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

Early and provident fear is the mother of safety; because in that state of things the mind is firm and collected, and the judgment unembarrassed. —Speach on Unitarians (III. 325).

Early activity may prevent late and fruitless violence.—Present Discontents (II. 86).

Wise men often tremble at the very things which fill the thoughtless with security.—Letter to Sheriffs (II. 254).

To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind; indeed the necessary effects of the ignorance and levity of the vulgar.—Present Discontents (II. 4).

But falsehood has a perennial spring.—American Taxation (II. 123).

We are not disarmed by being disencumbered of our passions—Letter to Sheriffs (II. 259).

Frenzy does not become a slighter distemper on account of the number of those who may he infected with it. Delusion and weakness produce not one mischief the less because they are universal. — Letter to Sheriffs (II. 263).

Men of great presumption and little knowledge will hold a language which is contradicted by the whole course of history.— Letter to Sheriffs (II. 264).

Those things, which are not practicable, are not desirable. There is nothing in the world really beneficial that does not lie within the reach of informed understanding and a well-directed pursuit. 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.—Economical Reform (II. 379).

If he (Grenville) was ambitious, I will say this for him—his ambition was of a noble and generous strain. It was to raise himself, not by the low, pimping politics of a court, but to win his way to power, through tbe laborious gradations of public service; and to secure himself a well-earned rank in Parliament, by a thorough knowledge of its constitution, and a perfect practice in all its business.— American Taxation (II. 118).

But as long as reputation, the most precious possession of every individual, and as long as opinion, the great support of the state, depend entirely upon that voice, it can never be considered as a thing of little consequence either to individuals or to Governments.—Present Discontents (II. 4).

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.—Bristol, 1780 (III. 36).

There is a confidence necessary to human intercourse, without which men are often more injured by their own suspicions than they would be by the perfidy of others.—National Assembly (IV. 283).

Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent. —Reflections (IV. 69).

We are but too apt to consider things in the state in which we find them, without sufficiently advertxng to the causes by which they have been produced, and possibly may be upheld. Nothing is more certain than that our manners, our civilisation, and all the good things connected with manners, and with civilisation, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion. The nobility and the clergy, the one by profession, the other by patronage, kept learning in existence, even in the xnidst of arms and confusions, and whilst governments were rather in their causes, than formed. Learning paid back what it received to nobility and to priesthood; and paid it with usury, by enlarging their ideas and by furnishing their minds. Happy if they had all continued to know their indissoluble union, and their proper place Happy if learning, not debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor, and not aspired to be the master !— Reflections. (IV. 86).

Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature— Reflections. (IV. 95).

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 votuit. He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty obliges us to an intimate acquaintance with our object, and compels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be superficial. It is the want of nerves of understanding for such a task, it is the degenerate fondness for tricking short-cuts, and little fallacious facilities, that has in so many parts of the world created governments with arbitrary powers.— Reflections. (IV. 184).

I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business— Reflections. (IV. 187).

It is undoubtedly true, though it may seem paradoxical; but in general, those who are habitually employed in finding and displaying faults are unqualified for the work of reformation, because their minds are not only unfurnished with patterns of the fair and good, but by habit they come to take no delight in the contemplation of those things. By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little.— Reflections. (IV. 188).

He has not observed on the nature of vanity who does not know that it is omnivorous; that it has no choice in its food ; that it is fond to talk even of its own faults and vices, as what will excite surprise and draw attention, and what will pass at worst for openness and candour.—National Assembly (IV. 298).

A sort of courage belongs to negotiation, as well as to operations of the field. A negotiator must often seem willing to hazard the whole issue of his treaty, if he wishes to secure any one material point.—Regicide Peace (VI. 101).

Virtues have their place ; and out of their place they hardly deserve the name. They pass into the neighbouring vice. The patience of fortitude and the endurance of pusillanimity are things very different, as in their principle, so in their effects.— Regicide Peace. (VI. 216).

