Why Edmund Burke still matters

Had it not been for the revolution in France, Edmund Burke would likely have been remembered, a bit vaguely, as an 18th-century philosopher-statesman of extravagant rhetorical gifts but frustratingly ambivalent views.

The Irish-born member of the British Parliament was sympathetic to the grievances of the American colonies but not (like his one-time friend Thomas Paine) an enthusiastic champion of their independence; an acerbic critic of George III but a firm defender of monarchy; a staunch opponent of English rapacity in India but a supporter of British Empire; an advocate for the gradual emancipation of at least some slaves, but no believer in equality.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2020, with the headline 'Why Edmund Burke still matters'. Print Edition | Subscribe