Burke, Paine, and the Rights of Man: A Difference of Political Opinion
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Burke argued that British policy had been inflexible and called for more pragmatism. He believed that government should be a cooperative relationship between rulers and subjects and that, while the past was important, a willingness to adapt to the inevitability of change could, hopefully, reaffirm traditional values under new circumstances. He also maintained a keen interest in India. He concluded that Indian governmental corruption had to be resolved by removing patronage from interested parties.
He proposed that India be governed by independent commissioners in London, but a bill to this end was defeated, prompting impeachment proceedings against Warren Hastings, the governor-general of Bengal. The outbreak of the French Revolution in gave Burke his greatest target. He expressed his hostility in 'Reflections on the Revolution in France' Burke emphasised the dangers of mob rule, fearing that the Revolution's fervour was destroying French society.
He appealed to the British virtues of continuity, tradition, rank and property and opposed the Revolution to the end of his life. Burke retired from parliament in His last years were clouded by the death of his only son, but he continued to write and defend himself from his critics. His arguments for long-lived constitutional conventions, political parties, and the independence of an MP once elected still carry weight. He is justly regarded as one of the founders of the British Conservative tradition. He died on 9 July Search term:. What followed on this side of the Atlantic was not an echo of the European debate but a quite different kind of contest which aroused political passions all the more because it raised fundamental questions about the fate of the new experiment in self-government.
John Adams found himself silently occupying the role of Burke, with John Quincy Adams as Publicola defending him and attacking Jefferson.
The American version of the contest of Burke and Paine had personal and political consequences that were important and enduring. The first printing of Rights of Man appeared in London on 22 February , a date which prompted Paine to tip the dedication to the President into the first bound copies.
That issue was recalled by the publisher within a few hours, but not until more than a hundred copies had been sold. Another publisher took over the sheets and brought out the first edition on the 16th of March. About four weeks later the first copies arrived in Philadelphia.
One of these—Jefferson erroneously assumed it was the only one in the city-came into the hands of John Beckley, who lent it to James Madison. Beckley must already have initiated arrangements for publication, but he allowed Jefferson to retain the copy and, perhaps that day or the next, wrote a note instructing him to forward it to the printer when he had done with it. Urgency seemed to have marked every step taken since Beckley came into possession of the pamphlet.
The note that Jefferson dashed off was addressed to Jonathan Bayard Smith, whom he mistakenly assumed to be the brother of the man destined to bring out the first American edition of Rights of Man , Samuel Harrison Smith. Smith, both by sight and character. Smith was a prominent Philadelphia merchant. He had been a zealous supporter of the Revolution from the beginning and was active in civic and political affairs. He was a man of varied cultural interests, being a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and of the College of New Jersey, of which he was a graduate.
Both he and Jefferson were active members of the American Philosophical Society. The minutes of the Society are not clear as to whether both were present at the smaller meetings where they could scarcely have avoided becoming acquainted.
Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
But certainly both had been present a few weeks earlier at the large gathering of members who assembled in the Hall and marched to the German Lutheran Church for the memorial tribute to Franklin. But that he wrote under the conviction that he was addressing a stranger is confirmed by his error in presuming Jonathan Bayard Smith to be the brother instead of the father of the printer.
Samuel Harrison Smith was then nineteen years of age, four years out of college, and just about to begin his distinguished career as a publisher. The work was indeed speedily issued. Thus by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest, we may assume, Jefferson had received the three or four copies he had ordered. He had never made any effort to conceal his fears about the tendency of federal measures-even at times, so Hamilton declared, expressing himself without due regard for delicacy.
The indiscretion—or, more precisely, the impropriety—was that of the publisher. The unintended effect was all the greater because the publisher nowhere referred to Jefferson by name. The note of which he printed an extract, Smith stated with obvious pride, was that of the Secretary of State. The expressions of the Secretary of State more than the pamphlet itself, we may be sure, took precedence in the political gossip of the boardinghouses, the taverns, and the Philadelphia dinner tables.
Even if Washington had been in the capital, the question could scarcely have been put directly to him. The feelings that had been aroused are clearly reflected in the verbatim account Lear gave to the President of his conversation with the British agent. I have not yet been favored with a perusal of the work; but have read some extracts from it which have been published in the papers. Because there are many things in it which reflect highly on the British Government and Administration, and as it is dedicated to the President, it may lead to a conclusion that he approves of those things, and that the Author has his sanction for publishing them.
