Reflections on the Revolution in France "Nobility Is A Graceful Ornament To The Civil Order"

Edmund Burke

"Nobility Is A Graceful Ornament To The Civil Order"

Context: Though his long tenure in Parliament was the highest political office he ever held, Edmund Burke was one of the greatest political philosophers ever produced by England. His consistent dedication to the support of traditional and established rights led him to support the colonists of America in defense of their rights, but to advance a strong indictment of the French Revolution as a violation of traditionally established orderly government. One aspect of that Revolution which he condemned most severely was its violent and bloody elimination of the nobility:

. . . The strong struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what he has found to belong to him and to distinguish him, is one of the securities against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. It operates as an instinct to secure property, and to preserve communities in a settled state. What is there to shock in this? Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital of polished society. . . . He feels no ennobling principle in his own heart who wishes to level all artificial institutions which have been adopted for giving a body to opinion, and permanence to fugitive esteem. It is a sour, malignant, envious disposition, without taste for the reality, or for any image or representation of virtue, that sees with joy the unmerited fall of what had long flourished in splendour and in honour. I do not like to see anything destroyed; any void produced in society; any ruin on the face of the land. . . .