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Edmund Burke

Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.
The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.

Edmund Burke (January 12, 1729July 9, 1797) was an Irish political philosopher, Whig politician and statesman who is often regarded as the father of modern conservatism.

QuotesEdit

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.
  • 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.
    • An account of the European Settlements in America (1757), pp. 19-20, in The Works of Edmund Burke in Nine Volumes, Vol. IX. Boston: Little, Brown, 1839.
  • Laws, like houses, lean on one another.
    • From the Tracts Relative to the Laws Against Popery in Ireland (c. 1766), not published during Burke's lifetime.
  • There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
    • Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation (1769), volume i, page 273.
  • It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.
    • Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation (1769).
  • The wisdom of our ancestors.
    • Burke is credited by some with the first use of this phrase, in Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation (1769), page 516; also in Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770) and Discussion on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill (1793).
  • Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none.
    • Speech on the Bill for the Relief of Protestant Dissenters (7 March 1773).
  • 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.
    • Speech on the Bill for the Relief of Protestant Dissenters (7 March 1773).
  • Certainly, Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions, to theirs,—and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.
    But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure,—no, nor from the law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. 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.
    • Speech to the Electors of Bristol (3 November 1774); reported in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 2, p. 95.
  • 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.
    • Speech to the Electors of Bristol (3 November 1774); as published in The Works of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (1834).
  • A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.
    • Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (3 April 1777); as published in The Works of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 2, p. 206.
  • 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.
    • Letter to Charles James Fox (1777-10-08).
  • Applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover.
    • Speech at Bristol Previous to the Election (6 September 1780).
  • Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
    • Speech at Bristol Previous to the Election (6 September 1780).
  • In doing good, we are generally cold, and languid, and sluggish; and of all things afraid of being too much in the right. But the works of malice and injustice are quite in another style. They are finished with a bold, masterly hand; touched as they are with the spirit of those vehement passions that call forth all our energies, whenever we oppress and persecute.
  • 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.
    • Speech at Bristol on declining the poll (9 September 1780)
  • 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.
    • Speech at Bristol on declining the poll (9 September 1780). referring to a Mr. Richard Coombe.
  • He was not merely a chip of the old Block, but the old Block itself.
    • On Pitt's First Speech (26 February 1781), from Wraxall's Memoirs, First Series, vol. i. p. 342.
  • 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.
    • Speech on Reform of Representation in the House of Commons (7 May 1782).
  • The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
    • Speech at a County Meeting of Buckinghamshire (1784).
  • Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.
    • Letter to M. de Menonville (October 1789).
  • They made and recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the Rights of Man.
    • On the Army Estimates (1790).
  • You can never plan the future by the past.
    • Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791).
  • Tyrants seldom want pretexts.
    • Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791).
  • 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.
    • Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791).
  • Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
    • Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791).
  • 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.
    • Appeal from the New Whigs to the Old (1791).
  • So far as it has gone, it probably is the most pure and defecated publick good which ever has been conferred on mankind.
    • Appeal from the New Whigs to the Old (1791)
    • On Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791.
  • There is a boundary to men's passions when they act from feeling; none when they are under the influence of imagination.
    • Appeal from the New Whigs to the Old (1791).
  • We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.
    • Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe (1792).
  • Old religious factions are volcanoes burnt out.
    • Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians (1792-05-11).
  • Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.
    • Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians (1792-05-11), volume vii, page 50.
  • 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.
    • Preface to Brissot's Address (1794).
  • The cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
    • Preface to Brissot's Address (1794).
  • Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference.
    • Letter to William Smith (January 1795).
  • And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.
    • Thoughts and Details on Scarcity (1795).
  • 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.
    • Thoughts and Details on Scarcity (1795).
  • I would rather sleep in the southern corner of a little country churchyard, than in the tombs of the Capulets.
    • Letter to Matthew Smith
  • The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.
    • Letter to Thomas Mercer
  • A very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world arises from words.
    • Letter to Richard Burke
  • 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."
    • Comment quoted by Matthew Prior in his Life of Burke.
  • The art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing.
    • Burke's description of poetry, quoted from his conversation in Prior's Life of Burke.
  • There is nothing that God has judged good for us that He has not given us the means to accomplish, both in the natural and the moral world.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 261.

A Vindication of Natural Society (1756)Edit

A Vindication of Natural Society: or, a View of the Miseries and Evils arising to Mankind from every Species of Artifical Society · Full text online at Online Library of Liberty
  • The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.
    • Preface
  • "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.
  • I need not excuse myself to your Lordship, nor, I think, to any honest man, for the zeal I have shown in this cause; for it is an honest zeal, and in a good cause. I have defended natural religion against a confederacy of atheists and divines. I now plead for natural society against politicians, and for natural reason against all three. When the world is in a fitter temper than it is at present to hear truth, or when I shall be more indifferent about its temper, my thoughts may become more public. In the mean time, let them repose in my own bosom, and in the bosoms of such men as are fit to be initiated in the sober mysteries of truth and reason. My antagonists have already done as much as I could desire. Parties in religion and politics make sufficient discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober man a proper caution against them all. The monarchic, and aristocratical, and popular partisans have been jointly laying their axes to the root of all government, and have in their turns proved each other absurd and inconvenient. In vain you tell me that artificial government is good, but that I fall out only with the abuse. The thing! the thing itself is the abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand error upon which all artificial legislative power is founded. It was observed that men had ungovernable passions, which made it necessary to guard against the violence they might offer to each other. They appointed governors over them for this reason! But a worse and more perplexing difficulty arises, how to be defended against the governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? In vain they change from a single person to a few. These few have the passions of the one; and they unite to strengthen themselves, and to secure the gratification of their lawless passions at the expense of the general good. In vain do we fly to the many. The case is worse; their passions are less under the government of reason, they are augmented by the contagion, and defended against all attacks by their multitude.
  • There are few with whom I can communicate so freely as with Pope. But Pope cannot bear every truth. He has a timidity which hinders the full exertion of his faculties, almost as effectually as bigotry cramps those of the general herd of mankind. But whoever is a genuine follower of truth keeps his eye steady upon his guide, indifferent whither he is led, provided that she is the leader. And, my Lord, if it may be properly considered, it were infinitely better to remain possessed by the whole legion of vulgar mistakes, than to reject some, and, at the same time, to retain a fondness for others altogether as absurd and irrational. The first has at least a consistency, that makes a man, however erroneously, uniform at least; but the latter way of proceeding is such an inconsistent chimera and jumble of philosophy and vulgar prejudice, that hardly anything more ridiculous can be conceived.
  • Kings are ambitious; the nobility haughty; and the populace tumultuous and ungovernable. Each party, however in appearance peaceable, carries on a design upon the others; and it is owing to this, that in all questions, whether concerning foreign or domestic affairs, the whole generally turns more upon some party-matter than upon the nature of the thing itself; whether such a step will diminish or augment the power of the crown, or how far the privileges of the subject are likely to be extended or restricted by it. And these questions are constantly resolved, without any consideration of the merits of the cause, merely as the parties who uphold these jarring interests may chance to prevail; and as they prevail, the balance is overset, now upon one side, now upon the other. The government is, one day, arbitrary power in a single person; another, a juggling confederacy of a few to cheat the prince and enslave the people; and the third, a frantic and unmanageable democracy. The great instrument of all these changes, and what infuses a peculiar venom into all of them, is party. It is of no consequence what the principles of any party, or what their pretensions, are; the spirit which actuates all parties is the same; the spirit of ambition, of self-interest, of oppression, and treachery. This spirit entirely reverses all the principles which a benevolent nature has erected within us; all honesty, all equal justice, and even the ties of natural society, the natural affections. In a word, my Lord, we have all seen, and, if any outward considerations were worthy the lasting concern of a wise man, we have some of us felt, such oppression from party government as no other tyranny can parallel. We behold daily the most important rights, rights upon which all the others depend, we behold these rights determined in the last resort without the least attention even to the appearance or colour of justice; we behold this without emotion, because we have grown up in the constant view of such practices; and we are not surprised to hear a man requested to be a knave and a traitor, with as much indifference as if the most ordinary favour were asked; and we hear this request refused, not because it is a most unjust and unreasonable desire, but that this worthy has already engaged his injustice to another. These and many more points I am far from spreading to their full extent.
  • I could show, that the same faction has, in one reign, promoted popular seditions, and, in the next, been a patron of tyranny; I could show, that they have all of them betrayed the public safety at all times, and have very frequently with equal perfidy made a market of their own cause, and their own associates. I could show how vehemently they have contended for names, and how silently they have passed over things of the last importance.
  • We scarce ever had a prince, who by fraud, or violence, had not made some infringement on the constitution. We scarce ever had a parliament which knew, when it attempted to set limits to the royal authority, how to set limits to its own. Evils we have had continually calling for reformation, and reformations more grievous than any evils. Our boasted liberty sometimes trodden down, sometimes giddily set up, and ever precariously fluctuating and unsettled; it has only been kept alive by the blasts of continual feuds, wars, and conspiracies.
  • 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? It is hard to say whether the doctors of law or divinity have made the greater advances in the lucrative business of mystery. The lawyers, as well as the theologians, have erected another reason besides natural reason; and the result has been, another justice besides natural justice. They have so bewildered the world and themselves in unmeaning forms and ceremonies, and so perplexed the plainest matters with metaphysical jargon, that it carries the highest danger to a man out of that profession, to make the least step without their advice and assistance. Thus,by confining to themselves the knowledge of the foundation of all men's lives and properties, they have reduced all mankind into the most abject and servile dependence. We are tenants at the will of these gentlemen for everything; and a metaphysical quibble is to decide whether the greatest villain breathing shall meet his deserts, or escape with impunity, or whether the best man in the society shall not be reduced to the lowest and most despicable condition it affords. In a word, my Lord, the injustice, delay, puerility, false refinement, and affected mystery of the law are such, that many who live under it come to admire and envy the expedition, simplicity, and equality of arbitrary judgments.
