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By Dennis O'Keeffe, John Meadowcroft


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Interestingly, however, his first book, A Vindication of Natural Society 1756, was also an attack of this kind. When we discuss Burke’s intellectual output chronologically, it will prove very useful to find it bracketed at the start and the end by substantively very close theses, with political and moral thinking about what he opposed on conservative principle, as opposed to the many contingent abuses he saw as compromising arrangements he positively favoured. This last distinction needs some enlargement.

This is an example of a legitimate enterprise, or end, being invalidated by wrong methods of application, by means which do not chime with the end pursued. Likewise, the enterprise involved in the British rule in India is not wrong. It is not even wrong for the Empire in India to be represented, in embryo at least, by the East India Company. At first Burke had supported the East India Company against the advances of Westminster. Some years later he came to change his mind and to regard the principles of sound political management in India as now infracted by the activities of the East India Company, under what he now saw as the insufferable leadership of Warren Hastings (O’Brien 1997).

As O’Brien points out, on this issue of a possible Catholic marriage we do not know. No record has been found. O’Brien makes so bold as to say, however, that Jane Nugent, who practised the Catholic faith all her life, would have insisted on a Catholic marriage. Since this could not have taken place in England or Ireland, it may well have been a Catholic marriage in France (McCue 1997: 16). Sometimes, as O’Brien points out, Burke is forced into a politic silence. This was the case when the American colonial rebels experienced the ‘antiCatholic paroxysm’ of 1774–75.

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