Aidan Beatty
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The poet of real property
in Private property and the fear of social chaos
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The second chapter investigates Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), perhaps the founding text of modern conservatism. The Reflections were written in response to a popular pro-Jacobin speech at the Old Jewry, London, in November 1789 by the Welsh preacher and republican pamphleteer Richard Price; and Burke made much of the ‘Jewish’ location of Price’s radical oratory. Burke argued that the Jacobins were ‘Jews’, that is to say men who made their money through usury and lacked the requisite respect for private property. He likewise labelled them ‘Maroons’ – escaped African slaves – and lamented the fact that women played so central and active a role in the French Revolution. And, as this chapter discusses, Burke contrasted this French chaos with Britain; his Reflections on the Revolution were at the same time a reflection on a harmonious image of British social peace, where private property supposedly remained sacrosanct and the ‘natural’ racial and gendered order of his late-eighteenth-century world had not been inverted. Burke recognised that radicalism was rife in Britain and his political imagination was a mixture of anti-Jewish rhetoric, a conservative paranoia about the masses, patriarchal fear of women and a valorisation of landed property.

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