Support C4SS with Edmund Burke’s “A Vindication of Natural Society”

by James Tuttle
Support C4SS with Edmond Burke’s “A Vindication of Natural Society”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Edmond Burke’s “A Vindication of Natural Society“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Edmund Burke’s “A Vindication of Natural Society“.

The “Vindication of Natural Society,” published anonymously in 1756, is the first known defense of Anarchism written in the English language – arguing for a peaceful social order based upon individual conscience and mutual agreement, without legal constraint or political authority. It was later discovered to have been written by Edmund Burke, then a radical Anglo-Irish journalist. The first edition of the Vindication appeared as in this booklet, with only the argument and no further explanations; in later editions, Burke, who had retreated from his earlier radical views and begun a new career as a member of Parliament, added a new Preface, disowning his anarchistic conclusion and stating that the argument was originally intended as satire. Many Anarchist readers, however, point out that the vigorous, coherent argument of the “Vindication” does not read like satire, and take Burke’s later disavowal as careerist damage control. In any case, whatever the authorial intent, the “Vindication” went on to become a major influence on early English-speaking Anarchists such as William Godwin and the mutualist followers of Josiah Warren.

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence…. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary….

I now plead for Natural Society against Politicians, and for Natural Reason against all…. My Antagonists have already done as much as I could desire…. The Monarchic, Aristocratical, and Popular Parti­zans have been jointly laying their Axes to the Root of all Government, and have in their Turns proved each other absurd and inconvenient. In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!

One response to “Support C4SS with Edmund Burke’s “A Vindication of Natural Society”

  1. Not only did Edmund Burke point out that this work (Vindication…) was a satire the year after it was published (not many years later – as Murray Rothbard falsely claimed), it is not even meant as a satire of anarchism. The actual target is “natural religion” (the idea, spread by some at the time, that one did not need sacred scripture in religion).

    If anyone actually wants to read a piece of writing where Burke comes (in a way) close to an “anarchist” position – then one should not read a “Vindication of Natural Society”, one should read “An Appeal From The New To The Old Whigs” (1791).

    Here Edmund Burke deals with the argument made by many French (and other) Revolutionaries, that the old system of government had passed away – thus giving them the right to distribute property as they see fit, and make up new laws.

    Burke’s answer is clear.

    If the old system of government has gone – that does not (not) mean that private property rights die with it. On the contrary – private property in estates and so on remains the same (including corporate property – such as that of the Church, or of guilds, or of…..) and the law, the natural law, remains in force. An interesting point – as it is often denied that Burke was a natural law man.

    It should be clear that, in a sense, this position (that private property and fundemental law exist independently of the state) is an “anarchist” one (although Burke did not hold that just defeating the property threatening Revolutionaries and then not [not] reintroducing the old system of government [suitably modied and reformed] would work in the long term).

    Although not a form “anarchism” that the producers of this post would like.