71 Pages Posted: 15 May 2006 Last revised: 17 Sep 2015
Edmund Burke needs to be rescued. His legacy is held hostage by the modern conservative movement, which proclaims Burke to be its intellectual progenitor. Conservatives consider Burke the fountainhead of their political philosophy - the great thinker and eloquent eighteenth-century British statesman who provides conservatism with a distinguished heritage and a coherent body of thought. Burke has achieved iconic status; Reaganites wore his silhouette on their neckties. Legal scholars applaud court decisions and jurisprudential philosophies as Burkean, or denounce them as being not genuinely Burkean. But Burke's memory has been wrongfully appropriated. Edmund Burke was a liberal - at least by today's standards - and it is time to restore him to its proper home.
This Article has three objectives. The first is to demonstrate Burke's liberalism. The second is to argue that Burke might also be considered a conservative, but a certain kind of conservative only, namely, a traditional conservative. Edmund Burke's philosophy is at war with that of the dominant conservatives of today - libertarians, neoconservatives, and social conservatives - even though these conservatives seek to associate their thinking with his. Thus, I seek to deny to these groups Burke's good name. At the same time, I wish to show that Burke offers common ground to some liberals and conservatives. These groups have their differences, to be sure, but by recognizing how much they have in common with Edmund Burke they will discover they have much in common with each other. At a time of bitter partisanship, this will allow some liberals and conservatives to begin a cheerful, and potentially fruitful, dialogue. The third objective of this Article is to stimulate this dialogue.
Keywords: Legal History, Political Science, Law and Culture
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