroughs of Parliament, the Puritan merchant class and the ever self renewing English Aristocracy. He was the first serious English Speaking Intellectual to make a special target of contempt out of his fellow intellectuals, he loved the past and did not fear the future since he assumed that it would be pretty much a iteration of what had come before. HE loved his elites and expected them to rule because they deserved to rule anything else was anarchy...and anarchy was Bad for Britain to be sure. Burke stands in marked contrast to today's American Conservative who literally wants to move into the past and somehow seal up all access to the future in the bargain, a "retreat into stupidity" to quote Orwell. I wonder what Burke would have made of a the anarchic mutterings of a Sean Hannity?

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