The result of wiping the slate clean, he warned, would be to leave the individual defenseless against the power of the all-encompassing state which might speak in the name of, but could never be controlled by, the public.
Burke had no faith in the democratic dogma that the people know best know their own interests. They frequently do not, he claimed, and when their will conflicts with their good they must, for their own sake, be restrained by an authority that is independent of them. Otherwise they will use their freedom to destroy themselves. "The restrains on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights...Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit."
Burke, in other words, attacked the first principle of the Revolution [French Revolution of the 1790s], that soverignty resides in the entire body of citizens and is expressed in law that that their representatives make. The people may arrogate to themseelves the power of governing, but, he said, that does not give them the right to govern.
"Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants," and such wisdom comes only from long ages of experience. NO MAN OR GROUP OF MEN HAS A RIGHT TO FLOUT EXPERIENCE AND DESTROY A CONSTITUTION THAT HAS BEEN CENGTURIES IN THE BUILDING, FOR NO ONE HAS THE SAGACITY TO CTREATE A BETER ONE FROM WHOLE CLOTH.
The rationalists argue that they have such sagacity, but their "new conquering" empire of light and reason" is an illusion; they misconceive the nature of society and government, and try to apply a logic of human rights that is the "offspring of cold hearts and muddy misunderstandings."