Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke Biography
Public Domain: Studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, (1767-1769)

Edmund Burke Biography

Edmund Burke (January 12, 1729 – July 9, 1797) was born in Dublin, Ireland. Politician, statistician, and philosopher, considered the father of British liberal conservatism. Burke was one of the most prominent political figures of the 18th century. As of the end of the 1750s, Burke excelled in the political sphere, being appointed advisor and private secretary of William Hamilton. He was subsequently elected as a Whig Member of Parliament by the Wendover district, a position in which he stood out for his knowledge of natural law, criminal law and English Common Law. Before entering the political scene he became known for his writings, among which are: Vindication of natural society (1756), Philosophical research on the origin of our ideas of the sublime and the beautiful (1758) and Reflections on the French Revolution (1790).

Family and academic training

He was born into a religious family. His father was an Anglican and his mother was a Catholic. He was educated with his brother as an Anglican. However, being surrounded by the beliefs of his mother and sister, he was influenced by Catholicism. Towards the beginning of the 1740s, he entered Trinity College in Dublin, where he studied liberal arts. During this period he came into contact with the works of Greek and Latin classics, such as Cicero and Aristotle, which deeply influenced the young student’s thinking. In 1750, he moved to London, a city where he began his training in Law, going to the Middle Temple, after a short time he left the institution since he did not agree with the method of mechanistic teaching used in it, also criticized the materialistic pragmatism with which the institution was soaked.

Upon leaving the Middle Temple, he decided to focus on his literary career, publishing in the late 1750s, his first writing Vindication of Natural Society (1756), a pamphlet in which he mocks the libertine philosophy of the time. For this same period, he continued to acquire various knowledge about European law, Common Law and British law, he also delved into ancient and modern natural law, reading the work of Cicero, the Latin Stoics and Richard Hooker, British theologian considered one of the most prominent exponents of canon law of the Protestant Reformation period, author of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Other figures that influenced Burke’s thinking were Sir Edward Coke, a prominent English jurist, who promoted the development of the English constitution, as well as Sir William Blackstone, jurist, and professor, author of the Commentaries on the Law of England. Burke’s thinking influenced the traditions of ancient and modern natural law, people’s law, English Common Law and positive law.

In 1757, he married Jane Nugent, with whom he had his son, Richard, who died in 1794. After marrying Jane, he published Philosophical Research on the origin of our ideas of the sublime and the beautiful (1758), a work in which delved into the foundations of the psychology of art and aesthetics, emphasizing the differences between the beautiful and the sublime, in the work the author rejects the old canons with which they were understood. That same year, Burke began to direct the Annual Register magazine, a magazine dedicated to the history, politics, and literature of the United Kingdom. Over time, the magazine included news and articles on all of Europe. In parallel, he began to write an Essay towards an Abridgement of the English History, written about English history that was published years after the writer’s death.

Political career

Towards the end of the 1750s, the prominent writer and political thinker was hired by William Gerard Hamilton, to serve as his political advisor and personal secretary. While exercising this position, Burke began to write Tracts Relative to the Laws against Popery in Ireland, based on his stay in Ireland, these texts were published after Burke’s death. In the middle of the same decade, he distanced himself from Hamilton and partnered with the minister, Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of Rockingham, who hired him as secretary shortly thereafter.

In July 1765, he was appointed Prime Minister by King George III of Hannover, that same year he became a member of the House of Commons. In these years, the political thinker becomes one of the guides and representatives of Rockingham’s thought and the Whig party in Parliament. In the 1770s Burke joined the opposition and publishes Thoughts on the cause of current unrest (1770) and Conciliation with America (1775), written in which he called for reconciliation with the American colonies.

In 1780, his fight for Ireland cost him his seat in the Parlament. Eight years later he delivered the speeches at Westminster Hall, in the context of the debate that opened the impeachment against Hastings, during the trial of Burke’s reputation, he was deeply affected. At the beginning of the 1790s, he published Reflections on the French Revolution (1790), written in which he rejected the violence of the revolution, followed by Appeal from the New to the Old Wighs (1791); by this same period, he began to write Letters on a Regicide Peace, a work that ended in 1796. In 1794, he retired from parliamentary life and concentrated on writing. On July 9, 1797, Burke died at his country house, located in Beaconsfield, England.

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