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Edmund Burke by Dennis O'Keeffe, John Meadowcroft

By Dennis O'Keeffe, John Meadowcroft


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Nor did these boys have to attain their majority for this change in their father’s financial status. Children of immature years were eligible (Burke in O’Brien 1988: vii–xv). Burke opposed the Protestant ascendancy in which the Catholic majority were held down by the Protestant Irish. Cumulatively, his attacks on the religious and economic persecution of Irish Catholics and his demand that Ireland be given the rights of free trade and released from the mercantilist restrictions placed on Irish economic life by British law, were probably to play a part in the eventual loss of his seat at Bristol (O’Brien 1997: 35–6).

21). In 1795 the acquittal of Hastings was a great blow to Burke (Burke in O’Brien 1997: 331), though the long-term effect of bringing the rule of law to imperial administration surely outweighed the shame of such a decision. In the nineteenth century India came under the British rule of law; arguably this was an advance whose beneficial influence persists to this day in India. Hill stresses the admirable caution and probity with which Burke proceeded. In order for the British Crown to be justified in assuming political power in India, Burke maintained, what 16 Edmund Burke was being abused by the East India Company – that is India herself – must be great and important; the abuse too must be great, habitual and incurable under present circumstances (Hill 1975: 31).

There is no ducking the ugly truth that some of the Enlightenment’s effects converge in a frightening sense of loss. Genial Olympian: Burke and His Opinions 37 It is probable, even so, despite his faith that Burke dissembled somewhat in matters of religion. We have noted his pity for the oppressed Catholics of Ireland. His anger and distress when he saw what the French revolutionaries were doing to the Catholic church in France are painfully visible in his writing (Burke 1790: 90). He certainly married a Catholic and visited France in the year he married.

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