edmund burke Quotes

Edmund Burke Quotes

Birth Date: 1729-01-12 (Wednesday, January 12th, 1729)
Date of Death: 1797-07-09 (Sunday, July 9th, 1797)

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Edmund Burke publishes Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he predicts that the French Revolution will end in a disaster.Monday, November 1st, 1790

Quotes

    • There is a sort of enthusiasm in all projectors, absolutely necessary for their affairs, which makes them proof against the most fatiguing delays, the most mortifying disappointments, the most shocking insults; and, what is severer than all, the presumptuous judgement of the ignorant upon their designs.
    • Laws, like houses, lean on one another.
    • There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
    • It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.
    • The wisdom of our ancestors.
    • Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none.
    • I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice; I would keep them both: it is not necessary that I should sacrifice either.
    • Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    • Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.
    • People crushed by law, have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous.
    • Applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover.
    • Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
    • I decline the election. - It has ever been my rule through life, to observe a proportion between my efforts and my objects. I have never been remarkable for a bold, active, and sanguine pursuit of advantages that are personal to myself.
    • Gentlemen, the melancholy event of yesterday reads to us an awful lesson against being too much troubled about any of the objects of ordinary ambition. The worthy gentleman, who has been snatched from us at the moment of the election, and in the middle of contest, whilst his desires were as warm, and his hopes as eager as ours, has feelingly told us, what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue.
    • He was not merely a chip of the old Block, but the old Block itself.
    • The individual is foolish; the multitude, for the moment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; but the species is wise, and, when time is given to it, as a species it always acts right.
    • The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
    • Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.
    • They made and recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the Rights of Man.
    • You can never plan the future by the past.
    • Tyrants seldom want pretexts.
    • Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to any thing but power for their relief.
    • Neither the few nor the many have a right to act merely by their will, in any matter connected with duty, trust, engagement, or obligation.
    • So far as it has gone, it probably is the most pure and defecated publick good which ever has been conferred on mankind.
    • There is a boundary to men's passions when they act from feeling; none when they are under the influence of imagination.
    • We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature.
    • Old religious factions are volcanoes burnt out.
    • Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.
    • It is the function of a judge not to make but to declare the law, according to the golden mete-wand of the law and not by the crooked cord of discretion.
    • The cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
    • Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
    • Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference.
    • And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.
    • Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations - wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.
    • Mere parsimony is not economy. Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy.
    • Economy is a distributive virtue, and consists not in saving but selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment.
    • I would rather sleep in the southern corner of a little country churchyard, than in the tombs of the Capulets.
    • The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.
    • Turn over a new leaf.
    • A very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world arises from words.
    • When Croft's 'Life of Dr. Young' was spoken of as a good imitation of Dr. Johnson's style, 'No, no,' said he, 'it is not a good imitation of Johnson; it has all his pomp without his force; it has all the nodosities of the oak, without its strength; it has all the contortions of the sibyl, without the inspiration.'
    • The art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing.
    • 'War,' says Machiavel, 'ought to be the only study of a prince;' and by a prince he means every sort of state, however constituted. 'He ought,' says this great political doctor, 'to consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes ability to execute military plans.' A meditation on the conduct of political societies made old Hobbes imagine that war was the state of nature.
    • A good parson once said that where mystery begins religion ends. Cannot I say, as truly at least, of human laws, that where mystery begins, justice ends?
    • The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.
    • The first and the simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is Curiosity.
    • The person who grieves, suffers his passion to grow upon him; he indulges it, he loves it; but this never happens in the case of actual pain, which no man ever willingly endured for any considerable time.
    • Custom reconciles us to every thing.
    • No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
    • I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others.
    • A great profusion of things, which are splendid or valuable in themselves, is magnificent. The starry heaven, though it occurs so very frequently to our view, never fails to excite an idea of grandeur. This cannot be owing to the stars themselves, separately considered. The number is certainly the cause. The apparent disorder augments the grandeur, for the appearance of care is highly contrary to our idea of magnificence. Besides, the stars lie in such apparent confusion, as makes it impossible on ordinary occasions to reckon them. This gives them the advantage of a sort of infinity.
    • It is an advantage to all narrow wisdom and narrow morals that their maxims have a plausible air; and, on a cursory view, appear equal to first principles. They are light and portable. They are as current as copper coin; and about as valuable. They serve equally the first capacities and the lowest; and they are, at least, as useful to the worst men as to the best. Of this stamp is the cant of not man, but measures; a sort of charm by which many people get loose from every honourable engagement.
    • The power of discretionary disqualification by one law of Parliament, and the necessity of paying every debt of the Civil List by another law of Parliament, if suffered to pass unnoticed, must establish such a fund of rewards and terrors as will make Parliament the best appendage and support of arbitrary power that ever was invented by the wit of man. This is felt. The quarrel is begun between the Representatives and the People. The Court Faction have at length committed them. In such a strait the wisest may well be perplexed, and the boldest staggered. The circumstances are in a great measure new. We have hardly any land-marks from the wisdom of our ancestors, to guide us. At best we can only follow the spirit of their proceeding in other cases.
    • When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
    • So to be patriots as not to forget we are gentlemen.
