Volume 2 consists of Burke's most renowned work, Reflections on the Revolution in France. In it, he excoriates French revolutionary leaders for recklessly destroying France's venerable institutions and way of life. He attempts not only to explain the events of the new revolution to his readers but also to persuade them that the revolution menaces the civilization of Europe in general and that of Britain in particular. In addition, he articulates a coherent political countertheory that organizes his own beliefs about God, humanity, and society.
This is Burke's most famous work, for over two centuries read, discussed, and pondered by thousands of students and general readers as well as by professional scholars.
The third head of right, asserted by the pulpit of the Old Jewry, namely, the “right to form a government for ourselves,” has, at least, as little countenance from any thing done at the Revolution, either in precedent or principle, as the two first of their claims. The Revolution was made to preserve our antient indisputable laws and liberties, and that antient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty. If you are desirous of knowing the spirit of our constitution, and the policy which predominated in that great period which has secured it to this hour, pray look for both in our histories, in our records, in our acts of parliament, and journals of parliament, and not in the sermons of the Old Jewry, and the after-dinner toasts of the Revolution Society. In the former you will find other ideas and another language. Such a claim is as ill-suited to our temper and wishes as it is unsupported by any appearance of authority. The very idea of the fabrication of a new government is enough to fill us with disgust and horror. We wished at the period of the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we possess as an inheritance from our forefathers. Upon that body and stock of inheritance we have taken care not to inoculate any cyon alien to the nature of the original plant. All the reformations we have hitherto made, have proceeded upon the principle of reference to antiquity; and I hope, nay I am persuaded, that all those which possibly may be made hereafter, will be carefully formed upon analogical precedent, authority, and example.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) - British parliamentarian, orator, and political philosopher. The son of a lawyer, he began legal studies but lost interest, became estranged from his father, and spent some time wandering about England and France. Essays he published in 1757-58 gained the attention of Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Gotthold Lessing, and he was hired to edit a yearly survey of world affairs (1758- 88). He entered politics (1765) as secretary to a Whig leader and soon became involved in the controversy over whether Parliament or the monarch controlled the executive. He argued (1770) that George III's efforts to reassert a more active role for the crown violated the constitution's spirit. Elected to Parliament (1774-80), he contended that its members should exercise judgment rather than merely follow their constituents' desires. Although a strong constitutionalist, he was not a supporter of pure democracy; although a conservative, he eloquently championed the cause of the American colonists, whom he regarded as badly governed, and he supported the abolition of the international slave trade. He tried unsuccessfully to legislate relief for Ireland and to reform the governance of India. He disapproved of the French Revolution for its leaders' precipitous actions and its antiaristocratic bloodshed. He is often regarded as the founder of modern conservatism.