  • The most obvious division of society is into rich and poor; and it is no less obvious, that the number of the former bear a great disproportion to those of the latter. The whole business of the poor is to administer to the idleness, folly, and luxury of the rich; and that of the rich, in return, is to find the best methods of confirming the slavery and increasing the burdens of the poor. In a state of nature, it is an invariable law, that a man's acquisitions are in proportion to his labours. In a state of artificial society, it is a law as constant and as invariable, that those who labour most enjoy the fewest things; and that those who labour not at all have the greatest number of enjoyments. A constitution of things this, strange and ridiculous beyond expression! We scarce believe a thing when we are told it, which we actually see before our eyes every day without being in the least surprised.
  • The rich in all societies may be thrown into two classes. The first is of those who are powerful as well as rich, and conduct the operations of the vast political machine. The other is of those who employ their riches wholly in the acquisition of pleasure. As to the first sort, their continual care and anxiety, their toilsome days and sleepless nights, are next to proverbial. These circumstances are sufficient almost to level their condition to that of the unhappy majority; but there are other circumstances which place them in a far lower condition. Not only their understandings labour continually, which is the severest labour, but their hearts are torn by the worst, most troublesome, and insatiable of all passions, by avarice, by ambition, by fear and jealousy. No part of the mind has rest. Power gradually extirpates from the mind every humane and gentle virtue. Pity, benevolence, friendship, are things almost unknown in high stations.
  • The several species of government vie with each other in the absurdity of their constitutions, and the oppression which they make their subjects endure. Take them under what form you please, they are in effect but a despotism, and they fall, both in effect and appearance too, after a very short period, into that cruel and detestable species of tyranny; which I rather call it, because we have been educated under another form, than that this is of worse consequences to mankind. For the free governments, for the point of their space, and the moment of their duration, have felt more confusion, and committed more flagrant acts of tyranny, than the most perfect despotic governments which we have ever known. Turn your eye next to the labyrinth of the law, and the iniquity conceived in its intricate recesses. Consider the ravages committed in the bowels of all commonwealths by ambition, by avarice, envy, fraud, open injustice, and pretended friendship; vices which could draw little support from a state of nature, but which blossom and flourish in the rankness of political society. Revolve our whole discourse; add to it all those reflections which your own good understanding shall suggest, and make a strenuous effort beyond the reach of vulgar philosophy, to confess that the cause of artificial society is more defenceless even than that of artificial religion; that it is as derogatory from the honour of the Creator, as subversive of human reason, and productive of infinitely more mischief to the human race.
  • If pretended revelations have caused wars where they were opposed, and slavery where they were received, the pretended wise inventions of politicians have done the same. But the slavery has been much heavier, the wars far more bloody, and both more universal by many degrees. Show me any mischief produced by the madness or wickedness of theologians, and I will show you an hundred resulting from the ambition and villany of conquerors and statesmen. Show me an absurdity in religion, and I will undertake to show you an hundred for one in political laws and institutions. 'If you say, that natural religion is a sufficient guide without the foreign aid of revelation, on what principle should political laws become necessary? Is not the same reason available in theology and in politics? If the laws of nature are the laws of God, is it consistent with the Divine wisdom to prescribe rules to us, and leave the enforcement of them to the folly of human institutions? Will you follow truth but to a certain point?
  • We are indebted for all our miseries to our distrust of that guide, which Providence thought sufficient for our condition, our own natural reason, which rejecting both in human and Divine things, we have given our necks to the yoke of political and theological slavery. We have renounced the prerogative of man, and it is no wonder that we should be treated like beasts. But our misery is much greater than theirs, as the crime we commit in rejecting the lawful dominion of our reason is greater than any which they can commit. If, after all, you should confess all these things, yet plead the necessity of political institutions, weak and wicked as they are, I can argue with equal, perhaps superior, force, concerning the necessity of artificial religion; and every step you advance in your argument, you add a strength to mine. So that if we are resolved to submit our reason and our liberty to civil usurpation, we have nothing to do but to conform as quietly as we can to the vulgar notions which are connected with this, and take up the theology of the vulgar as well as their politics. But if we think this necessity rather imaginary than real, we should renounce their dreams of society, together with their visions of religion, and vindicate ourselves into perfect liberty.
  • You are, my Lord, but just entering into the world; I am going out of it. I have played long enough to be heartily tired of the drama. Whether I have acted my part in it well or ill, posterity will judge with more candour than I, or than the present age, with our present passions, can possibly pretend to. For my part, I quit it without a sigh, and submit to the sovereign order without murmuring. The nearer we approach to the goal of life, the better we begin to understand the true value of our existence, and the real weight of our opinions. We set out much in love with both; but we leave much behind us as we advance. We first throw away the tales along with the rattles of our nurses; those of the priest keep their hold a little longer; those of our governors the longest of all. But the passions which prop these opinions are withdrawn one after another; and the cool light of reason, at the setting of our life, shows us what a false splendour played upon these objects during our more sanguine seasons. Happy, my Lord, if, instructed by my experience, and even by my errors, you come early to make such an estimate of things, as may give freedom and ease to your life. I am happy that such an estimate promises me comfort at my death.

