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Views of Edmund Burke and His Role in Revolution

Overall, Edmund Burke is viewed as a man of many accomplishments. He was a philosopher, writer, orator, and a prominent member of the British parliament. Many of his works, dedicated to such important issues as the state structure, taxation, foreign policy are undoubtedly worth discussing. However, he is mostly renowned for his views on the American Revolution; the thing is that Burk was one of few, who dared contradict King George III and especially his foreign policy, concerning Northern American colonies.

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He believed that the actions of the government would eventually lead to the revolution in the New World, mostly due to economic reasons, especially the tion. Burke stated that some of the laws virtually turned American colonists into slaves (Burke, 122). However, his appeal was lost upon George III and his government.

Certainly, it should be mentioned that Edmund Burke did not want the colonies to become independent of the United Kingdom, but he understood that such an outcome was practically inevitable. As he says, “Nobody of men will be argued into slavery” (Burke). The main problem was that the British government attempted to do it. Though it is not explicitly stated, the politician foresees the revolution in Northern America.

Burke has mostly opposed the so-called Stamp Act of 1765. It was aimed at imposing direct taxes on the colonies in North America. The main problem was that American colonies lacked representation in the British government, and therefore, their opinion was completely disregarded. The combination of internal and external taxation was practically ruinous for the colonists. Perhaps, the main problem that Burke encountered was the disbelief and incredulity from other members of the parliament. The overwhelming majority of the British legislators did not even want to listen to him. It seemed to them that the United Kingdom would only benefit by establishing different relationships with the colonies. However, these people failed to understand that colonial Britain would eventually cease to exist and this outcome was inevitable (Ritcheson, p. 34).

Thus, we can conclude that Burkes constructive criticism was not taken into consideration, and to a certain degree, it had very detrimental effects on the British Empire.

We should also discuss the “Speech on Conciliation, given by Burke on March 22, 1775. The orator attempts to prove that the outcome of the conflict between Great Britain and the colonies (in other words the United States) will have disastrous effects on the United Kingdom, especially its dominance in world policy. In his view, the only possible solution for the government was to establish peace between these two countries.

He says “The proposition is peace. Not peace through the medium of war; not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations… It is simple peace, sought in its natural course and its ordinary haunts” (Burke, p. 133). It seems that there were several reasons for Burke to say that.

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First, he knew perfectly well that this war was irretrievably lost for the United Kingdom and it was just senseless bloodshed. Secondly, Burke was sure that his country would never be able to keep the colonies under control for a considerable amount of time. Burke knew that this struggle would be of no avail for his country.

Burk placed much emphasis on the idea that the trade relationships with the colonies would be much more profitable for the United Kingdom than the attempt to subdue the country. He believed that King George III should change his approach to the colonies. In addition to that, he argues that it was hardly possible for the British government to maintain control over North America especially because they are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. As it has already been mentioned, American colonists were practically deprived of their rights in the Parliament, and it was one of the biggest mistakes, made by the British government because it was extremely difficult for the officials to govern the whole continent while remaining on the British Isles. In his view, this distractedness of the British Empire was the underlying cause of the problem.

Thus, having analyzed the views of Edmund Burke on the problem of the American Revolution, we can conclude that many of his ideas could be a solution to this problem. Moreover, if the government of King George III had paid attention to his words, this revolution would probably have never taken place.


  1. Charles R. Ritcheson (1990). Edmund Burke and the American Revolution. Leicester University Press.
  2. Edmund Burke (2005). Burke’s Speeches on American Taxation, on Conciliation with. America and Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol. Macmillan and Co.

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