    • Public life is a situation of power and energy; he trespasses against his duty who sleeps upon his watch, as well as he that goes over to the enemy.
    • Reflect how you are to govern a people who think they ought to be free, and think they are not. Your scheme yields no revenue; it yields nothing but discontent, disorder, disobedience; and such is the state of America, that after wading up to your eyes in blood, you could only end just where you begun; that is, to tax where no revenue is to be found, to - my voice fails me; my inclination indeed carries me no farther - all is confusion beyond it.
    • Falsehood has a perennial spring.
    • To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men.
    • He had no failings which were not owing to a noble cause; to an ardent, generous, perhaps an immoderate passion for fame; a passion which is the instinct of all great souls.
    • It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact.
    • I have in general no very exalted opinion of the virtue of paper government.
    • The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.
    • Young man, there is America - which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world.
    • When we speak of the commerce with our colonies, fiction lags after truth, invention is unfruitful, and imagination cold and barren.
    • A people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.
    • Through a wise and salutary neglect [of the colonies], a generous nature has been suffered to take her own way to perfection; when I reflect upon these effects, when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of power sink and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt and die away within me. My vigour relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
    • The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.
    • Nothing less will content me, than whole America.
    • Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found.
    • All protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our northern colonies is a refinement on the principles of resistance: it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the Protestant religion.
    • In no country perhaps in the world is law so general a study [as in America]...This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources...They augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.
    • It looks to me to be narrow and pedantic to apply the ordinary ideas of criminal justice to this great public contest. I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.
    • It is not, what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice, tell me I ought to do.
    • The march of the human mind is slow.
    • Freedom and not servitude is the cure of anarchy; as religion, and not atheism, is the true remedy for superstition.
    • All government - indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act - is founded on compromise and barter.
    • Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil.
    • Deny them [the colonies] this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond, which originally made, and must still preserve the unity of the empire.
    • It is the love of the [British] people; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you both your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience, without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber.
    • Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together.
    • By adverting to the dignity of this high calling our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire: and have made the most extensive, and the only honorable conquests, not by destroying, but by promoting the wealth, the number, the happiness of the human race.
    • All who have ever written on government are unanimous, that among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.
    • The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.
    • Liberty, too, must be limited in order to be possessed.
    • If any ask me what a free Government is, I answer, that, for any practical purpose, it is what the people think so, - and that they, and not I, are the natural, lawful, and competent judges of this matter.
    • In effect, to follow, not to force the public inclination; to give a direction, a form, a technical dress, and a specific sanction, to the general sense of the community, is the true end of legislature.
    • Frugality is founded on the principle that all riches have limits.
    • Corrupt influence, which is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality, and of all disorder; which loads us, more than millions of debt; which takes away vigor from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of our constitution.
    • Taxing is an easy business. Any projector can contrive new impositions, any bungler can add to the old.
    • They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance.
    • There never was a bad man that had ability for good service.
    • Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety.
    • One that confounds good and evil is an enemy to the good.
    • An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.
    • Resolved to die in the last dike of prevarication.
    • There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity - the law of nature, and of nations.
    • There was an ancient Roman lawyer, of great fame in the history of Roman jurisprudence, whom they called Cui Bono, from his having first introduced into judicial proceedings the argument, 'What end or object could the party have had in the act with which he is accused.'
    • People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.
    • Circumstances...give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.
    • Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.
    • The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone!
    • That chastity of honour which felt a stain like a wound.
    • Vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.
    • Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.
    • Learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.
    • Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.
    • Superstition is the religion of feeble minds.
    • Difficulty is a severe instructor, set over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental Guardian and Legislator, who knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves us better too... He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
    • To execute laws is a royal office; to execute orders is not to be a king. However, a political executive magistracy, though merely such, is a great trust.
    • A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.
    • A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.
    • All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust, and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society.
    • But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.
    • In their nomination to office they will not appoint to the exercise of authority as to a pitiful job, but as to a holy function.
    • Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident a security.
    • Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.
    • Good order is the foundation of all good things.
    • Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent.
    • I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observation of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business.
    • If the people are happy, united, wealthy, and powerful, we presume the rest. We conclude that to be good from whence good is derived.
    • In this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars.
