125 Quotes by Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman, philosopher, and orator, was a central figure in the 18th-century political landscape and a staunch advocate for conservatism and gradual reform. His writings and speeches, including "Reflections on the Revolution in France," emphasized the importance of tradition, stability, and the preservation of societal institutions. Burke's critique of radical political change in France reflected his belief in the organic development of societies and his concerns about the potential dangers of abrupt upheaval.

He is credited with laying the intellectual groundwork for modern conservatism, asserting that social progress should be based on a respect for history and a consideration of the unforeseen consequences of rapid change. Burke's ideas continue to influence political thought and discussions on the balance between tradition and innovation in governance and society.

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Edmund Burke Quotes

Over-taxation cost England her colonies of North America. (Meaning)

Beauty in distress is much the most affecting beauty. (Quote Meaning)

Liberty must be limited in order to be possessed. (Meaning)

Facts are to the mind what food is to the body. (Quote Meaning)

Beauty is the promise of happiness. (Meaning)

Custom reconciles us to everything. (Quote Meaning)

Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society. (Meaning)

Ambition can creep as well as soar. (Quote Meaning)

Woman is not made to be the admiration of all, but the happiness of one. (Meaning)

To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men. (Quote Meaning)

Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting. (Meaning)

Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver. (Quote Meaning)

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Good order is the foundation of all things. (Meaning)

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (Quote Meaning)

Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. (Meaning)

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. (Quote Meaning)

The hottest fires in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.

Silence is golden but when it threatens your freedom it's yellow.

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…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.

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, to 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, shriveled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.

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 anything but power for their relief.

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

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

The Fate of good men who refuse to become involved in politics is to be ruled by evil men.

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The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse. (Meaning)

When you fear something, learn as much about it as you can. Knowledge conquers fear.

Mere parsimony is not economy. Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy.

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

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. (Quote Meaning)

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. (Meaning)

History is a pact between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn.

He that struggles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.

To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely. (Quote Meaning)

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

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

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.

Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government.

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites.

The essence of tyranny is the enforcement of stupid laws.

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 is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men, and by acting with promptitude, decision, and steadiness on that belief.

Despots govern by terror. They know that he who fears God fears nothing else; and therefore they eradicate from the mind, through their Voltaire, their Helvetius, and the rest of that infamous gang, that only sort of fear which generates true courage.

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

People must be taken as they are, and we should never try make them or ourselves better by quarreling with them. (Meaning)

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 hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing as they must if they believe they can do nothing. There is nothing worse because the council of despair is declaration of irresponsibility; it is Pilate washing his hands.

Our patience will achieve more than our force. (Quote Meaning)

All men have equal rights, but not to equal things.

The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts.

This sort of people are so taken up with their theories about the rights of man that they have totally forgotten his nature.

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

Those who have been intoxicated with power... can never willingly abandon it.

Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.

Among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist.

You can never plan the future by the past. (Quote Meaning)

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

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

All the forces of darkness need to succeed ... is for the people to do nothing.

A great empire and little minds go ill together.

Evil prevails when good men fail to act.

History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetite.

In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.

Bad laws are the worst form of tyranny. (Meaning)

When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment, we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.

The arrogance of age must submit to be taught by youth. (Quote Meaning)

There is a boundary to men's passions when they act from feelings; but none when they are under the influence of imagination.

All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. (Meaning)

We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature. (Quote Meaning)

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

Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality. (Quote Meaning)

Education is the cheap defense of nations. (Meaning)

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

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.

Religion is essentially the art and the theory of the remaking of man. Man is not a finished creation.

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

And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.

The greatest sin is to do nothing because you can only do a little.

Nothing in progression can rest on its original plan. We may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant.

Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.

Adversity is a severe instructor, set over us by one who knows us better than we do ourselves, as he loves us better too. He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. This conflict with difficulty makes us acquainted with our object, and compels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be superficial.

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.

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.

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.

They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance.

Superstition is the religion of feeble minds. (Quote Meaning)

By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation. (Meaning)

True religion is the foundation of society. When that is once shaken by contempt, the whole fabric cannot be stable nor lasting.

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

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

Religion, to have any force upon men's understandings,--indeed, to exist at all,--must be supposed paramount to law, and independent for its substance upon any human institution, else it would be the absurdist thing in the world,--an acknowledged cheat.

What ever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man.

Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none.

A coward's courage is in his tongue.

