"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
"Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred metaphysician." This Burke quote adorns the masthead of Blog Irish, which this week features an outstanding rumination on political taxonomy and the Exceptional Whig:
In this sense, Edmund Burke was a radical. He confronted the late eighteenth century British consensus on its imperial kleptocracy in India, its shortsighted counterproductive repression of the American colonies, its bigoted treatment of Catholics in Ireland, and what might be called the radical chic Whig infatuation with the French Revolution.
Yet "conservatives" claim Burke as their icon.
In an introduction to Reflections on the Revolution in France written in the late '60's, Conor Cruise O'Brien pointed out that American "conservatives" who idolised Burke obviously had not stopped to realise that Burke undoubtedly would have opposed the Vietnam war.
The pretense to the moral high ground is essential to the opportunist totalitarian. This counterfeit morality permits its practitioners to override the common human morality that evolved over the millennia. Thus we find the unreconstructed Eric Hobsbawn in the current National Review, justifying Stalin's man-made famine:
IGNATIEFF: What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?
It was Cromwell's spin doctor who tried to justify the ways of God to man.
Thus the prescient Burke: "Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred metaphysician." (A Letter To A Noble Lord (1796)).
Conor Cruise O'Brien's book, The Great Melody, which takes its title from a line in Yeats' poem "The Seven Sages" ("American colonies, Ireland, France and India Harried, and Burke's great melody against it"), and which stresses the Catholic roots underlying Burke's Irish sympathies, makes the case for Burke's liberalism.
See also in First Things a 1998 review by Daniel Ritchie of several recent books on Burke, including studies of his views on India and of his treatment by 18th-century political cartoonists, who frequently depicted him as a crypto-Catholic in Jesuit garb, as here and here.