Edmund Burke, ‘who died in 1797, is best known for his late writings on the 1789 French Revolution. The 18th-century member of [the British] Parliament, who was a Whig, was one of the first to decry the revolt as the dangerous work of a swinish multitude. In a polemic he concludes: “The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.” Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”, which was published in 1791, is a direct riposte to Burke; indeed, Paine’s tract is subtitled, “Being An Answer to Mr Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution”. In what was to become one of the definitive treatises of the Enlightenment, Paine argues that rebellion and civic disobedience are permissible if a government violates its citizens’ rights. His arguments influenced and inspired Trotsky, Gandhi, Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela. Burke is therefore remembered (a little unfairly) for a belief in order over freedom, in tradition over revolution.

SourceA review published in the Economist 5th July 2014, p.73 (‘Freedom fighter: An ideal political role model’) of The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence. By David Bromwich. Harvard University Press.