Monument Monday: Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman, orator and political philosopher, was also a student of manufacturing in the American colonies.

This statue of Burke — appreciated here as a supporter of the American revolution — stands in a small triangular park at Massachusetts Avenue and 12th Street, NW. According to DCist.com, the Sulgrave Institution—an organization to promote Anglo-American understanding—presented the bronze statue in 1922. (New York Times, Feb. 16, 1922: “British Sulgrave to Send Gifts Here.”) This version is actually a copy of the statue that stands in Bristol, England, the city Burke represented in Parliament. The inscription reads: “Magnanimity in Politics is Not Seldom the Truest Wisdom.”

We took the photo on a walk from Chinatown to Dupont Circle on a stormy evening last week. The park itself is ill-kept and is easily overlooked by drivers along Massachusetts Avenue.

The connection to manufacturing?

Burke wrote about manufacturing in the 1757 book written with his cousin, William Bourke, “An Account of the European Settlement of America.” For example, Chapter 12 is entitled, “The Commodities of Carolina for Export – Rice, Indigo, Pitch and Tar – Process in Raising and Manufacturing These Commodities.”

He also cited the revolutionaries’ attack against manufacturing in a famous Parliamentary speech of Feb. 9, 1790, condemning the excesses of the French Revolution:

The French had shewn themselves the ablest architects of ruin that had hitherto existed in the world. In that very short space of time they had completely pulled down to the ground, their monarchy; their church; their nobility; their law; their revenue; their army; their navy; their commerce; their arts; and their manufactures…[there was a danger of] an imitation of the excesses of an irrational, unprincipled, proscribing, confiscating, plundering, ferocious, bloody and tyrannical democracy…[in religion] the danger of their example is no longer from intolerance, but from Atheism; a foul, unnatural vice, foe to all the dignity and consolation of mankind; which seems in France, for a long time, to have been embodied into a faction, accredited, and almost avowed.

Contemporary conservatism is often said to begin with Burke.

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