Statesman, author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher (1729-1797) who, after relocating from Ireland to England, served for many years in the House of Commons. Considered a philosophical founder of modern conservatism, he is mainly remembered for his support of the American Revolution, and his later opposition to the French Revolution. Lengthy ALS signed “Edm. Burke,” three pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.75 x 12.75, April 13, 1792. Letter to "My dear Doctor," in part: "One avocation or another has prevented me from giving an earlier answer to your kind Enquiries. I thank you for your friendly sollicitude about my health. I have been well ever since I had the pleasure of seeing you. I bless God for it, in the first place. In the next, I am indebted to your Skill, & to your affectionate attention. On the whole, I do not know how a man could hope to have a more moderate fine to pay, or less of a hack-rent to yield, than I have had for the lease of a long Life.
As to the other matters you speak of, be at ease, my good Doctor. I have not lost one friend. I have only been put into the situation in which men make discoveries. I have found out, that all those were not my friends who formerly appeard to be such. I am undeceived; and that is the whole of the matter. This is nothing extraordinary it is what your favourite authour calls 'jam, tritus, etc medio fortuna ductus acervo.' If these Gentlemen, whilst they were shewing their displeasure towards me, have incidentally hurt themselves or their Country, I am sorry for it. As to you, I am rather surprised that you should trouble yourself about any thing which — — may choose to say of me. For my part, I have never read a single syllable in any of his Books. I do not think I have seen so much as their Title pages. Nobody has told me, that I am likely to draw much instruction from such reading. If anyone, in whose Judgment I had confidence, was to say, that I might be betterd, in knowlege or in morals, by the writings of these Gentlemen, I should read them. But as I do not hear from you, or anyone else, that much is to be learned from them, I do not like to spend my money in the purchase, or my time in the reading, of Books, upon the sole merit of their personal malignity to myself.
You tell me, that in some of his Pamphlets, — says, that the D. of Portland, & Lord Fitzwilliam have broken with me. Do not think so ill of these two excellent persons. I doubt whether that writer is much better acquainted with them than he is with me. If they are displeased with me they have very odd ways of shewing their dislike. I saw the Duke of Portland in this house, the very day I think it was, before I received your Letter; & yesterday he called upon me again with his whole family in my absence. Perhaps at no period of their Lives have they shewn more personal kindness to me, than since the time which — has thought proper to mark for their alienation. It is true, that we do not always talk a great deal of politicks when we meet. But this is, at least, as much my choice as it is theirs. If I were not afraid to answer for anyones principles but my own, I should think myself authorised to say, that I do not differ from them, in the smallest degree, in any one of their Ideas, upon any one publick matter whatsoever. The only points, upon which we have not the very same thoughts, are not upon general principles, but upon the proceedings, that Mr. Fox & other Gentlemen, who do not favour me with their good opinion, vary as much from my sentiments, (which are their own) as I apprehend, & as they profess, to do, or if there really exists such a diversity, that it is not likely to be followd with such Effects, as I read from the propagation of the principles & politicks which they encourage. I heartily wish, without being able to change my opinion, that these my excellent friends may be found in the Right.
My principles upon any publick matter are of no great importance; For, there is an End of my political exertions. Whatever they are, they are sufficiently declared. Whether they are allowed to be Whigg principles or not is a very small part of my concern. I think them exactly such as the sober, honourable, & intelligent in that party, have always professed. I think, I have shewn, beyond a possibility of Debate, that they are exactly the same. But if any person, or any member of persons, choose to think otherwise, & conceive that they are contrary to the Doctrines of their Whigg party,—be it so. I am certain, that they are principles of which no reasonable man or good Citizen need be ashamed of. If they are Tory principles, I shall always wish to be thought a Tory. If the contrary of these principles be Whigg principles, I beg, that you, my dear friend will never consider me as belonging to that description; For I look upon them to be wicked & absurd in the highest degree; & that whenever they shall become the ruling maxims, they must produce exactly the same Effects, which they do, in the miserable, depraved, & comtemptible Nation in which they now predominate. So far for the Whiggs, who do not consider me as a Whigg. Whilst they retain their present unhappy Notions I should be mortified indeed, if I were thought, directly or indirectly, to belong to such a faction.
The letter you have sent me from your Wonderful Nephew, has added to the satisfaction I have received from the communication of other parts of his correspondence. It is remarked on the Conduct & Style of speaking of Cicero particularly after his return from Banishment (indeed the same observation will hold good with relation to almost all he said or did after the Catalinarian Business) is extremely just. What Mr. Young quotes from the end of the oration from Manecus is just too as a sentiment. That perpetual wheel of the Republick, which must carry with it all those who act, & would act wisely & virtuously, in the State, is perfectly true. It was, in part, applicable to Cicero, as a compleat defence of his Conduct. In part it was not; for many of the turns of that wheel were given, or accelerated by himself & on consideration relative to his own ambition. My Son is not yet returned. I am very sensible of the Duke of Richmonds politeness & his obliging concern about my health. Mrs. Burke (bating occasional complaints in her Limb) is thank God, very well." In fine condition.
In 1790 Burke took on the French Revolution as his personal enemy. Alarmed by the acclaim that it received from his friend Charles James Fox, who hailed the storming of the Bastille as 'the greatest event that ever happened in the world,' Burke was both fearful and filled with wrath. The French Revolution seemed to him not only the most astonishing phase of history but also the most outrageous attack upon religion, property, order, and law. He announced to the House of Commons that if any friend of his should concur in any measures tending to introduce into England such democracy as was taking form in France, he would renounce that friendship, however long established and dearly cherished. Fox tried to mollify him to no avail and Burke never spoke to Fox again. This led to a split in the Whig Party, positioning Burke as the leader of the 'New Whigs' and Fox as the leader of the 'Old Whigs.' In this letter, Burke explains his principled stand in spite of party opposition. A fabulous political missive from a founder of modern conservatism.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.