Philosophy and Ideas

Edmund Burke, the Communitarian Conservative

Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician, Prophet by Jesse Norman HarperCollins, 2013, 320 pages, $35 Lord Acton wrote in an 1880 letter to Mary Gladstone that, in his opinion, the three greatest liberals—we would now say classical liberals—were Edmund Burke, Thomas Babington Macaulay and William Gladstone, Mary’s own father. The two nineteenth-century liberals respected their eighteenth-century predecessor. In 1854, Macaulay wrote in his diary, “I have now finished reading again most of Burke’s works. Admirable! The greatest man since Milton.” And Gladstone, who was perhaps included in Acton’s list in deference to his daughter, was said by his biographer John Morley to…

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