The great difference between the real leader and the pretender is that the one sees into the future, while the other regards only the present; the one lives by the day, and acts upon expediency; the other acts on enduring principles and for the immortality.

An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.

Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference.

He only deserves to be remembered by posterity who treasures up and preserves the history of his ancestors.

It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Wars are just to those to whom they are necessary.

Applaud us when we run, Console us when we fall, Cheer us when we recover.

Circumspection and caution are part of wisdom.

Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director and regulator, the standard of them all.

The greatest crimes do not arise from a want of feeling for others but from an over-sensibilit y for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires

Freedom without virtue is not freedom but license to pursue whatever passions prevail in the intemperate mind; man's right to freedom being in exact proportion to his willingness to put chains upon his own appetites; the less restraint from within, the more must be imposed from without.

That the greatest security of the people, against the encroachments and usurpations of their superiors, is to keep the Spirit of Liberty constantly awake, is an undeniable truth

To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.

The great inlet by which a colour for oppression has entered into the world is by one man's pretending to determine concerning the happiness of another.

When a great man has some one object in view to be achieved in a given time, it may be absolutely necessary for him to walk out of all the common roads.

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.

A kind Providence has placed in our breasts a hatred of the unjust and cruel, in order that we may preserve ourselves from cruelty and injustice. They who bear cruelty, are accomplices in it. The pretended gentleness which excludes that charitable rancour, produces an indifference which is half an approbation. They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.

Men love to hear of their power, but have an extreme disrelish to be told their duty.

The credulity of dupes is as inexhaustible as the invention of knaves.

The great must submit to the dominion of prudence and of virtue, or none will long submit to the dominion of the great.

Politics ought to be adjusted not to human reasonings but to human nature, of which reason is but a part and by no means the greatest part.

Dogs are indeed the most social, affectionate, and amiable animals of the whole brute creation.

Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair. (Quote Meaning)

Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years.

All that needs to be done for evil to prevail is good men doing nothing.

It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact.

Facts are to the mind what food is to the body. On the due digestion of the former depend the strength and wisdom of the one, just as vigor and health depend on the other. The wisest in council, the ablest in debate, and the most agreeable companion in the commerce of human life, is that man who has assimilated to his understanding the greatest number of facts.

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."

In a free country every man thinks he has a concern in all public matters,--that he has a right to form and a right to deliver an opinion on them. This it is that fills countries with men of ability in all stations.

Religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort.

A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.

Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability.

The only infallible criterion of wisdom to vulgar minds - success.

The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.

General rebellions and revolts of a whole people never were encouraged now or at any time. They are always provoked.

Great men are never sufficiently shown but in struggles.

Art is a partnership not only between those who are living but between those who are dead and those who are yet to be born.

The method of teaching which approaches most nearly to the method of investigation is incomparably the best.

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 very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world arises from words.

A nation without means of reform is without means of survival.

Too much idleness, I have observed, fills up a man's time more completely and leaves him less his own master, than any sort of employment whatsoever

Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety.

Equity money is dynamic and debt money is static.

All men that are ruined, are ruined on the side of their natural propensities.

Power gradually extirpates from the mind every humane and gentle virtue. (Meaning)

Those who attempt to level never equalize (Quote Meaning)

Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.

One that confounds good and evil is an enemy to good.

A populace never rebels from passion for attack, but from impatience of suffering.

There is a wide difference between admiration and love. The sublime, which is the cause of the former, always dwells on great objects and terrible; the latter on small ones and pleasing; we submit to what we admire, but we love what submits to us: in one case we are forced, in the other, we are flattered, into compliance.

The only training for the heroic is the mundane.

Whenever our neighbor's house is on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play a little on our own.

To speak of atrocious crime in mild language is treason to virtue.

It is the nature of tyranny and rapacity never to learn moderation from the ill-success of first oppressions; on the contrary, all oppressors, all men thinking highly of the methods dictated by their nature, attribute the frustration of their desires to the want of sufficient rigor.

If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates silence in some circumstances, in others prudence of a higher order may justify us in speaking our thoughts.

The blood of man should never be shed but to redeem the blood of man. It is well shed for our family, for our friends, for our God, for our country, for our kind. The rest is vanity; the rest is crime.

The grand instructor, time.

What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue! (Meaning)

Man is by his constitution a religious animal.

Responsibility prevents crimes.

― Edmund Burke Quotes

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