Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Latest On Father Groeschel

He seems to be doing better, is not conscious, and has a long row to hoe before being conisdered recovered. But there is much hope.

Please continue to pray for him.

The Passion of the Christ To Open on 2,000 Screens

Even without a major studio behind the release, Gibson has managed to cobble together an opening on 2,000 screens nationwide on Ash Wednesday (February 25th).
That is an impressive testimony to the esteem in which Gibson is held among theater-owners and the public they cater to. And the refusal of the major studios to release the movie speaks to the attitude of the movie industry towards Christian subjects.

I predict The Passionwill do well. It will not the best-selling movie of the year (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in June will probably be that). But the movie's gross will be respectable. And it will sell superbly on DVD for years to come.

I have said it before, but this year I am looking forward to Ash Wednesday with particular relish.

Man, Has It Been Cold!!!

This morning, with temperatures in the low twenties is bad enough. Yesterday, at 5:00 am, it was ten degrees below zero in Boston. We're talking raw, real temperatures, here folks. That -10 doesn't even begin to factor in things like windchill. With the windchill, it was -45. I'm not sure, but I think the high got to around 2 above yesterday. But the windchills stayed in the -20 range.

I know. I live in a cold place. What else did I expect? We in New England were spoiled by mild winters, especially the one two years ago, when we barely needed more than a windbreaker all through January and February.

We are now entering the period (now until February 20th) in which we can expect our heaviest snows. But Candlemas is only a few weeks away.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, we have gained 24 minutes of daylight since the Winter Solstice, with all of the gain coming in the afternoon. On December 22nd, the sun set at 4:14 pm. Today, it will set at 4:38 pm. The sunrise time has remained constant at 7:10 am. So, even though it has been cold, unbearably so, there is something to cheer about.

In order to break out of the winter mindset, I spent some time looking through and reading a coffee table book titled Monastic Gardens over the last couple of days. Disappointingly, the only photo of a local monastery's garden was the brothers' burial garden at St. Joseph's Abbey in Specer (Trappists). I've never been to that monastery, despite living only a few dozen miles away. I should make the time for a trip there.

I have mixed thoughts about the current trends in western monasticism that I plan to share with you shortly. But going to a place of peace, whether I agree with the emphasis of its leading scholars of the past couple of decades or not, might do me, or anyone else, good.


On January 17, 1781, a small American army led by General Daniel Morgan defeated a small British army under the command of Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton.

The appointment of Nathaniel Greene to command the Southern Department of the Continental Army after Horatio Gates disastrous defeat at Camden at the hands of Lord Cornwallis, the British commander in the South, changed the face of American strategy. Cornwallis after Camden had been on the offensive, rapidly gaining tenuous control over South Carolina. Instead of directly confronting Cornwallis as Gates had done, Greene decided to play Fabius to Cornwallis' Hannibal. He would play cat and mouse with Cornwallis and avoid major battles. Guerilla fighters like Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and General Pickens would harass and wear down Cornwallis by attacking his line of supply and communications and his isolated garrisons, while terrorizing loyalists into inaction. In January, he took the unusual step of dividing his force in the face of a superior enemy, and gave Daniel Morgan about nine hundred militia, continentals, and cavalry. Cornwallis divided his force too, and sent the impetuous and fairly ruthless cavalry officer Tarleton with some of the best light troops in his army, a total of about a thousand including two light six pounder cannon, after Morgan.

Morgan fled before Tarleton, but at Hannah's Cowpens, with his back to a river, he stopped and waited for Tarleton. Morgan had a plan. He would arrange his force in two lines. The militia would hold a first line, with instructions to fire two rounds at the advancing British, and withdraw in good order. The continentals would hold a firm line to the rear, behind the crest of a hill. Morgan had his cavalry on both flanks in reserve.

