Born in Dublin, Edmund Burke (1729–97) became renowned for his encyclopaedic knowledge of imperial affairs and his flair for passionate eloquence. His most famous early work, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), however, concerned aesthetics. Later, mobilising the language of sensibility allied to a conservative political outlook, he was to decry the revolutionary movement in France in his Reflections on the French Revolution (1790). He was allied to the Whig party under Lord Rockingham, and elected MP for Wendover in 1766 at a point in British politics when relations with America were beginning to show cracks. His intercessions in the debates concerning British imperial authority display a view of the British empire as truly worldwide, encompassing the West-Indies, America, Ireland and India (see his Speech on Fox’s India Bill). Although never reducible to a single principle or theory, his arguments generally sought to uphold British parliamentary sovereignty, but to reconcile and temper this authority with a benevolent and humane attitude to its colonies.
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- Edmund Burke, from The Speech of Edmund Burke, Esq., on Moving his Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies, March 22, 1775
Stephen H. Gregg
- Macmillan Education UK
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