the conservative tradition burke’s “reflections on the revolution in france” demaistre’s...
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- The Conservative Tradition Burkes Reflections on the Revolution in France DeMaistres Study on Sovereignty
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- Burkes Reflections Biographical/Historical Background Ethics of the Community Conservatism Natural Hierarchy
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- I.Biographical Background Edmund Burke (1729- 1797) Born in Dublin, educated at Trinity College Briefly attended law school, gave it up for literary career Published his first book when he was 27
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- I.Biographical Background Gets involved in Whig party politics Serves in British House of Commons from 1766 through 1780, then from 1780-1794 Supported American independence, easing laws against Catholics
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- I.Biographical Background 1773 travels to France and is appalled by tide of rationalism sweeping the country Opposes the French Revolution Founder of modern conservatism One of, if not the, chief opponents of the Enlightenment
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- I.Biographical Background Publication was widely anticipated and received huge reaction King George loved it, as did most of the aristocracy Why read it today?
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- I.Biographical Background 2 main reasons: Relevance as a work of political science Science not in the sense that its empirically driven - - although there is some of that -- but rather science in predictive sense Founder of modern conservatism
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- I.Biographical Background Burke was remarkably prescient about the likely development of the French Revolution and remarkably accurate about most revolutions To appreciate, heres the French Revolution in a nutshell:
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- II.French Revolution 1788, King Louis XVI, facing financial crisis Calls for the assembly of the Estates Generale (French parliament which hadnt met since 1614!) Estates Generale divided along class lines: Aristocracy Clergy Commoners
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- II.French Revolution Elections for the common people -- or Third Estate -- were held in 1788, the legislature then convenes in 1789 Voting was to be by class block (that is, one vote each class) Third estate wants vote by individual representative -- its rejected
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- II.French Revolution Third Estate pulls out of assembly, declares itself the true government -- a National Assembly and storms the Bastille Prison 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen published
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- II.French Revolution King retreats to Versaille... palace is stormed by a group of market women and family forced to return to quarters in Paris under the control of the National Assembly
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- II.French Revolution Reflections on the Revolution in 1790 1792 King Louis XIV beheaded 1793 Committee on Public Safety formed under leadership of Maximilien Robespierre Reign of Terror begins 1793 Queen (Marie Antoinette) beheaded
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- II.French Revolution 1794 - Robespierre executed 1795-1799 Thermidor Reaction to excesses of the Reign of Terror 1799 Napoleon seizes power
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- II.French Revolution Burkes Predictions: Reign of Terror: On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported only by their own terrors and by the concern which each individual may find in them from his own private speculations or can spare to them from his own private interests... Why?
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- II. French Revolution No good political situation can endure without the rule of law By law here also include the habitual rules we have for social interaction Note, the force of a law, compulsive power of law, only comes through habit
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- II. French Revolution Force of Law: Habit Instilling new customs? How to do it? Cant speak or reason (for example, why not wear a hat inside? Why say bless you at a sneeze?) Ultimately, the only way to change is through force
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- II.French Revolution In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.
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- II.French Revolution Burkes Predictions: Reign of Terror: But when the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators, the instruments, not the guides, of the people...
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- II.French Revolution Moderation will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards, and compromise as the prudence of traitors, until, in hopes of preserving the credit which may enable him to temper and moderate, on some occasions, the popular leader is obliged to become active in propagating doctrines and establishing powers that will afterwards defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might have aimed.
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- II.French Revolution If any of them should happen to propose a scheme of liberty, soberly limited and defined with proper qualifications, he will be immediately outbid by his competitors who will produce something more splendidly popular. Suspicions will be raised of his fidelity to his cause...
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- II.French Revolution Burkes Predictions: It is, besides, to be considered whether an assembly like yours, even supposing that it was in possession of another sort of organ through which its orders were to pass, is fit for promoting the obedience and discipline of an army...
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- II.French Revolution It is known that armies have hitherto yielded a very precarious and uncertain obedience to any senate or popular authority; and they will least of all yield it to an assembly which is only to have a continuance of two years....
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- II.French Revolution In the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full of faction until some popular general, who understands the art of conciliating the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account. There is no other way of securing military obedience in this state of things...
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- II.French Revolution But the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master the master (that is little) of your king, the master of your Assembly, the master of your whole republic. Respect for the book soared after Napoleon came to power
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- II.Ethics of the Community Recall Lockes discussion on best way to evaluate society How do we evaluate society?
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- II. Ethics of Community For Burke and the conservative tradition, going back to first principles does not involve imagining a hypothetical prepolitical situation Instead we need to take account of the actual shared history of the culture in which we are a part: The government of a nation is no more its own creation than is its language. -- Joseph de Maistre
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- II. Ethics of Community One of the great errors of our time is to believe that the political constitution of nations is a purely human creation -- that a constituion can be created much as a watchmaker manufactures a watch. Nothing could be more false, except perhaps the claim that a constitution can be created by an assembly of men. -- Joseph de Maistre Study on Sovereignty
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- II. Ethics of Community The mechanics of governing are so complex, the fabric of society woven so tightly, that it is impossible for an assembly to come together and fashion a system of law that will work Moreover, tinkering with that fabric is folly at best; suicide at worst.
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- II. Ethics of Community The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science; because the effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation...
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- II. Ethics of Community and its excellence may arise even... from the ill effects it procues in the beginning. The reverse also happens; and very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions.
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- II. Ethics of Community In states, there are often some obscure and almost latent causes, things which appear at first view of little moment, on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may most essentially depend.
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- II. Ethics of Community [I]t is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again, without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes. -- Burke, Reflections
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- II. Ethics of Community Cant create a community because we cant cre
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