Tarleton came up to Morgan's position after a forced night march. His force consisted of the light companies of three British regiments, his own loyalist force called the British Legion (a mixed force of light cavalry and infantry), a badly under-strength battalion of Fraser's Highlanders (71st Regiment of Foot), and the single battalion of the 7th (or Royal Fusileers) Regiment of Foot, which consisted of new recruits on their first service. Had any of the units under Tarleton been at authorized strength, he would have had more than 3,000 men. But so many British units had been detached to hold lines of communications, and recruits and replacements so few and far between, that he could muster less than a third of the forces he might have ideally commanded. The two gun crews completed Tarleton's force.

Despite the state of his men, tired after a night's forced march, Tarleton did not give them a rest. He did not use his artillery to bombard (and demoralize) the militia. He had his force deploy into line directly from the route march column, and sent them headlong at the American line.

Morgan's militia did what was asked of them. They took a serious toll of Tarleton's force (many were backwoodsmen and veterans of the fight at King's Mountain the previous autumn, and were, unlike New England militia, armed with accurate, if slow-loading, rifles). Then they withdrew in decent order. Seeing them withdraw, Tarleton sent his reserves in.

The continentals held firm. The militia rallied and put presure on Tarleton's flank. Then Morgan's cavalry struck the flanks of Tarleton's force. Tarleton allowed himself to be Cannaed. The half-trained 7th gave up. The Legion's infantry fled. Fraser's Highlanders, abandoned by their comrades, were cut down where they stood. Tarleton and some of his cavalry tried a counter charge to allow the rest of the army to rally, but were turned back by Morgan's cavalry under William Washington (a cousin of George Washington). The guns were abandoned. Tarleton eventually made it back to Cornwallis' army with a band of not more than 300 fugitives. American casualties had been less than 200.

The American victory was quite a jolt to Cornwallis, and a boost to American public opinion. The years 1779 and 1780 had not been a good one for the American cause. The loss at Camden was joined by mutinies in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey regiments of the Continental Army, and the treachery of Benedict Arnold. The new American states were near financial collapse. The French alliance had not yet born fruit, as the joint American-French attack on the British garrison at Savannah had been a disaster. Another joint operation aimed at Newport, Rhode Island had similarly failed in 1778.

By his impetuousity Tarleton not only crippled Cornwallis' ability to know what Greene was up to, but encouraged Greene to greater boldness by materially altering the balance of forces in the south. With a slight numerical superiority, a 100% superiority in artillery, a leavening of good experienced troops, a set piece engagement on open terrain should have resulted in at least a tactical victory for "Butcher" Tarleton. Properly handled, his troops should have won. But the cavalryman was too impetuous to wait and prepare a victory. Because of the forces Tarleton lost at Cowpens, Cornwallis had to fight at Guilford Courthouse two months later at a significant numerical disadvantage, and won only a bloody tactical victory.

Cowpens, such a little-known battle, has had an interesting film career. In the Alan Alda comedy (I know, but guys I know from re-enacting were extras) Sweet Liberty, it is the battle the Alda character wrote about. In The Patriot, it is the climactic battle, though Cornwallis and Nathaniel Greene were not present in real life, and the Tarleton (renamed Tavington, and played very well by Jason Issacs) character is killed in the movie.

In real life, Tarleton was a man with a reputation. His father was a wealthy merchant, and intended his son for the law. But the American War broke out, and young Tarleton wanted a military career, not a legal one (like Patrick Ferguson, and John Simcoe (and, later as a re-enactor, G. Thomas Fitzpatrick). Jason Issacs also was trained as a lawyer, but opted for an acting career.

Tarleton boasted that he had killed more men, and lain with more women than any other officer of the British Army. London wits said the word "raped" ought to be substituted for "lain." Banastre Tarleton lived on, became a general and a member of Parliament, took up with the discarded mistress of the Prince Regent, and in 1808-1814, conspired to take over the command of the army in the Iberian Peninsula from Wellington. What a disaster that would have been!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Still Frigid

But we might nudge as high as the freezing mark on Sunday.

I think we might be able to use a little of that global warming in Boston.

The Difference Between This Guy and Modern Liturgists/Sacred Space Planners

Is only in the method.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Is This New England, Or Siberia?

