Bibliographic details

First Edition, First Issue. 8vo, a remarkable survival, still bound in the printer's original boards, uncut, now housed in a foldover protective case. See Todd for the Duplicate setting of the title, Plate VI, where in this copy “M” is to the right of “D” in the imprint in the First edition, (designated Fd (his state B, an acceptable variant state of the first edition) on his p. 154 with the tabulation of figures as given in Todd’s column”a” of the first impression). The typography of the catchwords at pp. 41, 87, 96, 102 and 197 agree with Todd; while the ornamental flower is on p. iv and points to the right and up; not mentioned in Todd on p 119, line 20 “because” is mis-spelt “beause”, there is no press figure on p. 354, the "x" appears on p. 10, there is no press-figure on p. 116, the star is printed on p.171, all issue points as mentioned by (Todd p. (154) appear in this copy. iv, 356 pp. A splendid survival. The book remains in fine original condition, there is of course some rubbing to the extremities as would be expected, the only refurbishment exists at the lower quarter of the spine panel where the original paper used by the printer had worn away. The work was performed skillfully and very sympathetically and unobtrusively some long time ago. A REMARKABLE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, STILL IN THE ORIGINAL PRINTER'S BOARDS, UNCUT AND UNTRIMMED. Burke's great work on the French Revolution went through eleven printings in the first year of publication and attest to the influence of this book, in which Burke refutes the allegations of his support for the French Revolution, and distinguishes it from legitimate revolutions to restore political traditions. This text is considered the theoretical foundation of modern conservatism, which prompted Thomas Paine to respond with his classic essay, "Rights of Man".
'Edmund Burke served in the House of Commons of Great Britain, representing the Whig party, in close alliance with liberal politician Lord Rockingham. In his political career, he vigorously defended constitutional limitation of the Crown's authority, denounced the religious persecution of Catholics in his native Ireland, voiced the grievances of Britain's American colonies, supported American Independence and vigorously pursued impeachment of Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of British India, for corruption and abuse of power. For these actions, Burke was widely respected by liberals in Great Britain, the United States and the European continent. Earlier in his career, Burke had championed many liberal causes and sided with the Americans in their war for independence. Thus, opponents and allies alike were surprised at the strength of his conviction that the French Revolution was "a disaster" and the revolutionists "a swinish multitude".
Soon after the fall of the Bastille in 1789, the French aristocrat Charles-Jean-François Depont asked his impressions of the Revolution and Burke replied with two letters. The longer, second letter, drafted after he read Richard Price's speech A Discourse on the Love of Our Country in January 1790, became Reflections on the Revolution in France. Published in November 1790, the work was an instant bestseller as thirteen thousand copies were purchased in the first five weeks and by the following September had gone through eleven editions. According to Stephen Greenblatt... "part of its appeal to contemporary readers lay in the highly wrought accounts of the mob's violent treatment of the French king and queen (who at the time Burke was writing were imprisoned in Paris...)." The French king and queen were respectively executed three years later, in January and October 1793.
Burke wrote that he did not like abstract thinking, that freedom and equality were different, that genuine equality must be judged by God and that liberty was a construct of the law and no excuse to do whatever one would like. He was not comfortable with radical change and believed that the revolutionaries would find themselves further in trouble as their actions would cause more problems. In his opinions, the revolutionaries did not understand that "there are no rights without corresponding duties, or without some strict qualifications".
With his view of what he believed would happen to the revolutionaries, one can see why Burke did not like change. Men cannot handle large amounts of power. "When men play God", Burke said, "presently they behave like devils".
In the Reflections, Burke argued that the French Revolution would end disastrously because its abstract foundations, purportedly rational, ignored the complexities of human nature and society. Further, he focused on the practicality of solutions instead of the metaphysics, writing: "What is the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In this deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor of metaphysics". Following St. Augustine and Cicero, he believed in "human heart"-based government. Nevertheless, he was contemptuous and afraid of the Enlightenment, inspired by the secular liberal writings of such intellectuals such as David Hume, Edward Gibbon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, who disbelieved in divine moral order and original sin. Burke said that society should be handled like a living organism and that people and society are limitlessly complicated, leading him to conflict with Thomas Hobbes' assertion that politics might be reducible to a deductive system akin to mathematics.
Burke expressly repudiated the belief in divinely appointed monarchic authority and the idea that a people have no right to depose an oppressive government. However, he advocated central roles for private property, tradition and prejudice (i.e. adherence to values regardless of their rational basis) to give citizens a stake in their nation's social order. He argued for gradual, constitutional reform, not revolution (in every case, except the most qualified case), emphasizing that a political doctrine founded upon abstractions such as liberty and the rights of man could be easily abused to justify tyranny. He saw inherited rights, restated in England from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, as firm and concrete providing continuity (like tradition, prejudice and inheritable private property). By contrast, enforcement of speculative abstract rights might waver and be subject to change based on currents of politics. Instead, he called for the constitutional enactment of specific, concrete rights and liberties as protection against governmental oppression.
In the phrase, "[prejudice] renders a man's virtue his habit", Burke defends people's cherished, but untaught, irrational prejudices (the greater it behooved them, the more they cherished it). Because a person's moral estimation is limited, people are better off drawing from the "general bank and capital of nations and of ages" than from their own intellects.
Burke predicted that the Revolution's concomitant disorder would make the army "mutinous and full of faction" and then a "popular general", commanding the soldiery's allegiance, would become "master of your assembly, the master of your whole republic". Although he may have been thinking of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, Napoleon fulfilled this prophecy on the 18th Brumaire, two years after Burke's death.
Historically, Reflections on the Revolution in France became the founding philosophic opus of conservatism when some of Burke's predictions occurred, namely when the Reign of Terror under the new French Republic executed thousands (including many nuns and clergy) from 1793 to 1794 to purge so-called counter-revolutionary elements of society. In turn, that led to the political reaction of General Napoleon Bonaparte's government which appeared to some to be a military dictatorship. Burke had predicted the rise of a military dictatorship and that the revolutionary government instead of protecting the rights of the people would be corrupt and violent.' Wiki
PMM cites Reflections on the Revolution in France as "one of the most brilliant of all polemics" and further, that " the Terror grew, Burke seemed almost to be a prophet. In the eternal debate between the ideal and the practical, the latter had never had a more powerful or moving advocate, nor one whose own ideals were higher." (PMM 239)

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