Or to be precise, I'm a 'Burkean'. I think I always have been without realising it because I have never had much detailed knowledge concerning Edmund Burke, he was simply a name that floated in the background of some of my history books. Now, however, I have read Jesse Norman's superb biography and all is revealed.
Burke, despite being Anglo-Irish, was a quintessential Englishman. Decent in his private life and equally so in his political philosophy. He could see when the balance of the State was dangerously out of kilter either in the form of over-weaning Royalty or their lickspittles in the aristocratic Tory party. Thus, he spent most of his life in the Whig party which was not without its faults but within which he tried, tried and tried again to move in the right direction.
You shall know a man by his enemies, so they say, and Burke's enemies were the continental (mainly French) philosophes, like Rousseau, who were captured by the new scientific revolution and saw Mankind as merely a huge collection of indistinguishable molecules which could not be ordered but which must be left to do as their will took them. Individual liberty (or licence?) was their driving force and its malignancy lives with us to this day in the Anglo-American sphere.
Burke saw that individualism was not the sum total of Man's parts. Man was and is always a communal animal. Whether it be via family, or locality, or religion or politics, always Man seeks to form communities or groups through which particular desires can be satisfied or at least proclaimed. This proclivity of Man reaches its heights in the formation of political parties who can be free to push and pull within the confines of a free parliament. Thus, Burke is the man who can claim to have formed the beginnings of the Party system in Britain through which the views of the many can be expressed, roughly but never perfectly, by the few.
Today, he is seen as a (small 'c') conservative although he spent most of his life fighting against the great bastions of Tory misrule. Despite his own Protestantism he constantly urged the emancipation of the Catholic Church both in England and in Ireland. He waged constant political and legal 'warfare' against the East India Company which he saw was an oppressive, greedy monopolist literally grinding the faces of the poor in India. He urged the King and his dim Tory sycophants to deal fairly with the American colonialists. All to no avail as we now know.
It is difficult to summarise his philosophy into a logical body of thought, in the manner of a Rousseau, or later, a Marx. Burke tended to take events and judge them separately based on their inherent pros and cons as tested against his natural instincts and intelligence. Thus, when it came to revolution he was all in favour of the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 because despite his support for Catholic emancipation he realised that England was now a Protestant nation and King James's plots amounted in effect to a religious coup de main. However, he was entirely sympathetic to, albeit, sorry for, the American revolution. The French revolution, however, was an absolute anathema to him and everything he believed in. He foresaw immediately that it would be a total disaster not just for France and its people but for all of Europe. By the time the Napoleonic wars ended in that little field in Waterloo, millions had perished from Russia to Spain.
I am truly grateful to Mr.Jesse Norman for his excellent biography of a fascinating man and a truly great Englishman. The book educated me in the easiest possible way being written with a light, elegant but careful touch. I recommend you buy a copy for your Summer hols reading: