Edmund Burke is the political thinker most central to shaping my own political views. Regarded as the founder of modern conservatism, Burke was an odd mixture of idealistic philosopher and practical politician. Although he presents his ideas in luminous prose, he has often been caricatured as a mere reactionary. Nothing could be further from the truth. Burke realized that societies change all the time, just as individuals change as they proceed through life. How the change occurred in the political realm was to Burke of the greatest moment.
Rather than a reactionary, Burke was actually a reformer, fighting against abuses in his time, for example the penal laws which treated Irish Catholics as helots in their own land, and English Catholics as foreigners in theirs’. When the colonists in America carried on a decade long struggle against the colonial policies of the government of George III before rising in revolt, Burke ever spoke on their behalf in a hostile Parliament, and defended his stance before a hostile electorate. He prosecuted the first British Governor General of India, Warren Hastings, for crimes committed against the native population.
One of the things that has always struck me about Burke is his consistency, whether defending the rights of Irish and English Catholics, of the American colonists, of the Indians under British rule or attacking the tyranny of the French revolutionaries. He was always against arbitrary power and held that government could not simply uproot societies.