The wit and wisdom of Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (12 January 1729 – 9 July 1797) was a British statesman and philosopher. Born in Dublin, Burke served as a member of parliament (MP) between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons of Great Britain with the Whig Party after moving to London in 1750.

Burke was a proponent of underpinning virtues with manners in society and of the importance of religious institutions for the moral stability and good of the state. These views were expressed in his A Vindication of Natural Society. He criticised the actions of the British government towards the American colonies, including its taxation policies. Burke also supported the rights of the colonists to resist metropolitan authority, although he opposed the attempt to achieve independence. He is remembered for his support for Catholic emancipation, the impeachment of Warren Hastings from the East India Company, and his staunch opposition to the French Revolution.

* * *

o The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke

o Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

o All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

o The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.

o Beauty is the promise of happiness.

o You can never plan the future by the past.

o When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.

o Ambition can creep as well as soar.

o No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

o Our patience will achieve more than our force.

o Good order is the foundation of all things.

o If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.

o Superstition is the religion of feeble minds.

o Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair.

o Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.

o To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.

o People crushed by laws, have no hope but to evade power. If the laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to the law; and those who have most to hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous.

o The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.

o Education is the cheap defense of nations.

o Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.

o But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.

o People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.

o We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature.

o Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.

o He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.

o It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.

o Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.

o Liberty must be limited in order to be possessed.

o A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.

o Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe. – Edmund Burke

o 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.

o It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

o The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.

o A State without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.

o In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority.

* * *

To learn more about Burke’s life and work, please click here.

Posted in

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.