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Biography of Edmund Burke


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EDMUND BURKE, a philosopher and politician, distinguished over all men of his times for eloquence and political foresight, was born in 1730, in Dublin, where his father had an extended practice as an attorney. In 1744 Burke entered the university at Dublin. In February 1748, he graduated B.A. and in 1751, took his degree as Master of Arts.

Burke, when yet at the university, had achieved a local reputation for literary talent and eloquence. His first important publication was the celebrated Vindication of Natural Society, written in imitation and ridicule of the style and reasoning of Lord Bolingbroke, in which, with well concealed irony, he confuted his Lordship's views of society by a reductia ad absurdum. Soon after, in the same year, appeared his well known essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, which obtained a rapid popularity, and its writer soon found himself courted by the eminent men of his time.

To trace his career in parliament is more than the limits of this article will allow; it must suffice to state briefly that his parliamentary life extended from 1766 to 1794 without intermission; that after a career remarkable for the laboriousness, earnestness, and brilliancy with which every duty was discharged, and extending over nearly 30 years, he retired at last, receiving the thanks of the commons for his numerous public services, and rewarded by government, on the express request of his sovereign, with pensions amounting in all to 3700 pounds. As Paymaster of the Forces he, with a scrupulous regard to public economy, sacrificed all the perquisites of his office, exhibiting a severe integrity unexampled among public men. Towards America, he advocated a policy of justice and conciliation, which had it been adopted, would have averted the horrors of the War of Independence and retained the Colonies in amity to the mother-country; And to the advocacy of every cause which he espoused, he brought a capacity for patient research that was unlimited, and an eloquence that has never been transcended.

On the 13th of February 1785, he commenced his celebrated speech opening the trial of Warren Hastings, the most remarkable trial, perhaps, in the history of the world. This speech lasted over four days, and has been characterized as "a tempest of invective and eloquence." No idea can be conveyed of the effect which it produced. The trial lasted over seven years, and closed with another great and splended oration from Burke, lasting over nine days.

Burke died on the 9th of July, 1797, in his 68th year.