Political Wisdom in Edmund Burke’s Speech on “Conciliation with America”

In the “Speech on Conciliation with America,” Burke’s mind and art are soaring high. In his in-depth and magnificent pleading, Burke’s wisdom as a practical and magnanimous politician prevails.

Endowed with rare farsightedness, he could foretell what was going to happen in America, and his power to study the situation enabled him without any doubt to speak like a prophet. Interestingly, America becomes independent on the 4th July of the following year of Burke’s speech on the 22nd March 1775, proving his prophecy accurate.

Burke’s speech on conciliation abounds in many sentences and aphorisms, which has become part and parcel of the English language. He sparked in his discourse with deep political wisdom, but they are the instinct with an essential literary beauty. The union of these two excellences has stamped them with immortality.

Burke’s Insightfulness and Wisdom About America’s Freedom

He who can correctly assess the matters of life is wise. To be wise, one needs deep insight into the life of things. Burke possessed both these qualities- insight and vision into the future.

Burke, in effect, put forward unchallengeable arguments that bear the brilliance of his wisdom. Yet, he was not a dreamer. What he said and argued was based on practical experience and knowledge as well.

The first argument was to trace the origin of the Americans. The Americans, history says, are the descendants of the English people. The love of freedom is, he says with correct understanding, ingrained in the nature of the English people.

They hate bondage, and their quest for liberty moved them to struggle for independence. Like a true statesman, he could visualize that once this love of freedom inspired the Americans, nothing on this earth would be able to subdue them.

Burke’s Analogy of Economic Interest between America and England

Needless to add, Burke was deeply conversant with the economic relationship between America and the mother country, England. The economic dependence on America was a forceful argument in favor of maintaining a peaceful relationship with her.

Like a wise politician, he pointed out these factors. America was a fertile country, and her riches were till then far from exploitation. And because of her natural gifts, she was going to prove significant in international politics.

Burke, therefore, recommended unconditional and absolute peace with America. If the war continued, he argued, England would have to suffer economically for the disturbance impact on agricultural foods in England. Burke wanted that the proposal of peace should go from the English side as she was the stronger party in the war. A weak nation would project itself even more vulnerable if it proposes peace at first. So, he pleaded with the English to initiate the peace.

Expediency as Burke’s Foundation Stone of Political Wisdom

The guiding star of a wise politician or statesmanship is expediency. It’s not legal or abstract right, “politics ought,” he remarks, “to be adjusted not to human reasoning’s but human nature.” Therefore, ‘expediency’ is given its full moral significance, and it is evident that the foundation stone of his arguments and wisdom was ‘expediency.’

Burke wisely considered the fact that England lies at a far distance from America. He argued that it would be a great difficulty to wage war in such a distant country.

There were advocates for the continuation of war to bring down America to her knees, and they used to say, “America is a noble object, let us fight for it.” However, Burke argued that to fight a people was not the best way of gaining on them. His wisdom enabled him to expose the weakness of force. He explained that force is too weak an instrument for securing the allegiance and the services of the numerous, active, and countless Americans.

Burke said,

“If you do not succeed you are without renounce; for conciliation failing, force remains; but force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left.”

The above statement argues for peace first. Here, we find a man who can think justly, rightly, and widely.

Final Thoughts

Among the many arguments, the necessity lies within looking at the problems with an unbiased or open mind. People in politics often fail to broaden their hearts and remain narrow, making the problems all the more complicated.

Burke makes it a point in his arguments. It springs from his natural but genuine wisdom. He urges the politicians in power to be magnanimous. He says,

“Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom.”

Burke wants politicians and the people to adopt this attitude to solve complex political and regular problems.

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