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Edmund Burke

(b. 1 Jan 1729, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland – d. 9 Jul 1797, Gregories, Gregories Farm Lane, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire )

Gender: M

Edmund Burke (1730-1797) was born in Dublin, and entered the House of Commons as MP for Wendover in 1765. He was a supporter of the Whigs and private secretary to the Marquess of Rockingham. In London he joined the circle of Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1774 he was elected MP for Bristol, but when in 1778 he supported a bill to lift the restrictions on trade with Ireland, the merchants in his constituency who stood to lose from the move protested. Burke defended his views in Two Letters to Gentlemen of Bristol on the Bills relative to the Trade of Ireland and, rather than compromise his principles, preferred to risk losing his seat, which he duly did in 1780. He was elected instead for Malton, a picket borough controlled by his patron the Marquess of Rockingham. As a supporter of limitations on monarchical prerogative, Burke was at first supportive of the ideals of the French Revolution, but after reading Dr Richard Price’s sermon delivered to the Revolution Society on 4 November 1789 entitled A Discourse on the Love of Our Country, he drafted his pamphlet Reflections on the Revolution in France, which was finally published in November 1790, and reprinted ten times. Burke refuted Price’s contention that the people had the right to choose their own rulers, and warned that destroying historic institutions would inevitably lead to anarchy and bloodshed. The subsequent period of the Terror in France vindicated his views.

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  • Edmund Burke

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