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An Original Political Pamphlet
Reflections on the Revolution in France
The proceedings in certain societies in London relative to that event: in a letter intended to have been sent to a Gentleman in Paris.
Reflections on the Revolution in France is a political pamphlet written by the British statesman Edmund Burke and published in November 1790. One of the best-known intellectual attacks against the French Revolution, Reflections is a defining tract of modern conservatism as well as an important contribution to international theory. Above all else, it has been one of the defining efforts of Edmund Burke's transformation of "traditionalism into a self-conscious and fully conceived political philosophy of conservatism".
The pamphlet has not been easy to classify. Academics have had trouble identifying whether Burke, or his tract, can best be understood as "a realist or an idealist, Rationalist or a Revolutionist". Thanks to its thoroughness, rhetorical skill, and literary power, it has become one of the most widely known of Burke's writings and a classic text in political theory. In the twentieth century, it greatly influenced conservative and classical liberal intellectuals, who recast Burke's Whiggish arguments as a critique of communist and revolutionary-socialist programmes.
It may not be unnecessary to inform the reader that the following Reflections had their origin in a correspondence between the author and a very young gentleman at Paris, who did him the honor of desiring his opinion upon the important transactions which then, and ever since have, so much occupied the attention of all men. An answer was written some time in the month of October, 1789; but it was kept back upon prudential considerations. That letter is alluded to in the beginning of the following sheets. It has been since forwarded to the person to whom it was addressed. The reasons for the delay in sending it were assigned in a short letter to the same gentleman. This produced on his part a new and pressing application for the author’s sentiments.
The author began a second and more full discussion on the subject. This he had some thoughts of publishing early in the last spring; but the matter gaining upon him, he found that what he had undertaken not only far exceeded the measure of a letter, but that its importance required rather a more detailed consideration than at that time he had any leisure to bestow upon it. However, having thrown down his first thoughts in the form of a letter, and, indeed, when he sat down to write, having intended it for a private letter, he found it difficult to change the form of address, when his sentiments had grown into a greater extent and had received another direction. A different plan, he is sensible, might be more favorable to a commodious division and distribution of his matter.
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