The temperature hasn't been much above zero today. It is going to be even colder tomorrow and Friday, before we warm up to a balmy 20 degrees on Saturday. Ireland would sure be a lot nicer at this time of year.

Australian Priest Buggered Boston Boy, Fled Country

Another Boston pervert priest case, this one with an international flavor. An Australian priest assigned at Blessed Sacrament parish in JP raped a teenage boy several times, and skipped back to Australia around 1994 before the case could be investigated.

I've Always Liked John Rhys-Davies

Update On Father Groeschel

It looks like surgery is required for compound fractures in both arm and leg. Head trauma appears to be under control, and vital signs are good.

Keep him in your prayers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Priests Who Deserve a Promotion

The subject matter of my previous blog led me to think about the priests who, by their orthodoxy, standing in the world of Catholic commentary, longevity, and good sense, deserve a promotion to monsignor at least, cardinal perhaps. Here is a quick and dirty list:

Father Fessio
Father Wilson
Father Rutler
Father Schall
Father Groeschel (Continue to pray for him!)

And there are a couple working on it, St. Blog's own Father Keyes, Father Sibley, and Father Johansen.

I bet you guys can name a few more priests well known enough to deserve mention on the list.

I Always Did Like Father Rutler

He should be Bishop Rutler, or even Archbishop Rutler. This quotation of his alone would go a long way to dispelling the image of the American Catholic Church as the Democrat Party At Prayer:

"Were we to confine our diet to creatures that lacked sense and do not even respond to light, we could only eat liturgists and liberal Democrats."

That is a great quotation!

Thanks to John at The Inn At the End of the World for digging that one up.

I just discovered this blog by googling "Recta Ratio." As he had missed me, I had missed him. I had heard of the blog, but thought, for some odd and inexplicable reason, that it was a blog devoted to bagpipes. As a redcoated re-enactor I've marched into battle with bagpipes playing often enough, but never was a huge, huge fan of them, at least not enough of one to check out a blog devoted to the subject.

But no. The Inn At the End of the World is a Catholic blog, and more or less sympatico. And I am, as usual, the last to catch on. Well, the light eventually dawns even on the back side of Mount Rushmore.

I just added the link at the right.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Plough Monday

Plough Monday was the official, if ceremonial and theoretical, back to work day after Christmas. It is always the Monday after Epiphany. This year, it falls rather late, as late as it can, in fact, because Epiphany fell early last week.

But was it really back to work? Accounts from the late medieval period indicate that ploughmen went from house to house with the plough collecting money to pay for a candle to burn in the local parish church year round-beside a plough (these were called plough lights). The idea is to obtain a blessing for the coming year's crops.

The ploughmen were decorated with ribbons and paint. As they went from house to house, in some places they collected not just money for the church's plough light, but food and drink in exchange for performing some sort of play, probably a rough Saint George and the Dragon. Do I need to spell out to my regular readers that this is yet one more New Year's luck visit ritual? Add it to the list: souling, trick-or-treat, wassailing, carolling, wren boys, John Canoe, Plough Monday. They sometimes also held plough races on this day. In 1848, the custom was described by a source quoted in the Forgotten English calendar for 2003 as "falling into desuetude."

Early January in northern Europe is no time to be ploughing fields, usually. The fields are often snow covered now. In fact, there was little to do except care for the livestock, have seeds ready, and prepare farm implements for use in the coming year. European winters are a little more temperate than ours in New England. By late February, when we are still buried in snow and it is too cold to be outside for long, in Europe, the snow has usually broken up, and the first flowers start to pop up. Even so, the "labor" of Plough Monday and the days following it was not usually high intensity. It was more theoretical than real.

Father Benedict Groeschel Injured In Accident

It sounds pretty bad, with injuries ranging from two broken limbs (one arm, one leg) to possible head injuries and a heart attack. He has been in a medically-induced coma.

Keep him in your prayers.

The Severe Cold Has Retreated For the Moment

Just so that it could snow here in Boston. It was too cold for any real snow for the better part of the last week. But the Montreal Express (heck, the Siberian Express) will be back in charge Wednesday, after it stops snowing.

The joys of winter in New England just cannot be imagined by those living in more temperate climes. Tired of the monotonous warmth of Florida? You can stay in my place, if you give me the key to your place in Florida for the next 2 months.

Edmund Burke: A Genius Celebrated

On this date in 1729, Edmund Burke was born in Dublin, the son of a lawyer. Burke's father was Church of Ireland, while his mother was Catholic. Burke and his brothers were brought up protestant, his sister, Catholic. Caricaturists latched onto Burke's half-Catholic family in later life, and often lampooned him as a Jesuit. A sickly child, Burke was sent away from Dublin for five years to his mother's Catholic Nagle relations, where his education began. On his return to Dublin, his health became problematic again, and he was sent to a school run by Quakers in Ballitore, County Kildare.

In 1744, at the age of 15, he was enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin. Two years later he wrote to his friend Richard Shackleton (an ancestor of Sir Ernest?):

"Believe me, Dear Dick, we are on the verge of Darkness and one push drives us in-we shall all live, if we live long, to see the prophecy of the Dunciad fulfilled and the age of ignorance come round once more...is there no one to relieve the world from the curse of obscurity? No not one-I would therefore advise more to reading the writings of those who have gone before us than our Contemporaries..."

Solidly conservative outlook and foreboding, coupled with a sense that the modern world has nothing of merit to offer, at the age of 17.

While still an undergraduate, Burke had completed a draft of his Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (published in edited form in 1757). Burke graduated in 1748, lived on at Trinity for a few months (he may have been considering a career as a don), and then moved to London to read law at the Middle Temple.

We know little of Burke for the next nine years. Like so many others before and after, he found the law unsatisfying. He met Jane Nugent, another product of a "mixed marriage" and married her in 1757.

Burke first gained public notice with the publication of A Vindication of Natural Society in 1756. It was a response to Bolingbroke. The world of letters, the world of Johnson, Garrick, Reynolds, Goldsmith, Hume, and later Smith, Sheridan, Gibbon, and Boswell was now open to him.

Starting in 1759, he became deeply involved in the writing and publication of the Annual Register. It would be a part of his life for more than 30 years.

But the Annual Register did not pay enough to support his household (he was housing a brother, a cousin, as well as wife and son). So Burke became secretary to William Hamilton, who in 1761 was appointed Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Breaking with Hamilton later, he entered the orbit of Lord Rockingham's faction of the Whig Party. In July, 1765, the Rockingham Whigs formed a government with Burke (now an MP) as private secretary to Lord Rockingham. As such he was the government's man of ideas, its chief whip, and effectively its party manager. He was badly paid for all his efforts. And the Rockinghams did not manage to stay in office long. Burke's first speeches in Parliament were in favor of repealing the Stamp Act, and won great praise.

The growing crisis in America gave Burke a cause, though the fall of the Rockingham Government left him just an opposition member of Parliament. George III, a stubborn man of limited talent, was determined to save money by having the Americans pay for imperial defense. He and his advisors used the Whig tools of pensions and political jobs to control a majority of Parliament through a party that was known at first as the "King's Friends" (they were not actually Tories in the sense of being attached to the divine right of kings and the cause of the House of Stuart; no one on the inside of English politics in the 1760s and 1770s considered himself a Tory, except Samuel Johnson, and he was never on the political inside) to pass legislation aimed at that. When stopped by American protests, George III decided to make it a matter of principle, rather than simply canvas respectable opinion in America as to how America should pay its share of the imperial burden. The result was increasing coercion, violent rebellion, and, finally, armed conflict.

Burke opposed the government of Lord North (North was an Irish peer, not an English peer, therefore he was able to sit in the English House of Commons) and the "Party of the King's Friends." He saw the path George III was on as potentially disastrous, and said so in many eloquent speeches. He was not in favor of an American Revolution, but opposed government policies he felt would lead there. Once the war had started, he remained in opposition, arguing for a quick settlement on terms favorable to the Americans, for England's commercial advantage.

