Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

What would Edmund Burke think about the debate on Europe?

It occurred to me to wonder what Edmund Burke might think about the approaching referendum on membership of the European Union.

Edmund Burke, 1729-1797

Image: blogs.telegraph.co.uk

For all his claims to be a Whig, rather than the Tory many might assume him to be, or indeed because he was Whiggish, he would , I suspect have doubtless not been keen on referenda. His Reflections upon the Revolution in France would suggest grave doubts about such popularism.

On the other hand he might have considered the British capable of making a suitable decision within the bounds laid down by the Constitution he celebrated in his penetrating critique of the mounting disaster in France - and he was writing as early as 1790 remember.

As a politician who believed in reform as it was needed he might endorse the Prime Minister's package of changes. He might also endorse, either as a Europhile or as a Eurosceptic, the idea of continuing reform of the EU. Too often today is has rigidities which inhibit change - hence the limits to what the Prime Minister has been offered - or, as in regard of the Euro-crisis and the flood of refugees displays the sort of panic Burke scorned when he looked at France and its financial and electoral expedients in 1789-90.

Here for reflection are three quotations from Burke which are food for thought, and by that I mean serious thought, in the present discussions:

Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."

"A state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation." 

 "... the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever."

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