Leaning to Starboard

Edmund Burke published his Reflections on the Revolution in France on this day in 1790. Burke was nearing the end of his illustrious career as a statesman and orator at this point; aware that his prediction of a disastrous outcome for the French Revolution ran against the euphoria that was sweeping Europe, he concluded his argument with this disclosure:

I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and much impartiality. They come from one who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of greatness, and who in his last acts does not wish to belie the tenor of his life. They come from one almost the whole of whose public exertion has been a struggle for the liberty of others, — from one in whose breast no anger durable or vehement has ever been kindled but by what he considered as tyranny…. They come from one who desires honors, distinctions, and emoluments but little, and who expects them not at all, — who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of obloquy, — who shuns contention, though he will hazard an opinion; from one who wishes to preserve consistency, but who would preserve consistency by varying his means to secure the unity of his end, — and, when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

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