In fact, Burke, like modern American Democrats, skirted very close to treason by opposing the carrying on of the war and every measure to make the war effort more effective. But then, that is what the English opposition had done during the War of the Spanish Succession, during the War of the Austrian Succession, and during the Seven Years' War.

But there was also some pro-American idealism in Burke. He had considered taking up residence in America during a low ebb in his fortunes in the 1750s. He had unsuccessfully applied for the postion of London agent for the colony of New York in 1764. He saw George III's policies towards America as harsh and arbitrary, and said so.

The years of the American Revolution were difficult. Burke lost his seat as MP for Wendover, was given a seat by Rockingham as member for Malton (a rotten borough thoroughly controlled by Rockingham), then was offered one of Bristol's two seats. As member for Bristol, he could be independent of Rockingham, but he could also lose his seat in a popular election. He bought the country estate called Gregories, near Beaconsfield, but nearly lost it due to the speculation in East India Company stock of his cousin Will Burke. In fact, Burke was nearly ruined. And the scandal spilled over into his public life as well. To make matters worse, the electors of Bristol turned him out of office on account of his postions on America, and he had to accept Malton again from Lord Rockingham (and held the seat until he resigned from Parliament in 1794).

With the fall of the North Ministry after Yorktown, Rockingham was back in office briefly, and made Burke Paymaster of the Forces, a positon many had greatly enriched themselves from. But Burke was honest, and earned little from a position rife with corrupt possibilities. In any case, the rise of a Tory Government under the Younger Pitt jostled Burke out of office once more.

Back in opposition, Burke busied himself for most of the 1780s with the impeachment trial for corruption of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India, who had lined his own pockets there, but no more so than most other colonial administrators. In truth, Burke waged a years-long vendetta against Hastings, oddly in alliance with sinks of corruption like Charles James Fox and Lord North. In the end, the House of Lords threw out the impeachment, though it may have been just. Burke seems to have realized that the effort against Hastings was unpopular, but persisted in it for year after year on principle.

Burke achieved true greatness in his reaction to the French Revolution. It was natural for Englishmen to view France as a hopelessly despotic government, tyrannical and arbitrary, where a rich king lorded it over a starving population and was eager to export despotism, and Catholicism to England by force. Naturally enough, most Englishmen thought the Revolution a good thing initially, since it took power from the French King, and destabilized Britain's great rival, France. Burke had his doubts, and published them in Reflections On the Revolution In France in 1790.

The Reflections is the third founding document of modern conservatism (the first two being the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers), and the most explicit. Here we see laid out the theoretical framework in which conservatives would continue to operate evermore. The whole of the Reflections may be found on line at the new link on the right, "Burke's Reflections," though I think something this lengthy is best read in book form.

It is impossible to overestimate how much conservative opposition to communist totalitarianism in the 20th century derives from Burke's opposition to French revolutionary tyranny and disorder in the 18th century. Indeed, the Soviet slave-masters saw themselves as the direct spiritual children of Voltaire, Rousseau, Danton, and Robespierre (naming naval ships after them).

From the Reflections, Russell Kirk, perhaps Burke's most important modern disciple derived what have come to be known as the six canons of conservative thought:

1. "Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience."

2. "Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems;"

3. "Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a 'classless society'."

4. "Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and the Leviathan becomes master of all."

5. "Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs."

6. "Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress."

Read what Russell Kirk later distilled from Burke as the Essence of Conservatism.

Burke's prose is not particularly suited to sound-bites (unlike Samuel Johnson's) but here are some brief excerpts:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

"To love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of publick affections."

"In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority."

Far am I from denying in theory, full as far is my heart from withholding in practice (if I were of power to give or to withhold), the real rights of men. In denying their false claims of right, I do not mean to injure those which are real and are such as their pretended rights would totally destroy. If civil society be made for the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made become his right. It is an institution of beneficience; and law itself is only beneficience acting by a rule. Men have a right to live by that rule; they have a right to do justice, as between their fellows, whether those fellows are in public function or in ordinary occupation. They have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, and all its combinations of skill and force, can do in his favour. In this partnership all men have equal rights; but not to equal things.

