Preface To The Address Of M. Brissot "The Cold Neutrality Of An Impartial Judge"

Edmund Burke

"The Cold Neutrality Of An Impartial Judge"

Context: M. Brissot had addressed the French Constituent Assembly concerning the deterioration of French diplomatic relations with several European nations following the decline into violence of the French Revolution and the attempts of the Concordat to export revolutionary ideas. As a revolutionary himself, he described the horrors in very vivid terms. This address was translated into English by William Burke, a relative and close friend of Edmund. In presenting this Address to English readers Edmund Burke prefaced it with an essay in which he described it as the testimony of a revolutionary against his own revolution and therefore of greater force than the opinions of those who opposed the Revolution:

They who are inclined to think favorably of that event will undoubtedly object to every state of facts which comes only from the authority of a royalist. Thus much must be allowed by those who are the most firmly attached to the cause of religion, law, and order, (for of such, and not of friends to despotism, the royal party is composed,)–that their very affection to this generous and manly cause, and their abhorrence of a Revolution not less fatal to liberty than to government, may possibly lead them in some particulars to a more harsh representation of the proceedings of their adversaries than would be allowed by the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. This sort of error arises from a source highly laudable; but the exactness of truth may suffer even from the feelings of virtue. History will do justice to the intentions of worthy men, but it will be on its guard against their infirmities; it will examine with great strictness of scrutiny whatever appears from a writer in favour of his own cause. . . .