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By Dennis O'Keeffe, John Meadowcroft


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Extra resources for Edmund Burke

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70). In this effort to defuse the crisis, Burke stressed the size of the American population, its wealth, the vastness of the City of Philadelphia, the second largest in the Empire. Commerce with the American colonies was of great importance to the British economy. But given the British political ideas which prevailed Burke: The Contradictions of Benevolence 15 there, military force would never be an appropriate solution to colonial problems. The colonists had English ideas of liberty (Hill 1975: 24–5).

Today the British Empire has virtually ceased to exist. Its high points were the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the nineteenth century it was the largest empire the world has ever known. Genial Olympian: Burke and His Opinions 29 Empires may be good or bad. Burke was a passionate believer in the British Empire and nation. He would certainly have known that many of the empires in history have been horrible, a consideration that applied to some in his day, and has often applied since. It would be very reasonable to propose that he would have been horrified at the reflex hostility that the ideas of a British nation and empire have aroused in British bien pensant intellectual life in the last 150 years.

Children of immature years were eligible (Burke in O’Brien 1988: vii–xv). Burke opposed the Protestant ascendancy in which the Catholic majority were held down by the Protestant Irish. Cumulatively, his attacks on the religious and economic persecution of Irish Catholics and his demand that Ireland be given the rights of free trade and released from the mercantilist restrictions placed on Irish economic life by British law, were probably to play a part in the eventual loss of his seat at Bristol (O’Brien 1997: 35–6).

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