Reflections On the Revolution In France

Edmund Burke and Historical Precedent

According to Edmund Burke, knowledge of historical precedent can be a valuable tool in dealing with more current issues of a similar nature. He is a proponent of allowing policies and customs from the past to endure not only for the sake of tradition but also because customs that survive throughout generations are often successful for good reason. In Reflections on the Revolution in France Burke implies that respect, knowledge and adherence to the past practices of successful nations should inform the politics of present governments.

In explaining the value of historical customs, Burke makes reference to the Revolution as a means to preserve historical rights that had become threatened: “The Revolution was made to preserve our ancient, indisputable laws and liberties and that ancient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty.” With emphasis on the term ‘ancient’ Burke implies that such long-standing precedents transform what may have at one time been privilege into an inalienable right. Once a nation has adopted a particular practice as tradition, it becomes dear to the citizens and should not be disputed without just cause.

Burke insists that the Revolution, in spite of its title, was not meant to...

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