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Edmund Burke and regime legitimisation

Sunday, 22 Jun 2014

Edmund Burke on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn. First posted on Friday, 5 July 2013 at 21:43

The most earth-shattering revolution the world has ever seen, ultimately with the most violent of consequences for countless millions of its victims to this very day, was described by its propagandists as a victory for moderation.

Whig historians of the so-called Glorious Revolution in Britain (1688) have always worked on the basis that if you are going to tell a lie, you might as well make it a big one.

Edmund Burke, that hero of Anglo-Saxon conservatism, in reality liberalism, set the tone for the historical analysis that continues largely unchanged to this day. He proclaimed that ‘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.’ The English, Burke argued, were not creating a new regime, merely restoring the old one that had been distorted by the Catholic James II. ‘The very idea of the fabrication of a new government is enough to fill us with disgust and horror,’ Burke concluded.

Burke wrote these words in his Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790, just over one hundred years after the usurpation of the British throne by Dutch financiers and their Whig aristocratic collaborators. He was either oblivious to the significance of this coup d'état, or a propagandist in its service.

His work was contrived to give an air of historical legitimacy and continuity to the new regime in Britain after 1688, even to the point of fooling avowed French counter-revolutionist and Burke-admirer, Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821).

Legitimacy was vital to the occupiers of the country estates that were springing up all over eighteenth century Britain. For these beneficiaries of the coup, the revolution must have seemed truly glorious.

Burke’s work of regime legitimisation was continued after him by Thomas Babington Macaulay, who wrote of the 1688 coup that this ‘was a revolution strictly defensive, and had prescription and legitimacy on its side’. Macaulay's great nephew George Macaulay Trevelyan was equally propagandistic in its disinformation. Trevelyan opined that ‘the spirit of this strange Revolution was the opposite of revolutionary.’

Burke indeed was a supporter of the American revolutionists, but strictly from a Whig perspective. His famous 1775 speech was more about the commercial benefits of a reconciliation with the colonists than their ultimate liberty. Recognising this, Samuel Johnson penned a parody of Burke’s speech, in which the devil says of the Americans:

Be not dispirited then at the contemplation of their present happy state: I promise you that anarchy, poverty, and death shall, by my care, be earned even across the spacious Atlantic, and settle in America itself, the sure consequences of our beloved whiggism.
The erection of the statue of Burke in Washington in 1922 coincided not only with the shifting centre of Usura’s power, but also marked the rejection by the U.S. of its former history of resistance to usurious banking power - the sure consequence of Whiggism.

John Dunn.







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