Had Mr. Paine dedicated this pamphlet to General Washington, it would then have been considered as addressed to him in his personal capacity, and would not have excited the same ideas that are produced by its being dedicated to the President of the United States ; for I believe it will appear somewhat singular, that a Citizen of the United States should write and publish a book in a foreign Country, containing many things highly disrespectful to the Government and Administration of the Country where he writes, and dedicate that book to the Chief magistrate of his own Country.
It will naturally appear to the world that, from the dedication, it meets the approbation of the Chief Magistrate of the Country whereof the writer is a citizen, and I therefore conceive that Mr. Paine has not, in this instance, treated the President with that delicacy which he ought. As I have not read Mr. But it is well known that the President could not have seen it, or have had any knowledge of its contents before it was published, it would therefore be absurd to suppose, merely from the circumstance of its being dedicated to him , that he approves of every sentiment contained in it.
Upon this ground, a book containing the most wicked or absurd things might be published and dedicated to the President without his knowledge, and this dedication would be considered as his having given his sanction to them. Or, a book might be written under the circumstances which you have observed that Mr. Paine has, in this instance, not acted with that delicacy and propriety which he ought, he must answer for it himself to those who are authorized to call him to an Account.
Revolution Controversy - Wikipedia
But, I observe, in the American Edition, that the Secretary of State has given a most unequivocal sanction to the book, as Secretary of State. It is not said as Mr. I have not seen the American, nor any other edition of this pamphlet. But I will venture to say that the Secretary of State has not done a thing which he would not justify. On this subject you will consider that I have only spoken as an individual and as a private person.
I was apprehensive that you might conceive that, on this occasion, I meant to enter the lists, in more than a private Character. Washington and the conversation ended. But this was only a prelude to what Lear was able to report about the events of the next day. On Saturday the 7th Edmund Randolph and his wife dined informally with Mrs.
After dinner Lear repeated to the Attorney General the substance of his conversation with Beckwith. Just as he concluded, someone called at the door for Randolph, who accompanied the caller to Mrs. Some members of the Virginia delegation, including Madison, resided at her establishment. So did Colonel Beckwith.
The circumstances suggest that Randolph may have been called away from the small gathering at Mrs.
Where did the Right and the Left come from?
At any rate, while Randolph was at Mrs. He must have done so in more explicit terms, for Randolph went at once to inform Jefferson. Beckwith himself, perhaps on advice from Hamilton, soon backed away from the position he had taken. The following Friday, again at Mrs. Had he, as Secretary of State, authorized publication of his note to Smith?
The next day Lear was able to report to the President that the Secretary of State had given the Attorney General this assurance: But, acutely embarrassing though it was, he had no alternative except to explain himself to the President in his own words. The next day, Sunday the 8th, Jefferson gave a full and explicit account to Washington. The letter was one of his weekly official reports, but there was no public event to discuss except the mortifying situation in which he found himself.
He frankly acknowledged that in writing the note he had had the author of Discourses on Davila in mind and thought it unquestionable that Adams would regard the charge of political heresy as meant to injure him in the public eye. But, he declared, Adams was his friend, one of the most honest and disinterested men alive, and even after his apostasy to hereditary monarchy and nobility, they differed, but differed as friends should. But it was one thing to do this in private and quite something else to say it in print for the whole nation to read.
Knowing Adams as he did, Jefferson correctly assumed that he would regard the charge of heresy as aimed at himself. The Vice-President and Mrs. But copies of the London edition had become available a few days earlier and so Adams had been able to read the pamphlet before departing. No one was more acutely aware of this than Jefferson himself. Sometime before his own departure from the capital on the 17th of May he endeavored to conciliate his old friend by sending an indirect message through the Secretary of War.
Though its nature may be gauged only as relayed by Knox, it clearly agreed in substance with the explanation Jefferson had already given the President. So also with respect to the charge of heresy. But 30 if this idea was aimed at your doctrines it ought not to create a moments pain. Adams did not so interpret the message. The death of his good friend Dr. Everywhere, she wrote to Martha Washington in a glowing account of their homeward journey, they beheld the face of peace and contentment and found the people happy and satisfied with their government.
The Adamses were far from alone in believing that the charge of heresy was born of political ambition. But he denied then and always that he had ever advocated monarchy as a form of government for the United States. Proof of its validity had to await the next phase of the American contest of Burke and Paine.