The Maxims And Reflections Of Burke selected and edited by F.W. Rafferty

If I cannot reform with equity I will not reform at all.—Economical Reform (II. 35 1).

I shall never quit precedents where I find them applicable.— Economical Reform (II. 333).

Early reformations are amicable arrangements with a friend in power; late reformations are terms imposed upon a conquered enemy: early reformations are made in cool blood; late reformations are made under a state of inflammation. In that state of things the people behold in government nothing that is respectable. They see the abuse, and they will see nothing else—they fall into the temper of a furious populace provoked at the disorder of a house of ill-fame; they never attempt to correct or regulate; they go to work by the shortest way— they abate the nuisance, they pull down the house. — Economical Reform (II. 315).

But as it is the interest of government that reformation should be early, it is the interest of the people that it should be temperate. It is their interest, because a temperate reform is permanent; and because it has a principle of growth. Whenever we improve, it is right to leave room for a further improvement. It is right to consider, to look about us, to examine the effect of what we have done— Economical Reform. (II. 316).

In a plan of reformation, it would be one of my maxims, that, when I know of an establishment which may be subservient to useful purposes, and which at the same time, from its discretionary nature, is liable to a very great perversion from those purposes, I would limit the quantity of the power that might be so abused .— Economical Reform. (II. 355).

A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve.—Reflections (IV. 23).

Believe me, sir, those who attempt to level never equalise. In all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost. The levellers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of things; they load the edifice of society, by setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.— Reflections. (IV. 53).

I would not exclude alteration neither; but even when I changed, it should be to preserve.— Reflections. (IV. 274).

Reform is not a change in the substance or in the primary modification of the object, but a direct application of a remedy to the grievance complained of. So far as that is removed, all is sure. It stops there; and, if it fails, the substance which underwent the operation, at the very worst, is but where it was.—Noble Lord (VI. 46).

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 — Noble Lord

A spirit of reformation is never more consistent with itself, than when it refuses to be rendered the means of destruction.—Appeal (V. 46).

We all know that those who loll at their ease in high dignities, whether of the church or of the state, are commonly averse to all reformation. It is hard to persuade them that there can be anything amiss in establishments, which by feeling experience they find to be so very comfortable.— Speech on Uniformity (III. 292).

Reformation is one of those pieces which must be put at some distance in order to please. Its greatest favourers love it better in the abstract than in the substance. When any old prejudice of their own, or any interest that they value, is touched, they become scrupulous, they become captious, and every man has his separate exception. Some pluck out the black hairs, some the grey; one point must be given up to one; another point must be yielded to another; nothing is suffered to prevail upon its own principle; the whole is so frittered down and disjointed, that scarcely a trace of the original scheme remains! Thus, between the resistance of power, and the unsystematical process of popularity, the undertaker and the undertaking are both exposed, and the poor reformer is hissed off the stage both by friends and foes.—Economical Reform (II. 308).