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Edmund Burke is known as one of the fathers of the British Conservative tradition. But what is unknown to most people is the fact, that he is also the founder of the trustee model of political representation. His ideas on this subject were introduced in his speech to the electors of Bristol from November 3rd, 1774.
Edmund Burke was born in Dublin on January 12th 1729 to a protestant father and catholic mother. He studied history and literature at Trinity College in Dublin until he moved to London in 1750 to begin his legal studies at the Middle Temple. However, Burke soon abandoned his studies and pursued a literary and political career.
In 1774 Burke was elected a Member of Parliament for Bristol, then the second most important city in Britain. The sitting members in Bristol at that time were Lord Clare and Matthew Brickdale, but they were both quite unpopular with the constituents after taking a strong line on the American colonies. (cf. Underdown 1958: 15) “Tradition required that of the two Bristol members of Parliament, one should be a local merchant, the other a politician of national reputation but with a special knowledge of commercial affairs.” (Underdown 1958: 15) The local challenger for Brickdale was found very soon: Henry Cruger, a Whig and the leader of the “Independent Society” who promoted “in conformity with contemporary radical tactics” “to instruct their members of Parliament.” (Steffani 1981: 110)
Finding the challenger to Lord Clare proved to be much more difficult. The candidature of Edmund Burke was seriously considered by the end of June, 1774. The reasons for his consideration were his national reputation along with the fact that he was part of the “aristocratic Rockingham Whig connection” (Underdown 1958: 17), a more moderate wing of the Whig party. It was important to have a more restrained and conservative candidate as an antipode to Henry Cruger’s radicalism. Cruger was, however, not satisfied with Burke as...
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