A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757)Edit

  • A definition may be very exact, and yet go but a very little way towards informing us of the nature of the thing defined.
    • Introduction On Taste
  • The first and the simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is Curiosity.
    • Part I Section I
  • 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.
    • Part I Section V
  • I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others.
    • Part I Section XIV
    • Compare: Francis, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections, xv: "In the adversity of our best friends we always find something which is not wholly displeasing to us".
  • No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
    • Part II Section II
  • When any work seems to have required immense force and labor to affect it, the idea is grand. Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, has anything admirable; but those huge rude masses of stone, set on end, and piled each on other, turn the mind on the immense force necessary for such a work. Nay, the rudeness of the work increases this cause of grandeur, as it excludes the idea of art and contrivance; for dexterity produces another sort of effect, which is different enough from this.
    • Part II Section XII
  • 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.
    • Part II Section XIII
  • Custom reconciles us to every thing.
    • Part IV Section XVIII
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770)Edit

  • 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.
  • Illustrious predecessor.
    • Volume i, page 456.
  • 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.
    • Volume i, page 516.
  • When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
  • Of this stamp is the cant of, Not men, but measures.
    • Volume i, page 531.
  • 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.

First Speech on the Conciliation with America (1774)Edit

First Speech on the Conciliation with America, American Taxation (19 April 1774)
  • 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.

Second Speech on Conciliation with America (1775)Edit

Second Speech on Conciliation with America, The Thirteen Resolutions (1775)
  • 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 [American] 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.
  • Permit me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our colonies, which contributes no mean part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful; and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to the congress were lawyers. But all who read, and most do read, endeavour to obtain some smattering in that science. I have been told by an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone's Commentaries in America as in England. General Gage marks out this disposition very particularly in a letter on your table. He states, that all the people in his government are lawyers, or smatterers in law; and that in Boston they have been enabled, by successful chicane, wholly to evade many parts of one of your capital penal constitutions. The smartness of debate will say, that this knowledge ought to teach them more clearly the rights of legislature, their obligations to obedience, and the penalties of rebellion. All this is mighty well. But my honourable and learned friend on the floor, who condescends to mark what I say for animadversion, will disdain that ground. He has heard, as well as I, that when great honours and great emoluments do not win over this knowledge to the service of the state, it is a formidable adversary to government. If the spirit be not tamed and broken by these happy methods, it is stubborn and litigious. Abeunt studia in mores. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. 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 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 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.

Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (1777)Edit

Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (1777-04-03)
  • 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.

Speech on the Independence of Parliament (1780)Edit

Speech on the Independence of Parliament and Economical Reformation (1780-02-11)
  • 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.

On the Impeachment of Warren Hastings (1788-1794)Edit

Articles of Charge of High Crimes and Misdemeanors, against Warren Hastings
  • There never was a bad man that had ability for good service.
    • 1788-02-15, Third Day, volume x, page 54.
  • Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety.
    • 1788-02-15.
  • One that confounds good and evil is an enemy to the good.
    • 1788-02-15.
  • An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.
    • 1789-05-05.
  • Resolved to die in the last dike of prevarication.
    • 1789-05-07.
  • 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.
    • 1794-05-28.
  • 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."
    • 1794-05-30.
  • On one side, your lordships have the prisoner declaring that the people have no laws, no rights, no usages, no distinctions of rank, no sense of honor, no property; in short that they are nothing but a herd of slaves to be governed by the arbitrary will of a master. On the other side, we assert that the direct contrary of this is true. And to prove our assertion we have referred you to the institutes of Ghinges Khân and of Tamerlane: we have referred you to the Mahomedan law, which is binding upon all, from the crowned head to the meanest subject; a law interwoven with a system of the wisest, the most learned, and most enlightened jurisprudence that perhaps ever existed in the world. We have shown you, that if these parties are to be compared together, it is not the rights of the people which are nothing, but rather the rights of the sovereign which are so. The rights of the people are every thing, as they ought to be in the true and natural order of things.
    • From Final Speech at the Trial of Warren Hastings, May 28, 1794: Burke, Edmund (1877). The Works of the Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke, vol. 8 (5th ed.). p. 51. 

Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)Edit

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.
Some decent regulated pre-eminence, some preference (not exclusive appropriation) given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolite.
To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
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.
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  • I cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, to consider his country as nothing but carte blanche, upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases.
    • Volume iii, page 231.
  • People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.
    • Volume iii, page 274.
  • Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) 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!
    • Volume iii, page 331.
  • That chastity of honour which felt a stain like a wound.
    • Volume iii, page 332.
  • Vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.
    • Volume iii, page 332.
  • Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.
    • Volume iii, page 334.
  • Learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.
    • Volume iii, page 335.
  • 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.
    • Volume iii, page 344.
  • 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. Pater ipse colendi haud facilem esse viam voluit. He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
    • Volume iii, page 453.
  • 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.
    • Volume iii, page 497.
  • 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.
    • Volume iii, page 356.
  • 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 splendor, and joy. Oh! what a Revolution! And what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; 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 honor, 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; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.
    • Volume iii, page 331.
  • 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.
    • Volume iii, page 365.
  • France has always more or less influenced manners in England; and when your fountain is choked up and polluted, the stream will not run long, or not run clear, with us, or perhaps with any nation. This gives all Europe, in my opinion, but too close and connected a concern in what is done in France. Excuse me, therefore, if I have dwelt too long on the atrocious spectacle of the 6th of October, 1789, or have given too much scope to the reflections which have arisen in my mind on occasion of the most important of all revolutions, which may be dated from that day, I mean 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.
    • Volume iii, page 277.
  • 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.
  • By the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young; but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression.

Thoughts and Details on Scarcity (1795)Edit

  • Free trade is not based on utility but on justice.

A Letter to a Noble Lord (1796)Edit

  • It cannot at this time be too often repeated; line upon line; precept upon precept; until it comes into the currency of a proverb, To innovate is not to reform..
  • 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.

Letters On a Regicide Peace (1796)Edit

  • All men that are ruined, are ruined on the side of their natural propensities.
    • No. 1, volume v, page 286.
  • Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.
    • No. 1, volume v, page 331.
  • If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.
    • No. 1.
  • 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.
    • No. 1, volume v, page 286.
  • Jacobinism is the revolt of the enterprising talents of a country against its property.
    • No. 1.
  • We must not always judge of the generality of the opinion by the noise of the acclamation.
    • No. 1.
  • Manners are of more importance than laws. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. 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.
    • No. 1, p. 172 in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke: A New Edition, v. VIII. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1815.
  • Well is it known that ambition can creep as well as soar.
    • No. 3


