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

The proposition is peace. Not peace through the medium of war; not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations; not peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from principle, in all parts of the empire; not peace to depend on the juridical determination of perplexing questions; or the precise marking the shadowy boundaries of a complex government. It is simple peace, sought in its natural course, and in its ordinary haunts. It is peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in principles purely pacific. i propose, by removing the ground of the difference, and by restoring the former unsuspecting confidence of the colonies in the mother country, to give permanent satisfaction to your people; and (far from a scheme of ruling by discord) to reconcile them to each other in the same act, and by the bond of the very same interest which reconciles them to British government .—Conciliation (II. 173).

The superior power may offer peace with honour and with safety. Such an offer from such a power will be attributed to magnanimity. But the concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.— Conciliation. (II. '75).

If I cannot give peace to my country, I give it to my conscience.— Conciliation. (II. 232).

Let the nations make war upon each other (since we must make war), not with a low and vulgar malignity, but by a competition of virtues. This is the only way by which both parties can gain by war.— Economical Reform (II. 312).

A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood, lie would feel some apprehension at being called to a tremendous account for engaging in so deep a play, without any sort of knowledge of the game. It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance, that it is directed by insolent passion. The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression, is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man. But I cannot conceive any existence under heaven (which, in the depths of its wisdom, tolerates all sorts of things), that is more truly odious and disgusting, than an impotent, helpless creature, without civil wisdom or military skill, without a consciousness of any other qualification for power but his servility to it, bloated with pride and arrogance, calling for battles which he is not to fight, contending for a violent dominion which he can never exercise, and satisfied to be himself mean and miserable, in order to render others contemptible and wretched.— Letter to Sheriffs (II. 255).

If you and I find our talents not of the great and ruling kind, our conduct, at least, is conformable to our faculties. No man's life pays the forfeit of our rashness. No desolate widow weeps tears of blood over our ignorance. Scrupulous and sober in a well-grounded distrust of ourselves, we would keep in the port of peace and security; and perhaps in recommending to others something of the same diffidence, we should show ourselves more charitable to their welfare, than injurious to their abilities.— Letter to Sheriffs (II. 255).

Peace or war are the great hinges upon which the very being of nations turns. Negotiations are the means of making peace or preventing war, and are therefore of more serious importance than almost any single event of war can possibly be.— Regicide Peace (VI. 252).

I venture to say, no war can be long carried on against the will of the people. This war, in particular, cannot be carried on unless they are enthusiastically in favour of it. Acquiescence will not do. There must be zeal— Regicide Peace (VI. 127).

War suspends the rules of moral obligation, and what is long suspended is in danger of being totally abrogated. Civil wars strike deepest of all into the manners of the people. They vitiate their politics they corrupt their morals; they pervert even the natural taste and relish of equity and justice. By teaching us to consider our fellow-citizens in a hostile light, the whole body of our nation becomes gradually less dear to us. The very names of affection and kindred, which were the bond of charity whilst we agreed, become new incentives to hatred and rage, when the communion of our country is dissolved.— Letter to Sheriffs (II. 252).

We have made war on our colonies, not by arms only, but by laws. As hostility and law are not very concordant ideas, every step we have taken in this business has been made by trampling on some maxim of justice, or some capital principle of wise government.— Letter to Sheriffs (II. 252).

They who stir up the people to improper desires, whether of peace or war, will he condemned hy themselves. They who weakly yield to them will be condemned by history.— Regicide Peace (VI. 133).

War never leaves where it found a nation. It is never to be entered into without mature deliberation; not a deliberation lengthened out into a perplexing indecision, but a deliberation leading to a sure and fixed judgment. When so taken up, it is not to he ahandoned without reason as valid, as fully, and as extensively considered. Peace may he made as unadvisedly as war. Nothing is so rash as fear; and the councils of pusillanimity very rarely put off, whilst they are always sure to aggravate, the evils from which they would fly.— Regicide Peace (VI. 144).

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. — Regicide Peace. (VI. 145).

The ground of a political war is of all things that which the poor labourer and manufacturer are the least capable of conceiving. This sort of people know in general that they must suffer by war. It is a matter to which they are sufficiently competent because it is a matter of feeling. The causes of a war are not matters of feeling, but of reason and foresight, and often of remote considerations, and of a very great combination of circumstances, which they are utterly incapable of comprehending; and, indeed, it is not every man in the highest classes who is altogether equal to it.— The Minority (V. 323).

It is said that, being at war with the colonies, whatever our sentiments might have been before, all ties between us are now dissolved; and all the policy we have left is to strengthen the hands of government to reduce them. On the principle of this argument, the more mischiefs we suffer from any administration the more our trust in it is to be confirmed. Let them but once get us into a war, and then their power is safe, and an act of oblivion is passed for all their misconduct.— Letter to Sheriffs (II. 266).

It is an object well worth fighting for. Certainly it is, if fighting a people be the best way of gaining them.— Conciliation (II. 183).

If your peace be nothing more than a sullen pause from arms; if their quiet be nothing but the meditation of revenge, where smitten pride smarting from its wounds, festers into new rancour, neither the act of Henry VIII., nor its handmaid of this reign, will answer any wise end of policy or justice.— Letter to Sheriffs ( II. 245).