In the disasters of their friends people are seldom wanting in a laudable patience. When they are such as do not threaten to end fatally, they become even matter of pleasantry.— Regicide Peace(VI. 214).

Necessity, as it has no law, so it has no shame. Regicide Peace. (VI. 266).

Whatever has its origin in caprice, is sure not to improve in its progress, nor to end in reason.— Regicide Peace(VI. 273).

The All-gracious Giver of all, whose name be blessed, whether He gives or takes away. His hand, in every page of His book, has written the lesson of moderation. Our physical well-being, our moral worth, our social happiness, our political tranquillity, all depend on that control of all our appetites and passions, which the ancients designed by the cardinal virtue of temperance Regicide Peace. (VI. 285).

They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.— Regicide Peace. (VI. 386).

Philosophical happiness is to want little. Civil or vulgar happiness is to want much, and to enjoy much.—Scarcity (VI. 5).

Compromise is founded on circumstances that suppose it the interests of the parties to be reconciled in some medium.— Scarcity (VI. 8).

All men that are ruined are ruined on the side of their natural propensities. There they are unguarded. Above all, good men do not suspect that their destruction is attempted through their virtues.—Regicide Peace (VI. 129).

There is nothing in the world so difficult as to put men in a state of judicial neutrality. A leaning there must ever be, and it is of the first importance to any nation to observe to what side that leaning inclines—whether to our own community, or to one with which it is in a state of hostility.— Regicide Peace (VI. 223).

Men are rarely without some sympathy in the sufferings of others; but in the immense and diversified mass of human misery, which may be pitied, but cannot be relieved, in the gross, the mind must make a choice.— Regicide Peace (VI. 223).

The very attempt towards pleasing everybody discovers a temper always flashy, and often false and insincere.—Bristol, 1780 (III. 3).

The worthy gentleman, who has been snatched from us at the moment of the election, and in the middle of the 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.— Bristol, 1780 (III. 50).

He who calls in the aid of an equal understanding doubles his own. He who profits of a superior understanding raises his power to a level with the height of the superior understanding he unites with. He [Burke] had found the benefit of such a junction, and would not lightly depart from it.—Speech on Army Estimates (III. 278).

Those who are bountiful to crimes, will be rigid to merit, and penurious to service. Their penury is even held out as a blind and cover to their prodigality. The economy of injustice is to furnish resources for the fund of corruption. Then they pay off their protection to great crimes and great criminals, by being inexorable to the paltry frailties of little men; and these modern flagellants are sure, with a rigid fidelity, to whip their own enormities on the vicarious back of every small offender.—Arcot (III. 192).

I will not enter into the question how much truth is preferable to peace. Perhaps truth may be far better. But as we have scarcely ever the same certainty in the one that we have in the other I would, unless the truth were evident indeed, hold fast to peace, which has in her company charity, the highest of the virtues.—Speech on Uniformity (III. 299).

Accusations sometimes derive a weight from the persons who make them, to which they are not entitled for their matter.—Appeal (V. 30).

Men little think how immorally they act in rashly meddling with what they do not understand. Their delusive good intention is no sort of excuse for their presumption. They who truly mean well must be fearful of acting ill.— Appeal. (V. 131).

An orator, above all men, ought to be allowed a full and free use of the praise of liberty. A common-place in favour of slavery and tyranny, delivered to a popular assembly, would indeed be a bold defiance to all the principles of rhetoric. But in a question whether any particular constitution is or is not a plan of rational liberty, this kind of rhetorical flourish in favour of freedom in general is surely a little out of its place. It is virtually a begging of the question. It is a song of triumph before the battle.— Appeal. (V 16).

I know that misfortune is not made to win respect from ordinary minds. I know that there is a leaning to prosperity however obtained, and a prejudice in its favour; I know there is a disposition to hope something from the variety and inconstancy of villany, rather than from the tiresome uniformity of fixed principle.—The Allies (V. 252).