    • It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, - glittering like the morning star full of life and splendour and joy... Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, - in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded.
    • It shews the anxiety of the great men who influenced the conduct of affairs at that great event, to make the Revolution a parent of settlement, and not a nursery of future revolutions.
    • Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.
    • Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability.
    • No man can mortgage his injustice as a pawn for his fidelity.
    • No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity.
    • Our patience will achieve more than our force.
    • Politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement.
    • Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure - but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primaeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and the invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place. This law is not subject to the will of those, who by an obligation above them, and infinitely superior, are bound to submit their will to that law. The municipal corporations of that universal kingdom are not morally at liberty at their pleasure, and on their speculations of a contingent improvement, wholly to separate and tear asunder the bands of their subordinate community, and to dissolve it into an unsocial, uncivil, unconnected chaos of elementary principles. It is the first and supreme necessity only, a necessity that is not chosen, but chooses, a necessity paramount to deliberation, that admits no discussion, and demands no evidence, which alone can justify a resort to anarchy. This necessity is no exception to the rule; because this necessity itself is a part too of that moral and physical disposition of things, to which man must be obedient by consent or force: but if that which is only submission to necessity should be made the object of choice, the law is broken, nature is disobeyed, and the rebellious are outlawed, cast forth, and exiled, from this world of reason, and order, and peace, and virtue, and fruitful penitence, into the antagonist world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, and unavailing sorrow.
    • Some decent regulated pre-eminence, some preference (not exclusive appropriation) given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolite.
    • The body of all true religion consists, to be sure, in obedience to the will of the Sovereign of the world, in a confidence in His declarations, and in imitation of His perfections.
    • The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.
    • The men of England - the men, I mean of light and leading in England.
    • The most important of all revolutions... a revolution in sentiments, manners and moral opinions.
    • The objects of a financier are, then, to secure an ample revenue; to impose it with judgment and equality; to employ it economically; and, when necessity obliges him to make use of credit, to secure its foundations in that instance, and for ever, by the clearness and candour of his proceedings, the exactness of his calculations, and the solidity of his funds.
    • The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which tends most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue; it grafts benevolence even upon avarice. The possession of family wealth and of the distinction which attends hereditary possessions (as most concerned in it,) are the natural securities for this transmission.
    • The wise will determine from the gravity of the case; the irritable from sensibility to oppression; the high-minded from disdain and indignation at abusive power in unworthy hands.
    • There ought to be system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
    • Whenever our neighbour's house is on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play a little on our own.
    • Where popular authority is absolute and unrestrained, the people have an infinitely greater, because a far better founded, confidence in their own power. They are themselves, in a great measure, their own instruments. They are nearer to their objects. Besides, they are less under responsibility to one of the greatest controlling powers on the earth, the sense of fame and estimation. The share of infamy that is likely to fall to the lot of each individual in public acts is small indeed; the operation of opinion being in the inverse ratio to the number of those who abuse power. Their own approbation of their own acts has to them the appearance of a public judgment in their favor. A perfect democracy is, therefore, the most shameless thing in the world. As it is the most shameless, it is also the most fearless. No man apprehends in his person that he can be made subject to punishment.
    • Whilst shame keeps its watch, virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants.
    • Writers, especially when they act in a body and with one direction, have great influence on the public mind.
    • You had that action and counteraction which, in the natural and in the political world, from the reciprocal struggle of discordant powers draws out the harmony of the universe.
    • Whatever is supreme in a state, ought to have, as much as possible, its judicial authority so constituted as not only not to depend upon it, but in some sort to balance it. It ought to give a security to its justice against its power. It ought to make its judicature, as it were, something exterior to the state.
    • When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.
    • All men that are ruined, are ruined on the side of their natural propensities.
    • Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.
    • If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.
    • All those instances to be found in history, whether real or fabulous, of a doubtful public spirit, at which morality is perplexed, reason is staggered, and from which affrighted Nature recoils, are their chosen and almost sole examples for the instruction of their youth.
    • Jacobinism is the revolt of the enterprising talents of a country against its property.
    • We must not always judge of the generality of the opinion by the noise of the acclamation.
    • Manners are of more importance than laws... Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in.
    • Well is it known that ambition can creep as well as soar.
    • By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.
    • Free trade is not based on utility but on justice.
    • If we have equity, wisdom, and justice, it will belong to this country; if we have it not, it will not belong to this country.
    • Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.
    • No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
    • Religion is essentially the art and the theory of the remaking of man. Man is not a finished creation.
    • To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
    • What ever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man.
    • Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.
    • Beauty is the promise of happiness.
    • If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.
    • If you can be well without health, you may be happy without virtue.
    • Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
    • Society can overlook murder, adultery or swindling - it never forgives the preaching of a new gospel.
    • All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
    • It has always been with me, a test of the sense and candour of any one belonging to the opposite party, whether he allowed Burke to be a great man.
    • The sycophant - who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy - was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois.
    • edmund burke

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