Reflections on the Revolution in France

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By E. Burke, published 1790.

This treatise was provoked by a sermon preached by R. Price in Nov. 1789, in which he exulted in the French Revolution and asserted that the king of England owes his throne to the choice of the people, who are at liberty to cashier him for misconduct. Burke repudiates this constitutional doctrine, and contrasts the inherited rights of which the English are tenacious with the ‘rights of man’ of the French Revolutionaries, based on ‘extravagant and presumptuous speculations’, inconsistent with an ordered society and leading to poverty and chaos. The well‐known eloquent passage on the downfall of Marie Antoinette leads to the lament that ‘the age of chivalry is gone…All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off’ in deference to ‘the new conquering empire of light and reason’. His general conclusion is that the defective institutions of the old regime should have been reformed, not destroyed.

Subjects: Literature.

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Edmund Burke (1729—1797) politician and author

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