eCite Digital Repository

Edmund Burke and rational dissent


Fitzpatrick, M and Page, A, Edmund Burke and rational dissent, The Reception of Edmund Burke in Europe, Bloomsbury Publishing, P Jones and M Fitzpatrick (ed), London, pp. 55-73. ISBN 9781441196651 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 Martin Fitzpatrick and Peter Jones

Official URL:


This essay discusses the relationship between Edmund Burke and the rational Dissenters who were an important reformist element within the British Enlightenment. The first section examines Burke's attitude towards Dissent, especially rational Dissent; the second looks at Joseph Priestley's perception of Burke; and the final section looks at the attitude of a provincial rational Dissenter, Samuel Kenrick, through his correspondence with his Scottish friend Rev. James Wodrow. Rational Dissenters formed a loose but powerful grouping within Protestant Dissent. They were usually highly educated, liberal in theology and many were forcefully heterodox, becoming Unitarian in theology. In politics they were reformist, covering a spectrum from moderate to radical. They were considerable self-publicists and played a major role in the media. Forming 'a sort of cultural imperium in imperio' (Lincoln 1938, 53), and an incipient middle class, they were subject to discriminatory laws that gave an edge to their self-understanding. During the American Revolution they would be natural allies of Burke, but subsequently they would become his natural enemies. For Burke, as L. G. Mitchell has noted, 'religious dissent of all kinds acquired a demonic character' (Writings and Speeches, 8:8).

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:Edmund Burke, rational dissent
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:British history
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Page, A (Dr Anthony Page)
ID Code:90885
Year Published:2017
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2014-04-30
Last Modified:2018-04-27

Repository Staff Only: item control page