"Men of intemperate minds are never free: their passions forge their passions forge their fetters."

"It would be well if gentlemen, before they joined in a cry against any establishment, had well considered for what purpose that cry is raised."

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages. Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit; and not just a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.

"Liberty without wisdom, and without virtue is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint."

“I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty.”

"Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, can never willingly abandon it."

"A politician, to do great things, looks for a power, what our workmen call a purchase; and if he finds that power, in politics as in mechanics, he cannot be at a loss to apply it."

"You think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature."

"Good order is the foundation of all things."

"If prescription be once shaken, no species of property is secure, when it once becomes an object large enough to tempt the cupidity of indigent power."

"A revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking and the good."

Your mob can do this [pulling down and destroying social institutions] as well at least as your assemblies. The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand is more than equal to that task. Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out ... No difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide field of imagination in which they may expatiate with little or no opposition.

Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure -- but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico, or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence, because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.

"We owe an implicit reverence to all the institutions of our ancestors."

Few, I think, will dispute Burke's definition of a natural aristocracy:

A true natural aristocracy is not a separate interest in the state, or separable from it. It is an essential integrant part of any large body rightly constituted. It is formed out of a class of legitimate presumptions, which, taken as generalities, must be admitted for actual truths. To be bred in a place of estimation; to see nothing low and sordid from one's infancy; to be taught to respect one's self; to be habituated to the censorial inspection of the public eye; to look early to public opinion; to stand upon such elevated ground as to be enabled to take a large view of the widespread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society; to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; to be enabled to draw and court the attention of the wise and learned, wherever they are to be found; to be habituated in armies to command and to obey; to be taught to despise danger in the pursuit of honour and duty; to be formed to the greatest degree of vigilance, foresight, and circumspection, in a state of things in which no fault is committed with impunity and the slightest mistakes draw on the most ruinous consequences; to be led to a guarded and regulated conduct, from a sense that you are considered as an instructor of your fellow-citizens in their highest concerns, and that you act as a reconciler between God and man; to be employed as an administrator of law and justice, and to be thereby amongst the first benefactors to mankind; to be a professor of high science, or of liberal and ingenious art; to be amongst rich traders, who from their success are presumed to have sharp and vigorous understandings, and to possess the virtues of diligence, order, constancy, and regularity, and to have cultivated an habitual regard to communative justice: these are the circumstances of men that form what I should call a natural aristocracy, without which there is no nation.

And of course, no compendium of Burke's thought, however brief, would be complete without the famous apostrophe regarding Queen Marie Antoinette:

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. 0, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

But 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 that 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, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of 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 whilst 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 assimilation, 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 our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a 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. All homage paid to the sex in general as such, and without distinct views, is to be regarded as romance and folly. Regicide, and parricide, and sacrilege are but fictions of superstition, corrupting jurisprudence by destroying its simplicity. The murder of a king, or a queen, or a bishop, or a father are only common homicide; and if the people are by any chance or in any way gainers by it, a sort of homicide much the most pardonable, and into which we ought not to make too severe a scrutiny.

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. . . . "

While Burke remained a Whig, he won Pitt the Younger, the Tory Prime Minister, over to opposition to the French Revolution. Initially, Pitt had looked at it with disdain, but was resolved to stand aloof from the turmoil of war due to financial considerations. George III was kind enough to put past differences over America behind them, pension Burke (who desperately needed the money), and recommended that all gentelmen buy and read Reflections.

Burke spent his last years despairing that Fox, the unscrupulous champion of the revolutionary cause in England, would prevail. His only son, Richard, died of consumption shortly after taking over his father's parliamentary seat at Malton. So convinced was Burke that revolution would come to England, and so conscious was he of his role in opposing it, that he requested that his body be buried in secret, lest English Jacobins defile it. He died on July 8, 1797 at Gregories, which his widow had to sell to pay their debts.

The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, and the Edmund Burke Society both are trying to carry on Burke's work in 21st century America. Links to both are in my permanent list on the right.

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