DisputedEdit

  • All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
    • This is probably the most quoted statement attributed to Burke, and an extraordinary number of variants of it exist, but all without any definite original source. They closely resemble remarks known to have been made by the Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, in an address at the University of St. Andrew (1 February 1867) : Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. The very extensively used remarks attributed to Burke might be based on a paraphrase of some of his ideas, but he is not known to have ever declared them in so succinct a manner in any of his writings. It has been suggested that they may have been adapted from these lines of Burke's in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770): "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." (see above)
This purported quote bears a resemblance to the narrated theme of Sergei Bondarchuk's Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's book "War and Peace", in which the narrator declares "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing", although since the original is in Russian various translations to English are possible. This purported quote also bears resemblance to a quote widely attributed to Plato, that said "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." It also bears resemblance to what Albert Einstein wrote as part of his tribute to Pablo Casals: "The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it."
More research done on this matter is available at these two links: Burkequote & Burkequote2 — as the information at these links indicate, there are many variants of this statement, probably because there is no clearly definitive original by Burke. In addition, an exhaustive examination of this quote has been done at the following link: QuoteInvestigator.


MisattributedEdit

  • Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.
    • Not found in Burke's writings. It was almost certainly first published in Charles Caleb Colton's Lacon (1820), vol. 1, no. 324.
  • Beauty is the promise of happiness.
    • Actually by Stendhal: "La beauté n'est que la promesse du bonheur" (Beauty is no more than the promise of happiness), in De L'Amour (1822), chapter 17.
  • If you can be well without health, you may be happy without virtue.
    • First known in Thomas Fuller's Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs (1732), but not found in the writings of Edmund Burke.
  • 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.
    • Actually from Frederic Harrison's essay "Ruskin as Prophet", in his Tennyson, Ruskin, Mill, and Other Literary Estimates (1899).

Quotes about BurkeEdit

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. ~ William Hazlitt
Burke’s Vindication was perhaps the first modern expression of rationalistic and individualistic anarchism. ~ Murray Rothbard
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  • 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. Of all the persons of this description that I have ever known, I never met with above one or two who would make this concession; whether it was that party feelings ran too high to admit of any real candour, or whether it was owing to an essential vulgarity in their habits of thinking, they all seemed to be of opinion that he was a wild enthusiast, or a hollow sophist, who was to be answered by bits of facts, by smart logic, by shrewd questions, and idle songs. They looked upon him as a man of disordered intellects, because he reasoned in a style to which they had not been used, and which confounded their dim preceptions.
    • William Hazlitt, in The Eloquence of the British Senate : Being a Selection of the Best Speeches of the Most Distinguished English, Irish, and Scotch Parliamentary Speakers, from the Beginning of the Reign of Charles I to the Present Time (1810), p. 210
  • 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.
  • Ever since 1953, when Russell Kirk produced its intellectual coat of arms, conservatism has been "what Edmund Burke wrote." This is the equivalent of Arthur Danto’s institutional theory of art — art is whatever the art world says it is. But it’s also a cop-out. Instead of analyzing conservatism in an Aristotelian way, instead of asking how we use the term in real life, we just describe Burke. In the process, don’t we risk fleeing into what Tanenhaus calls an "alternative universe"? If conservatives are "glaringly disconnected from the realities now besetting America," as Tanenhaus says, why is the solution to be more like a man who wore a powdered wig? Liberals have problems of their own, but, to their credit, they don’t sit around debating whether Hillary Clinton or John Edwards is the "real Rousseauian."
  • In 1756 Edmund Burke published his first work: Vindication of Natural Society. Curiously enough it has been almost completely ignored in the current Burke revival. This work contrasts sharply with Burke’s other writings, for it is hardly in keeping with the current image of the Father of the New Conservatism. A less conservative work could hardly be imagined; in fact, Burke’s Vindication was perhaps the first modern expression of rationalistic and individualistic anarchism. … "Anarchism" is an extreme term, but no other can adequately describe Burke’s thesis. Again and again, he emphatically denounces any and all government, and not just specific forms of government. … All government, Burke adds, is founded on one "grand error." It was observed that men sometimes commit violence against one another, and that it is therefore necessary to guard against such violence. As a result, men appoint governors among them. But who is to defend the people against the governors? … The anarchism of Burke’s Vindication is negative, rather than positive. It consists of an attack on the State rather than a positive blueprint of the type of society which Burke would regard as ideal. Consequently, both the communist and the individualist wings of anarchism have drawn sustenance from this work.

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