Samuel Johnson, one of Great Britain’s most distinguished men of letters, said of Edmund Burke, “You could not stand five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained, but you must be convinced you had been standing with the greatest man you had ever yet seen.” Russell Kirk, one of the intellectual fathers of modern conservatism in the United States, embraced Burke as a venerated forefather. Yet, Conor Cruse O’Brien, the Irish statesman and intellectual who ranks as perhaps Burke’s foremost modern biographer, argues strenuously for Burke as a liberal icon, a man who in defending the American Revolution, denouncing the French Revolution, indicting British corruption in India, and pursuing justice for the Irish remained fundamentally consistent in his detestation of authoritarian rule.
On the evening of 3 December, 2007, the Hamilton College Republican Club inaugurated the Edmund Burke Association (EBA). Its mission: the intensive exploration of political thought and political theory related to Western culture, the founding of the United States, and the development of American ideals and institutions. Positive change, the ability to adapt successfully as a society and as a culture, implies respect for past. “People will not look forward to posterity,” Burke observed, “who never look backward to their Ancestors. . . . [T]he idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement.” Put another way, one begs disaster by attempting to repair a leaking vessel, listing at sea, by first scrapping the hull of the ship.
The EBA invites undergraduates interested in a free, frank, and civil exchange of ideas to form reading clusters in which great books formed within the Western tradition are read cover to cover under professorial supervision that includes invited guests. EBA gatherings are open not only to students of all political persuasions, but to the public as well. For further information, please contact us at (315) 292-2267.