Published Humanitas, Volume VI, No. 1, 1994

Edmund Burke’s oft-quoted reflection on the historical changes wrought by the French Revolution has almost equally often been misunderstood. While usually presented as Burke’s attempt to make peace with an historically inevitable movement, this quote, as evidenced by his later writings on the French Revolution, is simply a pessimistic view of the developments in France, and of heir increasing acceptance in the minds of Englishmen. Burke never reconciled himself to the French Revolution; but he also held no great hope that the sweeping historical changes that it ushered in could be reversed, at least in the short run. Paul Gottfried, in his revised and expanded edition of The Conservative Movement, expresses a similar short term pessimism about political and cultural developments in the United States.

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