Reflections on the Revolution in France | Study Guide

Edmund Burke

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Reflections on the Revolution in France | Section 13 : Part 2 of Burke's Reply to Criticisms | Summary



Burke continues his discussion of the adulation accorded to Jean–Jacques Rousseau. Burke considers that Rousseau has corrupted taste, manners, morals, and family values. France's political leadership, charges Burke, has embarked on a spree of horrors, including assassination and murder. Once again, Burke includes a contrasting counterexample from English history: the restoration to the throne of King Charles II in 1660, following the English civil wars. The restoration was accomplished with the significant aid of General George Monk, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608–70). Burke takes this opportunity to stress once again the importance of the British monarchy to the nation and to the British constitution.

Burke next singles out for praise various members of the monarchical party in France, some of whom have fled for refuge in England. Burke also discusses the complex duties and responsibilities of those who undertake the task of rendering political advice. He speculates on the question of whether any aspects of the British constitution may be transferrable or applicable to France. He contrasts the French Tiers État ("Third Estate") to the British House of Commons. Near the end of his letter, he delivers a forceful encomium of civil liberty.


Throughout the final section of his "appendix" to Reflections, Burke is emphatic about his scorn of Jean–Jacques Rousseau (dead more than 12 years beforehand). He emphasizes his admiration for the institution of monarchy. His praise of civil liberty toward the end of his letter is especially eloquent. He correlates civil liberty with the capacity for restraint. He says, "Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites ... in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves." The passage is a quintessential summation of some of Burke's major themes and main ideas.

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