Here described by Edmund Burke:
“An ignorant man, who is not fool enough to meddle with his clock, is however sufficiently confident to think he can safely take to pieces, and put together at his pleasure, a moral machine of another guise, importance, and complexity, composed of far other wheels, and springs, and balances, and counteracting and co-operating powers…. Their delusive good intention is no excuse for their presumption.”
In honor of the 281st birthday of George Washington, the Institute for Ordered Liberty presents his Farewell Address. We recommend a thorough reading and concentrated study, for it is in the words of those now gone that the Lamp of Experience shines brightest.
Friends and Citizens:
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
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It is fitting that the inaugural post for the Institute for Ordered Liberty should coincide with the commemoration of the birth of Edmund Burke, which occurred on this day in 1729. No other can be truly called the Father of American Conservative Thought. Even Russell Kirk, the great conservative sage of the century now passed, looked to Burke as mentor and teacher.
The following excerpt is taken from Burke’s most well-known work, “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” It is of interest to observe that, while Burke wrote this four years after the first appearance of the French Jacobins, a time still prior to the fruition of what Burke called the “armed doctrine,” he correctly predicts the future collapse of the genteel French society, consumed as it was in the horrors of the Revolution.
And while today’s educational elite routinely avoid the mention of his name, Burke’s understanding and wisdom where the nature of man is concerned should not be ignored. In fact, replacing “Europe” with “America” in the following passage is eye-opening…and disturbing.
The age of chivalry is gone. — That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold a generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, achieved defensive nations, the nurse of the manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage while it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness. . . .
But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions, which made power gentle, and obedience liberal, which harmonized the different shades of life, and which, by a bland the simulation, incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of her naked shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.
On this scheme of things, a king is but a man; a queen is but a woman; a woman is but an animal; and an animal not of the highest order. . . . On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom, as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported only by their terrors, and by the concern, which each individual may find in them, from his own private speculations, or even spare to them from his own private interests. In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows. . . . When the old feudal and chivalrous spirit of Fealty, which, by freeing kings from fear, freed both kings and subjects from the precautions of tyranny, shall be extinct in the minds of men, plots and assassinations will be anticipated by preventive murder and preventive confiscation, and that long roll of grim and bloody maxims, which form the political code of all power, not standing on its own honor, and the honor of those who are to obey it. Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle. . . . (Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France)