He (Townshend) was a candidate for contradictory honours; and his great aim was to make those agree in admiration of him who never agreed in anything else.—American Taxation (II. 144).

They who always labour can have no true judgment. You never give yourselves time to cool. You can never survey, from its proper point of sight, the work you have finished, before you decree its final execution. You can never plan the future by the past.—National Assembly (IV. 322).

People little consider the utter impossibility of getting those, who, having emerged from very low, some from the lowest classes of society, have exercised a power so high, and with such unrelenting and bloody a rage, quietly to fall back into their old ranks, and become humble, peaceable, laborious, and useful members of society.—The Allies (V. 285).

Whether the thunder of the laws, or the thunder of eloquence, "is hurled on gin," always I am thunder-proof. The alembic, in my mind, has furnished the world a far greater benefit and blessing, than if the opus maximum had been really found by chemistry, and, like Midas, we could turn everything into gold.—Scarcity (VI. 28).

It is an observation which I think Isocrates makes in one of his orations against the sophists, that it is far more easy to maintain a wrong cause, and to support paradoxical opinions to the satisfaction of a common auditory, than to establish a doubtful truth by solid and conclusive arguments. When men find that something can he said in favour of what, on the very proposal, they have thought utterly indefensible, they grow doubtful of their own reason; they are thrown into a sort of pleasing surprise; they run along with the speaker, charmed and captivated to find such a plentiful harvest of reasoning where all seemed barren and unpromising. This is the fairyland of philosophy.—Natural Society (I. 4).

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.— Natural Society (I. 54).

When a man pleads ignorance in justification of his conduct, it ought to be a humble, modest, unpresuming ignorance; an ignorance which may have made him lax and timid in the exercise of his duty; but an assuming, rash, presumptuous, confident, daring, desperate, and disobedient ignorance heightens every crime that it accompanies.— Warren Hastings. Speech 4th day.

One that confounds good and evil, is an enemy to good.— Warren Hastings. Speech 5th day.

There never was a bad man that had ability for good service.— Warren Hastings. Speech 5th day.

Charity is the only virtue that I ever heard of that derives from its retirement any part of its lustre; the others require to be spread abroad in the face of day.—Warren Hastings. Speech on the Sixth Charge.

A very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world, arises from words. People soon forget the xneaning, but the impression and the passion remain—Letter to Richard Burke.

An Englishman is cold and distant at first; he is very cautious even in forming an acquaintance; he must know you well before he enters into friendship with you; but if he does, he is not the first to dissolve that sacred bond; in short, a real Englishman is one that performs more than he promises; in company he is rather silent, extremely prudent in his expressions, even in politics, his favourite topic.—Prior (ch. II.).

Never permit yourself to be outdone in courtesy by your inferiors.— Prior(ch. XVI.).

Somebody has said, that a king may make a nobleman, but he cannot make a gentleman.— Letter to W. Smith, 1795.

It is not necessary to teach men to thirst after power. But it is very expedient that by moral instruction, they should be taught, and by their civil constitutions they should be compelled, to put many restrictions upon the immoderate exercise of it, and the inordinate desire—Appeal (V. 91).

Taking in the whole view of life, it is more safe to live under the jurisdiction of severe but steady reason, than under the empire of indulgent, but capricious passion.— Appeal (V. 5).

It is injustice, and not a mistaken conscience, that has been the principle of persecution, at least as far as it has fallen under my observation.—Penal Laws (V. 155).

No man can say how far he will go, who joins with those who are avowedly going to the utmost extremities— Appeal (V. 127).

But eloquence may exist without a proportionable degree of wisdom.—Reflections (IV. 184).

Lawful enjoyment is the surest method to prevent unlawful gratification.—Langrishe (V. 170).

The situation of man is the preceptor of his duty—Fox's India Bill (III. 81).