The publication of the Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Burke’s uncompromising denunciation of French Revolutionary theory as antithetical to the British Constitution, dismayed many of Burke’s supporters and admirers, and gave deadly ammunition to his long time enemies – at least what they thought was deadly ammunition. At this time, Burke and his reputation were at a low ebb. Younger members of the House had taken to calling him ‘dinner bell’ because of his long tedious speeches, especially over the Warren Hastings impeachment. Among the avenues of attack were the charges of inconsistency and contradiction of which were the following.
First, it was claimed that Burke was inconsistent in defending the Americans against the actions of the British government while later condemning of the French Revolution. The presumption in this charge is that the American and French Revolutions were of the same kind. Burke easily (and scornfully) refuted the charge in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs (1791). Defence of the British Constitution is central in Burke’s most important speeches as it was here. In brief, from the point of view of the Constitution Burke claimed that the Americans, as American British, were being denied the rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution. From the point of view of the Constitution, Dr Price of the Revolution Society and those like him, were proposing a British version of French Revolutionary theory that would abolish the Constitution. The point was that the American and French Revolutions were different in substance.Continue reading THE CONSTITUTION AND INCONSISTENCIES IN BURKE’S DEFENCE OF THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION 1688