Reflections on the Revolution in France "The Confused Jargon Of Their Babylonian Pulpits"

Edmund Burke

"The Confused Jargon Of Their Babylonian Pulpits"

Context: Edmund Burke's essay was called "a letter intended to have been sent to a gentleman in Paris." Actually, it was an answer, carefully worked out, from a conservative viewpoint, to the sympathy for the French Revolution which was being expressed in England, written by a man who knew how much he could influence the opinions of his times. As a conservative, and as a man who appreciated the manner by which the history and traditions of Great Britain had evolved as a means to good government, Burke took exception to a suggestion, which he notes, that kings ought to be styled, and to think of themselves, as the servants of the people. That such a notion should be taken seriously, Burke notes, is evidence of a movement to displace solid government in England with the kind of misrule to be found in France during the French Revolution. Burke observes, answering specifically a sermon by Dr. Price, an English clergyman:

Kings, in one sense, are undoubtedly the servants of the people, because their power has no other rational end than that of the general advantage; but it is not true that they are, in the ordinary sense (by our constitution at least), anything like servants; the essence of whose situation is to obey the commands of some other, and to be removable at pleasure. But the king of Great Britain obeys no other person; all other persons are individually, and collectively too, under him, and owe to him a legal obedience. The law, which knows neither to flatter nor to insult, calls this high magistrate, not our servant, as this humble divine calls him, but "our sovereign Lord the king;" and we, on our parts, have learned to speak only the primitive language of the law, and not the confused jargon of their Babylonian pulpits.