In Federalist 49, James Madison tackles the problem of encroachments of one department of the government on the others. In this essay he directly confronts a proposal put forward by Thomas Jefferson in the Notes on the State of Virginia. In critiquing Jefferson’s proposal, Madison employs rhetoric that sounds like it could have been issued from the pen of Edmund Burke. In fact this essay predates Thoughts on the Revolution in France by three years, so perhaps it was Burke who would later imitate Madison. I mainly jest, but here is the document which demonstrates better than any other the philosophical differences between Jefferson and Madison.
In some quarters, Edmund Burke is counted as a supporter of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. He was certainly a friend of America, and he opposed many of the policies of the British government that he felt were driving the colonists to rebellion. But Burke did not necessarily support the colonists’ drive to free themselves from British rule. Precisely because he felt a deep fraternal bond with the Americans, Burke hoped that the colonists would think twice before commencing what would be a bloody and unfortunate war. This post examines some of Burke’s public sentiments on the conflict in an attempt to get a better sense of his attitudes about the conflict between the mother country and her colonies.
Burke was an early critic of the policies that angered the American colonists. In 1769 he published a pamphlet that blames the British government for creating policies that stirred the conflict. He notes that taxes for raising revenue had not been levied under the colonists, and they had grown accustomed to this state of affairs. When the government decided to tax the colonists, this let loose an angry torrent. (more…)
I wanted to do a post regarding Edmund Burke’s role in the American Revolution, but in reading his speeches and writings from this era I was also struck by how perceptive Burke’s understanding of the American pysche was. So I decided to write two separate posts. The next will focus on Burke’s thoughts on the conflict itself, but here I’d like to take a look at some of the observations Burke had about America’s development.
I refer to two sources for Burke’s writings on America: An Account of the European Settlements in America, a history of the colonization of America, and his Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies delivered in the House of Commons on March 22, 1775. The former is an excellent little summary of the colonial period. Burke’s attention to historical detail shines through in this work. In it, Burke discusses the religious conflict within Britain, and how it would shape the views of America’s first colonists. He discusses how the hard-line dissenters – those who most sharply veered from the traditional Church – went abroad during the reign of Queen Mary and returned with a different set of values. (more…)